In Tierra del Fuego we will look for the Kelp, Upland, and Ashy-headed; Magellanic Woodpecker; Dark-bellied Cinclodes; White throated Treerunner; Thorn-tailed Rayadito; Magellanic Tapaculo; Rufous-tailed Plantcutter; Fire-eyed Diucon; Austral Thrush; Austral Blackbird; Black-chinned Siskin and many more. This trip includes a variety of habitats including grasslands, some forest areas in southern parts of Patagonia, coastal birding (grasslands, tundra and offshore rocks). This first trip has two excellent guides in Lelis Navarrete (many say South America's most skilled bird guide) and Jose Antonio Padilla Reyes (one of our most highly-praised young guides).
This combination of highly skilled guides and an effective trip plan covering a range of habitats will assure a productive birding trip.
Day 1: Arrival to Buenos Aires and afternoon birding
Upon arrival in Buenos Aires you will be met by a ground agent and transferred to our designated hotel in Buenos Aires. There will be an afternoon trip to a marsh within the city limits of Buenos Aires (marsh is not far from our hotel).
This area teems with waterbirds, including White-tufted Grebe; Black-necked and Coscoroba swans; Fulvous Whistling-Duck; Masked Duck; Lake Duck; Silver and Speckled teal; Rosy-billed Pochard; Brown (Yellow-billed) Pintail; Red Shoveler; Common Moorhen; White winged, Red-gartered and Red-fronted coots; Cinereous Harrier; Common Stilt; Brown hooded and Gray-headed gull; Snowy-crowned Tern; and more. We have even seen the rare Ringed Teal and Black-headed Duck here occasionally, /as well as South American Painted-Snipe! There is usually az variety of small land birds as well, among them Eared Dove;
Picui Ground-Dove; Monk Parakeet; Nanday (Black-hooded) Parakeet (introduced); Guira Cuckoo; Green-barred Woodpecker; Rufous Hornero; Sulphur-bearded Spinetail; Wren-like Rushbird; Freckle-breasted Thornbird; White-crested Elaenia; Many-colored Rush-Tyrant; Spectacled Tyrant; Cattle Tyrant; Fork-tailed Flycatcher; Gray-breasted Martin; White-rumped Swallow; Chalk-browed Mockingbird; Rufous-bellied Thrush; Masked Gnatcatcher; Blue-and-yellow Tanager; Great Pampa-Finch; Long-tailed Reed-Finch; Saffron Finch; Hooded Siskin; Black capped Warbling-Finch; the lovely Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch; Yellow-billed Cardinal; Rufous-collared Sparrow; and Yellow-winged Blackbird.
NIGHT: Hotel Lafayette, Buenos Aires
Day 2: Morning flight to Trelew in northern Patagonia, followed with some birding in the way to Las Grutas
The San Antonio and Las Grutas area has proved to be one of the most exciting birding spots in all of Patagonia. At least five rarely seen Argentine endemics are present here: Darwin's Nothura; Sandy Gallito; White-throated Cacholote; Yellow Cardinal; and Carbonated Sierra-Finch. Irregularly a sixth endemic, the Cinnamon Warbling-Finch, also can be found here. The area also boasts a tremendous roost and nest site of Burrowing Parrots (local and persecuted in many
places) and many other "high quality" species, and splendid /aquatic habitats. The Yellow Cardinal, a rare and rapidly declining species, is listed as endangered in the ICBP Red Data Book, and the Sandy Gallito is local and infrequently seen. It also must rank as one of the most charming little birds imaginable, running rapidly like a wind-up toy, climbing up through bushes, popping up to sing, then climbing down again, and racing off across the sand, although it has proven
difficult to see on a number of occasions.
