Northern Argentina & Peninsula Valdes Wildlife Tour

Destination: Argentina    Duration: 16 Days  Dates: 31st Mar – 15th Apr 2022

Overview

Argentina is famous for many things; from its huge size and vast expanses of wilderness to the now legendary figure of Evita (a larger than life political figure made even more globally famous by Madonna) and from it’s incredible reputation as the steak capital of the world to leading the way with some of the best footballers to have ever played the game (Maradona and Messi); but the wildlife is often not something that immediately springs to mind when thinking about the world’s 8th largest country.

But for anyone who watched one of Sir David Attenborough’s first ground breaking wildlife documentary series; ‘The Trails of Life’ which came out in 1993; Argentina will be known as the location of some very special orcas. Ever since watching this documentary as a very impressionable 9 year old I had been fascinated with the orcas that beach themselves deliberately to catch seal pups in a very localised behaviour off the Patagonian coast. Fast forward some 31 years and after nearly 20 years travelling looking for wildlife, a zoology degree, various stints working on wildlife conservation and research projects (including many marine based ones) and the establishment of my own wildlife watching travel business, a pandemic shutting down our plans for 2 years; I (Martin Royle) finally made it to Punta Norte on Peninsula Valdes at the peak season for this incredible behaviour.

Orca hunting

Orca beach hunting in Peninsula Valdes

Whether we would be successful in seeing this behaviour was out of our hands, it only happens for around 2-3 weeks per year and whilst it does usually happen around the same area (the orcas need special deep channels that run from the deeper water at the breakers right to the beach), the timing of the event is unpredictable. This all stems from water temperatures up to 18 months prior, it is the temperatures of the currents which dictate the fish stocks which dictate how quickly the mother seals can produce milk and therefore the exact time it takes from the birth of the seal pups to when they first start swimming in the sea (with their insulating layer of blubber, produced from their mothers milk, which in turn is produces from fish (numerous or not which speeds up and slows down the process). As it is the few 2-3 weeks when the pups are learning to the swim that these crafty orcas coordinate their unique hunt.

So after 4 years of planning this adventure, applying for special permits allowing us access to the attack beaches themselves and picking the best dates historically for this behaviour; we were still in the lap of the gods as to what we would see.

However there is so much more to offer the wildlife enthusiast on this trip than the orcas, the other marine life around Peninsula Valdes is prolific, with penguins, seals, sea lions, dolphins, whales, porpoises and a plethora of sea birds all resident and abundant. Inland in Patagonia also we would hope to find South American specialties such as various armadillos, guanacos, maras, rhea and much more.

As well as Patagonia we would also visit some areas in the north of the country, namely the amazing and well named El Palmar National Park and the surrounding grasslands north of Buenos Aires, here we would hope to see Geoffroy’s cat as a major target as well as dozens of other species in habitat more well known in Brazil’s Pantanal than Argentina. Both of these locations would be punctuated with a stop over in Buenos Aires, one of the most vibrant cities in the world and where we would most likely taste some of this world famous and well regarded steak!

Geoffroys Cat - Argentina

Geoffrey’s cat sighting in Peninsula Valdes

All in all we would explore the northern wetlands and grasslands and the coastal region of central Patagonia on this Argentine wildlife exploration. Searching out a wealth of wildlife on land, air and sea as we aimed to provide a real showcase of the best wildlife that this incredible and huge country has to offer.

Day 1        Buenos Aires

This morning both Martin’s flight and Joe & Rhodas’ arrived in the morning (8am), however it was the afternoon before we got to the hotel. A combination of being held a long time on the plane before being allowed to disembark, an immigration queue that looked like something out of a history book showing ration stations during World War II and then traffic which took at least 2 hours to travel less than 2km. The reason being due to protests in the highway, protests which had something to do with the very socialist tendencies of the current government. I admit I didn’t fully follow the rants of Juan, but he was clearly very unhappy with the ‘beer drinking slobs’ who ‘never work and complain about everything’ who were now ‘stopping honest people like me (Juan) from working properly’. But eventually we pass the protestors and made it into the city.

We didn’t have any plans for today, it was a rest day to get over the long overnight flights to get here. So we just checked in, collected some local currency, Martin walked around the city for a while and got a local SIM card, before meeting at the hotel restaurant for dinner and a briefing on tomorrow’s plan and then we all had a well deserved nights rest.

Day 2         Costanera Sur Reserve                                                   

Today we met Marcelo at 07:30am. Marcelo would be our guide for the next few days and today we would visit the wonderful little wetland and forest reserve in the middle of Buenos Aires; Costanera Sur. Mainly a birding reserve we were going to see how the walking would do for Rhoda who recently has undergone surgery and needs a walker to walk any distances. The trails being flat and mostly paved would allow us to see a wide range of species whilst also gauging what walks and trails we could use for the rest of the trip.

As soon as we arrived the bird activity was high, the sun was just rising and it was still a little cool in the shade, but the waterfowl were out in numbers. Many species that would be familiar to people who have been to the Pantanal were seen easily; rufescent tigers herons, great kiskadees, limpkins and southern screamers being some of the most prominent ones.

It in an interesting reserve because it one of the most southerly places where many of the more tropical species can be found, plants like strangler figs live here but are not found further south for example and the most southerly occurring epiphytic bromeliads. The only mammal we saw today were several coypu (or nutrias) which walked deftly on top of the thick mat of water lettuce, giving the impression of a solid lawn, that was until one would dive underneath and completely disappear into the metre or so of water underneath the vegetation.

We started off by walking the 2km along the main boulevard and looking at the waterfowl and coypu, it was a great walk and resulted in some great views of the coypu feeding and grooming. They are very similar in appearance to beavers, but instead of the rounded, flattened tail of the beaver they have a longer rat like tail, but other than that it would be easy to confuse the two at a distance.

Other birds we saw on the water included many beautiful rosy-fronted pochards, Brazilian teals, red-fronted coots, common gallinules, white-crested grebes, coscoroba swans and cocoi herons. Non aquatic birds included the invasive feral pigeons and a more recent immigrant the Eurasian starling, alongside nanday parakeets, monk parakeets, red-crested cardinals, greyish baywings, Harris’s hawk, chimango caracara and southern crested caracaras.

Along the boulevard we came to an old bathing area, built around 100 years ago this was where people from the city came to the river to bath. Statues of life guards from 100 years ago showed that they were likely to drown themselves with the amount of clothes they had to wear. I am sure at least one of the statues had a life guard in a full length dress coat!

Further along there was a collection of statues to some of Argentina’s most famous sporting icons. Strangely enough Diego Maradona was not among them, however neither was Lionel Messi. Well the plinth with Messi’s name was there, along with his football boots and a football, but someone had removed the rest of the statue. Either people who hate him or someone who wanted to have a 10ft bronze statue of Messi in their living room!

Along with Messi there was of course Juan Manuel Fangio the amazing F1 driver from the 1950’s who is probably up there with Lewis Hamilton, Aryton Senna and Michael Schumacher as the greatest drivers of all time; but beyond these two undisputed legends of their sport there were statues to Jose Meolans (swimmer), Pascuel Perez (boxer), Hugo Portar (rugby), Luciana Aymer (field hockey), Robert Di Vincenzo (golf), Gabriella Sabatini (tennis), Emanuel Ginobili (basketball) and Guillermo Vilas (tennis) who are all quality stars in their own rights, but not the greatest of all time in the world, despite what our guide Marcelo would claim.

