Monday, 15 February 2010

Have You Missed Me? - Back On-Line Again

Saturday 13th February 2010

Woke this morning to a very fresh breeze, perhaps close to 25 knots, with much debris falling from the trees but despite my wait, no Monk nests. With only 30Km to travel today, got up at a leisurely pace, had breakfast and still got to Madariaga by 09-30. Most of the terrain over the journey was pampas, open grazing land, small reed beds with a few open pools. The 'trip list' increased by one, Long-winged Harrier, with c2 adults sat on a roadside fence. In addition there were no fewer than c5 Southern Screamers, when considering I have only seen c2 prior to this trip, now the total is c9. The expression 'one horse town' must have been coined when someone visited Madariaga, but the advantage is everything is close to hand, plus it is the springboard for The Lakes. Raul, at the R&C Hosteria, soon had me fixed up with a room at £15 a night, got me some info on Laguna La Salada Grande and estimated the return taxi fare would be about the same price as the room. At about 30Km from here, and no buses, I was happy with that so approached an independent cabby outside of the bus station. He was making a bit of a meal of the language barrier, but as I made to walk away came up with a 70 pesos each way fare. I attempted to knock him down but he seemed reluctant either to reduce the fare, or for that matter want the job, I could only assume because it is Sunday. He kindly directed me to the taxi office where there were a couple of geezers about my age, and we hit it off immediately, I didn't even bother to barter the 90 pesos round trip, so all is (should be) fixed for manana! I know nothing about this area, only that it looks wild on Google Earth and Raul assures me there are plenty of Aves.

Victuals were next on the agenda, but not before giving the local park a good grilling. You know, that 30 seconds fair flew in, so headed for a most well appointed fruit store and loaded up. So, mid-day and what do you do next? Certainly not sit around on your ass' you come up with something! Catching the Pinamar bus back and getting off half way seemed like an excellent idea, and with prospect of photographing both the Screamers and the Harriers I bought a ticket. Now, it seems no matter how far you are going on a local bus, it is impossible to spend more than a quid, and as so far the 'Bus Pass' hasn't worked, I handed over the 60p to get back. There was no chance I could remember where these birds where, so decided to look for a likely area and, as this seems to be a stop on request, just asked the driver to stop. That worked perfectly, now which direction to walk? On the outward journey, this had seemed like a country road, but now in the middle of the day, and packed with traffic, it made Silverstone look like a wheelchair rally, everyone gunning it! The wind had also freshened to a good 30 knots, so considered walking with it the best option, also putting the sun behind me. There was some chatter along the way of small passerines, but among the swaying reed and stands of maram, there was little, if any, chance of seeing these. There was a period of over 30 minutes when, except for Pigeons, no birds were seen at all. c2 Barn Swallows appeared out of nowhere, to relieve the situation, and a distant 'Harrier' (thought to be Cinnereous on short wing length alone, and there are only 2) also helped. By now only 3 things were getting on my tits, the heat, the wind, road noise and the lack of birds, it's the weekend so you get one moan free, so decided to call it a day. It was some way to the next bus stop, but as you can see I made it! During the 15 'click' ride back I saw c3 S Screamers, c2 in a pool so close to the road even I could have got a photie and c2 each of the Harriers. How does it go, "ticking away the moments that make up a dull etc etc".

And finally today, before I have a banana and get my head down, I found a Web Site in English to read up on Olrog's Gull and it makes disturbing reading. Opinions vary a little with one authority stating 7,000 and another 4,000 being the number of birds in existence. They are known to breed at just 5 sites on the Bahia Blanca River estuary and human disturbance is pushing them back all the time. As far as Gulls in general go, they are extremely selective eaters and will only consider 3 species of Crab as food. They are not an Argentine endemic as some frequent the shores and waters of Uruguay in the southern winter, and there has only been a single inland record. How does that Genesis track go, "too big to fly, Dodo ugly so Dodo must die"?

Sunday 14th February 2010

Laguna Salada Grande, Madariaga, Argentina

The analogy of a pint of Strongbow after walking across the Gobi Desert sprang to mind as we reached the gates of Laguna Salada Grande, refreshing after too long an absence of birds in good numbers. That was the story here, as before we even got to the lake 2 'lifers', Speckled Crake and White-winged Black Tyrant were in the log, in addition to which Coscoroba (Swan) and Maguari Stork were also additions to the Trip List. The taxi arrived before I did, a little early, for a prompt start. The first 7 or 8Km was on the familiar road from yesterday, and I started getting the dreaded feeling that was where we were going to end up. Not so, as we took a left fork off of the duel-carriageway and onto a dirt road leading through marsh and farm land. Daylight was already with us, which is a good job, otherwise we would not have been able to identify the Crake which seemed to be feeding/gritting in the middle of the road. At our destination it was obvious the driver and warden were good mates, and they made it clear that should I want anything, all I needed to do was ask!