NIGHT: Hotel Portovenere, Las Grutas
Day 3: Full day birding in the San Antonio del Oeste and Las Grutas area
We plan to visit several areas in the vicinity of San Antonio /del Oeste and Las Grutas today and will concentrate /specifically on seeing some of the endemic and near-endemic species of this interesting area. In addition to the species mentioned under day 3, we also will be searching for Elegant-crested Tinamou; Least Seedsnipe; Spot-winged Pigeon; Lesser (Magellanic) Horned Owl (rare); Short-eared Owl (also rare); Checkered Woodpecker; Band-tailed and Scale-throated earthcreeper; Lesser, Patagonian, and Short-billed canastero; Least Shrike-Tyrant; Black-crowned and Rusty-backed monjita; Greater Wagtail-Tyrant (here at
southern end of range); Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant; White-tipped Plantcutter; Patagonian and White-banded mockingbird; Golden-billed Saltator; Common Diuca-Finch; and Ringed Warbling-Finch (surprisingly common). The rare Hudson's Black-Tyrant breeds here although the similar-looking White-winged Black Tyrant is also present. There often are good mud and tidal flats exposed where we can see many aquatic species, especially White-rumped and Baird's sandpiper, and gulls, terns, and the lovely Two-banded Plover.
NIGHT: Hotel Portovenere, Las Grutas
Day 4: Las Grutas south to the Valdez Peninsula and Punta Piramides birding
We will spend a short time in the Las Grutas area this morning searching for species not found the previous day but we will leave soon for the drive south to the Valdez peninsula where we will spend the afternoon and evening.
We will continue on to Trelew late this evening and plan on a very late arrival back at our hotel. This will be a long driving day but we have several spectacular sites on today's itinerary. From the overlook at Punta Piramides this is a fairly reliable location for the Snowy Sheathbill which winters here.
At this time of year, however, most of them have migrated southward although there is usually one or two still present, as well as a variety of cormorants, terns, and oystercatchers. Nearby scrub, grassland, dune and wetland habitats harbor numerous interesting Patagonian species such as Elegant Crested Tinamou; Variable Hawk; American Kestrel; Patagonian Canastero; Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail; Rusty-backed Monjita; Austral Negrito; Short-billed Pipit; Patagonian Yellow-Finch; and often a few surprises as well.
NIGHT: Hotel Libertador, Trelew
Day 5: Punta Tombo birding adventure
Our destination today will be Punta Tombo, a narrow peninsula about two hours south of the city of Trelew. Punta Tombo is the breeding site of a colony of nearly one and a half million Magellanic Penguins. For obvious reasons, the park service permits access to only a small portion of the colony. Skuas frequently patrol back and forth over the colony, while Elegant Crested Tinamous forage in nearby shrubby areas. Other species frequently seen among the colony include Scale-throated Earthcreeper; Long-tailed Meadowlark; Lesser Canastero; and Patagonian Yellow-Finch. Giant Petrels; Rock and Imperial cormorant Two-banded Plovers; Dolphin Gulls; and South American Terns are often seen on or near the rugged cliffs at the edge of the colony. There should be an excellent opportunity to study the White-headed Steamer-Duck, described in 1980 as a separate species, but still taxonomically controversial. It occurs only in the vicinity of Punta Tombo. Watching carefully as we drive to and from the penguin colony also may produce views of some of Patagonia's more spectacular large birds and mammals, such as Lesser Rhea, Guanaco, and Patagonian Cavie. Other birds along the road include Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant; several canasteros; Plain-mantled
Tit-Spinetail; Mourning Sierra-Finch; and the local and often difficult to find Carbonated Sierra-Finch
NIGHT: Hotel Libertador, Trelew
Day 6: Trelew Area Birding /Sewage Lagoons and by noon reach airport
Depending upon our flight schedule we may also visit the Trelew sewage lagoons just a short distance east of town. The lagoons usually host tens of thousands of waterfowl. Although we may have previously seen many of these species of waterfowl in the pampas, this will give us another chance to catch up to any species we might have missed as well as to see large numbers of Chilean Flamingos. Two species that could be new are White-cheeked Pintails and Andean Ruddy-Duck although most of the Oxyura ducks here are Lake Ducks. Other species, often in large numbers, could include Silvery and White-tufted grebe; Red Shoveler; Crested Duck; Silver Teal; Kelp and Brown-hooded gull; and coots. Afternoon flight to Calafate. A small but bustling resort town lies about an hour and a half to the east of Los Glaciares National Park. Our activities today, however, will depend upon flight schedules but may include an afternoon at a small but very productive lake near the town of Calafate In lake we have a good chance of seen Andean Ruddy-Duck; Lake Duck; Red Shoveler; Yellow-billed Pintail, Chiloé
Widgeon, one or more kinds of coots, Cinereous Harriers and a variety of gulls and shorebirds, as well as the ubiquitous Austral Negrito. Well also be searching for the locally-distributed Magellanic Plover, as shorebird that is so unusual in many ways that it is often placed in a family of its own.
