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Argentina NEW! Iberá & Iguazú Falls

A 15-day, small group birdwatching tour to Argentina

Northeast Argentina offers some of South America’s greatest birding experiences: from the mighty Paraná River, dry Chaco and vast Iberá Swamp, via the threatened forests of the Selva Misionerato the world's largest waterfall - magnificent Iguazú. Each of these amazing habitats is home to its own unique birds... Black-fronted Piping-guan, Giant Wood Rail, Black-legged Seriema, Strange-tailed Tyrant and the newly described Iberá Seedeater are among the mouth-watering list of specialities that await!

Tour Dates

2019

Spaces
9

Leaders
Mike Crewe
Mario Mosquiera

Max Group Size: 10
Duration: 15 Days

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Cost: £5495

inc return flights from London Heathrow-Buenos Aires, nonstop with British Airways

Deposit: £700

Single Supp: £695
Land Only: £4595

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Streamer tailed Tyrant Brazil 2012 Brian Small resized

The Streamer-tailed Tyrant is to be found on roadside posts from which it performs its duet display © Brian Small, Limosa

Almost a third the size of Europe, Argentina stretches for over 3500kms - from the sub-Antarctic coasts of Tierra del Fuego, north to the Bolivian border - and spans virtually the full width of southern South America. The eighth largest country in the world, there is simply too much ground here to cover in a single trip. This all new Limosa tour focuses on Northeastern Argentina, a rich and scenically varied region that offers some of South America’s greatest birding experiences. From the mighty Paraná River and vast Iberá Swamp, through the lush tropical forests of the Selva Misionera and on to the roaring waters of the world's largest waterfall - Iguazú - it’s a journey that embraces some of Argentina's most amazing landscapes and richest wildlife habitats.

Arriving into Buenos Aires, a visit to the city’s famous Costanera Sur wetland should ensure a memorable start to our trip, with Lake Duck, Coscoroba Swan and a fine array of raptors and passerines to look forward to.

From the capital we fly north to Corrientes, where the Paraná River - second in length only to the Amazon among South America's rivers - turns south on its journey to the Atlantic at Buenos Aires. We'll enjoy a couple of nights here, birding in the riverine forest as well as the dry Chaco National Park before transferring to a comfortable Estancia in the heart of Argentina’s immense Iberá Swamp - a wetland the size of Wales and the third largest in South America!

With three nights here - staying in traditional-style lodgings with adobe walls, wooden roofs and rustic gaucho decoration – we have good time to sample the astonishing variety of wildlife that makes its home in this remote region. Greater Rheas stalk the grasslands and Snail Kites patrol the marshes where Iberá’s abundant wetland birds include everything from Plumbeous Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill to the vibrant Scarlet-headed Blackbird. Giant Wood Rail, red-faced and weird-looking Strange-tailed Tyrants and the newly described Iberá Seedeater are among a host of more localised specialities awaiting our discovery. Crested Doraditos reveal their presence with persistent ticking as we take a boardwalk through the marshes with Rufous-sided Crake, Greater Thornbird, snazzy White-headed Marsh Tyrants and excitable groups of Black-capped Donacobius as company.
    
We continue our travels east into a finger of Argentina - bordered by Brazil and Paraguay - that's largely covered by Atlantic Forest, the Selva Misionera (also known as the Mata Atlântica). Encompassing a variety of tropical forest habitats, the Selva Misionera nowadays survives largely in small, degraded patches and protected areas. From several vantage points it is possible to enjoy views of the rainforest out to the horizon, and where typical species include Grey-rumped Swift, Black-throated Trogon, Planalto Woodcreeper, Social Flycatcher, Greenish Schiffornis and Red-rumped Cacique. While in the evenings we might be lucky to see the spectacular Long-trained Nightjar.

As a grand finale, we conclude our tour beside one of the greatest spectacles on Earth - mighty Iguazú Falls. While the sight and sound of this awesome place will live long in the memory, the birding round about is pretty mind-blowing too!

