January 22, 2015, San Sebastian de la Selva, Argentina -- At 4:30 this afternoon, I saw my 500th bird of 2015: a Surucua Trogon. Only 4,500 to go!
Guy Cox and I spent the entire day birding at a reserve called San Sebastian de la Selva. This place seems to be a lightly visited, lesser-known destination among international birders, and it's a gem in northeast Argentina--I wouldn't have heard of it if it weren't for Guy's recommendation. The lodging facilities on the site are luxurious, when compared to where I've been sleeping lately. It's super affordable even on my tight budget, and a network of trails surrounds the airy main building, giving me easy access to the western edge of the Atlantic Rainforest, which stretches in a strip from here to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
San Sebastian is part of a private network of reserves that form a green corridor anchored to Iguazu National Park and Uruguai Provincial Park, which collectively protect a huge amount of forest in this part of Argentina. These smaller, connecting reserves were conceived and purchased in the '90s by a group of individuals concerned about conservation--and it worked. Unlike Brazil, where the Atlantic Rainforest has pretty much been clearcut, 45 percent of the forest in Argentina's Misiones province is protected. So, while historically only four percent of the Atlantic Forest was located in Argentina, today, 50 percent of the remaining habitat is on this side of the border with Brazil.
For the first time this year, I'm in the tropics. It sure feels like it too. This afternoon was in the 90s and humid; I saw my first monkeys of the year (a group of capuchins), and the forest is all viney and frondy. The birds are tropical too: Today's sightings included antbirds, antshrikes, antwrens, antvireos, antpittas, antpipits, antthrushes, and ant-tanagers, among the 122 species that Guy and I encountered between dawn and dusk (almost half of which were new for my Big Year). Capybaras run around on the lawn here, and we saw lots of signs of coatis in the forest. I'll be in the New World tropics from now until April, and in Latin America until mid-May!
New birds today: 52
Year list: 503