NIGHT: Hotel Michelangelo, Calafate
Day 7: Birding at The Far Southern Andes
Perhaps Argentina's most spectacular national park. We plan to spend most of our day here, including visiting the park's most famous glacier, Perito Moreno. Newly-constructed park trails permit a breathtakingly close approach to this enormous glacier. It is a photographer's paradise, and usually we are able to witness huge chunks of ice calving into the lake. The park host of exciting birds, including Andean Condor, Black-faced Ibis; Chilean Flamingo; Upland Goose; Flying Steamer-Duck; Black-chested Buzzard Eagle; Austral Parakeet; Austral Pygmy Owl; Chilean Flicker; Thorn-tailed /Rayadito; Dark-bellied Cinclodes; Fire-eyed Diucon; Rufous-tailed Plantcutter; Austral Thrush; Austral Blackbird; Patagonian Sierra-Finch; Black-chinned Siskin. The rare Bronze-winged (Spectacled) Duck also nests in marshy wetlands higher up and is occasionally seen. The park is an excellent locality for Magellanic Woodpeckers.
In beautiful high country grasslands outside the park, we can find both Least and occasionally Gray-breasted seedsnipe. The broad-but-shallow braided streams often teem with many kinds of waterfowl, canasteros, ground-tyrants, sierra-finches, and occasionally the rare Great Shrike-Tyrant. At this time of year many species are beginning to nest or already have young. Throughout we will be watching for Patagonian Tinamou (rare), as well as Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant and Gray hooded Sierra-Finch.
NIGHT: Hotel Michelangelo (or other hotel), Calafate
Day 8: Calafate to Rio Gallegos birding and on to Ushuaia
We will spend a short time around Calafate searching for additional Patagonian species and hoping that the wind and weather is favorable for our activities before beginning the drive southeastwards across southern Patagonia towards Rio Gallegos. The land around Rio Gallegos is rather flat and bleak Patagonia in one of its purer forms and if the day is typical we will experience some of the famous Patagonian winds. The vegetation around Rio Gallegos, though now considerably modified (damaged) by overgrazing, consists of low, well-spaced shrubs varying to grasslands (formerly tall but now very short in most areas). A sampling of bird life on our transect across this south Patagonian steppe could include Upland Goose; Crested Duck; Chiloe Wigeon; Black-necked Swan; Magellanic Oystercatcher; Long-tailed Meadowlark; and the commonest little passerine of all, the Austral Negrito. Once we reach Rio Gallegos we will mount a search for some of the special birds of the region including, Lesser Rhea; Least Seedsnipe; Rufous-breasted Dotterel; Chocolate-vented Tyrant; Short-billed Miner; Austral
Canastero; and Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch. Most of these species can be found relatively close to town. We will also be watching for the now rare and local Black throated (White-bridled) Finch although we are not always successful in finding it because the grasslands here have been so heavily overgrazed by sheep that little of the tall grass habitat favored by this species still exists in this area. We frequently see Patagonian Foxes on this drive as well. Our time will be relatively limited this afternoon and soon we will board a plane for our late afternoon flight to Ushuaia, which takes us across the Straits of Magellan and over Isla Grande, a spectacular flight when the weather is good.
Night in Rio Gallegos.
Day 9: AM Arrival and PM birding in Ushuaia
3:45 AM Flight and Arrive at About Noon into Ushuaia: Rest and Birding in PM. We will visit a municipal dock facility where we hope to see the White-throated Caracara, a species that is quite local here. In addition there are always hundreds of gulls, cormorants, skuas and other species present.