We then entered the forested side of the reserve and walked back along the loop to get to the car, here we saw many of the same species as well as some nice new ones including a stunning gilded hummingbird, austral monarch butterflies, golden-billed saltators, golden-crowned warbler and a nice sunbathing Hilaire’s toadhead turtle on the far bank of the river.

We then left the reserve and had some food from a food truck next to the reserve, before returning to the vehicle, where the leaf-cutter ants were out in force, marching along their little highways in the grass next to the road.

We then drove back to the hotel, had the rest of the afternoon at leisure and met for dinner again.

Day 3         Ceibas                                                   

This morning we met Marcelo and checked out of the hotel at 07:30 and started the drive north and out of Buenos Aires and towards Ceibas. Leaving the city we crossed the Parana River which is so large that the two huge bridges that span the river are separated by several kilometres of road which is a delta in the middle of the river!

We stopped for a little break when we crossed the second fork of the Parana River and the first thing to notice was a change in the vegetation type, with the native mesquite scrub taking over now as we entered the espina (spiny) forest.

Before we reached the lodge we drove along some of the country roads which dissect the cattle ranches here, Argentina is the home of the best beef in the world and all around us today were Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and Short-horned cattle and of course a multitude of birdlife. The birdlife was the prime focus this morning and we saw many species including southern lapwings, spectacled tyrants, silver teals, ringed teals, vermilion flycatchers, cattle tyrants, whistling herons and rufous horneros among the dozens of species. A highlight was a huge flock of southern screamers, these large birds are usually seen in pairs or in small groups of 4-8, but in this one field was a flock several hundred strong. Seeing so many of these large birds together was very impressive and a little reminiscent of a turkey farm just before Christmas.

The abundance of birds was partly due to the rain the area had been receiving recently, after two years of drought the animals were loving being in waterlogged fields once again. However one animal doing their best to stay out of the water were the millions of leaf-cutter ants, there were many wide highways containing thousands of them walking back and forth along the road from their massive nests to the trees they had selected for harvesting. It is interesting that after the extinction of South America’s megafauna the main predator of the vegetation now is the leaf-cutter ant.

Driving around we found another sunbathing Halires’ toad-head turtle sunbathing, unfortunately we would find more roadkill of this species than living ones. Martin rescued one from the road but the rescue was probably short lived as it looked like it had been run over and despite being alive when Martin carried it to the water on the side of the road it was likely not going to survive much longer.

We then arrived at the lodge and had some lunch which included enormous steaks cooked to perfection and great malbec. We then went out in the late afternoon to look for what animals we could find, many birds were around the lodge including large numbers of chalk-browed mockingbirds and rufous horneros but it was more mammals we would be looking for this evening. We had a brief view of a Brazilian guinea pig on the side of the road before we arrived at a Pearson’s tuco-tuco colony, it was very active with many fresh burrows and the sound of them drumming underground was everywhere, however we tried and tried and couldn’t see any at the entrance to their burrows and as the sun began to set we headed off to spotlight the roads.

It wasn’t too long before we smelt the unmistakable smell of a skunk, so we stopped and backed up and scanned the fields and sides of the road and a little time later found the smelly culprit. We had wonderful views of the Molina’s hog-nosed skunk as it walked down the road, sticking to the verges before crossing over and walking a little further ahead before disappearing into the thick vegetation and away into a field. Almost immediately after that sighting we had a pampas fox run across the road (a brief but nice sighting) and then only a few minutes later we had a young Geoffroy’s cat in the middle of the road. It was walking away from us, stopped to look back at us in the way that only cats do. It also jumped very high and acrobatically into the air to grab a hawkmoth before leaving the road and going out of sight. But all in all, not a bad start to spotlighting in the north-east of the country.

We then got back to the lodge and had dinner, after dinner Martin and Marcelo went for a short walk to the river, however the recent rains made walking anywhere difficult and the river was more of a swamp. We didn’t see any mammals but did find a Montevideo treefrog which is responsible for one of the strangest but oddly melodic calls of the area.

Tomorrow we would depart Ceibas and head further north, but not before one more attempt at the very active colony of Pearson’s tuco-tucos.

Day 4         El Palmar National Park         

First thing after breakfast was for us to leave the lodge and head straight to the tuco-tuco colony. Along the way we saw many of the same birds we had seem over the last couple of days, as well as some new ones such as campo flickers, yellow-browed tyrant, brown-and-yellow marshbirds and spot-flanked gallinules.

When we arrived at the tuco-tuco colony there were a couple of dogs around and activity digging at one of the freshest burrows so we didn’t hold much hope of seeing any rodents. We moved a little further down the road to see if we could find a least disturbed colony. We staked out some entrances for a while before going back to the one where the dogs had been harassing the tuco-tucos. The dogs were long gone but the burrows around the area were completely destroyed and so we focused our energy on the burrows on the periphery of the colony, hoping that the animals that had escaped from the burrows under attack were heading to the entrances on the edges of the colony. We were rewarded with Martin seeing some non-bird-like movement in the grass and then going closer to have a better look he saw a tuco-tuco on the surface next to the burrow before it darted straight in. We staked out the area, but the frustrating animal didn’t come back up.

We then returned to the lodge and packed up before leaving and driving further north to El Palmar National Park. Along the way it rained most of the way we hoped it would stop before we got there and it mostly did, however it did rain on and off for the next 24-36 hours.

We checked into the quaint train car accommodations and went straight into the park. The main road up to the campsite and various other roads was lined with many noisy monk parakeets, very relaxed capybaras and some crafty southern crested caracaras. We watched one of these great birds picking parasites from the fur of a capybara. At first it looks like the caracara was scavenging on the capybara, the animal lay on its side with legs out straight in front of and its head twisted back. It looked for all intents and purposes like it was dead. But after it was done with the caracara grooming that side of it, it got up and moved off with the caracara following behind. It was really interesting behaviour to see. Particularly from the capybara, as there are so many here but they nearly all just sit, lay down, stand or slowly cross the road. They are not the most engaging species, so to see one doing something interesting was great.

Driving around we had great views of three campo flickers feeding on a grassy area with a large number of monk parakeets and some sleeping capybaras. We then made it to the main campsite and immediately found a pair of amazing plains viscacha at the entrance to their burrows under some trees. It was still very light and we were a little surprised. We went closer and closer and got great views of them as they feed and called to each other just around the edge of their burrow system. An interesting behaviour of this wonderful rodent is that they collect everything (usually branches and pieces of wood; but sometimes bricks, rubbish and even bicycles) from the surrounding area to the entrance of their burrows. We don’t really know why they do this, but it means you cannot miss a colony as it looks like there is a large unlit bon-fire on the ground next to quite a large hole. As we watched a third one came out and we got some great views in the daylight, so unusual for a largely nocturnal animal.

As the sun got lower and lower more and more came out but long before it was anything like dark we had dozens all around, including one particularly large colony which seems to have around 30 living in it, more and more kept coming out and the sight of so many of these large grey rodents with striking black and white facial markings all in the same area just off the side of the campground was quite entertaining.