Bordered to the north by Brazil, the roaring waters of Iguazú are surrounded by humid subtropical forest. Argentina has currently the biggest and most continuous extension of this forest, offering some superb tropical birding. Birds are abundant here, with a host of parrots, toucans and tanagers to watch for - and a multitude of hummingbirds, including Black Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Violet-capped Woodnymph and Versicoloured Emerald. A network of rewarding forest trails might reveal the likes of Black-fronted Piping-Guan, Robust and Blond-crested Woodpeckers, Chestnut-eared Aracari and Plush-crested Jay as the incredible Great Dusky Swifts pass unerringly through Iguazú's veil of falling water to their nests!

This trip offers the perfect complement to our Northwest Argentina tour (Andes & Inca Trail), but explores some very different habitats with a quite different range of bird species. Between them, guides Mario Mosquiero, Colin Bushell (2018) and Mike Crewe (2019) have many years experience guiding in southern South America and know the region's birds and wildlife well.

Spotted Nothura Argentina Mario Mosquiera

The Spotted Nothura is a grassland tinamou with a large range that extends from central Argentina north through Uruguay and Paraguay to northeastern Brazil © Mario Mosquiera

Days 1-2
FLY BUENOS AIRES, COSTANERA SUR

Our birdwatching tour to northeast Argentina begins with an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires, where we arrive on the morning of Day 2. We shall be met at the airport and transfer directly to our comfortable city hotel before heading out to enjoy lunch and an afternoon of birding at nearby Costanera Sur reserve - a remarkable wetland of pools and reed beds set beside the gaping mouth of the famous River Plate. 

If the water levels are high, this fine reserve can be teeming with waterfowl, including Lake Duck, Ringed Teal, Coscoroba Swan and Red-fronted and Red-gartered Coots - plus a host of great passerines, while Chimanco and Southern Caracaras patrol the lagoons.

After a splendid first afternoon of birding in the Argentine capital, we return to our hotel to freshen up before dinner - then it’s off to bed early in preparation for the exciting days ahead! Night Buenos Aires

Days 3-4       
FLY RESISTENCIA, ISLA DEL CERRITO & CHACO NATIONAL PARK

We leave Buenos Aires this morning on a 90-minute flight north to Resistencia and check in there for two nights at a nice hotel.

Our afternoon birding along the Paraná riverine forest takes us on an excursion to the Isla del Cerrito. Birdlife can be abundant and we will hope for views of Red-winged Tinamou and Spotted Nothura along with Cinereous Harrier, the parasitic Striped Cuckoo (often located by their call), rowdy Amazon Kingfisher, the rather unimaginatively named Brown-and-yellow Marshbird and the ubiquitous Grassland Yellow Finch. Setting off into the woods should quickly produce the stunning Vermillion Flycatcher and smart Chotoy Spinetail. We will also spend time here looking for the gorgeous Yellow Cardinal, an endangered which is becoming very scarce.

Next morning, we set off to explore the Chaco, an area of dry plains and palm savanna with a distinctive array of species. With most of the rain falling on the Andean slopes to the west, this region of Argentina is extremely dry and forms an area known as the Chaco. Originally covered in thorny woodland, its landscape is now more open and we will be looking here for a range of species such as Bare-faced Curassow, Chaco Chachalaca and Black-bodied and Pale-crested Woodpeckers that we will not encounter elsewhere.

Making regular stops as we drive across the largely uninhabited arid country of the Chaco, we should see thousands of Eared Doves and Picui Ground Doves. We'll also be keeping a keen eye open for the strutting Black-legged Seriema and a variety of raptors including Aplomado Falcon, White-tailed Hawk and the lowland race of Black-chested Buzzard Eagle. Maguari Storks often sit about huffily and Giant Wood Rails may be picked out beside the road, along with Wood Storks and Chestnut-capped Blackbirds.

