TRIP REPORTS: PARAGUAY
Birding Site Guide
10-DAY CHACO TOUR 10-19 JULY 2006
Group - Andy and Paula Holman (USA), Eduardo and Noelí Justiniano (Brazil) Route - Birding the Trans Chaco Highway, Two days in Parque Nacional Teniente Enciso, One day Parque Nacional Médanos del Chaco, Two days at Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco, Two days at the Central Chaco Lagoons, Asunción City Tour.
Aims - Andy and Eduardo are both keen photographers. Andy has a particular interest in mammals while Eduardo, as a geologist, was keen to compare habitat structure of the Chaco with the Brazilian Caatinga. Noelí works in environmental education in Brazil and has a good general knowledge of South American fauna and flora. Paula is an avid travel writer, documenting her and Andy´s adventures on their travel website http://holmanaway***. Her account of the tour is now online. We designed a tour of the Chaco to accommodate all their varied interests, visiting as many habitats as possible in the limited time and with mammals firmly in mind.
Results - Midwinter is not the optimal time for birding in the Chaco, but we still managed to record 14 of the 18 Chaco endemic species including four of the "Big 5" - the Spot-winged Falconet, Quebracho Crested-tinamou, Chaco Owl and Black-legged Seriema. Andy managed to get some superb photos of hard to see species such as the Pantanal endemic White-lored Spinetail and White-bellied Nothura. A visit to the spectacular viewpoint at Cerro León delivered a flock of Golden-collared Macaws, a range extension of almost 100km west. Mammals however were the big draw, with a total of 21 species recorded in 10 days including Conover´s Tuco-tuco, Crab-eating Raccoon, Grey Brocket Deer, Lowland Tapir and two armadillo species (Andy was particularly happy when we managed to find a globally threatened Three-banded Armadillo which posed for photos!). Overshadowing everything else though were four species of feline, Jaguar and Puma (seen on consecutive days!), several Geoffroy´s Cat and a brief glimpse of a Jaguarundi crossing a path in front of Paula.
20-DAY WHOLE OF PARAGUAY TOUR 6-26 SEPTEMBER 2006
Group - Richard Smith (USA), Professor Kirti Chaudhuri (UK) Route - An ambitious route tracing a huge figure of 8 over the country with a circuit of the Chaco and a circuit of the Oriental region. Chaco Leg - The Chaco leg of the route took us from Asuncion, birding the Trans-Chaco Highwayto the Central Chaco Lagoons Area, on to Fuerte Olimpo and Bahia Negra (in the Paraguayan Pantanal), Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco and Parque Nacional Teniente Enciso. Oriental Leg - From Asuncion we headed via Asuncion Bay and Arroyos and Esteros to Laguna Blanca, on to Mbaracayu Forest Reserve, Itabo Itaipu Reserve and Parque Nacional San Rafael.
Aims - Richard is an adventurous travelling birder who, having birded such remote destinations as New Guinea, Madagascar and Sri Lanka in the past decided that he was ready to take on Paraguay. He is a keen photographer and in addition to increasing his life list was hoping to get some memorable shots along the way. Kirti is another well-travelled person with previous trips including unlikely destinations such as the Yemen and Philippines. Kirti was researching his new novel "Jaguar of Chaco" a semi-autobiographical account set partly in Paraguay and in addition to getting to know its wildlife Kirti was interested in getting to know the country.
Results - We recorded total of 396 bird species (of which just 23 were recorded by voice alone), almost two-thirds of the regularly occurring species in Paraguay - including a new species for Paraguay!!. A total of 11 species of conservation concern were recorded (1 EN, 5 VU, 5 NT). We also saw a total of 21 macro mammals including two species of cat, a tapir with young, two types of peccary and four armadillo species. Among the 16 species of reptiles and amphibians of interest were Green Iguana, Black Caiman and the secretive forest lizard Stenocercus caducus.
CHACO LEG - We recorded a total of 14 of the 18 Chaco endemic species, and 1 of the 2 Pantanal endemic species known in Paraguay.