Day 10 &11: Full day Birding at Tierra del Fuego
National Park and Beagle Channel boat trip
We have two full days to explore the region of Ushuaia, situated as the southern end of Isla Grande or Tierra del Fuego. Isla Grande, part of the larger region known as Tierra del Fuego or "Land of Fire," is a spectacular region of rolling grasslands, snowy mountains, glaciers, and beech forests.
The diversity of birds in Tierra del Fuego is low, but most of them are found nowhere else in the world but here and in a few adjacent parts of southern Patagonia and Chile. Birds that we should see include the spectacular south temperate geese: the Kelp, Upland, and Ashy-headed; Magellanic Woodpecker; Dark-bellied Cinclodes; White throated Treerunner; Thorn-tailed Rayadito; Magellanic Tapaculo; Rufous-tailed Plantcutter; Fire-eyed Diucon; Austral Thrush; Austral Blackbird; Patagonian Sierra-Finch; and Black-chinned Siskin. The cold oceanic waters surrounding Tierra del Fuego are richer in food than the land. Consequently, many interesting seabirds may be seen from the shorelines and on the Beagle Channel boat trip (Day 10).
On our first day we will visit Tierra del Fuego National Park in the morning and a highland basin (via ski lift) in the afternoon where, in addition to searching for the Yellow-bridled Finch and Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant, we will have unparalleled views of the Beagle Channel and the southern end of Tierra del Fuego. The following morning Mid-day we will board a catamaran for an afternoon and evening boat trip on the Beagle Channel. We'll visit several important island breeding
colonies of cormorants and get a fine panorama of the entire eastern half of the Beagle Canal from Ushuaia to the Haberton Ranch located near the eastern end of the channel. We will also call at the historical Haberton Ranch, situated well to the east of Ushuaia. This ranch was founded by Thomas Bridges in 1871. Bridges, a peripatetic missionary, entrepreneur, and scholar of the Yahgan language, was one of the first foreign settlers to be given a land grant by the Argentine government and his ranch remains today a sterling example of his bold vision and dedication to the settlement of this wild region. Our route today also visits a small breeding colony of Magellanic Penguins at the southeast end of the channel, and for the last decade a small founding colony of Gentoo Penguins has
also nested here. This trip is very scenic with a sweeping array of snow-clad mountains from start to finish and a fine overview of the wildlife of the Beagle Channel.
Though some wildlife has diminished in numbers (whales are seldom seen in the channel now), we will see Kelp Geese; Upland Geese; good numbers (even flocks) of Flightless Steamer-Ducks; occasional Flying Steamer-Ducks; tiny Magellanic Diving Petrels scattering across the water and Black-browed Albatrosses. King, Blue-eyed and Rock cormorants, as well as Magellanic Penguins; Chilean Skuas and Dark-bellied Cinclodes are also present. Other possibilities include Snowy Sheathbill (most migrate southward to breed by the beginning of December), Black and Magellanic oystercatcher; Southern Fulmar; and Blackish Cinclodes. The seas within the channel are usually rather calm and will almost certainly be so within the numerous bays where we stop. There will be one opportunity to get off the ship and walk around when we visit the Haberton Ranch. Our late-afternoon return, with the lights of Ushuaia and the afternoon sun streaming over the mountains and onto the bay, provides a lovely conclusion to the day.
Note that on one of the last two nights that we are in Ushuaia we will offer, weather permitting, a late night owling trip into Tierra del Fuego National Park to search for the Rufous-legged Owl. Because the weather is often rainy and, because of the late departure hour and time required to search for this bird, we offer this as an option only. The cost of this excursion (which can last from 9:30 or 10:00 pm until after midnight) is not included in the trip price.
2 NIGHTS: Hotel Albatross, Ushuaia.
Day 12: AM Birding and Mid-day flight from city of Ushuaia to Buenos Aires or Santiago
Early morning in vicinity if Ushuaia. This morning will be free for sight-seeing in Ushuaia, for shopping, resting, or for a walk along the nearby beaches and harbor where there are always numbers of gulls and waterfowl. We will check out of our hotel mid-morning or a bit later for the short drive to the airport to catch our flight to Buenos Aires and continuing international flights later this evening. We add 1 more night at Ushuaia...