October 30, 2019
This was our first day of birding in Iberá and we were in full birding mode. We were up at 4:30 am for a 5 am start. There was fresh orange juice, tea, coffee, and small cheese buns waiting for us. The buses were a bit late in arriving so it was closer to 5:30 am before we left the hotel.
Almost the first thing that happened was that there was a nightjar sitting on the hotel’s access road. We all got out of the buses to take a look at it, which was difficult because it had flown into the trees and you could only see it by the reflection of a flashlight in its eyes.
On the main road we shortly came to a local road which led to Iberá National Park, a dirt road which ran through pastureland. There were a fair number of cattle, and quite a few dead cows in the fields. After a while we came to a gate which marked the park boundary, and the park guides who were accompanying us opened the gate so we could proceed. Now we were in moist grasslands with capybaras instead of cattle. At 9 am we stopped and the guides set up breakfast for us: tea, coffee, ham and cheese buns, and Danish pastries.
There was a greater variety of birds inside the park, too. We stopped periodically to look at interesting birds, mostly seedeaters which are the specialty birds of the area and live in the long grasses. We even found the Iberá Seedeater, which is a new species just described in 2016. Unfortunately we missed the Marsh Seedeater, which was also a really good bird.
We ended up at the local park offices, where there was a picnic area. Lunch was being made for us so we headed out on a trail to see what else we could find. Luckily there was some shade as by now the temperature was close to 39°C. Lunch was a barbecue with plenty of meats in the Argentine style, along with salad and bread. It was a nice meal, especially while sitting in the shade.
After lunch we walked around the area trails some more. This was where they were working to reintroduce the Red-and-Green Macaw, which had become almost extinct in the area, and we saw a couple of them fly by. We saw a lot more local birds too, including an unexpected Orange-headed Tanager.
On the return trip we birded along the road again, stopping for interesting birds, most notably Upland Sandpiper. And we surprisingly found another couple of life birds in the ranching area outside the park.
Just before we reached the hotel we were asked if we wanted to go and look for the Sickle-winged Nightjar. That would have meant driving another half an hour and then waiting until sunset. We had seen that bird last year with Tom and so we (and several others) opted to return to the hotel.
Once back we had showers, which felt so good. We also had some time to wash our very sweaty clothes. Dinner was scheduled for 8:30 pm so we headed down earlier to use the wi-fi, and after dinner we went back to our room to sleep.
October 31, 2019
We were up early again, but quite as early as yesterday. However that was mostly because the hotel couldn’t produce breakfast before 5:30 am. So we headed out when the buses arrived, about 6:30 am.
Today we drove for an hour to Estancia San Juan Poriahú. The main building had been built about 400 years ago by Spanish Jesuit priests and it was a cattle ranch for a long time, but recently the owners have turned it into a nature sanctuary and dude ranch, the first eco-lodge in Argentina.
It was cloudy and cooler this morning, and in the distance we could see thunder clouds and lightning. We were hoping to see several new species, but the weather didn’t cooperate. The clouds were coming our way but the sky lightened a bit, so we headed out to look for the Black-and-White Monjita.
The head gaucho from the estancia accompanied us because he knew where the bird was to be found. But quickly the rain began and we all huddled under a tree. We all had cheap plastic ponchos which sort of kept us dry, but the tree provided almost no shelter so it was pretty pointless.
After about half an hour a lot of us decided to return to the estancia. The amount of water that had come down was amazing and so was the fork lightning! We were even wringing out our socks. Rosemary spent some time drying the camera and hoping for the best. They brought tea and coffee and we stood under the porch awnings, hoping the rain would stop, but we knew from last year that it could rain for a couple of days straight in this area.
Finally the other group returned without having seen the Monjita. The guides told us that in order to go to the Strange-tailed Tyrant’s location we would have to walk along a muddy track for up to 5 km with the hope of finding the bird. Some people still wanted to do that, but we didn’t, having luckily seen the bird last year. Eventually the transportation got sorted out and we got onto the “back to the hotel” bus.
It was still raining as we drove back, and the windshield wiper on the driver’s side wasn’t working. Once we got back to the main highway the driver got out and tried to fix it, but no luck. But he crossed himself before carrying on, so it turned out okay.
Later in the afternoon the rain stopped so we and several others went out for a walk around the hotel area. There were a surprising number of birds around, considering that we were next to a large eucalyptus plantation. But it was definitely much harder to find and to identify the birds on our own!
The hard-core group got back at about 8 pm. They had been in the rain for a while and they had had to hike through the mud for several kilometers. We were glad we didn’t subject our shoes to that.
Shortly after that we had dinner and then returned to the room to pack up, because tomorrow we would be heading up to Iguazú to stay for three nights.