Tuesday, 9 February 2010

NO! - I Don't Like to be Beside THIS Seaside.

If there's one thing you gain from these 'long haul' coach journeys, it's the sense of just how vast these counties are. Even what I described as the town of San Rafael took a full 20 minutes to clear, before once again finding ourselves in the vast fruit growing region of Mendoza. In the main grapes for wine, it was interesting to note the different techniques of growing just these plants. What may be described as the traditional French, Italian etc way of training the vines up 45 degree supports, attracting the optimum amount of sunlight, but here there were other options I had not seen before. Many were grown vertically up the supports, while others formed a canopy above the forest of props, beneath which a child could easily walk. Mile after mile of this fertile pasture eventually gave way to 'bush country' which along its full length was fenced in by 5 strand barbed wire. How many miles this followed heaven knows, but it continued into rough grassland and then cattle country. How many head of stock we passed would only be an estimate, but it had to be 'hundreds of thousands? Later, and as the sun set behind us there were other crops, again in enormous proportions, with one single sunflower field stretching over more than 5Km, according to the roadside markers. There were many birds also, mostly small 'passerines', with various Pigeons featuring strongly as did good numbers of Chimango Caracara, and we had now reached Southern Crested Caracara country. Like Carolina and Northern Chickadee in the US, who knows where the line is drawn and for that matter, who can tell the difference? Apart from these, the only others that were identifiable were Long-tailed Flycatcher, Southern Lapwing and at 2 most fortuitous stops a re-encounter with Ash-coloured Cuckoo and Pampas Meadow (a 'lifer') both showing well.

I was still in doubt about our ETA, as chiefy at the bus station had simply written 8hr on my slip of paper, which I read to mean the number of hours the journey would take. It was rapidly approaching 22-00 as we stopped at a retaurant for passengers to eat, but despite yet another inquiry I was still no wiser as we took off again. At mid-night, and another stop, the driver finally indicated that I should sleep and raised 8 fingers to indicate we would arrive at 08-00. It was nearer 09-00, but who's counting as we arrived at yet another huge town and with a good deal of language difficulty finally found myself a seedy hotel. I decided on 2 night, asked about the birds and the Internet, to be told both were absent. Undeterred, I set off down the sea front, much like Bournemouth only lots bigger, and was already feeling decidedly uncomfortable about the place. Beginning to think the ladies at the hotel were right, I did see an immature, large Gull with a 'banded' tail so began to think my luck was in. Long-tailed Flycatcher and Southern Lapwing were both seen again and in the distance there were a good number of Gulls but all inside the Naval Base. With no chance of access, I had already walked about 6 miles so wasn't going to give up now. The closer, the more I considered they could be Olrog's, and finding a way to a part of the Dockyard under repair I just kept walking and wasn't challenged. I had loosed off about half a dozen shots before it dawned on me that these were in fact Kelp Gulls, in addition to which there were Franklin's, Grey and Grey-hooded but no sign at all of the much sort after Olrog's Gull. It was most definitely a bus back as it was now around the late 80'sC and that's when I made the decision to move on tomorrow. Concrete and glass do it for some people but not me, and while as far as holiday resorts go this is all very nice, I'm out of here.

As a footnote:- I found the Naval Base very interesting, especially the Submarines and the small Corvette with 'all hands mustered for Divisions', in best whites (No 6's as they were known in the RN). I have something of a complex about the Argentinian's, and especially the Navy after the debacled of Los Malvinas which, as I have rambled on enough for one day, will enter into at a later date!

RED-LEGGED SERIEMA* c2 stood in a field, with bus at almost stop. We had encountered these, in captivity, in the largest aviary I have ever seen. This was at Iguassu Falls in 2003, when there had been yet another border dispute and one side wasn't going to open the road until the other did. We eventually access the Falls, but if it had not been for the above dispute, would have missed this sight. Although close to the Waders, this large, red-legged, crested monster looks far more like a Secretarybird to me than anything else. No photos I'm afraid.

The Tale to Date

Trip Species - 861
World Lifers - 562
Endemics - 57

Long-tailed Flycatcher

Chilean Mockingbird

Southern Lapwing

Ringed 'First Winter' Kelp Gull (unless you can make it something beginning with 'O'?

I could only make any of them Kelp Gulls

As far as we under-water mob are concerned, there are only 2 types of Ship!

'Submarines' and 'Targets'!

A small Corvette holding 'Divisions' of some kind.

What I think is an Antarctic Survey Vessel ahead of 2 small Frigates.

Floating Dock - don't you just love 'em? Last one I saw was in Simonstown, South Africa, last one I was in was aboard HM S/M Porpoise, Portsmouth Dockyard 170.