Our birding adventure begins in the Province of Tucumán, exploring the Yungas Cloudforest. Forming a wedge along the southern Andean chains of Bolivia and northwestern Argentina, the Yungas Cloudforest supports one of the greatest biological diversities in the Neotropics. It harbours a wide variety of forests and woodlands, each hosting its own and unique community of flora and fauna, and all varying according to their altitudinal ranges. Wildlife is abundant in this humid environment. Ferns, bromeliads and other epiphytic plants are particularly stunning here, and they cover every single corner of the forest. This biological treasure is well protected within the boundaries of several national parks and nature reserves, and we plan to explore it thoroughly in different areas. The Yungas surrounding Tafí del Valle offer great chances for such stunning birds as Rufous-throated Dipper and Torrent Duck to name but a few.
Morning meeting with your Trogon Tours’ leader at Tucumán Airport. From Tucumán we will drive to Tafí del Valle, where we’ll spend the following 2 nights. We will make some birding stops on our way to Tafí, mainly to try and see our first specialties and endemics. The road from Tucumán to Tafí follows the River Los Sosa, which runs from 2,000 meters (6,500 ft.) in Tafí, to roughly 500 meters (1,650 ft.) above sea level near Tucumán. Chances are good here for Rufous-throated Dipper bobbing on rocks amidst the fast-flowing roadside river and also for Torrent Duck.
We’ll spend the day birding different habitats around Tafí del Valle looking for birds like Yungas Dove, Rothschild's Swift, the endemic Yellow-striped Brush Finch and White-browed Tapaculo among others.
We’ll leave Tafí del Valle after breakfast, and drive north, towards Cafayate. On our way there, we will climb to higher altitudes to finally reach El Infiernillo mountain pass, at 3,042 meters (9,980 ft.) above sea level. On our way there, we’ll look for specialities like White-browed Tapaculo, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, White-winged Cinclodes, Slender-billed Miner, Paramo Pipit, Cordilleran Canastero, Puna Canastero, Buff-breasted Earthcreeper, Gray-hooded Parakeet and some endemics like Tucuman Mountain Finch, Yellow-striped Brushfinch and Moreno’s Ground Dove. After crossing El Infiernillo, we will descend down to the Province of Salta, and start exploring a slightly different habitat of dry thorny scrubland with rocky cliffs and sandy soil, known as Monte of the Calchaqui Valleys. In this area we’ll visit the Quilmes Ruins, one of the largest pre-Columbian settlements in Argentina, where around 5,000 people used to live many years BC. Despite being dry, this habitat is quite different to what we saw near Tafí, and it’s full of new birds, including some endemics like White-throated Cacholote and Sandy Gallito. Other highlights for today include flocks of Burrowing Parrot (northern race), Chaco Earthcreeper, Spot-winged Pigeon, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Black-crested Finch, White-banded Mockingbird, White-crested Tyrannulet, and the attractive White-fronted Woodpecker. We’ll spend one night in Cafayate.
We’ll leave Cafayate this morning and continue north to Cabra Corral, where we’ll spend the following 2 nights. On our way there, we’ll cross some of the most spectacular rock formations in NW Argentina at Quebrada de las Conchas, where besides enjoying the spectacular scenery we’ll have our first chances for the elusive Black-legged Seriema.
We will spend the day birding at different altitudes and habitats, following the famous Cachi Road. This winding road climbs all the way up to Cuesta del Obispo (Bishop’s Raise) at 3,500 meters (11,500 ft.). Variable Hawk, Aplomado Falcon, Andean Flicker and Rock Earthcreeper are all possible here. We’ll explore the gullies looking for White-tipped Plantcutter, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, White-winged Black-Tyrant, Black Siskin, Rufous-sided Warbling-Finch and the localized Rufous-bellied Saltator. We will also spend some time at lower altitudes, looking for Subtropical Doradito and Streak-throated Bush Tyrant. Flowering tobacco bushes attract hummingbirds like Giant Hummingbird and the striking Red-tailed Comet, and the dry slopes along the way are home to Andean Tinamou. On our way to Cahi, we will search for other Andean specialities such as Zimmer’s Tapaculo and the endemic Steinbach’s Canastero.
