Birding trip report NW Argentina Nov-Dec 2014
John van der Woude    www.jvanderw.nl    -    see also photo section of this trip
For this trip Nollie and I drove all the way from Buenos Aires up to the far northwest, and back along a different route. We had not expected to get that far, but as we got a huge free upgrade for the rental car at Sixt in downtown BA, we had no problem in driving that far because the car was very comfortable. The trip was from 23 November to 16 December (including flights from/to Amsterdam), and the weather was generally good. For hotels we often consulted booking.com and for smaller towns the extensive hotel listing in the Firestone Road Atlas we bought in BA. We had the OSM road map downloaded into our own Garmin car navigator.
The trip was meant to cover as many habitats as possible in NW Argentina. So that is the wide Paraná river plain marshes (2-4 on map below), the coast of the huge inland Mar Chiquita lagoon (5), extensive chaco woodlands (6), subtropical yungas forests (8, 11, 13), higher altitude open puna (8, 9, 12), salt lake (15), wooded hill country (14, 16), the very special granitic plateau west of Cordoba (17), and lower pampas with or without lagoons (18, 19, 20).
Below the general map are specific maps of these sites, taken from Google.  I have also provided some links to my eBird listings, and at the bottom of this page is a species list (265 species). The photo section shows the scenery of the various birding sites. For details about which species are possible at the various sites, it is best to check eBird.org via Explore Data > Explore Hotspots. Or for finding target species: Explore Data > Species Maps. My checklists are all found via Species Maps, and they are mostly not under Hotspots as I prefer to give exact locations instead of a general area as the Hotspots are.
 

Visited sites:
1. Buenos Aires international airport (EZE)
2. Otamendi nature reserve
3. Paraná floodplains from Rosario to Victoria
4. Pre-Delta national park
5. Miramar at the Laguna Mar Chiquita
6. Añatuya chaco area
7. Rio Hondo dam
8. Tafi del Valle yungas to puna
9. Quilmes to Cafayate
10. Cafayate to Salta
11. Yungas between Salta and San Salvador de Jujuy
12. Puna above Humahuaca
13. Calilegua national park (yungas)
14. Rosario de la Frontera hill country
15. Saliñas Grandes
16. Capilla del Monte valley
17. Pampa de Achala
18. El Morro
19. Lagoon east of Rufino
20. Lagoons near Lobos

Otamendi nature reserve.
1. Leave highway 9 (Buenos Aires to Rosario) here for Ing. Otamendi.
2. Office of nature reserve plus a short trail in the drier woods.
3. Start (just after crossing the railway) of birding road through open marsh.
All the way good to 4 and beyond. Both reedhaunters here.

Paraná floodplain between Rosario and Victoria:
1. Highway 9 from Buenos Aires. Keep direction Victoria.
2. Start of highway to Victoria. Try all places where you can stop (not many) up to 3.
3. Lagoons at the east end of the floodplain.
4. Pre-Delta national park (see below).
5. Road to the city of Paraná, now connected by a tunnel to Santa Fé.

Pre-Delta national park.
1. Quiet road from the east entrance of Diamante.
2. Office, small shop and parking.
3. Nature trail from parking first goes to this lagoon, then on to 4 etc.
4. Good old wet forest.
5. Viewing platform at bigger lagoon.
6. Trail goes back along river.

Miramar at the Laguna Mar Chiquita.
1. Approach road from Balnéaria.
2. Information centre.
3. Our hotel Andaluhe Posada, recommended. Near -30.916569, -62.679509
4. Good boulevard birding.
5. Viewpoint for small river mouth, at -30.921935, -62.684658
6. Restaurant area around -30.914171, -62.676901
7. Route to 8.
8. Bird tower, parking and trail into wide river mouth. At -30.946571, -62.712146
9. Find this small road going north
10. Small river mouth.
The low woods between 9 and 10 had Dinelli's Doradito, esp. where you obviously park the car, at -30.896690, -62.654382

The chaco area at Añatuya, province Santiago del Estero. 
Any solid green area on this image is good, but you have to find trails, tracks or very quiet roads leading into it. We found a few but more are possible than given here. This is an amazing area where few birders go because of its location far from the usual birding routes. Nevertheless, the Chaco national park far northeast will be better, but is hard to combine with NW Argentina.
1. Añatuya with hotels and restaurants.
2, 4 and 5. Tracks/ small roads into the chaco.
3. Café/restaurant in Quimili.
6. Road to the city of Santiago del Estero.

