I’m back in snowy Canada after an incredible trip to Argentina with James and his parents. We hop-scotched our way south from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, then north again to El Chalten and El Calafate - the home of the iconic Fitzroy mountain range. Along the way I noticed and noted a lot of wildlife.
Dolphin gull (Leucophaeus scoresbii)
Southern lapwing (Vanellus chilensis) – They look, and sound, a lot like the Northern lapwing we have in the UK.
King cormorant (Phalacrocorax atriceps)
South American tern (Sterna hirundinacea)
Flightless steamer duck (Tachyeres pteneres) – Our guide said that these geese don’t fly – their wings are apparently too small – so they live in a sheltered island bay in the Beagle Channel and sometimes have altercations with the neighbouring pair when the tide is high.
Kelp goose (Chloephaga hybrida)
Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris)
Rock cormorant (Phalacrocorax magellanicus)
Brown skua (Stercorarius antarcticus)
South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens)
Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) – These are the penguins that make nests out of pebbles, and when a male wants to impress a female, he gives her the smoothest, most perfect pebble he can find.
King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) – The second largest penguin. We saw one, lone individual hiding amongst a group of gentoo penguins. Perhaps he took a wrong turn…
Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) – Remarkably similar to the Humboldt penguins we see in zoos.
Chimango caracara (Milvago chimango)
Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura)
Magellanic tuco-tuco (Ctenomys magellanicus)
Austral thrush (Turdus falcklandii)
Southern house wren (Troglodytes aedon)
White-crested elaenia (Elaenia albiceps)
Chilean flicker (Colaptes pitius)
Thorn-tailed Rayadito (Aphrastura spinicauda) – Sounds like a Pokémon. Is in fact a small bird with yellow go-faster stripes on its head and a distinctly thorny tail.
Gray-hooded Sierra finch (Phrygilus gayi)
Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) – Closely related to the llama, guanacos are found throughout Patagonia. We saw some walking along like in Emperor’s New Groove, and the skeletons of others strung up when they forgot that their necks and legs were too long for jumping fences.
Andean condor (Vultur gryphus)
Black-chested buzzard-eagle (Geranoaetus melanoleucus) – An eagle that looks like a buzzard, and James’s favourite bird of the whole trip. Maybe.
Black-necked swan (Cygnus melancoryphus)
White-throated tree runner (Pygarrhichas albogularis)
Rufous-collared sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis)
Patagonian Sierra finch (Phrygilus patagonicus)
European hare (Lepus europaeus) – Non-native in South America.
Patagonian toad (Nannophryne variegata)
Lesser rhea (Rhea pennata) – Large, flightless bird like an emu.
Upland goose (Chloephaga picta)
Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) – Turns out there are wild flamingos in Patagonia – who knew?!
Eared dove (Zenaida auriculata)
Southern crested caracara (Caracara plancus)
Austral parakeet (Enicognathus ferrugineus)
Black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Benteveo (Pitangus sulphuratus) – I associate this bird very closely with South America. Their name and their song are the same, and they are heard all over Brazil and central Argentina.
Cinereous harrier (Circus cinereus) – We watched a male and female hunt over the marshland and exchange food acrobatically in the air.
When I first started this list in Buenos Aires, I didn’t expect it to be quite as long, and there are plenty of species that I wasn’t able to identify, didn’t notice, or couldn’t be bothered to look up. It just goes to show that the more attention you pay to the wildlife around you, the more you see.
Next time you're out and about, see if you can identify just one new species. The way I do it is by writing key characteristics in my phone that will help me look it up later. e.g. Southern lapwing started out as "kind of like a lapwing but in Argentina". I find I pay a lot more attention to my surroundings when there's the potential to spot something I haven't seen before.
Also, when I was asleep in the car, James and his parents saw a puma. Apparently. I don’t believe them.