We walking around the campground, taking in the views out of the Uruguay River to Uruguay on the other side. We were looking and hoping for some lesser grisons, however they are only really active and ‘easy’ to see around the campground in the height of winter (June / July) when the rest of their food in the park is scarce, but there was always the chance of seeing them elsewhere in the park. So we got back in the car and drove around again until well after dark looking for what else we could find.

Just before it got dark we had a great view of a crane hawk level with the car on a branch over a river, this bird is similar in appearance and behaviour to the gymnogene of Africa in that they have long legs which are double-jointed and can use these legs to reach down into tree holes, feel around and grab roosting bats.

After dark we found a pair of great-grey owls as well as such high numbers of capybara and then some nocturnal mammals. We had three crab-eating foxes foraging and interacting with each other in a field next to the road, as we watched these entertaining foxes Joe spotted an armadillo on the road in front of us. Marcelo immediately shouted large hairy armadillo, Martin agreed it looked little like the many yellow armadillos we had seen in the past and in the binoculars the extreme hairiness of the belly and back meant we were in little doubt that despite the map not quite covering this park for this species that we had seen a large hairy armadillo and it is likely many of the yellow armadillo sightings here are misidentified.

Driving back towards the entrance of the park and our lodge we found a pair of common brown brocket deer, many introduced chital deer and more crab-eating foxes as well as a Patagonian nightjar and nice scissor-tailed nightjar. We then made it back to the lodge and had some dinner before retiring for the night.

Day 5         El Palmar National Park 

This morning we left before breakfast and entered the park once again, almost straight away we had great views of a pampas fox just at the side of the road, being very cooperate for pictures. Driving along we found many of the same species we had seen yesterday, but some nice additions including a large flock of foraging guira cuckoos. What was also interesting was as it was colder today and it had rained most of the night the capybara were not out in such high numbers on the side of the road until a little later when it had warmed up more. We did have daylight views of chital however before watching a pair of American kestrels interacting.

Further along we seemed to find where all the capybara were hiding as we started to see many of them out on the side of the roads again along with some more pampas foxes. We then watched a beautiful aplomado falcon chased dove after dover after dove around the car, flying fast over the road and bushes, giving up on that dove and finding another and darting off after the next one. It must have chased 5 doves in a row before finally giving up and perching and we then carried on also.

On our way to the campsite for breakfast we had a very nice sighting of a pair of crab-eating foxes, walking along the road and beside the car. The sun was breaking through the clouds as we had breakfast and afterwards it was like a completely different day with clear blue skies and a much warmer temperature. We continued our drive around the various roads of the park for a couple more hours. There were many raptors in the sky, after a couple of days of cloudy and rainy weather they had been waiting for this to really get airborne and soaring again. We found Harris’s hawks, roadside hawks and turkey vultures all in good numbers in the air this morning. We also saw our first greater rhea of the trip before heading back to the lodge for lunch at just gone midday, the final new species for the trip before leaving the park was a large Argentina black-and-white tegu out sunning itself before crossing the road in front of us.

Back at the lodge we had been invited out on one of the lodge’s own jeeps as they do a safari drive around their farm, we accepted as they told us there was a species of tuco-tuco here that was different to elsewhere and we wanted to see what else they had. The farm is enormous at around 1,500 hectares and with 500 head of cattle the area was very similar to the Brazilian Pantanal.

The tour around the farm was quite interesting with the huge orange orchard and then a vineyard which they are bringing back. The wine in Argentina originated in this state but it quickly moved to Mendoza (where nearly all of the wine is produced now) and it was actually made illegal to produce wine anywhere else. That law has been lifted and so people are now bringing back wine to these regions. We then entered the cattle ranching area of the huge property. This is very reminiscent of the cattle ranches known from the Pantanal, however they do not seasonally flood to the same extent and as a result they are home to burrowing mammals such as a very range restricted species of tuco-tuco. We were driving along past many of their colonies when we stopped to see a yellow armadillo in the open and whilst there we staked out a couple of burrows and after a few minutes we had great views of several Rio Negro tuco-tucos at their burrow entrances. It was interesting to learn that this species is one of the few asocial species of tuco-tuco and they do not live in the large colonies which are more typical of the species but instead these are individual burrows and they only meet up for breeding.

We were also taken to the riparian forest where we found tracks of brocket deer, crab-eating racoons again had the distinct feeling of being in the Brazilian Pantanal again.

On our way back to the main lodge we stopped at an old building which sometimes has bats inside, we could only find a couple inside but they were the wonderful silver-tipped myotis which we had been detecting but not seen well until now. Further on as we drove back we had another Molina’s hog-nosed skunk nearby the vehicle as it shuffled along looking for food. We kept our eyes out for cats as the local guides were convinced they have Pampas cat here as well as Geoffrey’s cat in good numbers, but they said that they were an infrequent sighting.

Plains Viscacha

Plains Viscacha – El Palmar National Park, Argentina

Day 6         Ceibas / Buenos Aires           

This morning we left Aurora del Palmar after breakfast and drove back towards Ceibas. It was a very nice day weather wise without a cloud in the sky. Along the highway we had a great peregrine falcon sighting as this amazing bird flying parallel with us for a while.

When we got back to the farmland / grassland areas we had explored on the way up to El Palmar National Park for a little while but we didn’t see anything new but the birdlife was very special again. The only thing different we had was a very distance Brazilian guineapig running across the road and the only other notable sighting was a very nice and close roadside hawk on…well…the roadside. We then visited Otamendi Reserve but the heat of the day was quite hot and the whole place was very quiet, so we didn’t spend too long before heading to a nice residential estate nearby Buenos Aires where we picked up several Brazilian guineapigs. It was amazing that we hadn’t seen any (other than a poor sighting crossing the road) until now, but we then got many of these ubiquitous rodents along the grass verges edging the roads of the estate.

Back in Buenos Aires and the same hotel we stayed at previously we said goodbye to Marcel (a great guide and very interested in expanding from birding to mammalwatching) we met Ricardo who would take us into Patagonia. For dinner we decided to book a table at the iconic La Brigada restaurant, a former favourite steak house of Diego Maradona and a current one of Lionel Messi, the place is a homage to all sport but of course particular football and the Argentine footballing gods are given plenty of floor, shelf and even ceiling space for their memorabilia. But it was not just the eclectic décor that makes this such an iconic restaurant but the steak is second to none. The variety is bamboozling and once you decide on which cut you want, it come in one size….gigantic and they serve it to you by cutting it with a spoon…yes the steak is so tender that they use a normal spoon to slice your steak. It is all theatre but the taste was exceptional. I would go as far to say that La Brigada is an honorary mammal for the trip!

Day 7         Puerto Madryn     

This morning we left the hotel after breakfast and were taken to the domestic airport to catch our flight south to the Patagonian town of Trelew. We arrived around midday and collected our vehicle and drove towards the old Welsh colony of Gaiman which is a short distance from Trelew. Gaiman is a very special and peculiar town; founded in 1874 by David D. Roberts a Welsh man coming from Wales via North America to set up a mining community in the coal rich region of Chubut Province in Patagonia.

Many people in the region have maintained the use of the Welsh language and amazingly there are thousands of Welsh speakers still living in Patagonia. There is an annual youth Eisteddfod, a Welsh cultural festival as well as a nice little but thorough museum (which was not open today, but we would visit another time) and a couple of original Welsh Protestant chapels, of which the largest is Capel Bethel (which we did visit this afternoon).

