Sunday, 21 February 2010

No Tango in the Night & Little of Costanera Sur

It may sound strange to report 9 new species added to the Trip List, 2 of them being World Lifers and then in the next breath say the day was something of an anti-climax! Well, more of that later, but for now back to last night.

and first of all I have to admit the 'dry period' is well and truly over. With a beer each before we left the hotel, 2 bottles of excellent Argentine Malbec between us, a large Black Russian (that's still a drink) and a small 'farewell' tot of banana liqueur my alcohol free trip has ended with a bang.

The restaurant was recommended by the hotel staff, and it turned out to be one that I have frequented a couple of times before. The usual warm Argentinian welcome at the door, a look at what was being prepared and a quick peep at the wine rack started what was to be a splendid meal. In traditional style, we started with a tab-nab of a small Cornish pasty for the want of a better description, then went on to enjoy a shared platter of this countries answer to Palma ham, which we all agreed was better. Liz chose the smallest of the fillet beef steaks, which turned out the size of a building brick (well almost) while Jim and I shared a combo of 6 meats beef, lamb, pork, chicken, spicy sausage and home made black pudding. If that isn't enough to start you salivating, then a shared ice cream comprising of toffee, cinnamon, kirsch liqueur, grated chocolate and the size of 2 building bricks (seriously) should! All served in the most professional but nonchalant manner, all we needed after was a good Tango bar.

Unfortunately, that's when disaster struck. Always careful which taxi to choose, you can never predict the drivers grasp of 'The Knowledge'. This young lad didn't even know which day it was as we asked if he knew of where we could dance. He assured us he had it all weighed off, but after 15 minutes of driving I gestured to the meter, drew an imaginary line across the from of it and said "Nada". On the strength of him not having a clue and after reseting the meter we told him to take us back to the hotel. Somewhere near, we were sure, he just kept driving up and down one street after another getting us nowhere. At the next red light we bailed out, and of course left without paying. Soon in another cab it was still a fair old trek home but we had been extremely please with the meal.

Preparing the feast.

Always make friends with the Chef, you don't want him spitting in the soup.

Baa Lambs roasting by an open fire!

A table fo 2 Sir? They couldn't see me behind Jim.

El Skinny Kid tucks into the 6 types of meat.

Beef or Malbec first?

The sommelier brings the gratis good night drinks.

The prominent feature in Buenos Aries for the past fortnight has been the torrential rail. Apparently downpours to equal the Tempest with many areas under serious flooding, infrastructure breakdowns and before leaving La Plata there was a good chance I wasn't going to make it that day. I doubt that had much to do with the lack of birds at the Costanera Sur today, but in the past I have visited this reserve 8 separate times and have always recorded close to, or more than 3 figure totals. As I walked along what might be described as the 'sea wall' it quickly became apparent that it was going to be a slow day as on the first scan I saw only 3 birds. Obviously I was going to give it a bit of time, but by the time I walk the mile to the main gate I hadn't seen a Heron, Egret or Ibis of any description - unheard of! The path that leads from the gate to the circular walk has always been alive with birds, albeit common species such as Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Rufous Hornero and 3 species of Dove, but today there were barely a handful, while waterfowl, with the exception of Fulvous and White-faced Tree (Whistling) Duck, seemed nonexistent. However, persistence paid off as Chestnut-capped & Yellow-winged Blackbirds both entered the log, while shortly after a none too obliging Dark-throated Seedeater joined the World List. Just c3 Coscoroba and a single Black-necked Swan were photographed distantly, and as for Coots, which have been extremely numerous previously, amounted to c5White-winged, c3Red-fronted and a single Red-gartered miles away. All of this time the wind had been blowing a full gale, making small passerines very difficult, while the ever present threat of rain occasionally manifested itself with a light shower, but interest was maintained as a full adult Brown-hooded Gull flew overhead.

As if the small disaster of last evening were not enough, there was more to come. Having walked the 1.7 miles of the north path, I had opted not to cut across the reserve but complete the full perimeter first, the do the cross paths. At what is a secondary entrance a park official approached me indicating what I though to be the path ahead was closed, maybe flood water, maintenance or some such thing? Turning to retrace my steps, he stopped me again and pointed me to the gate, the park, for whatever reason was being closed. It is likely this was due to the impending weather that had looked none too promising all morning, but enquiring when it would be reopened found it's close tomorrow as well. This in itself was only a minor snag, as on my first visit here I had experienced a similar circumstance. So anxious to get birding, I had arrived at the same time as the official unlocking the gate at 06-00. That was timely I though but was soon told the reserve doesn't open until 08-00. Thinking it was twiddling thumbs time, I found the margins next to the main road full of birds, and was still busily recording new stuff when opening time arrived. I got lucky this time as well adding (Trans-Atlantic) Starling (yeah alright), Fulvous Whistling-Duck, Rosy-billed Pochard and Ringed Teal to the Trip List, while the latter was also a World Lifer.

A word on the Reserve, akin to Radipole Nature Reserve the Costanera Sur is bordered on 3 sides by urbanisation and on its south east edge by the River Plate. The perimeter walk is 4.7 miles, plus there are a series of cross paths. In the main a watercourse with what appear to be common reed and greater reed mace, plus marram grasses, many trees and bushes plus the occasional observation platform. It is also designated a special site for the preservation of birds.

A notice board

Costanera Sur from the main road, looking East.

and looking West

Black-necked Swan


This was tough to identify, but an addition to the Trip List nonetheless the humble Starling.

as promised, a better picture of Red-crested Cardinal

Chestnut-capped Blackbird

Red-fronted Coot

White-winged Coot

Poor but spur of the moment shot of a male Rosy-billed Pochard

A male Ringed Teal

A pair of Ringed Teal

Picazuro Pigeon

One of the Cowbirds, a juvenile I sispect but as yet unidentified.

My latest pad.

A little luxury never hurt anyone.

and finally, going back to the 2 mystery birds at Punta Lara on Thursday 18th February, my mate Daragh Croxson has come up with the goods on one of them. A female/juvenile Masked Yellowthroat. In my guide there is just a thumbnail of a females head, the main picture showning an adult male, no excusses I totally overlooked it! This is an addition to the Trip List.

Two of the three pictures of 3 days ago repeated here.

Masked Yellowthroat, and I'll opt for the adult female on this one?

Lists Update


Trip Total - 900
World Lifers - 573
Endemics - 57