We’ll leave Cabra Corral after breakfast, for our next destination: Las Lajitas, in the heart of Salta’s dry Chaco woodland. To get there, we’ll take a dirt back road through good Montane Chaco habitat with some transitional forest and agricultural land, which after a few kilometers connects to the main highway. The first part of this road goes through a canyon, where chances are good for birds like Andean Condor and Black-chested Buzzard Eagle hovering-over. Chaco Chachalaca and Dusky-legged Guan are common sightings along the way and other possible birds include White-bellied Hummingbird, Blue-throated Starthroat, Ringed Kingfisher, Cream-backed Woodpecker, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, White-winged Black Tyrant, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Many-colored Chaco Finch, Red Pileated Finch, Ultramarine Grosbeak and Black-legged Seriema among others. On our way to La Lajitas, we will cross an area of wetlands, where chances are good for birds like Roseate Spoonbill, Southern Rough-winged Swallow and Amazon Kingfisher. This is also a good area for Turquoise-fronted Amazon. We will spend the following two nights in Las Lajitas.
We’ll leave very early this morning and drive north to the area of La Estrella, where dense stocks of Dry Chaco Forest still stand.
Our plan is to spend the morning looking for specialties including Quebracho Crested Tinamou, Black-legged Seriema, Stripe-backed Antbird and Short-billed Canastero to name but a few. Greater Rhea can usually be spotted in farmlands along the way too. We will return to Las Lajitas around noon, in time to have lunch and take a midday break to avoid the heat, before setting off for the area of Joaquín V. González, where we’ll spend the balance of the day birding the farmland and Chaco woodland around town. We’ll have plenty of time to walk around and look for birds in the thorny Chaco forest, where we hope to find Great Antshrike, Scarlet (formerly Vermilion) Flycatcher, Great Rufous and Scimitar-billed woodcreepers, Straneck’s Tyrannulet, Solitary Cacique, Greyish Saltator, Cinereus Tyrant, Crowned Slaty Flycatcher and woodpeckers including White-fronted, Checkered and Green-barred. In the farmlands we might get falcons, like Aplomado and Peregrine, also Smooth-billed Ani and passerines like White-browed Blackbird, Southern Yellowthroat and Tropical Kingbird among others.
We’ll leave Las Lajitas after breakfast and bird our way to Libertador General San Martín, where we hope to arrive around noon, in time to have lunch at a local restaurant and check into our hotel for the following two nights. This afternoon we’ll go birding the transitional forest and wet lowlands along the entrance road to Calilegua National Park, where we’ll look for birds including Pale-vented Pigeon, Rothschild’s Swift, Toco Toucan, Golden-collared Macaw, Azara’s Spinetail, Ochre-faced Tody-Tyrant, Purple-throated Euphonia and Crested Oropendola among others.
We’ll spend the day birding Calilegua National Park one of the main Yungas relicts within Argentina. We’ll drive to the lower Yungas at the entrance of the park stopping often along the way, searching some trails for new birds, like Green-checkeed Parakeet, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Slaty Elaenia, Highland Elaenia, Ochre-faced Tody-Flycatcher, Plumbeous Tyrant, Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Green-backed Becard and Blue-crowned Trogon among others. If we are lucky, we might also get Amazonian Motmot, a bird that is rather uncommon in Argentina and highly restricted to this corner of the country. We will stop for a picnic lunch at Mesada de las Colmenas, a wonderful picnic site half way up the road across Calilegua, great for watching raptors including Rufous-thighed Hawk, Plumbeous Kite, Swallow-tailed Kite, White-rumped Hawk and King Vulture. This is also a good place for secretive White-throated Antpitta and we will try hard for this one here. While trying for antpitta, we’ll also have good chances for other wonderful birds, like Variable Antshrike, Rusty Flowerpiercer, Cinnamon Flycatcher, Mountain Wren, Two-banded Warbler, White-bellied Hummingbird and Andean Slaty Thrush. We will return to Libertador General San Martín in the late afternoon, after a full day exploring the yungas.