After visiting Capel Bethel which was built in the 1880’s we had lunch in a very unusual but eclectic restaurant. From here we drove to Puerto Madryn the major town in the area and where we would spend the night. Along the way we saw some Harris’s hawks and chimango caracaras flying off the road or perched on the telegraph wires which lined the roads. We also made a short stop at a lagoon in Trelew on the way and saw a variety of bird life including Andean ruddy ducks, coscoroba swans, red shovelers, black-headed ducks (a rarity) silvery grebes and a large flock of Chilean flamingos.

Along the road there was another site we stopped to look at, this being a life-size replica of one of the largest animals to have ever lived on the planet. Found in the dry steppe around here were fossils of an animal which measured 37m (121ft long) (longer than a blue whale) and possibly weighed as much as 57-69 tonnes. This colossus is the aptly named Patagotitan mayorum a species of sauropod dinosaur. After stopping for the obligatory selfie we carried on to the hotel in the town. We checked in and then went for dinner in the town, before Martin and Ricardo went spotlighting around Playa Paruna after dinner.

There were many European hares (introduced here) around as well as one South American gray fox hiding in the bushes and a couple of Patagonian nightjars. We also had nice sighting of what we believe was a Dolores grass rat (based on its appearance, habitat and the fact that there are not many species it could be here).

Day 8         Peninsula Valdes             

After breakfast we left Puerto Madryn and started our journey to Peninsual Valdes and the small fishing town of Puerto Piramides. It was an overcast and drizzly morning and our dolphin watching boat trip was cancelled for this morning due to the strong winds.

So we drove some of the dirt roads around the coast from Puerto Madryn onto the Peninsula instead and straight away had some very nice views of some very nice long-tailed meadowlarks. There were many shorebirds and sea birds around the coastline and particularly the harbour, a we made it to the beginning of the peninsular we had a small flock of elegant-crested tinamous on the side of the road. This nice looking bird becoming a regularly seen species along the gravel roads of the peninsula. A little while longer had amazing views of three Geoffroy’s cat next to the road. Martin spotted a cat just sat on the side of the road and by the time we had stopped and reversed back we were convinced it would have disappeared into the dense bush. But amazingly it was still there, just sat staring at us. It was then quickly joined by another one who also obliged and sat in front of the first one and watched us and as we got great pictures and videos a third one came from out of the vegetation and walked off, followed by the other two. What a great start to our time on the peninsula. Because one of the cats was larger than the other two and the smaller ones looked younger, it is most likely it was a mother and two nearly mature kittens.

We then had further views of tinamous including a very nice prolonged view of a male with a lot of chicks. Despite being much smaller they are related to the rheas, emus and ostriches and are ratites. As a result they share the male oriented incubation and chick rearing system of their larger cousins.

As we continued towards the entry gate to the peninsula and the visitor centre we started to see the largest terrestrial animal of the Patagonian steppe. This is the of course the wild ancestor of the domesticated llama, the guanaco. There are thousands on the peninsula and sometimes the drives would seem like you were seeing every one of them. We also saw our first Darwin’s rhea, a smaller cousin of the greater rhea more commonly seen in central grasslands of South America and also a more attractively patterned one. We expected to see more of these, but it would only be one until much later in the trip.

After a break at the visitor centre we continued onwards, it was very windy and cold and so we missed the chance to pick up the southern mountain cavy which can be seen around the visitor centre on warmer, sunnier days. But we did see our first Patagonian maras. They were resting and sheltering out of the wind near some long grass, they were not very easily seen so we hoped for more and better views in the future. The last wildlife of note before getting to Puerto Piramides was a flock of tawny-throated dotterels.

We arrived around 1pm and checked and then went for lunch. We checked in with Hector who organises the special permits needed to gain access to the attack beach at Punta Norte and confirmed that tomorrow we would be ready to leave in time for the high tide. However in hindsight there was something missing in the conversation that Hector and Ricardo had as tomorrow turned into a little bit of a farse in getting to the right place to meet our designated ranger. However for this afternoon we left the town and went to look for wildlife along the roads on our way to Caleta Valdes and the southern elephant seal colony there.

We had not gone very far when we had great views of a pair of Patagonian mara they mate for life and are very often found in male / female pairs and this was one of those. We watched this pair as they were much closer than our previous sighting this morning and watched as they moved of and away. We then carried on towards the coast.

We were powering down the road when all of a sudden the fuel gauge went from 192km remaining and 3 bars to near empty. We checked the tank for leaks, nothing. But we were not familiar with the car, we had a feeling that the sensor in the tank had been knocked out of position with the rough road or maybe the electronic display was just malfunctioning, we knew how much fuel we had in the tank but didn’t want to risk being stuck out without phone signal many kilometres away from anywhere in case there was something bigger wrong with the fuel tank. So we annoyingly and reluctantly decided to return back and went to the petrol station to fill up the tank. We did (not much went in which confirmed that the fuel was still in the tank but at least now the gauge was recognising the fuel this time. So we set off again, however by this time we were not going to make it to Caleta Valdes this evening so we went on some of the smaller roads to look for terrestrial wildlife instead.

We had some endemic carbonated sierra finches before Ricardo spotted a Humbolt’s hog-nosed skunk next to the road. We had great views as the animal moved through the scrub until it went into a bush to escape the intense wind and our attention. We had great views of the little skunk in the bush before moving on.

We then went back to the accommodation for some fantastic food and after dark Martin and Ricardo went spotlighting, but it was very cold, windy and raining and we only had one European hare.

Day 9         Peninsula Valdes                         

This morning we had half of the day free as the high tide was not until late this afternoon and we were not due to meet our ranger until around 1pm Puerto Piramides. So we aimed to make it to Caleta Valdes this morning, it was pretty misty this morning and the road conditions were pretty slippery as well. It started to rain as the morning progressed and the road conditions got worse and worse, in fact Ricardo’s driving skills were very good as we were slipping and sliding in some sections and more than once the back end kicked out and the car had a mind of its own at times.

Along the way the sun started to break through and there were patches of some blue sky around and we started to see many guanacos along the roadside. They were mixed in with many sheep; sheep are the main livestock raised on the peninsula (maybe a relic of the Welsh influence in the area). We then had a couple of European hares run across the road and away as we entered Caleta Valdes.

At the coast we walked the boardwalks and saw a small number of female and young male southern elephant seals on the beach. Some of the young males were in the rock pools play fighting, practising for when they get older and are vying for harems of females in the breeding season. There were also several species of sea bird around including many imperial cormorants. At the colony view point we had a very fleeting view of a southern mountain cavy. Offshore is a place to look for orcas as they sometimes patrol these waters, in fact when the elephant seals are pupping (November – December) they hunt them here, not by beaching themselves but by getting into the shallow lagoons where they can pick them off easy. The orcas were seen passing by here yesterday and the day before they were seen here playing with a sea lion that they had caught off the beach and killed.

We carried on to another couple of view points along the coast here and saw a colony of southern sea lions, we had some great views of the sea lions as they rested on the beach and a small island, there were several males we watched as they were fighting and chasing each other around. There were some Magellanic penguins interspersed with the sea lions and then we visited the area which the penguins use as their main colony around here. There were some still here, but many had left or were out to sea. The ones which were around and in their burrows were mostly nearly fledged chicks which were in various stages of moulting. There were some adults around but not many, they were mostly on the beach and in the water.

