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Birding around El Calafate late December

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Old Wednesday 19th February 2020, 12:03   #1
Swissboy
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Birding around El Calafate late December

I'm planning a short stay in the El Calafate area in late December. The idea is to see at least Perito Moreno Glaciar and the Magellanic Plover that I hope to see along Lago Argentino. I'm open to suggestions of other things to see/visit. El Chaltén is not on the agenda as we will already have been on a long trip by then, and I would most likely not do the steep uphill walk to get to see Fitz Roy.
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Old Wednesday 19th February 2020, 13:30   #2
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The whole area is gorgeous. Los Glaciares NP is quite nice. Patagonian Sierra-Finch (more tied to forest and less in towns than Gray-hooded) is quite common along the walkways and around the viewing platforms. Not a ton of diversity / activity when I was in the park, to be honest. There are a couple spots along the lake that have good concentrations of waterfowl... bays and areas with aquatic vegetation. Once you get out of town in the Patagonian Steppe habitat is pretty much the same everywhere in my experience.

I've never targetted the Plover there, can't help particularly with that. Do you have other targets? Will you have a car?
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Old Wednesday 19th February 2020, 18:02   #3
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The whole area is gorgeous. Los Glaciares NP is quite nice. Patagonian Sierra-Finch (more tied to forest and less in towns than Gray-hooded) is quite common along the walkways and around the viewing platforms. Not a ton of diversity / activity when I was in the park, to be honest. There are a couple spots along the lake that have good concentrations of waterfowl... bays and areas with aquatic vegetation. Once you get out of town in the Patagonian Steppe habitat is pretty much the same everywhere in my experience.

I've never targetted the Plover there, can't help particularly with that. Do you have other targets? Will you have a car?
As this is just a stopover on the way home, I will not get a car, but I might get a taxi if necessary. Main purpose of the trip is an Antarctic cruise plus a re-visit if the Iguazu falls up north. Main target species around Ushuaia would be Magellanic Woodpecker and White-bellied Seedsnipe (or any other seedsnipe for that matter).

About 15 years ago we made it south to the Valdez peninsula and Punta Tombo, so had some steppe then.
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Last edited by Swissboy : Wednesday 19th February 2020 at 18:11.
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Old Wednesday 19th February 2020, 21:01   #4
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It was many years ago, but a friend saw Bronze-winged Ducks on Lago Roca near Lapataia in Uhuaia. This was also the classical place for the Magellanic Woodpecker.
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Old Thursday 20th February 2020, 00:10   #5
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Most people look for the Woodpecker in Tierra del Fuego NP. It is honestly a pretty common bird throughout its range in mature forest. There is no definite need to go to the park BUT if you have only one day to look for it you could well dip if you have bad luck. Familiarize yourself with the calls and drumming and check eBird for recent reports I would say will help you as much as anything.

There are two sites for the Seedsnipe near Ushuaia, classically - the Marshall Glacier area and the Garibaldi Pass area. I have the distinct impression the second site is better. Either one also gets you into habitat for Yellow-bridled Finch. Both require a good bit of walking and a lot of patient scanning. More eyes help if you have company!

Gray-breasted and Least Seedsnipe are common and widespread but you might easily see dozens or miss both. I generally find them mostly along little travelled dirt roads in the Patagonian Steppe and in arid Andean areas, or in pincushion bogs along with Ground-Tyrants (generally speaking, if you're in the arid Andes from Peru south, pincushion bogs are ALWAYS worth checking for finches, Ground-Tyrants, and Seedsnipes).

Good luck!
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Old Thursday 20th February 2020, 12:24   #6
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Originally Posted by pbjosh View Post
…………...
There are two sites for the Seedsnipe near Ushuaia, classically - the Marshall Glacier area and the Garibaldi Pass area. I have the distinct impression the second site is better. Either one also gets you into habitat for Yellow-bridled Finch. Both require a good bit of walking and a lot of patient scanning. More eyes help if you have company!

Gray-breasted and Least Seedsnipe are common and widespread but you might easily see dozens or miss both. I generally find them mostly along little travelled dirt roads in the Patagonian Steppe and in arid Andean areas, or in pincushion bogs along with Ground-Tyrants (generally speaking, if you're in the arid Andes from Peru south, pincushion bogs are ALWAYS worth checking for finches, Ground-Tyrants, and Seedsnipes).

Good luck!
Thanks for your input! One of my problems is that I'm a terrible uphill walker. So it's not the distance, but the steepness that slows me down. I have yet to find Garibaldi Pass. Any hints for me where to search. Could not locate it with Google earth.
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Old Thursday 20th February 2020, 12:41   #7
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Garibaldi Pass is approximately here: -54.6894,-67.8417. It’s in eBird too, along with other sites around Ushuaia.