Central Chaco Lagoons - With many of the lagoons dry most of the wintering waterfowl had departed and very few passage waders were observed. Only 19 Chilean Flamingo were present at Campo Maria, alongside flocks of White-cheeked Pintail and odd Ringed Teals. Records of interest included Greater Rhea, White-bellied Nothura, several Laughing Falcon, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, 50+ Wilsons Phalarope, one Baird´s and one Stilt Sandpiper, Black-legged Seriema, a male Blue-crowned Trogon, Golden-green Woodpecker, Great Rufous and Scimitar-billed Woodcreeper, Chaco Earthcreeper, numerous Little Thornbird, Stripe-backed Antbird, 50+ Chilean Swallow, White-lined and Lowland Hepatic Tanagers. Fuerte Olimpo - Pearl Kite, Bat Falcon and Crane Hawk were amongst the most interesting raptors en route to Fuerte Olimpo. Local specialities included Grey-crested Cacholote, Mato Grosso Antbird and Golden-collared Macaw. We also recorded several Grey-necked Wood Rail, Peach-fronted Parakeet and Fulvous Whistling-duck amongst clouds of waterbirds. Bahia Negra - Night drives brought a host of new mammal species such as Tayra, Azaras Agouti, Lowland Tapir and Coati. Bird wise there were some interesting local specialities with an isolated range in Paraguay including Pale-legged Hornero, Band-winged Nighthawk, Crested Oropendola, Common Tody-flycatcher, Silver-beaked Tanager. Cinereous-breasted Spinetail was heard but not seen. Other interesting birds included Sungrebe, great views of a perched Muscovy Duck, Great Horned Owl, Green-winged Saltator. A Rufous-tailed Jacamar and an Orange-backed Troupial were seen on the Brazilian side of the river facing Paraguay. Defensores del Chaco and Enciso NPs - A last chance to pick up Chaco birds before heading off to eastern Paraguay. En route we were watching a flock of Golden-collared Macaws when they were suddenly scattered by a Bicoloured Hawk that remained perched for several minutes after failing to catch one of them. In an adjacent tree we were surprised to find a pair of Grey-headed Kite sitting quietly.
Within the NPs we managed to find Chaco species that had previously evaded us such as Greater Wagtail-tyrant, Southern Scrub-flycatcher, Pale-crested Woodpecker, White-lored Spinetail, Stripe-crowned Spinetail, Short-billed Canastero, Bolivian Slaty Antshrike and Black-crested Finch. Highlights included Chaco Owl, a Zone-tailed Hawk eating a lizard in flight and a male White-winged Black-tyrant. Quebracho Crested-tinamou was heard but could not be found in the dense vegetation.
ORIENT LEG - We recorded 4 of the 11 cerrado endemic species and 43 of 79 Atlantic forest endemic species known in Paraguay. Asuncion Bay and Arroyos and Esteros - Not much activity at either location but we did find a threatened Strange-tailed Tyrant at the latter, alongside flocks of Jabiru and egrets. Laguna Blanca - Laguna Blanca had been subjected to a recent extensive burning that had left much of the cerrado charred and a colourful carpet of regenerating plants were not attractive for birds. We did locate local specialities such as Masked Tityra, White-rumped Monjita, Rusty-backed Antwren, White-banded and White-rumped Tanagers, Red-legged Seriema, and Black-throated Saltator. However we had to search neighbouring properties for the big ticks, finding Cock-tailed Tyrant, Sharp-tailed Grass-tyrant, Rufous and White-winged Nightjar and Lesser Nothura after scouring suitable areas of habitat. Perhaps the highlight of the visit though was a winter adult Common Tern, a new species for Paraguay!!! Mbaracayu - Highlights were two singing male Bare-necked Bellbirds, several Saffron Toucanets and Green-billed Toucans, a pair of Blond-crested Woodpecker, Riverside Warbler, a co-operative flock of Scaled Pigeon, a pair of Black-fronted Piping-guan, an approachable Nacunda Nighthawk roosting on the grass in front of the accommodation and a roosting Black-capped Screech-owl. In the forest mixed flocks contained some interesting species such as Streak-capped Antwren and Chestnut-bellied Euphonia. In the cerrado remarkable species included Burnished-buff Tanager, Planalto Hermit and Lesser Seedfinch. Itabo - Highlights included a mixed flock with species such as Wing-barred Piprites and Black-crowned Tityra, a Slaty-breasted Wood-rail, Long-tailed Tyrant, several pairs of Spot-billed Toucanet which reacted strongly to recordings of their call, noisy pairs of Buff-bellied Puffbird and Robust Woodpecker. A pair of Ruddy Quali-dove hung around to give fantastic views and a King Vulture was so heavy that it snapped a canopy branch that it tried to land on and had to pump its wings audibly to remain airborne. San Rafael - As usual there was plenty to see in the forest with activity continuing throughout the day, Highlights included several Pileated Parrot, Grey-rumped Swift, Yellow-fronted Woodpecker and Scaled Woodcreeper. We obtained great views of hard to see species such as Spot-backed, Tufted and Large-tailed Antshrikes, and shy canopy birds like Creamy-bellied Gnatcatcher, Blue-naped Chlorophonia and Sharpbill. At Estancia Kanguery a single Giant Snipe was seen in flight just after sundown and several more were heard calling, in addition to local specialities such as Lesser Grassfinch and Sedge Wren.
Author: Paul Smith