In contrast, the Humid Chaco creates a transition zone between the Arid Chaco to the west and the humid tropical forests to the east - and can feel like a different country! Woodland birds here might include Gilded Sapphire, White-eyed Parakeet, the rag-bag Greater Ani, Greenish Elaenia, Yellow-olive Flatbill, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Purplish Jay, White-rimmed Warbler, Saffron-billed Sparrow and the ubiquitous and sweet-singing Green-winged Saltator. Two nights Resistencia

Days 5-7
TO COLONIA CARLOS PELLEGRINI & IBERÁ MARSH

After an early breakfast we leave Resistencia and drive south via Mercedes today, heading to Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, on the southern edge of the Iberá marshes. We spend three nights here, staying at Ecoposada del Estero.

This is a fantastic area for birds and wildlife and we will make numerous stops as we approach Iberá. Dropping into the more humid low-lying grasslands, seedeaters become a common sight with Double-collared, Tawny-bellied, Rufous-rumped and the extremely smart and endangered Marsh Seedeater. However, we will be keeping our eyes peeled along the road as we search for an iconic species of Iberá Marsh - the red-faced and weird-looking Strange-tailed Tyrant. As dusk approaches, Capybaras (the world's largest rodent) and Plains Viscacha (a large, gregarious nocturnal chinchilla) emerge.

Iberá is a native word meaning 'brilliant waters' and the marshes are largest in Argentina, a vast complex of rivers, lagoons, grassy meadows and woodland that is home to a wonderful variety of wildlife. They are packed with Limpkins and Snail Kites and alive with a superb range of smaller birds together with wildfowl and waders.

With two full days to explore, we will set about cleaning up on the region's seedeaters: Rusty-collared and the threatened Chestnut, but most importantly the recently described Iberá Seedeater. The marshes can seem alive with Lesser Grass Finches, shocking Scarlet-headed Blackbirds and among increasing numbers of Brown-and-yellow Marshbirds we will seek out Yellow-rumped Marshbirds. Lesser Yellow-headed Vultures replace Turkey Vultures as they drift above the landscape bedecked with the huge and showy Giant Wood Rail. Rhythmic ticking should reveal the presence of Crested Doraditos, a small bright flycatcher with a black eye mask and yellow below. Taking a gentle stroll along a boardwalk through the marshes adds vocal groups of Black-capped Donacobius, a good chance of Rufous-sided Crake, Green Kingfisher and Greater Thornbird, along with Large Elaenia, White-headed Marsh Tyrant and Sooty Tyrannulet.

Small, forested islands are often home to Little Woodpeckers and Solitary Caciques, while about our lodge Yellow-billed Cardinals jump about the feeders. Scattered about the landscape we will check for Grey Monjita and, with luck, the handsome Black-and-white Monjita. Numerous small pools might reward us with good views of Plumbeous Ibis and Ringed Teal, and about them the unusual, scruffy necked Chopi Blackbird (named after its sharp, shrill call). Wildlife of all kinds is abundant, with Black Caiman, Howler Monkey and Armadillo among creatures to watch for. Three nights Ecoposada del Estero

Day 8
IBERÁ & TRANSFER NORTHEAST TO ARISTOBULO DEL VALLE

We'll spend the first hours of the day around the marshes, perhaps savouring our last views of Capybaras or Strange-tailed Tyrant before departing for the drive northeast into Misiones province. Travelling via Caza Pava and Colonia Garabí, we will have lunch en route should arrive at Aristobulo del Valle mid-afternoon.

Aristobulo sits at the western end of the Selva Misionera (also known as the Mata Atlantica), a tropical forest ecosystem that has suffered a great deal of deforestation in recent decades. Encompassing a variety of tropical forest habitats - from dry forests through moist forests to coastal mangroves - it once stretched along the coastline of southeast Brazil and covered parts of Paraguay, Uruguay and northeast Argentina. More ancient than the Amazon, today it survives largely in small, degraded patches and protected areas.