Pretty much anywhere you look for White-bellied Seedsnipe in summer you are going to be in steep terrain open alpine terrain, small rocks and bunch grasses/pincushion plants. In fall/ZA Inter they come down to flatter areas and can be seen from roads though they disperse into huge amounts of habitat and are trickier to find.
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Old Thursday 20th February 2020, 12:50   #8
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Garibaldi Pass is approximately here: -54.6894,-67.8417. It’s in eBird too, along with other sites around Ushuaia.

Pretty much anywhere you look for White-bellied Seedsnipe in summer you are going to be in steep terrain open alpine terrain, small rocks and bunch grasses/pincushion plants. ………...
Thanks, that seems to be more to my liking as the road brings one up closer to the required habitat at least.
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Old Thursday 20th February 2020, 13:46   #9
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Garibaldi pass is a nasty uphill slog, but not too much of it, and the seed snipe is well worth the effort.
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Old Thursday 20th February 2020, 17:16   #10
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At El Calafate you will find a small nature reserve called "Laguna Nimez".

https://www.welcomeargentina.com/elc...z-reserve.html

I saw the Magellanic Plover there many years ago.
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Old Thursday 20th February 2020, 20:40   #11
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Our best views of MP last December were the other side of the lake.
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Old Friday 21st February 2020, 18:23   #12
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Garibaldi pass is a nasty uphill slog, but not too much of it, and the seed snipe is well worth the effort.
Thank you all! I'll have to look into that. If I can take my time I might make it.

We have a total of 4 full days now at Ushuaia, after full planning had been done.

For El Calafate, at present, it looks like we'll have two full days still.

@Fritz73: "At El Calafate you will find a small nature reserve called "Laguna Nimez"." Thanks a lot for this info. It seems to fit perfectly into my plans.
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--PS: That's a Sooty Falcon on the avatar, photo taken near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. My highest priority raptor at the time.
What's your species on the avatar? I often have no clue
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Last edited by Swissboy : Friday 21st February 2020 at 19:40.
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Old Thursday 27th February 2020, 20:34   #13
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……….
For El Calafate, at present, it looks like we'll have two full days still.

…………..
Finished up my plans for the El Calafate area, and we will now have a total of four nights ( 3 1/2 full days) there, and a rental car as well. So this provides a bit more range and flexibility. One night will now be at El Chaltén. A birding guide on the 23rd of December would be optimal, as that would increase chances for Hooded Grebes.
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--PS: That's a Sooty Falcon on the avatar, photo taken near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. My highest priority raptor at the time.
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Old Friday 28th February 2020, 05:57   #14
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Unless something has changed in the past year or so, Hooded Grebe requires going to Estancia Laguna Verde. You do not need a guide but you need to coordinate your visit ahead of time, they charge for entry, and you need a truck to get there. They can pick you up where the toad gets bad for an additional fee as I understand so you can go most of the way in a rental car. It’s a long ways from El Chalten, maybe 6-8 hrs as I recall? Most people stay at Estancia La Angostura either before or after, or both. La Angostura is off the 40 and maybe 2 hrs from Laguna Verde.

A bit in the middle of nowhere and a bit of work to coordinate the visit, but Hooded Grebes is one of the most spectacular birds on earth in my opinion!
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Old Friday 28th February 2020, 19:24   #15
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…... It’s a long ways from El Chalten, maybe 6-8 hrs as I recall?......….A bit in the middle of nowhere and a bit of work to coordinate the visit, but Hooded Grebes is one of the most spectacular birds on earth in my opinion!
Thanks a lot, once again. I think I found the locations, and you are correct in your recollections regarding the distance/time. So going both ways, it's way over 12-14 hours, not counting times for stops along the road. Unfortunately, that is stretching our time budget too much, I think. Hooded Grebes are definitely superb, but by the time we will be there, we should have had lots of other exciting species I hope (we'll be on a cruise to South Georgia among others). Thus, we'll have to leave this one for some other time, if there will be one. So I'm more looking for locations within about half the distance you mentioned.
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Old Friday 12th June 2020, 21:36   #16
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I hope I didn't arrive too late.

Feel free to ask me for some help. What are your plans for those 3 1/2 days ?
Laguna Nimez is a must-go" when visiting Calafate. Even though you won't see rare specie, it's great to get in touch with "local" birds and amazing for photography as you are very close to them. For the Magellanic Plover would be a good idea to have a spotting scope, as you will have to scout between Two-banded Plover, White-rumped Sandpiper and Baird's Sandpiper, but if you are going for an Antarctica trip, I doubt you are taking a spotting scope with you. Don't get me wrong, you can spot Magellanic Plover with good binoculars, just be careful not to scare the shorebirds so you are able to approach them.
In Los Glaciares National Park, there are spots for Spectacled Duck, Andean/Magellanic tapaculo and Patagonian Tyrant. Magellanic Woodpecker can be found there, but it's not ideal as it's too crowded.
Are you going to El Chalten for any particular reason? For White-bellied Seedsnipe, Paso Garibaldi is your best bet and Marcial Glacier for Yellow-bridled Finch. Don't be scared of Paso Garibaldi if you have been to El Chalten before.
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