Argentina with Field Guides.2. Costanera S

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Argentina with Field Guides.2. Costanera S
From: "Vader Willem Jan Marinus" <>
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2010 14:26:10 +0100
                          ARGENTINA WITH FIELD GUIDES.2. COSTANERA S,

Costanera S is one of the more famous urban birding areas in the world. It
is situated in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, between the centre of
the city and the Rio de la Plata, and it was started up almost
accidentally, when a planned urban extension did not materialize and the
marshy area remained in its half-natural state. Water management is not
quite optimal, however, and the area is now much drier than before and has
lost some of its glory for waterbirds. It is , however, still, a wonderful
place to get a first impression of the bird fauna of Argentina, as well as
a much beloved local park for the inhabitants of the city.

I arrived in Buenos Aires 1 1/2 days before the start of the Field Guides
tour, something I often try to do, when there is much time difference, to
avoid to more or less miss the first days because of jet lag. I arrived at
our hotel in Cordoba Str. on Saturday morning, after a long and
complicated flight from Holland via Newark and Washington , but I was
nevertheless unable to sleep, and soon decided to see if I could find
Costanera on my own, and rather sit and doze on a bench there. It turned
out to be just a shortish walk (although crossing a n umber of very busy
roads) to the entrance near 'The Obelisk', a slender and very tall
skyscraper, one of many in the area, forming the backdrop of the Costanera
wetlands. The Costanera is in very frequent use by the locals, esp. now in
the weekend; there were any number of joggers, cyclists, families on a
picnictrip and people (often couples) on a Sunday stroll; the area is
closed for cars. The birds have become thoroughly accustomed to all the
visitors; they are often very tame and many species also scrounge around
the picnickers, even though feeding the animals is expressly forbidden.
The main scroungers are the very numerous Eared Doves, flying often in
large flocks, the cheeky and slender Chalk-browed Mockingbirds, the
ubiquitous Chingolo (the dapper Rufous-collared Sparrow), and the glossy
Shiny Cowbirds, indeed as shiny as the African Glossy Starlings. The only
Red-crested Cardinal I saw this day was  also scrounging among the
picnickers on the shore of the Rio de la Plata. The elegant and noisy
Hornero, Argentinas national bird, is also very unafraid of people, but it
is less of a scrounger; its curious oven-nests are very much a feature of
the landscape here.

This landscape, by the way, is far from pristine: a large part of the
vegetation consist of alien and imported species. The marshes are golden
with flowering Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus, whole slopes are covered with
Tropaeolum, and both among the herbs, and the trees and shrubs there are
many well-known 'faces': Lantana (unfortunately, as it has become a pest
many places), Ricinus, Sambucus, Sarothamnus, etc etc. In fact, I saw only
a few plants in flower that I suspect of being indigenous. Pampas grass
Arundo dominates large areas, and there is now very little open water
left; i saw practically no wading birds at all. Where there was a little
open water---mostly covered with duckweed Lemna---there were Fulvous and
White-faced Whistling Ducks, and here and there the conspicuous
Rose-billed Pochard. A pair of Black-necked Swans had a half-grown cygnet,
while my first ever Coscoroba Swans (really looking like animated
bath-ducks) had a very small young. No grebes or coots to be seen at all
here (but see below), although there were some Moorhens; later I found a
few Great Grebes and a single Red-gartered Coot on the otherwise rather
barren Rio de la Plata. Neotropic Cormorants were regular here, and this
Saturday I saw first six Kelp Gulls and later 3 Brown-hooded Gulls; no
gulls at all on the Sunday

In the air the doves and Picazuro Pigeons absolutely dominated, but Great
Egrets regularly cruised over, I saw a few Chimangos and a Southern
Caracara, and on both days a single Long-winged Harrier hunted over the
marshland, immediately recognizable as a harrier by its way of flying.
There were also swallows, of course, here mostly the some House Martin
like White-rumped swallow, but also Grey-chested Martins, earlier my first
Argentinian bird on arrival at the airport. Monk Parakeets galore, and
also some Nanday Parakeets

A lot of the time this first day I sat on a bench, half dozing and
watching the doves, cowbirds, mockingbirds and Baywings. A surprise was
the unexpected appearance of a Giant Wood Rail, clearly completely at home
here, who  actively chased away the smaller birds; one does not expect
rails to be so conspicuous. Other tame birds on these lawns are the Monk
Parakeets and the Rufous-bellied Thrush, as well as, to my surprise, the
Great Pampa Finch.

In the trees and bushes there are many enticing songs and calls, but most
of them I don't manage to locate--too sleepy. Masked Gnatcatchers are
nimble and always active and remind me strongly of our European
Long-tailed Tits. Several times I hear and see the 'benteveo', the
colourful and unafraid Great Kiskadee. And here are also Tropical
Kkingbirds, the suiriri real, as I learn from a local birding gentleman,
with whom I converse via the latin names of the birds.We also find the
Carduelis magellanicus, the Hooded Siskin, a nice bird that will follow me
all over the country. Two males fight so intensely that I almost can pick
them up from the path at my feet.

At another of my jetlag benches a Golden-breatsed Woodpecker is
energetically chiseling out a nest-cavity in a tree trunk; every time I
watch them, the female is hard at work, while the male sits nearby and
'supervises'! In this same tree I suddenly see a bird that 'ought not to
be here', a colourful Plush-crested Jay. (When I tell David about this the
next day, he says: Was not it a Guira Cuckoo? I hope he upgraded his
opinion about my birding knowledge at least a bit later on!)

Altogether I find some 50 birds during these first two days, doing what in
fact I love best: slowly getting to know the common birds of a totally new
area. A few among them stick out: the acrobatic Solitary Cacique, with its
stark white bill and its 'tut tut tut OOWAAH' calls , the unexpectedly
colourful Blue-and-yellow Tanager, the Black-and-Rufous Warbling Finch,
the first of a plethora of colourful 'finches' on this trip, and of course
the local hummingbird, the Glittering-bellied Emerald, always a bonus for

We return to Costanera S with the whole group four days later for a few
hours. There I learn several things: clearly the throngs of visitors in
the weekend do make a more difficult to see some birds---and also the
Cavies who now run around several places , but whom I did not not see at
all in the weekend. The other point is how great it is to have leaders who
know exactly what to look for, and how to show it. This way I now see
Pied-billed Grebes, Spot-flanked Gallinuls, Red-fronted Coots and
Freckle-breasted Thornbirds. But there is nevertheless something very
special in walking around on your own, and finding your own birds.

Wim Vader, Tromsø Museum

9037 Tromsø, Norway

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • Argentina with Field Guides.2. Costanera S, Vader Willem Jan Marinus <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU