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20 January 1993

by Alvaro Jaramillo

An accidental big day.

The day was January 20, 1993 and I was about to set off from Buenos Aires, Argentina on a long drive toward Salta.  After a stop for coffee (the best I have had anywhere!) I was driving north, trying to beat sunrise.  The first stop was the marsh at Otamendi.  Here Plumbeous Rails and Rufous-sided Crakes called as a small flock of Black-necked Swans flew over.  No Straight-billed Reedhaunter, but the marsh furnariids were well represented by Curve-billed Reedhaunters, Sulphur-bearded Spinetails and the cool Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail.  Scanning the reeds, I noticed a Warbling Doradito, a cute little lemon-bellied marsh flycatcher.  I spished to bring it closer and instead attracted its larger, rarer, and more spectacular relative, the Crested Doradito!  What a great start, a lifer.  An odd sight were a couple of White-eyed Parakeets and Black-hooded Parakeets, both way out of range and likely cagebird escapees.

Further north at Ceibas, I was greeted by a Lowland Hepatic Tanager one of my jinx birds!  The nearby wetlands has a good number of waterfowl including the rare Ringed Teal as well as Southern Screamers.  The furnariids (ovenbirds) put on a show of diversity, I saw Brown Cacholotes, Yellow-throated Spinetails, Chotoy Spinetails, Short-billed Canasteros, Firewood Gatherers, Freckle-breasted and Little thornbirds.  I kept going to the Nandubaysal campground, a spot for the Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper.  I missed it that day, but saw it a day later!  I birded here and asked the workers where I could find a local birder who I knew had a place to see the endangered Saffron-cowled Blackbird, a bird high on my 'want list'.  Directions in hand I was off.  En route I saw some Greater Rheas and stopped to enjoy this sight I would not experience back in Toronto.  On arrival, I was saddened to find out Esteban was not around.  However, a couple of boys got in the car and said they would take me to where he goes looking for birds.  We were off toward a river where we got out and walked.  The kids were up in front of me and flushed a flock of Brown-and-yellow Marshbirds.  The flock wheeled around as I got them in my sights, I could not believe my eyes, two juvenile Saffron-cowled Blackbirds were in with them!  Yes!  Not as brilliant as the adults, but I was happy.  The kids didn't really get it, I even explained why I was so excited and I could see that they figured I was just crazy like Esteban.

That evening as I was eating my Gnocchi and drinking a beer, I put my notes in order.  The final count was 142 species, not including the parakeets.  Wow, and I missed a ton of common birds.  Obviously a lot more was possible.  I wound up sending it in to the ABA, the first big day from Argentina and only two short of the Colombian record.  On second though maybe those parakeets really did count.

Alvaro Jaramillo                        Where there's smoke doesn't mean
Half Moon Bay, CA                   there is fire.                     Just means there's smoke.

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