January 20, 2015, Iguazu, Argentina — The Rufous-throated Dipper lives only along whitewater streams in northwest Argentina, northern Chile, and Bolivia. It’s a pebble-sized, charcoal granite bird with, as the name suggests, a flash of sunset under its chin. Like other dippers (there are five species in the world, including the American Dipper in western North America), it likes to spend its days plunging into rushing water. And I wanted to see one, badly; this was my #1 most wanted bird in northwest Argentina, and today was my last chance to lay eyes on one!
Fabri, Jose and I were up at dawn with a plan: We’d leave our tents with the mules, grab the rest of our stuff, and run down the switchbacks so that we’d have a couple hours to search for the dipper along a river in the valley below. Freddy and Claudia would sleep in, meet the mule team, and follow behind, and we’d all meet to be picked up at the trailhead at 10:00 am, so that I could be dropped at the airport for my flight out today.
Sometimes plans actually work out: Fabri, Jose and I reached the river in record time, and, instead of two hours, it only took ten minutes to find a dipper! We spent a while watching it bob and weave through impossible-looking rapids, and, though the terrain prevented us from getting very close, I had classic looks at the bird. Fist pumps! We were lucky with the weather, too; a few minutes later, a dark cloud rolled in and it rained hard until the pickup truck arrived. I got thoroughly soaked (again), but the happiness of a great lifer more than compensated.
Freddy, Claudia, Fabri, and Jose dropped me at the Jujuy airport after four awesome days of camping, and I checked in with squelching shoes, a pack full of muddy, wet clothes, an empty stomach, dead batteries in all of my electronics, and only three new birds for the day (again). The rest of the day was wrapped up in a delayed flight to Iguazu, my next stop. Tomorrow, the tropics!
New birds today: 3
Year list: 409