Being cut off from other tropical forests has allowed the Selva Misionerato evolve unique ecosystems, which harbour a large number of species found nowhere else on Earth. Night at Tacuapi Lodge, Aristobulo del Valle

Days 9-10
SALTO ENCANTADO TO EL SOBERBIO, MOCONA & YABOTI

We rise early for a short drive to Salto Encantado, where against a backdrop of Parana rainforest (our new ecosystem for the remainder of the tour) Great Dusky Swifts depart their roost. New birds will come thick and fast in the forest as we seek the likes of Surucua Trogon, Green-billed Toucan, Ochre-collared Piculet, Rufous-capped and Grey-bellied Spinetails, the canopy-skulking Spot-backed Antshrike, Plain Antvireo, the reclusive Rufous Gnateater, outstanding male Blue Manakins, Pale-breasted Thrush, Golden-crowned Warbler, and Black-goggled and Ruby-crowned Tanagers. We will also hope to witness the faltering walk of the Short-tailed Antthrush and home in on a Purple-crowned Plovercrest lek, where males sit and ‘chip’ away at each other – vocally not literally!

Later we head south to El Soberbio, on the Uruguay River, with stops along the way that could yield Yellow-headed Caracara, numerous White-eared Puffbirds and perhaps Large-tailed Antshrike or even the appearance of a Cocoa Thrush - a recently discovered new species for Argentina that appears to be advancing south from Brazil. Soon we will reach the edge of Argentina’s largest swathe of subtropical rainforest, the Moconá sector of the UNESCO Yabotí Biosphere Reserve. This important area holds the largest number of endangered bird species in Argentina, and of 83 species endemic to the Atlantic Rainforest region, no fewer than 60 have been seen at Yaboti.

From several vantage points along the road it is possible to enjoy views of the rainforest out to the horizon, where regular species include Grey-rumped Swift, Black-throated Trogon, Planalto Woodcreeper, Social Flycatcher, Greenish Schiffornis and Red-rumped Cacique. At dusk we might be lucky to see the delightful male Silky-tailed Nightjar or a Long-trained Nightjar, the most spectacular of all South America's nightjars.

Around Mocona we will explore some of the region's labyrinthine tracks and trails, seeking to add Scale-throated Hermit, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, the vocal Spix’s Spinetail, the recently split and fairly localised Scalloped Woodcreeper, and handsome yet skulking Bertoni’s and Dusky-tailed Antbirds. With much luck, we might even encounter the ultra-skulking Planalto Tapaculo. Low in the understory we will listen out for Southern Antpipit, and watch keenly for Black-tailed Tityra, the quietly perching White-throated Spadebill, White-necked Thrush, Chestnut-headed Tanager and Ultramarine Grosbeak of the Atlantic forest form. Another possible highlight here might be views of a Spot-winged Wood Quail rummaging through the leaf litter. Two nights Don Mocona Lodge, El Soberbio (Mocona)

Days 11-12
IGUAZÚ NATIONAL PARK - IGUAZÚ FALLS, HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS AND RN101

We make an early morning departure from Mocona to drive north along the border with Paraguay, heading for the renowned Iguazú Falls - arguably the most spectacular waterfall system in the world. The falls are surrounded by humid subtropical forest (a habitat formerly more common in adjacent Brazil, where it has almost disappeared due to land development). Northeast Argentina now holds the biggest and most continuous extension of this forest, offering some superb tropical birdwatching: tanagers, antbirds, toucans, manakins, parrots, motmots, trogons and tyrant flycatchers will thrill us!

Arriving here at lunchtime, we will make a superb stop at hummingbird feeders in Puerto Iguazú. Run by a famous Brazilian lady, who maintains one of the best set of hummingbird feeders in the country, the garden is alive with the noisy zaps of up to seven busy species of hummingbirds. Delights include Swallow-tailed Hummingbird, the superb Black Jacobin, Black-throated Mango, Violet-capped Woodnymph and Versicoloured Emerald, together with Violaceous Euphonia, Blue Dacnis and plenty of Bananaquits.