We were also told by a ranger at the view point that we shouldn’t be here as the roads were closed because of the rain and the treacherous road conditions. We must have set off so early that they hadn’t put the road closed signs up yet. We headed back and hoped that the road to Punta Norte (the attack beach) was not closed as our first visit would be in jeopardy. Along the road on our way back we had many more sightings of the guanacos and when we got to the junction and the road that would head to Punta Norte we saw it has indeed been closed off. We knew that unless the roads were completely waterlogged our rangers allocated to us and our special permission would still enable us to get there so after lunch we went to meet our ranger Lara. The problem being that the only number we had was for Hector and he was at the attack beach (he spends all day every day there) and there is no phone signal there, so we couldn’t reach him to determine the location and time of the meeting with Lara. Ricardo seemed to think that Lara was coming to our accommodation at 1pm but long after 1pm we realised that was not the case, so we literally went around the town asking people and eventually we found the number for the local ranger accommodation and met Lara.

We had missed the ideal time to arrive to get to the attack beach, you have to be there on the beach and among the seals at least 2 hours before high tide. This is so that the orcas do not see you and get disturbed and don’t hunt. The rules for the attack beach are quite strict and that is not considering the fact that we had to apply for these very limited and expensive permits 2 years in advance. But once there you have several natural factors which affect the likelihood of orcas hunting. Firstly they only do it at high tide when the seal pups are learning to swim for a period of 2-4 weeks in March – April. But also the wind has to be blowing from the south or west so the sea conditions are calm. Then if these conditions are all good, we then have to get there 2 hours ahead of high tide and be settled on the beach (crouched down – in fact better to be lying down and crawling – so you are never higher than the height of the sea lions. You then have to stay there through the 1-2 hour high tide period and then for around 1 hour after. It is quite intense and with no guarantees the orcas will even show up.

We arrived at Punta Norte eventually, we stayed around the boardwalks and watched the wildlife on the beach. There is a large colony of southern sea lions around here and just one southern elephant seal, some of the sea lions were playing in the water and the bird life was very productive with huge numbers of kelp gulls, crested caracaras and a couple of southern giant-petrels skimming back and forth along the beach. The caracaras were feeding on a dead sea lion carcass on the beach. The orcas had not been seen here today and the wind was blowing in from the north-east (the worse direction for hunting orcas) and it was blowing strong. So at least the mix up with the ranger phone numbers had not cost us any orca sightings.

Spending time around the boardwalks here we did have very nice pichi sighting around the ranger station and a little later we met Hector and because the wind was completely wrong for orcas we were allowed to walk down to the attack beach with him so we could see it, what it would entail for the coming days and get closer views of the sea lion colony there.

On the walk down to the attack beach we walked through the scrub grassland fringing the beach and saw a pair of large hairy armadillos very well and very close. We did get some nice close views of the southern sea lions and also familiarised ourselves with the area, the two reefs that line the main attack channel and Martin even got some practise crawling on his belly down the beach to the colony to see them up close.

Back at the ranger station Ricardo told us about the several southern mountain cavies he saw around a known colony here. But it was now too late and getting dark to see them anymore. So we left and drove back to the accommodation for dinner. Tomorrow we will be back at the same time for the high tide, however the weather was looking bad again with more rain due overnight and also the wind was forecast to be blowing strongly from the north-east again.

Day 10       Rawson & Peninsula Valdes                   

This morning we left the Peninsula to travel to Rawson, a small town nearby Trelew, we would be going out this morning on a dolphin watching cruise which focused on a small population of the very cute and striking Commerson’s dolphin. We left right after breakfast and along the way we didn’t see any wildlife but quite a bit of roadkill including European hare, pampas cat, South American gray fox.

The high tide out of Rawson was at 9:30am and this was perfect for the tonina, or sea panda which are other names for Commerson’s dolphins. However the sea conditions were far from perfect, but at least the boat was going out to Playa Union, which is perhaps the most reliable location in the world for this tiny cetacean. In the harbour before we had a very good view of a small colony of southern sea lions including our first very close up views of large males, as well as several subadult males who were being very boisterous. Once out on the open water the chop was quite bad and made looking for dolphins difficult. However lucky for us the crew would not give up easy. It took a long time to find the dolphins and along the way we did have some nice bird sightings including some solitary Magenallic penguins swimming along fishing. Then we came across a couple of small pods of Commerson’s dolphins, they were playing around the boat, jumping up and bow riding. It is a great species, so beautiful in black and white and they are very energetic and the porpoising was very nice to see.

Southern Sea Lion

Southern Sea Lion – Peninsula Valdes

From here we went back to Peninsula Valdes and direct to Punta Norte in time for the high tide. The sea conditions were even worse today at Punta Norte than yesterday and the sea was very rough. There was little chance of seeing the orcas today unfortunately. The beach was full of the same southern sea lions and seabird species but the wind was very strong and we didn’t stay around until sunset. We did have another very nice large hairy armadillo sighting near the boardwalk.

This was originally our last night in the Peninsula and we had missed our chance at orca sightings. However this evening Martin and Ricardo got to work with some very last minute logistics, we had decided to spend longer on the peninsula. We had to cancel our flights and bookings in the north of the country, hire another vehicle, get an extension on the permits (which Hector was very kind to do) and get the accommodation boked for a few more days. So after lots of emails, phone calls and working out costs, it was decided that at the crack of dawn Martin would take Ricardo to Trelew airport to catch his flight back north and then rent a new car and come back to the Peninsula for a few more days and nights here to hedge our bets on seeing the orcas perform their remarkable hunting technique.

Day 11       Peninsula Valdes                           

This morning well before dawn Martin and Ricardo left to drive to the airport in Trelew where Ricardo left to fly back to the north and Martin hired a new vehicle and came driving back to the peninsula. With the extra 4.5 hours of driving before breakfast done by Martin we decided to have the morning off and just rest at the accommodation after breakfast.

So the plan was to head to Punta Norte at midday, the road was open and the road much drier so we made better time to get to Punta Norte. We decided to take with us a packed lunch and were planning on eating that at the beach before the 2 hours to high tide deadline to get to the attack beach. As soon as we arrived there Hector came running out telling us the orcas has been spotted around the beach and we should get to the beach straight away.

So we made our way down to the attack channel as quickly as possible, along the way we could see a pod of 6-7 orcas patrolling the beach, staying around 100-200m offshore but clearly not passing through and hanging a around a little. Maybe assessing the wind / sea conditions. They were heading from the north and swimming face and direct towards the attack channel so we were getting very excited about the prospect of seeing some action today. There was a film crew working for a Netflix production already set up when we arrived and we got into position nearby them with. There was still 3.5 hours until hightide so we were getting ourselves settled in for the wait. However nothing happened, the orcas moved off and away, the wind was making the waves too rough and so they must have decided to skip the beach today. So we left and headed back, the positives being that we had at least seen orcas today and the wind was due to change direction tomorrow and stay heading from the preferred westerly and southerly direction for the next few days. So there was some quiet optimism with that forecast. Before we left we had some views of the southern mountain cavies near their burrow system and then on the drive back was saw many guanacos and a South American gray fox crossed the road just around sunset.

Day 12       Peninsula Valdes   

The first high tide this morning was at 7:30am, in fact we were going to get 2 high tides today, one just at dawn and then one just before sunset. However the early nature of the first high tide meant leaving at 5:30am and a drive in the dark to Punta Norte, we met up with Hector and the film crew at the entrance gate as the beach is not open until 8am and so only with Hector’s permission we could enter this early. As soon as we made it to the beach the sun was just rising and the spotters based permanently at the beach told us that two orcas are around the attack channel already. So we bolted down there as fast as we could and got all set up, as soon as we were set up we started to have the orcas coming closer and closer to the beach. We were positioned maybe 25-30m away from the surf and to see these huge predators hunting so close was just incredible.

Over the course of the next few hours as the tide rose and reached its maximum and then started to recede we watched as around 6-7 orcas (almost certainly the same pod that swam past yesterday to check out the beach conditions) hunted sea lion pups in the surf. There were probably 10 hunts attempted, including 3 successful ones. The hunt itself was spectacular to see, the sea lion pups would be playing in the surf, swimming back and forth along the attack channel, sometimes on their own and sometimes in small groups. Whilst this is happening the orcas started to come closer and closer patrolling, acting casual and not swimming directly towards the beach at any point. Then all of a sudden and without warning the orcas would turn and accelerate fast, the tail going up and down so fast and a film of water flowing over the head of the orca. Then when you think they would stop as they were getting to close to the beach, they go faster and faster and launch themselves onto the beach, the mouth opens and if they are successful they grab a pup and drag it back to the water. They get themselves off the beach by thrashing their bodies up and down and turning to swim back. It is incredibly dangerous for the orcas to do this, they risk getting to far up the beach or injuring themselves and not being able to get back to the sea. The weight of their bodies out of water acts against them and can cause significant injury or death quickly.

But once the orca has the pup and is back out in the water the behaviour takes a more sinister turn, the poor sea lions are not killed quickly, they are played with. This is important bonding and also training for the younger orcas the beaching is such a difficult and dangerous behaviour that only this small population of orcas have developed this. And out of the 50 or so orcas who live around here only a handful of old bulls and cows do the actual hunting, it takes a very long time for the younger ones to learn this and get good at catching the much more agile pups. So this game of cat and mouse is very important for the orcas but it is hard to watch. They would release them and let the pups swim back to shore, but they would never get there. A huge tail would come flying out from beneath the pup and flip it high into the air, or the body of the orca would come out and dive on top of the pup and force it under the water. This would go on for several minutes sometimes and is not a great watch despite being an incredible behaviour and unique in the world.

All of this was happening with the backdrop of a beautiful sunrise. Around 9am the orcas had moved off and the tide was receding, so we left the beach and headed back to the boardwalks and ranger stations. Martin went back to the town to meet Rhoda and Joe who had decided against the early start this morning.

Back at the accommodation we had lunch and then headed to Punta Pirimades to see the large colony of South American sea lions, along with the sea lions there were many species of sea bird around including imperial and Magellanic cormorants, southern giant-petrels, brown-hooded gulls, kelp gulls and sandwich terns. We then left Punta Pirimades and drove to Caleta Valdes, when we went here earlier in the trip Rhoda had stayed back and so she had not seen the penguins yet, or had good views of the southern elephant seals. We saw these marine species of course as they are pretty much always here and the views were very similar to what we had the first time we got there. But we had the best views so far of the southern mountain cavies the sun was shining and there were several out and about in the grass and wild flowers feeding.

We then left Caleta Valdes and drove to Punta Norte in time for the evening high tide, we had used all of our special attack channel permits up (unfortunately there were other photographers around now and Hector couldn’t extend the special permissions again for us), so we would be based around the boardwalks. As soon as we set up we could se that there were around 4 orcas around he attack channel and they seemed to be hunting again, with several moving closer to the beach but we didn’t see any attempted beachings. There were another two orcas offshore and moving up and down the beach. It was great to watch as they were tail slapping and breaching in the open sea and then the pair in the open water came close to the beach near the boardwalk. The whole pod was now split into two groups, with the attack beach coming under fire again and the pair near us on the boardwalk also starting to take an interest in the sea lion pups in the surfzone.

We were then incredibly lucky to see one of these orcas start to hunt right on the beach in front of us. It is true that the orcas can hunt anywhere along the sea lion colony but around 90% of the hunts occur in the attack channel and so to have a hunting orca in front of us on the boardwalk is just so lucky. The second or third hunt the orca attempted was successful and we watched the orca play with the sea lion pup before eating it.

A little while later more orcas showed up and we eventually had around 10 all along the beach, we even had a surprise visit from a southern right whale which was one of the very first to arrive here. The whales migrate through here and spend the austral winter around the peninsula, however they are rarely seen this early in the year. The whale did not go unnoticed and a pair of orcas went over to investigate, it would have been great to have seen closer up what that interaction was like, but even from the beach we could see the huge size difference between the two cetaceans, with the orcas looking very small in comparison.

We stayed for a while longer and watched as more pups were attacked and the orcas had fun around the boardwalk beach and the attack beach. We then left and drove back to the accommodation, what a day! A morning and afternoon of beach hunting orcas and with everyone getting views of this amazing behaviour.

Day 13       Peninsula Valdes                 

This morning we decided to skip the early morning tide as we had such a great day yesterday and instead after breakfast we went for a drive and attempted to make it to Punta Delgada, which is the only headland we had visited so far because the road had been closed the entire time we were there.

It was quite windy today and overcast and we straight away we spotted four Patagonian maras in two pairs. There were also sightings of many gauancos and elegant-crested tinamous before we got much closer views of more Patagonian maras near the road.

As we approached Punta Delgada we noticed it was a lot more open grassland here and left scrubland, this was reflected in the large number of Darwin’s rhea we saw today with large flocks of them on both sides of the road. But we didn’t make it to Punta Delgada as the closer we got (probably to within 5 minutes of the point), the road was completely waterlogged and there was no way our hired car would get through.

The rest of the day we spent relaxing and exploring the village a little further.   

Day 14       Peninsula Valdes / Gaiman  

This morning on our way to Punta Norte a Geoffroy’s cat crossed the road and gave us good views on the side of the road looking at us before it headed into the scrub. It was a beautiful morning at Punta Norte and we were there for high tide. But this morning there were no orcas at all, it is likely that the successful hunting yesterday means that they wouldn’t be back for a while. Without the orcas around there were many more sea lion pups playing in the water than the previous days. This is the first high tide with favourable wind conditions and no orcas for several days and the pups were having a real good time this morning.

Along the beach we saw three southern elephant seals which joined the South American sea lion colony, the difference in size between these two species was amazing to see up close on the beach, even if the elephant seals were only 2 subadults and an adult female.

We then left the peninsula and drove to Puerto Madryn for lunch and then onto Gaiman for another attempt to visit he museum. It was open this afternoon and we visited here as well as the first home in the settlement. The museum was very enlightening and stuffed full of artifacts and historical documents from the start of the Welsh colony here and the early years of the development of the settlement. The house we visited has been restored and the guided tour was very interesting, the house was built by Robert Berwyn and was the first house built here in 1874. After spending the afternoon here we left again and made our way back to the peninsula and the accommodation for more amazing homemade food.

