A Travellerspoint blog

Day 5: The Ocean is Alive

Atlantic Ocean off Argentina

semi-overcast 52 °F

The luck of the Irish was on my side again, as little did I know this morning, but I was in for yet another AMAZING day of seabirding from the MS Emerald Princess as we trek towards our next stop: the Falkland Islands in the southern Atlantic.

I was birding with the Irish birders again today, and we were watching from deck 10 of the ship by the time the clock hit 7am. Immediately, we noticed a profusion of albatross, the most noteworthy of which was the SOOTY ALBATROSS, an internationally-endangered species (due in part by long-line fishing, and by pollution in the sea). Luckily, we were treated to multiple individuals of the species throughout the day, allowing for some of my favorite albatross pictures ever:
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And here is one of many SOUTHERN GIANT-PETRELS that were trailing the ship today:
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Then, one of the Irish birders shouted “storm petrel” and we rushed over to observe my life bird BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL! A tiny and wonderfully handsome bird!
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Soon enough, we found its close relative, my life bird WHITE-BELLIED STORM-PETREL as well, notice the major difference of the coloration of their underparts:
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Next, we were treated to a new albatross for this trip: SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS, one I haven’t seen since New Zealand in 2014! It is SO, SO, unbelievably awesome to be able to just glance out your ship’s window and happen to casually see an albatross — I count myself lucky to be among the few who get to have an unbelievably magical experience like this. Here are multiple individuals of the species we saw today:
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Its similar and larger cousin, the WANDERING ALBATROSS, also made appearances throughout the day! Largest wingspan in the WORLD! Seeing them fly is just like seeing a pair of white wings gliding through the air, and their brilliant white can be seen from miles away, even over an ocean with whitecaps.
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Here is an immature Wandering:
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Lifer #3 for the day was a GRAY PETREL! I was afforded decent views of it but only one very sub-par photo, as again, taking photos of fast-moving birds from a moving ship is challenging.
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GREAT SHEARWATERS were out in force today — we must have seen close to 500 of them!
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SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL:
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And my fourth and final life bird of the day was a hugely unexpected surprise: WHITE-HEADED PETREL, a very very uncommon find for this far west in the Atlantic! So awesome! Unfortunately, like many of the birds today, it was moving fast so only allowed for one identification photo, allowing one to observe its pale underside & head white a slight tern-like patch around its eye.
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BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS were also seen today:
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Here is an immature of the species:
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Bird-of-the-day to the White-headed Petrel with runners-up to the Black-bellied & White-bellied Storm-Petrels! AMAZING DAY! Stay tuned — tomorrow, the ship stops at the Falkland Islands near the southern tip of South America, and I am in for a guided birding tour!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1042 Species (4 life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 17:52 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Day 4: The Luck of the Irish

southern Atlantic Ocean

sunny 60 °F

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of seabirding — EVER! I met up with the six Irish birders and we birded almost the entire day from various vantage points on our ship, the Coral Princess, which is still chugging south as I write this.

Immediately, we noticed a wealth of my life bird SOUTHERN GIANT PETRELS following the wake up the ship (probably under the impression that we were an oversized fishing boat).
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One NORTHERN GIANT PETREL (note the red tip of the beak) was also mixed in. Too cool!
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WHITE-CHINNED PETRELS were also mixed in with the Giant Petrels in large numbers:
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Then, someone noticed a more strangely-plunged albatross and sure enough it was an endangered species: the SOOTY ALBATROSS! Amazing, amazing life bird!!!
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Its relative, a (juvenile) WANDERING ALBATROSS was also present. I LOVE Wandering Albatrosses — they have the largest wingspan of any bird!
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In addition to a single unphotographed YELLOW-NOSED, a fourth albatross species, the BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS, was also present in large numbers.
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Smaller seabirds were also present in numbers, including this SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL, a life bird for me:
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And endangered ATLANTIC PETRELS:
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Bird life was not the only wildlife observed from the ship yesterday, though! This Fin Whale gave absolutely incredible views:
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As did an unphotographed Humpback Whale, but I did get its blowhole plume:
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The Dusky Dolphins were cooperative though:
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My favorite mammal seen yesterday by far was the Southern Right Whale Dolphin, of which many lept from the Atlantic waters, giving positively incredible views.
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Here is one of the dolphins pictured with a SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL:
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And here is the petrel with a BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS for size comparison.
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As the day persisted, seabird activity decreased and we noticed a lot of seabirds resting on the water, including more SOFT-PLUMAGED PETRELS:
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SOFT-PLUMAGED & WHITE CHINNED PETRELS & GREAT SHEARWATER:
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Here they are in a different order:
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Then, one of the Irish birders sang out “Spectacled Petrel!” and we all scrambled to get a view of this unique, endangered species. This is not your run-of-the-mill petrel; in the right light, bright white spectacles can be seen on the birds face, and even though it was at quite a distance, I still managed to snap a couple of diagnostic photos. Life bird!!!
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WOW — what a day! Bird-of-the-day to the Spectacled Petrel with runner-up to the Soft-plumaged Petrel! Thanks so much to my new friends for letting me tag along with them when seawatching! Stay tuned — it just gets better and better!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1038 species (3 life birds yesterday)

