January 16, 2015, Jujuy, Argentina — I had a couple hours in Buenos Aires before my flight out, so Marcelo and Martin were kind enough to blitz through a couple of urban parks with me this morning. First up was Costanera del Sur, a huge reserve within walking distance of downtown, which has a bird list surpassing 300 species(!), where we were joined by a visiting American birder named Norbert and a young reporter named Kate from the Independent newspaper in BA. Our posse of five was able to nail Unicolored Blackbird, Nanday Parakeet, and European Starling (hey, every bird counts!) before squeezing in 20 minutes at the nearby Vicente Lopez Ecological Reserve, where we added Red-eyed Vireo, missed a hoped-for Striped Owl, and had killer views of a shy Rufous-sided Crake. A quick round of goodbyes at the curb of the domestic airport, and I was on my way to Jujuy, in the far northwest corner of Argentina.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I landed in Jujuy this afternoon. I had been corresponding by email with a local birder named Freddy Burgos, who, as far as I could tell, had suggested taking a camping trip into the mountains for several days. Freddy doesn’t speak much English and my Spanish is about 80 percent, so the details were a bit vague. I just hoped he’d meet me at the airport, and we’d take it from there.
Sure enough, a pickup truck arrived to get me at the tiny Jujuy airport, packed with grinning young birders: Freddy had invited a few friends along, all between 23 and 33 years old. Freddy made some introductions, I threw my backpack in the bed (which was jammed with camping gear), and we left town. As the truck climbed a narrow gravel road outside of Jujuy this afternoon, I began to absorb bits of information. It seems that Freddy had put together quite an expedition: Our group will spend the next four days at high elevation in a seldom-visited part of Jujuy province called Cerro Negro, birding the Yungas cloud forest and Pastizal grassland above treeline. To get there, tomorrow morning, we will hike a tortuous pack trail, which is the only way to access Cerro Negro—our gear will be carried by mules! Tonight we have pitched tents at base camp with tanager flocks and, at dusk, we spotted a Lyre-tailed Nightjar not far from the campfire.
New birds today: 23
Year list: 356