Tafi del Valle, yungas and high altitude valley.
1. Main road 38 from San Miguel de Tucumán.
2. Anywhere along this climbing road is good subtropical yungas, but here we had Yellow-striped Brush-Finch, at -27.0431 -65.6664
3. Bridge and short remnant of old road: Rufous-throated Dipper and Torrent Duck, at -26.9846 -65.6643
4. Our Hotel Tafi, close to the river.
5. Check all gullies traversing this road between 4 and 7. At the gully at -26.7764 -65.7295 we had Tucumán Mountain-Finch.
6. El Infernillo, good for several specialties.
7. Cliffs with sierra-finches. The road goes on to Quilmes and Cafayate.

Quilmes-Cafayate valley.
1. Road descending from pass north of Tafi, look for lone trees.
2. Sandy area, half open with trees, follow track at  info panel. Sandy Gallito.
3. Quilmes archeological site with some birds.
Between 3 and 4 look for Burrowing Parrot.
4. In Cafayate take road east (later northeast) to Salta. Very scenic.

From Salta to San Salvador de Jujuy.
1. Choose here for two directions to Jujuy: the fast road via 1a and 1b, or the old, narrow and winding road along 2 and 3. I think the fast road is easily 4 times faster.
2. Good subtropical yungas forest for several km along the many bends in the road. At -24.5036 -65.3200 we had our first Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch.
3. Small town of El Carmen, simple accommodation and restaurants. We stayed here for the night in order to go back to 2 in the morning.
4. Follow on to Jujuy.

North of Humahuaca on the open high altitude puna.
1. The town of Humahuaca has several accommodation options, but we were not very lucky there. Tilcara, 45 km more south along the fast highway, is often regarded as a better place to stay.
2, 3, 4. Birding can be good anywhere along this highway to Abra Pampa, with wide shoulders so it's easy to park and walk into the open terrain. We did not go much further than 4.
2. Here at -23.0723 -65.3875 we had Rufous-banded Miner, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Chiguanco Thrush, Black-hooded Sierra-Finch, Mourning Sierra-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch.
3. Here at -23.0319 -65.3792 we had Giant Hummingbird, Aplomado Falcon, Mountain Parakeet, Streak-fronted Thornbird, Cordilleran Canastero, Gray-bellied Shrike-Tyrant, Brown-backed Mockingbird, Black-hooded Sierra-Finch, Mourning Sierra-Finch, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch, Puna Yellow-Finch.
4. At stop at -22.9588 -65.4261 produced Ornate Tinamou, Mourning Sierra-Finch and Plain-colored Seedeater.

Calilegua national park. Possibly the best subtropical yungas forest in Argentina.
1. Hotel Posada del Sol in Libertador Gral. San Martin (Gral. is for General). Recommended, also for info.
2. Turn left immediately after the bridge.
3. Entrance of national park.
4. Drier forest in the lower part (Cream-backed Woodpecker, Giant Antshrike).
5. Subtropical yungas forest in the higher parts (many yungas specialties).
6. Cloud forest here at -23.6823 -64.9017
Near 6 Nollie discovered a juvenile Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch. The juvenile plumage of this species appeared to be undescribed yet, so by placing photos of the bird on the International Bird Collection website of the Handbook of the Birds of the World it is now referred to in the online version of the HBW (HBW Alive). [Zie de Dutch Birding website voor een verhaal over deze ontdekking; http://www.dutchbirding.nl/news.php?id=987 ]

Termas hotel grounds east of Rosario de la Frontera.
1. Road from Rosario de la Frontera. At the big roundabout SW of Rosario, take the road going SE. After 2 km keep left on this road. Then another 1.5 km until point 1. Some birding in the half-open area between 1 and 2.
2. Take the entrance road to the hotel. The hotel seems a public area (with sacred statues) and I think this will remain so after the restauration going on when we were there. Otherwise just have a coffee there or so.
3. Park here.
4. Start of trail into the hill forest.
5. Some half-open patches.
6. Some old trees, along the statues. Black-banded Woodcreeper.