Posted by skwclar 08:09 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Day 3: Change of Plans

International water; the Atlantic Ocean

overcast 66 °F

I was awoken by the sound of the captain on the ship’s PA system announcing that he was cancelling our stop in Montevideo, Uruguay. While that was disappointing, I totally understood this decision because winds were gusting the entire day with large swells and a constantly-rocky ship. So, I did a little seawatching in the late morning and came up empty-handed:
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But soon, after lunch, I met up with the group of Irish birders who are also passengers here, and together we had a much more successful afternoon seawatch. Here I am, the last person in the line of birders:
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Photographing birds in the high seas from a rocking ship in gusty winds is simply a matter of luck and determination, as you never know when the wind will either manipulate your grip on the camera, or the seabird will decide to fly behind a swell in the ocean and almost seem to disappear! It can be an utmost level of infuriation, but even getting mediocre photos of these birds at seas leaves me immensely satisfied.

Eventually, WHITE-CHINNED PETREL came to be the most common seabird seen today:
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Lifer #1 was a similar (unphotographed) ATLANTIC PETREL which flew away way too fast to be a satisfying look.

Then, I shouted “albatross!” and sure enough, this fiercely aerodynamic, inspiring creature — the YELLOW-BILLED ALBATROSS — flew into sight! Too cool — the last time I saw an Albatross was in New Zealand in 2014. Lifer #2 for the day!
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My third life bird was this SOUTHERN GIANT PETREL, which I could only describe as a cross between an albatross and a large petrel. Very amazing bird!
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Lifer #4 was an unphotographed BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS! So cool to see two of these species in one day.

GREAT SHEARWATERS (lifer #5 for the day) left with WHITE-CHINNED PETRELS on the right:
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Lifer #6 was an unphotographed CAPE VERDE SHEARWATER.

Too cool! Bird-of-the-day to the Yellow-nosed Albatross and runner-up to the Southern Giant Petrel. STAY TUNED: tomorrow is yet another day at sea as our ship, the Coral Princess, plugs south toward the Falkland Islands, our next stop.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1035 Species (6 life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 18:26 Comments (0)

Day 2: The Cruise Departs!

Buenos Aires, Argentina

rain 73 °F

Today my family and I slept in and around mid-day boarded our cruise ship, the Coral Princess! I was soon birding from the balcony where I saw this VIOLACEOUS CORMORANT:
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The view of Buenos Aires from the port.
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A few far-off landbirds — EARED DOVE:
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And TROPICAL KINGBIRD:
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Then, looking toward the ocean, I saw a few gulls fly by. As I have not seen any gulls here yet apart from the common Kelp Gulls, I knew these would be something good since they were much smaller than the Kelps. Yep, my lifer BROWN-HOODED GULLS! Awesome!
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Up on the deck for the push-away from Port!
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I was able to show my parents this CHIMANGO CARACARA, a life bird for me just yesterday:
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As the ship left Buenos Aires, I met some other birders who are from Ireland and happen to also be on the ship! Too cool! So happy to be on a cruise with other birders — this has never happened to me before! It is the nature of the beast with this itinerary, though, because a cruise around Cape Horn would be much more likely to have avid naturalists than the Caribbean cruises I have been on previously. Here is the city as the ship left the port, with the verdant Reserva Ecological Costanera Sur (where I birded yesterday) in the foreground.
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I was able to to some distant scoping of the mudflats there, where like yesterday there were BLACK-NECKED SWANS, SNAIL KITES, and SOUTHERN SCREAMERS among the indiscernible other bird-blobs in the distance.
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This COCOI HERON posed for us much closer to the ship:
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And a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON flew over:
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BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOWS formed large swirling swarms over the ship, catching insects as we exited the harbor:
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And a regal pair of PEREGRINE FALCONS watched the scene from a nearby tower:
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KELP GULL, which was the only bird to be seen once the ship reached the open sea. There was a distinct lack of seabirds which can be attributed to the fact that we aren’t truly in the “ocean” yet as the cruise between Buenos Aires and our next stop, Montevideo Uruguay, passes through really what could be considered a large strait or bay.
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Bye Argentina! It’s been real!
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Bird-of-the-day to my life bird Brown-hooded Gulls! Stay tuned: tomorrow is the first stop on this 16-day cruise: Montevideo, Uruguay!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1030 Species (1 life bird today: Brown-hooded Gull)

