January 14, 2015, Gualeguay, Argentina -- Might as well cut to the chase: I saw 108 new year birds today! Whoa!
Last night, Marcelo's buddy Sergio finally came to the airport to bail us out, and, thanks to his credit card, the rental car was ours. We figured we owed the guy for such a huge favor, so we invited him to follow us to Marcelo's apartment afterward for empanadas, even though it was already past midnight. Unfortunately, sometime in the hour while we ate, Sergio's car window was smashed and his radio stolen--so now on top of everlasting kindness, we also owe Sergio a new stereo. I caught a couple hours' sleep on Marcelo's floor--with my feet in the kitchen and my head by the dining table--before Marcelo, Martin and I got up at 5:00 a.m. to get out of Buenos Aires and go birding.
And what a day we had! Marcelo, a 30-year-old birder from Buenos Aires, knew exactly where to go, and his friend Martin, a 28-year-old dog trainer and studying paleontologist, was willing to drive us there in our rental VW. I sat in the back seat, sipped mate, and admired the views while we drove more than 100 miles north of the city. Our destination today was a flat region of Entre Rios province with seemingly endless wetlands, scrubby forest, pampas grassland, and tons of birds.
I can't begin to describe how fun the birding is in this area, which is seldom visited by organized tours. Not only did we see 146 species today (more than I saw in four days in Chile!), 108 were new for my big year and we saw good numbers of each kind: Dozens upon dozens of Cocoi Herons, Southern Screamers, Bare-faced Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills, Maguari Storks, Snail Kites... Every field we passed was full of birds, and Marcelo had fun showing off his special spots. We spent the day on dirt surface roads, and only got the rental car stuck in the mud once (Marcelo and I took off our shoes, waded through the muck, and managed to push it out with Martin at the wheel). By the time we spotlighted a pair of Scissor-tailed Nightjars after dark, I was in a kind of shock.
I might not have another triple-digit addition day this year, so I'll enjoy this one while it lasts.
New birds today: 108 (!!)
Year list: 308