Saliñas Grandes NNW of Cordoba.
1. Main road from Recreo north to Dean Funes south.
2. Centre of Lucio V. Mansilla. We tried the dirt road going SE from here but did not get very far, muddy etc.
3. Leave main road here and take the small dirt road going NW.
4. Park here a little beyond the railway crossing, out in the open.
5. We walked to 5 and back through seemingly right habitat for Saliñas Monjita but found none. See photo section.

Capilla del Monte area N of Cordoba. Half-open wooded hills.
1. Find this road out of the centre.
2. Pay small entrance fee here somewhere.
3. Car park.
4. Café at the other side of the river, walk over small bridge. Before the bridge you can also walk a little along the river west.
5. Walk along the campsite.
This area was just nice for some morning birding before we moved on to the Pampa de Achala. Please do not underestimate the time for travelling from here to the Achala. Many many villages and towns have to be passed. On hindsight it may have been better to just drive from the Saliñas Grandes to Cordoba and take the ring road there to the city of Villa Carlos Paz. 
Still, we had some nice birds along a side road going west from the main road at 5 km S of Capilla del Monte. Here we had our first Long-tailed Meadowlark of the trip. But we saw the meadowlarks again on the Achala.

Pampa de Achala west of Cordoba. A high plateau of old granitic rocks, grass and streams. Two endemic cinclodes.
0. Road from Villa Carlos Paz.
1. Our hotel in San Antonio de Arredondo, the Posada Shalimar, very quiet with large garden at the river. Recommended but cheaper options available. I think we had a good deal there via booking.com.
2. Alternative road, some good birding and very quiet.
3. The famous café on top of the plateau. Best birding around here and west. Both endemic cinclodes nearby.
4. Old road going a little uphill from just west of 3. Good birding but road surface soon rather bad. A bull was on the road (soon, a track).
5. From 3 to 5, check all sorts of habitat, dry and wet. From 5 west down to the town of Mina Clavero, with impressive views all the way. Much warmer once below at the foot of this massive plateau.

El Morro N of Mercedes and east of San Luis. A nice stopover, not meant as a special birding site, but it could be rewarding.
1. Road 148 from Villa Dolores and Mina Clavero.
2. We stayed in La Toma, simple accommodation. A few restaurants.
3. Small historic village of  San José del Morro. If accommodation and food would be available here, this would be a nice place to stay.
4. Good dirt road east of the village, with constant view of the El Morro volcano. Some dry pampa birding here, like Firewood-gatherer.
5. Drive on to Mercedes and take highway 7 there to Buenos Aires.

Lagoon east of Rufino, along highway 7.
1. Highway 7 from Rufino.
2. Take quiet road south here.
3. Good views of the grassy old lagoon surface.
4. If possible have a stop here somewhere.
5. Drive on to Buenos Aires.
Lists from My eBird
Some of the checklists I submitted to eBird.org with an Android app from the field. Other stake-outs have been mentioned in the texts at the local maps. See the introduction above how to find my other checklists if needed.

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21042440   Near Añatuya. Many Chaco specialties.

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21042503   Higher altitude birds above Tafi del Valle.

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21042797   Yungas between Salta and ujuy.

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21043818   Some birds at the Rosario de la Frontera site

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21043873   A roadside stop in chaco south of Rosario de la Frontera.

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21043914   Species at the Capilla del Monte site

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21043939   The side road 5 km S of Capilla del Monte

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21043947   Pampa de Achala

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21044173   Pampa de Achala

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21044175   Pampa de Achala

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21044188   Pampa de Achala

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21044215   Pampa de Achala

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21044225   El Morro

http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21044262   One of the stops at site 20, the lagoons S of Buenos Aires.