Rufous-bellied Thrush, thought I'd indulge myself with a couple of photos of this fine looking bird

Don't you just love the 'Thrushes' Dave? Rig mate, and fellow 'birder' Dave Penney gave me World Thrushes for my 60th, what a volume!

The lawn outside of the boat-shed was literally covered with Rufous-bellied Thrushes, plus a sprinkling of Rufous Hornero and Great Kiskadee while out on the huge lake there were at least 2 species of Grebe, Pied-billed for certain. In the far distance a group of Coscoroba's were feeding, and as it put the sun behind me what better way to set off than in their direction? It was a matter of minutes before the familiar Great Pampa-Finch, Southern Beardless Tyrannulet and Black-and-Rufous Warbling-Finch were recognised and just a little further on, in knee deep water, a pair of Southern Screamers. With camera clicking away in multi-fast mode I had cracked the desire of the day, so could put the toys back in the pram, take an anti-excitement pill and get on with the rest of it. Capped Heron, was about the only other waterbird but others all in good numbers included Chilean and White-rumped Swallow, Shiny Cowbird, Saffron Finch, Chimango Caracara, Grassland Yellowfinch and Grass Wren. That's when the Field Flicker appeared in company with c2 other Woodpeckers both Green-barred, a fine looking thing. Another walk along the reed-bed produced the Striped-crowned Spinetail, only identified with the aid of photographs, and a fine, but distant, Red-crested Cardinal, I'd put money on it that we are going to see much closer ones later in the trip. There were also 'thousands' of the smallest Damselflies I have ever seen, I would guess about 2/3rds the size of say Blue-tailed, and whether they were male and female or 2 different species one was green and the other ocher yellow, both with black stripes.

Field Flicker front

and back

I'd now been in the area of the lake for 4 hours, so decided to try a different area making my way back along the dirt road. On the way out there was plenty of action and there was still much to be seen. The Harrier quartering the reeds a good way ahead was thought to be Long-winged as I'm sure I could see red legs, but it went to ground. A good while later what I can only assume was the same bird, took off and allowed for a few decent flight shots. No sooner had that happened than the same went for a Southern Screamer in a roadside mud wallow, but for me the best was still to come.

Long-winged Harrier

probably an immature bird.

At odd times during this trip I have ventured my opinion on the most beautiful Gull and Tern, and today I fulfilled another little 'birding' dream, I saw the species I consider to have the best name. A rather nondescript bird, a little Pipit like, was perched on a fence post so obviously I fired off a few shots and it remained there while I checked the Field Guide. Despite no showing too much of the distinctive black dots on the side of the throat, it showed all the other characteristics of a Firewood-Gatherer - what a name, it just does it for me!

May not rate very highly in the Beauty Stakes, but what a name,


It had been a fantastic morning and the Amigo el Taxi was right on time again for the pick-up at noon. On arrival back in town there was no hassle about the agreed price, which there so often is and can take the gilt off the gingerbread a bit. Dropped outside the hotel I could smell meat being cooked and a short investigation reveled the BBQ shop at the end of the street, closed yesterday, was now in full swing. A chance to try the first Argentinian beef this trip I opted for the rib, with papa frits and a bit of banter with the chef. This place just had a huge charcoal griddle and a serving counter, as the food was all take away. The orders were coming in thick and fast, so I just indicated which piece of beef I wanted and he did the business. I had thought of a sausage as well, but decided against only to find he'd thrown a 'banger' in buck shee, so I was well satisfied. Arriving at the cabin for the feast I noted a Hummingbird on the flowers outside, but with hands full was in no position to do anything about it. Luckily it came back 4 times to be identified as White-throated Hummingbird another 'lifer'. I may just stay on another day here?

White-throated Hummingbird

Photos so poor, thought you deserved another one!

Black-and-Rufous Warbling-Finch

Great Pampa-Finch

Red-crested Cardinal, hope to get some better views at the Costanera Sur next week.

Shiny Cowbird (juvenile) with Cleat, thought it was about time we had something 'nautical'.

Snake Sp there have been all too few this trip.

Southern Beardless Tyrannulet

Southern Crested Caracara

Southern Lapwing

Vermilion Flycatcher (molting adult male, or more likely juvenile male)

and as far as I'm concerned 'best till last'.

Southern Screamer (presumed male and female). The book describes voice as often 'duets', one

calls aha, with the mate responding with a soprano oglik, this is what I got when getting too close

Lucky to see several on the wing, when they became more vocal still.

Today's Update


Trip Ticks - 886
World Lifers - 569

and today?

Well it started with some indecision, whether to stay another day but with no Internet I decided to move on. Only 80Km north lies the town of San Clemente and with no knowledge of what I might find I have stopped here for at least one night. Later I'm going to suss out the beach for Gulls, and already have met someone who tells me there are birds to be seen here. So, if I am here tomorrow then you'll be hearing from me, otherwise who Knows?