Iguazú Falls are truly one of the world's most awesome natural wonders. On the Argentinian side, access is outstanding: a series of walkways bring you right up to the thunder and spray of the water - and to the Great Dusky Swifts that cling precariously to the rocks behind. We stay in a fine hotel on the Argentinian side, close to the falls and the reserve, and with excellent birdwatching in the grounds.

Our first morning on the Argentinian side of the mighty Iguazú Falls will be devoted to exploring the forest by means of well-maintained trails that give fantastic views of this small corner of the national park. Here, a staggering 275 waterfalls make the ground almost shake, and the area round the excellent Hotel Sheraton hosts many superb species, including the endangered Black-fronted Piping Guan and Plush-capped Jay. We can expect to encounter a plethora of parrots, hummingbirds, woodcreepers, flycatchers and tanagers not seen during the preceding days. In particular we will be hoping to find the exquisite Swallow-tailed and White-bearded Manakins. There are strutting Giant Cowbirds and a variety of tanagers including Magpie, Green-headed and Swallow Tanagers. Gangs of Coatis loaf about like uncouth youths.

Birdlife tends to slow down quite dramatically in the afternoons so we will then largely devote our time to admiring the spectacular waterfalls for which Iguazú is so rightly renowned. Toco and Red-breasted Toucans, Chestnut-eared Aracari and Blue-winged Parrotlet are regularly encountered and, in the late afternoon, we hope to witness the remarkable spectacle of thousands of Great Dusky Swifts gathering overhead before diving down and dashing through the cascading water to their evening roost behind!

One walkway extends out above the main falls themselves. En route to this, we should see White-winged Swallows perched on the handrails or on rocks mid-river. Standing on the suspended platform and looking down into the roaring, ‘steaming’ waters, the sheer volume of water crashing over the edge is mesmerising.

Driving out to other tracks through the forest – including the famous RN (Route Nacional) 101 – will bring us yet more new birds... perhaps a Rufous-capped Motmot or a croaking Spot-billed Toucanet. Birding the tropical forests can be especially exciting when one encounters a mixed feeding flock, which here might include such treats as the remarkable Black-billed Scythebill, White-eyed Foliage-gleaner, Lesser Woodcreeper, Streak-capped Antwren and the dapper Chestnut-bellied Euphonia. Two nights at the Hotel Sheraton, Iguazú 

Day 13
IGUAZÚ FALLS & FLY PUERTO IGUAZÚ  TO BUENOS AIRES

Iguazú is such a great place for birds that on our final morning here we might still have a chance of adding new birds. Perhaps a Plain-winged Woodcreeper, Sepia-capped Flycatcher or a tiny Eared Pygmy Tyrant will come our way? Or we might enjoy more views of Rufous-crowned Greenlet, the superb Blond-crested Woodpecker or a diminutive Creamy-bellied Gnatcatcher. We might spot a Toco Toucan perched on a bare snag protruding through the forest canopy or see a Snail Kite flying low overhead as we depart after lunch for the short drive to Puerto Iguazú  and our afternoon flight back to Buenos Aires.

Arriving in Buenos Aires, we transfer to our city hotel, retiring to our rooms after dinner this evening to prepare for the flight home next day. Night Buenos Aires

Days 14 - 15
FLY BUENOS AIRES-LONDON

Following a leisurely breakfast at our hotel this morning and a transfer through the busy streets of the Argentine capital, we catch our afternoon flight from Buenos Aires to London.

Arrival in London next day (Day 15), where our birdwatching tour to Northeast Argentina: Iberá & Iguazú' comes to an end.