 

Species list 
A simple species list with some annotations. For some target species see the texts at the maps and at eBird links above. Esp. for the high-altitude species in the far northwest, see at the photos above.
Ornate Tinamou
Andean Tinamou
Chaco Chachalaca   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Dusky-legged Guan
Pied-billed Grebe
Great Grebe
Neotropic Cormorant
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Whistling Heron
Cocoi Heron
Snowy Egret
Great Egret
Cattle Egret
Striated heron
White-faced Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
American Woodstork
Maguari Stork   -   Rio Hondo
Black Vulture
Turley Vulture
Andean Condor
Chilean Flamingo   -   Miramar
Southern Screamer   -   Victoria
Coscoroba Swan
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Torrent Duck   -   Tafi del Valle
Speckled Teal
White-cheeked Pintail
Yellow-billed Pintail
Rosy-billed Pochard
Snail Kite
Swallow-tailed Kite
Plumbeous Kite
Roadside Hawk
Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle
Swainson's Hawk   -   group of 400 lingering near Añatuya
Variable Hawk
Southern Crested Caracara
Yellow-headed Caracara
Chimango Caracara
Spot-winged Falconet   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
American Kestrel
Aplomado Falcon   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Peregrine Falcon
Plumbeous Rail   -   Tafi del Valle
Giant Woodrail  -   Otamendi
Common Gallinule
Red-fronted Coot
Limpkin
Wattled Jacana
White-backed Stilt
Southern Lapwing
Semi-palmated Plover
Collared Plover   -   Miramar
South American Snipe
Upland Sandpiper   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Wilson's Phalarope   -   hundreds at Miramar
Andean Gull
Grey-hooded Gull
Brown-hooded Gull
Large-billed Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Yellow-billed Tern
Black Skimmer
Picazuro Pigeon
Spot-winged Pigeon
Eared Dove
Picui Ground-Dove
Bare-faced Ground-Dove   -   Tafi del Valle
Bare-eyed Ground-Dove
Black-winged Ground-Dove   -   Tafi del Valle
Burrowing Parrot   -   Cafayate
Monk Parakeet
Mountain Parakeet
Scaly-headed Parrot
Turquoise-fronted Parrot
Green-cheeked Parakeet
Burrowing Parakeet
Blue-crowned Parakeet
Dark-billed Cuckoo
Smooth-billed Ani
Guira Cuckoo
Striped Cuckoo
ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Burrowing Owl
Scissor-tailed Nightjar
White-collared Swift
Andean Swift
Glittering-bellied Emerald
Fork-tailed Woodnymph
Gilded Sapphire
Red-tailed Comet   -   Tafi del Valle and later
Giant Hummingbird
White-bellied Hummingbird
Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Toco Toucan
White-barred Piculet
Checkered Woodpecker
Golden-olive Woodpecker
Green-barred Woodpecker
Andean Flicker
Field Flicker
Cream-backed Woodpecker
Common Miner   -   Tafi del Valle
Rufous-banded Miner   -   Humahuaca
Chaco Earthcreeper   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Buff-breasted Earthcreeper
Rufous Hornero
Crested Hornero   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Buff-winged Cinclodes
Cordoba Cinclodes   -   Pampa de Achala
Olrog's Cinclodes   -   Pampa de Achala
Little Thornbird
Greater Thornbird   -   Pre-Delta NP
Streak-fronted Thornbird
Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner
Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail
Tufted Tit-Spinetail   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail
Wren-like Rushbird
Curve-billed Reedhaunter   -   Otamendi
Straight-billed Reedhaunter   -   Otamendi
Firewood-gatherer
Lark-like Brushrunner   -   Miramar and in the chaco near Añatuya
Short-billed Canastero   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Rusty-vented Canastero   -   Humahuaca
Steinbach's Canastero   -   Tafi del Valle
Puna Canastero   -   Tafi del Valle
Cordilleran Canastero
Brown Cacholote   -   Miramar
Chotoy Spinetail  -   Miramar
Sooty-fronted Spinetail
Pale-breasted Spinetail   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Azara's Spinetail
Stripe-crowned Spinetail   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper   -   Victoria
Olivaceous Woodcreeper
Black-banded Woodcreeper   -   Rosario de la Frontera
