With Bird Guides to Argentina

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: With Bird Guides to Argentina
From: "Vader Willem Jan Marinus" <>
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2010 11:18:54 +0100

                                   WITH BIRD GUIDES TO ARGENTINA

My annual extensive birding trip brought me in 2010 to Argentina, a trip
organized by Bird Guides and very ably led by Dave Stejskal and Pete
Burke. I knew next to nothing about the country and its birds beforehand;
my only prior experiences were two visits to Ushuaia, once as a starting
point for an Antarctic cruise, once for a marine biology workshop. But
this time the main trip was to be in NW Argentina for the main trip, with
a pretrip to the Ibera wetlands in NE Argentina. I'll write separately
about the pretrip to the wonderful lodge of Rincon del Socorro. The main
trip started with a domestic flight to Cordoba and a 3 days sojourn in the
isolated mountain range in this part of the country. Afterwards we flew
onwards to Tucuman, and from there we did the rest of the trip in a
(somewhat too small) bus, ending up in the High Andes near the Bolivian

The group consisted of 2 Canadians, and 11 people from the USA, and we
were all pretty old: the youngest participant must have passed 65, while
the eldest was 82. This detracted nothing from everybody's eagerness and
enthusiasm--- we all were willing to brave the heat, the cold and the
height, in order to see the birds we 'needed'. Most participants were very
experienced indeed, and many take multiple bird trips every year. No
wonder that their life lists are large: two people reached the 5000 mark
during the trip, and one even 5600. They all seem to know exactly and at
every moment, where their life lists stood, and which bird species they
still 'needed', it is a source of continuing wonder to me, as I have first
now at home figured out that I saw 273 life birds on this trip (Of the c
400 birds we saw altogether), and I still have not calculated where this
brings my life list, probably somewhere around 3500.

I participate in these trips for several reasons. the organizers do all
the logistics, so that one only has to follow the indications by the
leaders and never has to worry about where to go, where to sleep, and what
and when to eat. Also, the leaders know where the birds are, they know how
to entice them to come and show themselves, and they never rest before all
participants have seen all the birds. For me, who has armadillo-eyes and
now also has become hard of hearing, this means that I see at least twice
as many birds as when I would be here on my own (Of course the
satisfaction of finding a bird on your own will now be absent; sadly I
rarely spot a bird and can show it to the others, so that I always have a
somewhat bad conscience towards the other people---I take all the time,
and can give little). Many of the participants are excellent birders, with
sharp eyes, and they find a lot of birds; several have also brought their
own telescope , and freely let the others use it.

On this trip Dave excelled in spotting the birds, usually by hearing and
recognizing their calls amidst the many others. He then either imitated a
ferruginous pygmy owl, or used careful and prudent playback of their
calls. As Dave has done this trip already many times, he also quite often
knows exactly the places where we can hope to see a particular bird, 'this
owl must have died' was the comment when the Yungas Pygmy Owl failed to
react at its customary haunt. Pete did this trip for the first time,
although he knew his birds well from sojourns in neighbouring countries;
he is an illustrator and used his knowledge and insight into shapes and
colours to give extensive and very useful mini-lectures on the
identification of the birds we saw and their nearest relatives. He also
had an uncanny ability to follow a bird, that is moving around in the
vegetation,  pointing out where it was at every moment.

We stayed at hotels of somewhat varying excellence, and the same can be
said of the restaurants we used. On many days we had picnic lunches in the
field (We were lucky with the weather throughout, although on a few days
it was so warm, that even the birds were reluctant to show themselves),
and Dave showed definite genius in concocting tasty and healthy lunch

All in all this was a most successful trip, and I am glad I chose it.

Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum

N-9037 Tromsø, norway


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