Posted by skwclar 18:27 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Day 1: Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve

Buenos Aires

sunny 83 °F

¡¡¡¡¡Hola Argentina!!!!!
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As of today, after landing in Buenos Aires at about 11:30am local time, I had officially been to five continents! I was hoping to convince my parents to visit Reserva Costanera del Sur on both days we’re here, because I would describe it as Buenos Aires’ grandiose version of Montrose Point. The preserve juts out into the Atlantic Ocean from right in front of downtown and provides amazing habitat for a variety of nesting and migratory bird species. With Argentinian avian species’ names including such linguistic delights as “Firewood-Gatherer,” “Southern Screamer,” “Screaming Cowbird,” and “Southern Beardless-Tyrannulet,” I was in high anticipation not only getting to photograph some completely new & exotic species, but to reach 1000 species on my life list — ASAP! Just shy of 980 species on my list (the majority coming from my family’s world travels now almost six years ago!), I was hoping to reach my goal prior to boarding the cruise tomorrow.

Upon landing, I immediately spotted some vulture-like birds, a few of which were soaring over the airport, and others which were sitting in the grassy fields adjacent to the taxiways. I immediately flipped through my birding guide titled “Birds of Southern South America,” perfect for the trip (thanks Mom!) and searches through all of the possibilities: vultures, caracaras, falcons, harriers, hawks, etc...finally, I came to the conclusion that these birds were CHIMANGO CARACARAS, a life bird for me! They were slim-bodied, long-winged raptors like harriers, but when perched looked distinctly falcon-like, which just begs “caracara.” In addition, I photographed them in flight with the Chimango’s telltale white edges on their primary flight feathers, as can be seen here in this grainy photo from the plane:
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A few other birds flew over too, including my life bird PICUI GROUND-DOVES! Second lifer of the day! I also saw this SOUTHERN LAPWING, a shorebird-like species that I haven’t seen since I visited Panama in 2013 — too cool!
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And that was all from the airport! After a long immigration line, customs, and the taxi back to the hotel where I met my family, my dad and I took a taxi to the “birding mecca” of Buenos Aires: Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur. I was dying to get out birding! And birding we did: as soon as we got out of the taxi, my eyes were glued to the amazing lagoon areas of the preserve, where I quickly picked up my third lifer of the day: RED-GARTERED COOT:
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Awesome COCOI HERON, one I haven’t seen since Panama in 2013!
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COMMON GALLINULES were, well, common:
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And the not-so-scenic: my life bird #4, BAY-WINGED COWBIRD, in front of a Coke advert:
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GREAT KISKADEE, another avian mainstay of warmer climates:
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PIED-BILLED GREBE:
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And...what?! Two huge, turkey-like birds flew in across the marsh and I got my fifth lifer of the day, one of my targets, the amazing SOUTHERN SCREAMER!!!!! Too cool!
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WATTLED JACANA:
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Life bird #6 did not want to stick around for photos: MASKED GNATCATCHER.