Narrow-billed Woodcreeper   -   Victoria
Giant Antshrike   -   Calilegua NP
Great Antshrike
Rufous-capped Antshrike
Variable Antshrike
Stripe-backed Antbird   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Olive-crowned Crescentchest
White-throated Antpitta
Sandy Gallito
White-browed Tapaculo   -   Tafi del Valle
Buff-banded Tyrannulet
White-throated Tyrannulet
Dinelli's Doradito   -   Miramar
(several flycatcher species only in the chaco near Añatuya)
Suiriri Flycatcher
Large Elaenia
White-crested Elaenia
Small-billed Elaenia
Slaty Elaenia
White-crested Tyrannulet
Sclater's Tyrannulet
Southern Beardless Tyrannulet
White-bellied Tyrannulet
Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant   -   Miramar
Greater Wagtail-Tyrant   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Pearly-vented Tody-Tyrant
Blue-billed Black-Tyrant   -   Otamendi
Spectacled Tyrant
Cattle Tyrant
Gray-bellied Shrike-Tyrant   -   Humahuaca
White Monjita   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Black Phoebe
White-browed Chat-Tyrant  -   Tafi del Valle
Swainson's Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Streaked Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Crowned Slaty Flycatcher   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Fork-tailed Flycatcher
White-winged Becard   -   Pre-Delta NP
White-tipped Plantcutter   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Rufous-browed Peppershrike   -   Pre-Delta NP
Red-eyed Vireo
Grey-breasted Martin
Southern Martin
Brown-chested Martin
White-rumped Swallow
Blue-and-white Swallow
House Wren
Mountain Wren
Sedge Wren
Rufous-throated Dipper   -   Tafi del Valle
Masked Gnatcatcher
Swainson's Thrush
Slaty Thrush
Chiguanco Thrush
Rufous-belleid Thrush
Creamy-bellied Thrush
Chalk-browed Mockingbird
Patagonian Mockingbird   -   towards Cafayate
Brown-backed Mockingbird   -   Humahuaca
European Starling
Correndera Pipit
Short-billed Pipit   -   Tafi del Valle
Hellmayr's Pipit   -   Tafi del Valle
Masked Yellowthroat
Golden-crowned Warbler
Tropical Parula
Two-banded Warbler
Brown-capped Whitestart
Orange-headed Tanager
Fawn-breasted Tanager
Sayaca Tanager
Blue-and-yellow Tanager
(several sierra-finch species both above Tafi del Valle as above Humahuaca)
Black-hooded Sierra-Finch
Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch   -   Tafi del Valle
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch
Mourning Sierra-Finch
Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch
Black-crested Finch
Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch   -   Otamendi
Red-rumped Warbling-Finch   -   Otameni
Rusty-browed Warbling-Finch
Ringed Warbling-Finch   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Black-capped Warbling-Finch   -   Miramar
Blue-black Grassquit
Tucuman Mountain-Finch   -   Tafi del Valle
Puna Yellow-Finch
Saffron Finch
Grassland Yellow-Finch
Great Pampa-Finch
Yellow-billed Cardinal
Red-crested Cardinal
Rusty-collared Seedeater   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Double-collared Seedeater
Band-tailed Seedeater   -   Tafi del Valle
Plain-colored Seedeater
Red-crested Finch  (Red-pileated Finch) -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Many-colored Chaco Finch   -   mainly in the chaco near Añatuya
Greyish Saltator
Green-winged Saltator
Golden-billed Saltator
Saffron-billed Sparrow
Fulvous-headed Brush-Finch   -   yungas Salta and Calilegua NP
Yellow-striped Brush-Finch   -   Tafi del Valle
Stripe-headed Brush-Finch   -   Tafi del Valle
Stripe-capped Sparrow   -   in the chaco near Añatuya
Grassland Sparrow
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Common Chlorospingus
Ultramarine Grosbeak
Variable Oriole
Unicolored Blackbird   -   Victoria, Pre-Delta NP
Yellow-winged Blackbird   -   Otamendi
White-browed Blackbird
Brown-and-yellow Marshbird   -   Otamendi
Baywing
Shiny Cowbird
Screaming Cowbird
Long-tailed Meadowlark   -   Capilla del Monte and Pampa de Achala
Golden-winged Cacique
Crested Oropendola
Thick-billed Siskin
Hooded Siskin
Black Siskin  -   above Tafi del Valle
      
To the photos of the birding sites