Strange Tailed Tyrant resized

The tail of the male Strange-tailed Tyrant is indeed strange, with feathers that are bare at the base becoming broad and streamer like - and longer than the bird's body length © Mario Mosquiera

What To Expect

This superb tour to Argentina will introduce you to the country's rich and scenic northeast. It's a region that offers some of South America’s greatest birding experiences: from the mighty Paraná River, dry Chaco and vast Iberá Swamp, via the threatened forests of the Selva Misionerato the world's largest waterfall - magnificent Iguazú.

Each of these amazing habitats is home to its own unique birds, with Black-fronted Piping-guan, Giant Wood Rail, Black-legged Seriema, Great Dusky Swift, Strange-tailed Tyrant and the newly described Iberá Seedeater among a long list of specialities to find.

October/November is springtime in Northeast Argentina and the breeding season for many bird species here. Some migratory birds may also be passing through, heading south, and the blossoming of plant species locally can attract a multitude of butterflies and birds.

Early starts to our birding days in Northeast Argentina will be tempered with leisurely lunches, afternoon siestas (where possible) and occasional relaxed afternoons or early returns in the evening. We will need to set off early on some days to get to locations as the sun rises above the forest and birds are generally at their most active.

This tour runs at elevations between sea level and ca. 550m (1800ft) and generally the weather should be warm to hot, but with cooler mornings which we try to utilise to best advantage.

October/November is springtime in NE Argentina. Temperatures in Buenos Aires during October range from 14-22C (57-72F); slightly warmer in November 16-25C (61-77F), with daily averages of 7-8 hrs sunshine. Hotter and more humid inland (Iberá and Iguazú), with October temperatures in the range of 15-30C (59-86F); a tad warmer in November, 17-31C (63-88F). Expect some rainfall, this often occuring as thundery downpours in spring which can clear through relatively quickly.

There are good-excellent photographic opportunities in the open habitats. In the forests, birds can be more secretive and light levels are low making photography more challenging.

There is no malaria risk in the areas visited on our tour.

Birds

300-320 species

Accommodation

12 nights accommodation in Argentina, staying at good hotels and lodges. In Buenos Aires, a comfortable modern city hotel is convenient for our flights and provides easy access to the reserve at nearby Costanera Sur. Moving north, we stay at a varied selection of good to excellent lodges and hotels: Ecoposada del Estero at Iberá,the characterful Tacaupi and Don Mocona Lodges at Aristobulo del Valle and Soberbio respectively, before arriving at our fine hotel on the rim of Iguazú  Falls – the Sheraton Iguazú .

All rooms have private facilities and wi-fi is usually available – if not always in your rooms, in the lobby.

Meals

All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with lunch in Buenos Aires on Day 2 and concluding with breakfast there on the morning of Day 14.

Food is generally good in Argentina with good-sized portions. Although this is a nation of meat-eaters, vegetarians can be well catered for, too!

Walking

Our walks in Northeast Argentina will be at low elevations, with frequent stops to bird. The walking effort is mostly easy, but the going can be a little more moderate at times at Iguazú (see following).

At Iguaçu, access to the awe-inspiring ‘Devil’s Throat’ (on the Argentine side) involves a round-trip of 2+ miles, walking on relatively flat ground and a metal walkway at a normal pace. Access to other possible sites (including the falls edge on the Argentine side) requires walking down - and back up! - a significant number of steps and ramps over a loop path that runs for about a mile to a mile-and-a-half.

Travel

Return flights from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires, nonstop with British Airways. (In the event schedules change or are unavailable, we will use another major carrier, with a change of planes en route).

Domestic flights within Argentina are also included in the tour cost. These are outbound from Buenos Aires to Resistencia (Corientes) and returning Puerto Iguazú to Buenos Aires with an Argentinian domestic airline.

Ground Transport  By minibus and/or 4WD vehicle equipped with air-conditioning and a local driver. Most roads are good, but are unmade in the marshes and some forest areas where the going can sometimes be rough and/or wet.

Be aware that Argentina is a very big country - the eighth largest in the world - and there are three days on this tour (Days 5, 8 and 11) where the distances between one hotel and the next are 300-365kms (180-220 miles).

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