Guanacos - Argentina

Peninsula Valdes mammalwatching tour – Guanacos

Day 15       Puerto Madryn       

This morning after breakfast we left for the city of Puerto Madryn as we were going to have a dolphin watching cruise this morning. It was a beautiful day and the sea was calm, we were hoping for dusky dolphin sightings today, but maybe our good luck with the orcas in the previous days had ran out as we didn’t se dusky dolphins. We did visit Punto Lomo and the southern sea lion colony there, this colony is full of large males as well as females and pups and we had very nice close views. The birds around the colony where abundant with many imperial cormorants, rock cormorant, dolphin gulls, kelp gulls as well as some lone snowy sheathbills and a small group of southern giant-petrels which were aggregating around a sea lion carcass. On the way back to the harbour we passed by a ship wreck which had turned into a cormorant colony.

We then had lunch in the city and headed back to the peninsula in the late afternoon. This was our last day in the peninsula and we would be leaving early the following day, so we had this evening packing and getting some good rest before the long day tomorrow.

Day 16       Buenos Aires  

This morning we left the peninsula and drove to Trelew and caught our flight back to Buenos Aires, once we got there we met our driver and headed to the hotel for the night, Rhoda and Joe were spending the night here whilst Martin was flying on home. The following day Joe and Rhoda were taken on a small city tour of Buenos Aires before heading to the airport to catch their return flight home.

 

Species List         Northern Argentina & Peninsula Valdes Wildlife Tour / April 2022

 

Mammals (* = heard or signs only)

 

  Common Name Binominal Name   Mar April
    31 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
1 Dolores grass rat Akodon dolores               1                  
2 Chital Axis axis         ~25 5                      
3 Brazilian guineapig Cavia aperea       1     14                    
4 Commerson’s dolphin Cephalorhynchus commersonii                     ~10            
5 Crab-eating fox Cerdocyon thous         5 2                      
6 Large hairy armadillo Chaetophractus villosus         1         4 1   1        
7 Molina’s hog-nosed skunk Conepatus chinga       1   1                      
8 Humboldt’s hog-nosed skunk Conepatus humboldtii                 1                
9 Pearson’s tuco-tuco Ctenomys pearsoni       * 1                        
10 Rio Negro tuco-tuco Ctenomys rionegrensis           2                      
11 Patagonian mara Dolichotis patagonum                 4 2       11      
12 Argentine brown bat Eptesicus furinalis       1                          
13 Southern right whale Eubalaena australis                         2        
14 Yellow armadillo Euphractus sexcinctus           1                      
15 Crafty marsh rat Holochilus vulpinus       1                          
16 Capybara Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris         ~167 ~91                      
17 Plains viscacha Lagostomus maximus         28 *                      
18 Guanaco Lama guanicoe                 ~149 ~350 ~148 ~120 ~195 78 ~145 ~70  
19 Southern red bat Lasiurus blossevillii       1                          
20 Pampa cat Leopardus colocola                     *            
21 Geoffroy’s cat Leopardus geoffroyi       1         3           1    
22 European hare Lepus europaeus               6 1   * 2   2      
23 South American grey fox Lycalopex griseus               1     *   1     *  
24 Pampas fox Lycalopex gymnocercus       1   2                      
25 Common brown brocket Mazama gouazoubira         2                        
26 Southern mountain cavy Microcavia australis                   4     4        
27 Southern elephant seal Mirounga leonina                   18 1   56   3    
28 Coypu Myocastor coypus     4       1                    
29 Silver-tiped myotis Myotis albescens       2   2                      
30 Orca Orcanis orca                       6 13        
31 South American sea lion Otaria flavescens                 1 ~500 ~240 ~300 ~650   ~250 ~240  
32 Crab-eating raccoon Procyon cancrivorus           * *                    
33 Pichi Zaedyus pichiy                   1              

 

Birds (* = heard or signs only)

 

