Birding Without Borders

Birding Without Borders: Day 23

The Uruzu jungle is a feast for the ears.

January 23, 2015, San Pedro, Argentina -- Guy Cox and I were up in the dark to head for Uruguai Provincial Park, which has a 3.7-kilometer loop trail at a place called Uruzu. After yesterday's smorgasbord of birds, today we concentrated on filling in some gaps.

Guy sure has an incredible ear. As we walk slowly through the forest, he points out every sound: "That's a Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper . . . Did you hear that little chappie? A Drab-breasted Pygmy-Tyrant!" This is especially useful in tropical jungles, which are so dense that birds are hard to see. Those who haven't visited a rainforest are sometimes disappointed by their first experience; although this is the most diverse environment on Earth, and many of the birds are colorful, they're either way up in the canopy, or skulking in a thicket of bamboo, or just thinly distributed, and you can go an hour in the forest without seeing much of anything. Sounds are the key. Most birds are pretty vocal, so, if you know what's singing, you can focus your efforts.

I am counting heard-only birds this year for several reasons. First, the existing record included heard-onlys, so I'm playing by the same rules. Second, I think that counting heard-only birds is good for the birds: It doesn't require playing tapes or flushing birds to get a visual (I am not against using tapes in a reasonable way, but endlessly broadcasting calls is a bit silly and potentially harmful). Finally, many birds are best appreciated by their sound; one might argue that you haven't really experienced a Screaming Piha until you've heard it. Until now I had seen practically every species on my year list, but these past couple of days have included an uptick in heard "sightings." I'll keep track so I can report separate totals, although heard birds will always be a minority (seeing a bird is generally more satisfying, so I do my best!). And I need to feel extra confident of the ID before I list a bird by ear; Guy heard several species in the distance today that I wasn't comfortable adding to my own total.

A Drab-breasted Pygmy-Tyrant skulks in a bamboo thicket. Photo: Noah Strycker

In the heat of the afternoon we drove a couple hours south to San Pedro, where Guy lives with his family in a house conveniently adjacent to the entrance of Araucaria Provincial Park. Before dinner we strolled through the weird, dinosaur-age Araucaria trees, and picked up a couple of Araucaria Tit-Spinetails and several Vinaceous-breasted Parrots against the sunset.

New birds today: 20

Year list: 523

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