NOTE: Can be linked with Chile in 2024
Day 1: The tour starts this evening at Bahia Blanca Airport, from which we will transfer to a nearby hotel. Already we are further south than Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, and it is only down from here!
Day 2: Exploring a number of different habitats today, we will start with the threatened Pampas Meadowlark in some lovely grasslands also holding Pampas Pipit, Red-winged Tinamou, Spotted Nothura, Grassland Sparrow, Grassland Yellow Finch, Long-tailed Meadowlark, and the near-endemic Bearded Tachuri. This is also a chance for the elusive Darwin’s Nothura and the less elusive but somewhat scarce Greater Rhea. Scrubby woodlands nearby play host to Hudson’s Black Tyrant, an Argentinian breeding endemic. Other specialities might include Straneck’s Tyrannulet and Greater Wagtail-Tyrant. Finally on the coast, the near-endemic Olrog’s Gull will be searched for amongst the Grey-headed Gulls.
Day 3: Mostly a driving day, our latitude will drop further until tonight we will be in line with Australia’s island state of Tasmania! The region we are traversing is one of the best in which to see an Endangered species threatened by cagebird trade, the attractive Yellow Cardinal. We will try to pin this one down by making several targeted stops. Overnight in the coastal town of San Antonio Oeste.
Day 4: This morning we will search for two true Argentinian endemics, the White-throated Cacholote and Sandy Gallito. Three localized near-endemics are also present, the attractive Carbonated Sierra Finch, Cinnamon Warbling Finch, and Black-crowned Monjita. The breeding-endemic “Black-breasted” Ringed Warbling Finch is also likely to be seen, along with Short-billed Canastero, White-tipped Plantcutter, and Golden-billed Saltator. If the weather is fine, we should have excellent photographic opportunities of the intruiguing Burrowing Parrot in the coastal cliffs near our hotel! After lunch we will drive south again, penetrating the northern expanse of Patagonia. Late this afternoon we will head out in search of the bizarre Snowy Sheathbill, which is typically quite reliable around certain seal colonies in the area at this time of year! Overnight in Puerto Madryn.
Day 5: With a full morning to explore the Valdes Peninsula loop road, we will try our best to locate Darwin’s Nothura should we still need it, and can expect several more chances for Snowy Sheathbill. Amongst an abundance of Southern Cone specialties, we might see our first Magellanic and Blackish Oystercatchers, Brown-hooded Gull, Scaly-throated Earthcreeper, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, Sharp-billed Canastero, Grey-bellied Shrike-Tyrant, Austral Negrito, Patagonian Mockingbird, Diuca Finch and Patagonian Yellow Finch. In addition to several colonies of Elephant Seal and South American Sea Lion, the shallow offshore waters hold good numbers of both Southern Right Whale and the world-famous beaching Orcas (but it would be a real miracle to see their unique hunting style in action). There are many other mammals in the area, including the very strange Patagonian Mara, Guanaco, Large Hairy Armadillo, Pampas Fox, and the rare Geoffroy’s Cat.
Reaching Trelew in the afternoon, we will spend the last part of the day at a local sewage works which is typically overflowing with birds. Here we might see Black-necked Swan, Coscoroba Swan, Red Shoveler, the brood-parasitic Black-headed Duck, Lake Duck, Rosy-billed Pochard, Chiloe Wigeon, White-winged Coot, and more. Overnight in Trelew.
Day 6: Certainly one of the highlight days of this tour, we will start in the steppe where several special near-endemic birds could include Lesser Rhea, Elegant Crested Tinamou, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Lesser Shrike Tyrant and Short-billed Pipit. There are also two more true Argentinian endemics to be found here: Patagonian Canastero and Rusty-backed Monjita.
A little to the south is the small peninsula of Punta Tombo, noteworthy in that it hosts the largest continental breeding colony of penguins anywhere in the world! The sights, sounds and smells of the abundant Magellanic Penguins can be enjoyed from close-range in this awe-inspiring landscape. Sharing their space, we should see the flightless endemic Chubut Steamer-Duck (first described in 1974 and known only from this region), plus Rock Shag, Imperial Shag, Chilean Skua, Dolphin Gull, South American Terns, and pesky Southern Giant Petrels feasting on carrion. After birding our way down the coast, we will arrive in Camarones for overnight.
Day 7: Today is a long travel day, broken only by reststops and our first chance at the uncommon Patagonian Tinamou. Around lunchtime we will drop below the southern tip of New Zealand! Overnight at Puerto San Julian.
Day 8: After another search for Patagonian Tinamou this morning, we drive westwards to Estancia La Angostura near Gobernador Gregores for afternoon birding and a two-night stay. Lost to science and considered extinct for fifty years, Austral Rail was rediscovered here in the late 90’s. With some patience, we hope to observe this mega! The wetlands here are full of waterbirds, and we may add species like Black-faced Ibis, Andean Duck, and Wren-like Rushbird.
Day 9: Grebe Day! Today we will visit some remote upland lakes where we will be searching for the Critically Endangered Hooded Grebe. Although this rare species is hard to predict and locate, our excellent local guides should be able to take us to the right spot! During the day, we will also be on the lookout for Tawny-throated Dotterel, Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Upland Goose, Least Seedsnipe, Buff-winged Cinclodes, Dark-faced Ground Tyrant and Grey-hooded Sierra Finch.
Day 10: After some early morning birding at La Angostura if need be, we will head southwestwards to El Chaltén for a scenic overnight stay on the eastern side of Mount Fitzroy. There are many new birds to find here, including Bronze-winged Duck, Austral Parakeet, Andean Condor, Chilean Flicker, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-throated Treerunner, Chilean Elaenia, Fire-eyed Diucon, Black-throated Huet-huet, Chilean Swallow, Austral Thrush and Austral Blackbird. At night, we will go out in search of Rufous-legged Owl and the diminutive Austral Pygmy Owl.
Day 11: Morning birding around El Chaltén before continuing our march south to El Calafate for a two-night stay.
Day 12: Our principal target at El Calafate itself is the enigmatic and monotypic Magellanic Plover, but the wetlands here also hold a superb concentration of other waterbirds, including large numbers of Chilean Flamingoes, with dapper Many-coloured Rush Tyrant around the edges. The afternoon will be spent around Los Glaciares National Park, where stunning scenery gives an epic backdrop to our search for Magellanic Woodpecker and Magellanic Tapaculo!
Day 13: After some final early morning birding, our tour ends at El Calafate Airport around lunchtime.
NOTE: There are daily flights for ~$100USD direct to Ushuaia on the island of Tierra del Fuego. Let us know if you would consider doing this at the end of the tour, and we will endeavor to coordinate a plan between participants either with us, or with a local guide. White-bellied Seedsnipe is the most exciting bird here, but keep in mind that reaching the best site requires a strenuous scramble up the side of a mountain, followed by several kilometres of wandering around trying to locate one! Otherwise, birds not seen on the main tour could include Gentoo Penguin, Kelp Goose, Fuegian Steamer Duck, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Blackish Cinclodes, and the scarce Yellow-bridled Finch.
6,500 $ 6,000 (TBC)
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ TBC
Accommodation: Comfortable throughout.
Walking difficulty: Mostly easy, a few moderate walks.
Additional note: This tour involves several very long drives, ranging from 5 to 10 hours as we work our way south along this vast country.
Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.
Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.