  Common Name Binominal Name   Mar April
    31 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
1 Bicolor hawk Accipiter bicolor         1                        
2 Greyish baywing Agelaioides badius     ~37   ~25   2                    
3 Yellow-wing blackbird Agelasticus thilius       6 7                        
4 Brazilian teal Amazonetta brasiliensis     36 9 6   2                    
5 Grassland sparrow Ammodramus humeralis       ~10   ~15 5                    
6 Yellow-bill teal Anas flavirostris       1                          
7 Yellow-billed teal Anas flavirostris             2                    
8 Yellow-billed pintail Anas georgica       2       1                  
9 Yellowish pipit Anthus chii       1                          
10 Firewood gatherer Anumbius annumbi         4                        
11 Giant wood rail Aramides ypecaha           5                      
12 Limpkin Aramus guarauna     10 1                          
13 Nanday parakeet Aratinga nenday     5                            
14 Great egret Ardea alba     2 ~59 2 2 2         2          
15 Cocoi heron Ardea cocoi     2 3 4 1                      
16 Short-eared owl Asio flammeus                       2          
17 Short-billed canastero Asthenes baeri       1                          
18 Golden-crowned warbler Basileuterus culicivorus     1                            
19 Great horned owl Bubo virginianus       * 2                        
20 Cattle egret Bubulcus ibis                   1     1        
21 Savanna hawk Buteogallus meridionalis       4 1                        
22 Stilt sandpiper Calidris himantopus                       ~500 ~500        
23 Ringed teal Callonetta leucophrys       4 5   3                    
24 Patagonian nightjar Caprimulgus longirostris         1     1       2          
25 Southern crested caracara Caracara plancus   3 4 17 ~28 7 8     1   1         2
26 Turkey vulture Cathartes aura         1 2     ~35 27 ~10 ~10 15   8    
27 Two-banded plover Charadrius falklandicus                 1                
28 Southern screamer Chauna torquata     8 ~261 ~58   4                    
29 Snowy sheathbill Chionis albus                   ~10 2         2  
30 Green kingfisher Chloroceryle americana           1                      
31 Green kingfisher Chloroceryle americana             1                    
32 Brown-headed gull Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus               ~200 ~500   ~30   ~500     ~350  
33 Chestnut-capped blackbird Chrysomus ruficapillus       ~30                          
34 Maguari stork Ciconia maguari       ~37 17   ~10                    
35 Campo flicker Colaptes campestris         5 3                      
36 Green barred woodpecker Colaptes melanochloros         5                        
37 Feral pigeon Columba livia   ~20 ~120 ~100 ~31   ~158 ~100 ~10   ~50       ~50 ~100 ~250
38 Picui ground dove Columbina picui       2 6   ~57 5                  
39 Rudy ground dove Columbina talpacoti   8                             1
40 Black vulture Coragyps atratus             1                    
41 Lark-like brushrunner Coryphistera alaudina       7 7                        
42 Coscoroba swan Coscoroba coscoroba     5 ~20 2     9                  
43 Plush-crested jay Cyanocorax chrysops         ~10 3                      
44 White-faced whistling duck Dendrocygna viduata     10   2                        
45 Snowy egret Egretta thula     1 ~43                          
46 Pampa finch Embernagra platensis           ~5                      
47 Elegant-crested tinamou Eudromia elegans                 25   7   9 3      
48 Aplamado falcon Falco femoralis           1     1                
49 Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus             1                    
50 American kestrel Falco sparverius         1 3 2   1                
51 Red-gartered coot Fulica armillata               2                  
52 Red-fronted coot Fulica rufifrons     26                            
53 Rufous hornero Furnarius rufus     1 25 ~53 7 ~26                    
54 Paraguayan snipe Gallinago paraguaiae       1 1                        
55 Common gallinule Gallinula galeata     4 5                          
56 Variable hawk Geranoaetus polyosoma                 1     1     1    
57 Crane hawk Geranospiza caerulescens         1                        
58 Chopi blackbird Gnorimopsar chopi           ~10 15                    
59 Guira cuckoo Guira guira           ~22 6                    
60 Magenallic oystercatcher Haematopus leucopodus                 ~50 8 2 ~100 ~50   ~50    
61 Black-headed duck Heteronetta atricapilla               2                  
62 Black winged stilt Himantopus himantopus       38                          
63 Black-necked stilt Himantopus mexicanus         ~15     ~15                  
64 Scissor-tailed nightjar Hydropsalis torquata         1                        
65 Gilded hummingbird Hylocharis chrysura     1                            
66 Spectacled tyrant Hymenops perspicillatus       11 1                        
67 Wattled jacana Jacana jacana     7 8     1                    
68 Kelp gull Larus dominicanus               ~10 ~266 ~1150 ~225 100’s ~440   ~300 ~450  
69 Dolphin gull Larus scoresbii                             ~40 ~32  
70 Long-tailed meadowlark Leistes loyca                 8 6 3 ~30 3 7 3 ~25  
71 White-tipped dove Leptotila verreauxi         2 9 2                    
72 Austral negrito Lessonia rufa       1 1                        
73 Imperial cormorant Leucocarbo atriceps                 ~10   15   ~50     ~132  
74 Rock cormorant Leucocarbo magellanicus                   13     43     ~201  
75 Crested duck Lophonetta specularioides                 ~157                
76 Cattle tyrant Machetornis rixosa     3 3 3 5 1                   2
77 Northern giant-petrel Macronectes halli                   3 3 1 6   5 14  
78 Patagonian mockingbird Mimus patagonicus               2 19 16 ~19 ~25 7 7 17 ~30  
79 Chalk-browed mockingbird Mimus saturninus     8 56 17 2 1                   2
80 White-banded mockingbird Mimus triurus       1     4                    
81 Shiny cowbird Molothrus bonariensis     ~56                            
82 Wood stork Mycteria americana       2 2                        
83 Monk parakeet Myiopsitta monachus     3 ~95 ~97 ~151 ~54                    
84 Neotropical cormorant Nannopterum brasilianum     6             21 17 ~10 ~60 1      
85 Grey monjita Nengetus cinereus           2                      
86 Black-crowned monjita Neoxolmis coronatus       2                          
87 Rosy-fronted pochard Netta peposaca     ~61   5                        
88 Spoted nothura Nothura maculosa             1                    
89 Wilson’s storm petrel Oceanites oceanicus                     1            
90 Tawny-throated dotterel Oreopholus ruficollis                 8                
91 Andean ruddy duck Oxyura ferruginea               ~100                  
92 Harris’s hawk Parabuteo unicinctus     3     4 1 2                  
93 Yellow-billed cardinal Paroaria capitata     1                            
94 Red-crested cardinal Paroaria coronata     1 6 28   6                   2
95 House sparrow Passer domesticus       ~20       5 2 ~20 ~20   3   12 33  
96 Spot-winged pigeon Patagioenas maculosa       6   ~32 ~10                    
97 Picazuro pigeon Patagioenas picazuro   ~5 15   6 ~10 1                   ~5
98 Chimango caracara Phalcoboenus chimango     1         8 3     8   1 3    
99 Bare-faced ibis Phimosus infuscatus       8     4                    
100 Chilean flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis               ~40                  
101 Hepatic tanager Piranga flava             1                    
102 Great kiskadee Pitangus sulphurates     7 3 5 1 3                    
103 Roseate spoonbill Platalea ajaja       1 1                        
104 Great grebe Podiceps major                 4 5 4 9   6   3  
105 Silvery grebe Podiceps occipitalis               ~10                  
106 Masked gnatcatcher Polioptila dumicola     2                            
107 Spot-flanked gallinule Porphyriops melanops         3                        
108 Carbonated sierra finch Porphyrospiza carbonaria                 1   1 13     5    
109 Brown chester martin Progne tapera       7                          
110 Patagonian canastero Pseudasthenes patagonica                       1          
111 Brown-and-yellow marshbird Pseudoleistes virescens       3 ~20                        
112 Brown cachalote Pseudoseisura lophotes       1 2                        
113 Blue & white swallow Pygochelidon cyanoleuca     ~20                            
114 Vermillion flycatcher Pyrocephalus obscurus       12                          
115 Greater rhea Rhea americana           1                      
116 Darwin’s rhea Rhea pennata                 1         25      
117 White-tufted grebe Rollandia rolland     3         1                  
118 Snail kite Rostrhamus sociabilis       6 3   2                    
119 Roadside hawk Rupornis magnirostris         2 8 2                    
120 Golden-billed saltator Saltator aurantiirostris     2                            
121 Yellow-browed tyrant Satrapa icterophrys         1                        
122 Chotoy spinetail Schoeniophylax phryganophilus       2 2                        
123 Tropical parula Setophaga pitiayumi           1                      
124 Red shoveler Spatula platalea               ~52                  
125 Silver teal Spatula versicolor     1 4                          
126 Magenallic penguin Spheniscus magellanicus                   ~110 24   ~102   1    
127 Hooded siskin Spinus magellanicus       4                          
128 Diademed tanager Stephanophorus diadematus           2                      
129 South American tern Sterna hirundinacea               ~10 ~50             ~10  
130 Eurasian starling Sturnus vulgaris     6                            
131 Whistling heron Syrigma sibilatrix       7 3 2                      
132 Chilean swallow Tachycineta leucopyga       ~20               5          
133 Chubut steamer duck Tachyeres leucocephalus                   3              
134 Black-browed albatross Thalassarche melanophris                               4  
135 Royal tern Thalasseus maximus                   1 5            
136 Sandwich tern Thalasseus sandvicensis                 1   ~10   ~100   ~30 ~30  
137 Plumbeous ibis Theristicus caerulescens       4                          
138 Rufescent tiger heron Tigrisoma lineatum     4 1 1   1                    
139 Greater yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca                   1              
140 House wren Troglodytes aedon     1                            
141 Chiguanco thrush Turdus chiguanco               1                  
142 Austral thrush Turdus falcklandii                     1            
143 Rufous-bellied thrush Turdus rufiventris     1     1                      
144 Tropical kingbird Tyrannus melancholicus     2 2   1                     1
145 Southern lapwing Vanellus chilensis   6 ~10 ~136 ~50 ~20 15 6               2 ~10
146 Chivi vireo Vireo chivi     1                            
147 White monjita Xolmis irupero       5 1   1                    
148 Eared dove Zenaida auriculata               1                  
149 Rufous-collared sparrow Zonotrichia capensis       4 ~10   2                    

 

 

Reptiles (* = heard or signs only)

 

  Common Name Binominal Name   Mar April
    31 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
1 Hilaire’s toadhead turtle Phrynops hilarii     1 2                          
2 Argentine black-and-white tegu Salvator merianae           1                      

 

Amphibians (* = heard or signs only)

 

  Common Name Binominal Name   Mar April
    31 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
1 Montevideo tree-frog Boana pulchella     * 1 * 1                      
2 Cope’s toad Rhinella diptycha       1                          

 

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