GREAT EGRET:
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Lifer #7: EARED DOVE, Buenos Aires’ version of the Mourning Dove
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Lifer #8: RED-FRONTED COOT:
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SNOWY EGRET flyover:
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SNAIL KITE immature — awesome!!!
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Lifer #9: WHITE-TUFTED GREBE!
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MONK PARAKEETS abound throughout Buenos Aires, along with a number of other parakeet species.
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Lifer #10: MASKED DUCK (female)!
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Lifer #11: OLIVACEOUS CORMORANT!
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Lifer #12: RED-CRESTED CARDINAL, Buenos Aires’ equally-common version of the Cardinal:
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Lifer #13: ROSY-BILLED POCHARD, the most abundant duck at the preserve today.
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Lifer #14: FULVOUS WHISTLING-DUCK, I’ve been wanting to catch up with this one for a long time!
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Lifer #15: SILVER TEAL!
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LIMPKIN and WATTLED JACANA:
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Lifer #16, SHINY COWBIRDS:
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Lifer #17, the jaw-dropping GLITTERING-BELLIED EMERALD:
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Lifer #18: PICAZURO PIGEON, common in this city
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Lifer #19: DOUBLE-COLLARED SEEDEATER!
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Lifer #20: the fabulously-plumaged WHITE-FACED WHISTLING-DUCK:
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Lifer #21: STRIPED WOODPECKER!
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Lifer #22 with a hair-do: GUIRA CUCKOO! Now that’s style.
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RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW, another species I saw back in Panama in 2013.
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GOLDEN-CROWNED WARBLER, this one I saw before in Costa Rica in 2015!
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Lifer #23: SAYACA TANAGER, an unexpected surprise!
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Lifer #24: RUFOUS HORNERO, the national bird of Argentina!
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Lifer #25: CHALK-BROWED MOCKINGBIRD! And with that — I’ve hit 1000 species on my life list! Woooooot wooooooot!!!!!!!!!!!
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But it doesn’t stop there — my next life bird is this stunning PIED WATER-TYRANT:
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TROPICAL KINGBIRD:
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Birds were not the only wildlife highlights here as the butterflies put on quite a show too, including this Monarch:
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Lifer #27: the colorful HOODED SISKIN:
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Lifer #28: BROWN-CHESTED MARTIN:
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Lifer #29: RUFOUS-BELLIED THRUSH:
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Lifer #30: GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN:
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Lifer #31: SPOT-WINGED PIGEON:
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This adorable HOUSE WREN thought it would be a good idea to take a dust bath to cool off from the heat of the afternoon sun.
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Lifer #32: WHITE-BROWED WARBLER:
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Lifer #33: SPOT-FLANKED GALLINULE, a good find!
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And an even better find, though not a life bird, was this flyover RUFESCENT TIGER-HERON! This is yet another species I have seen just once before, with guide Mario Ocana in Panama in 2013.
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Back to the lifers — #34 was this quiet GRAY-NECKED WOOD-RAIL that I wouldn’t have seen had it not been for the slight movement of the vegetation around it when it poked its head up:
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Lifer #35: the striking BLACK-AND-RUFOUS WARBLING-FINCH:
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ANHINGA with various coots and waterfowl in the background:
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Lifer #36: BROWN PINTAIL!
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Always nice to see the familiar BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON:
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Beautiful adult SNAIL KITE with WHITE-WINGED COOTS:
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Then, I spotted a large, chicken-like bird cross the path way ahead, and lo and behold, it was an elusive GIANT WOOD-RAIL! Amazing! Life bir #37 for the day! This bird can be separated from the Gray-necked because it has brown running up its nape.
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Lifer #38: WHITE-RUMPED SWALLOW:
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This lizard beside the trail was cool to see:
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Lifer #39: BLACK-HEADED DUCK (center)
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ROSEATE SPOONBILLS, love these birds!
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Lifer #40, the majestic MAGUARI STORK:
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This is what a lot of the scoping across the lagoons consisted of picking through in order to find the “goodies.” Highlighted in the back is my life bird #41 for the day, the regal BLACK-NECKED SWAN:
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Even better look at the SOUTHERN LAPWING than through the airplane window this morning, lol!
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Lifer #42: the odd but strikingly beautiful WHISTLING HERON:
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And finally, lifer #43, the NANDAY PARAKEET:
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What an amaaaaaaazing day! THANKS DAD! Bird-of-the-day to the Southern Screamers! Lol I’m so tired I’m getting delirious, so I’ll keep it short and sweet — talk to you tomorrow, from onboard the cruise ship!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1028 species (43 life birds today!)

Posted by skwclar 19:39 Archived in Argentina Comments (4)

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