We’ll leave Libertador General San Martín this morning and drive to our next destination: northwest to Yala, a lovely village sitting at the foothills of mighty Andes, in the southern end of Humahuaca Valley. Rather than taking the shorter road there, we will start by driving slightly south, to take an alternative road, crossing Santa Laura mountain pass, a wonderful birding area. This road crosses some transitional forests and wetlands, offering great chances for birds like Golden-Olive Woodpecker, Whistling Heron, Band-tailed Seedeater, White Monjita, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Purple-throated Euphonia, Rusty-browed Warbling Finch, Spot-breasted Thornbird and Slaty Elaenia to name but a few. Some prominent and easy to spot birds like the spectacular Crested Oropendola and the inquisitive Plush-crested Jay are also possible sightings along the way. Raptors are a bit unpredictable, but Barred Forest Falcon, Short-tailed Hawk and King Vulture are all present here, especially as we get deeper into another patch of Yungas, which we’ll cross en-route to Yala, where we plan to arrive in the afternoon. We will check into our selected hotel for the following night.
There are good birding opportunities on our way there, where searching the cordilleran streams we’ll have yet more chances for the striking Torrent Duck and the scarce Rufous-throated Dipper. We will also explore a local reserve in the area looking for specialties of the Alder forest, including Dot-fronted Woodpecker, Spot-breasted Thornbird, Fawn-breasted Tanager, Rusty-browed Warbling Finch and the scarce and elusive Red-faced Guan. We then continued northwards to Purmamarca, where we lookout to photograph the famous Cerro del los Siete Colores (seven-color hill). Chances are good this afternoon for new birds like Brown-backed Mockingbird and Black-hooded Sierra Finch among others.
We will spend the balance of the day birding around town and enjoying the spectacular surroundings.
After enjoying an early breakfast surrounded by the beautiful landscape of blue mountains and deep valleys, we will spend a couple of hours searching for local specialties possibly missed the day before. After this we will travel north entering the Humahuaca Valley. The attractive geological formations and the varied colors of the mountains give an adequate frame to ancient adobe villages and old churches of Cuzco influence that make Humahuaca Canyon such a spectacular place, worth enough for UNESCO to declare it a World Heritage Site. Overnight at Abra Pampa.
Today we will continue north, to finally enter the Puna region. This will be a day of fascinating contrasts as we gradually move to higher elevations along the Humahuaca Canyon. The Lake Pozuelos Natural Monument, is a mountain ringed basin with shallow brackish water located roughly 90 kilometers north of Abra Pampa. This area hosts a huge population of Andean, Chilean and Puna Flamingoes so large concentrations of these creatures can be seen amidst the solitude and grandeur of this unique high Andean landscape. Depending on the water level variation, chances are also high here or in the surroundings for other Puna specialties, like Andean Goose, Andean Avocet, Crested Duck, Puna Teal, Andean, Horned and Giant Coots, Puna Plover and a number of North American migrants such as Baird’s and Pectoral Sandpipers and Wilson’s Phalarope. We will also explore the surrounding grasslands in search of Tawny-throated Dotterel, American Golden Plover and Least Seedsnipe. Other local birds possibly seen today include Andean Gull, Mountain Caracara, Andean Flicker, Golden-spotted Ground Dove and Ornate Tinamou. Your day in Pozuelos will also provide excellent chances for the local race of Lesser Rhea –called Puna Rhea in some books, and to see some mammals, like Vicuña, a delicate wild cousin of the Llama.
We will spend the day birding the high Andes around the Village of Yavi and Cuesta del Izoite. Overnight at La Quiaca
Early morning leaves La Quiaca, driving south to take an afternoon flight from Jujuy or Salta airport, where the tour ends.
Andean Condor, Aplomado Falcon, Andean Flicker, Rock Earthcreeper, White-tipped Plantcutter, Brown-capped Tit-Spinetail, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, White-winged Black Tyrant, Black Siskin, Rufous-sided Warbling Finch, Rufous-bellied Saltator, Stripe-backed Antbird, Quebracho Crested Tinamou, Spot-winged Falconet, Mitred Parakeet, Fulvous-headed Brushfinch, Rusty-browed Warbling Finch, Spot-breasted Thornbird