Puna Flamingos and Diademed Sandpiper-plovers in the land of the Andean Condor




***STOP PRESS***  Phil has just returned from Argentina, where he found a pair of Diademed Sandpiper Plovers in readiness for our forthcoming tour. They had two small chicks. He went on to find another breeding pair and an immature bird at a new site for this species in Argentina - photos below.


Our local guides, say this tour is unique in their opinion and offers the best mix of endemics and superb landscapes. An extension to the world famous Iguaçu Falls is also planned. Phone for more information.



more pictures from our 2007 tour at the foot of this page


for photos from Phils trip to the High Andes click here


Argentina is a vast country. To visit it all would  take  many  weeks,  so  our  tour has been designed to cherry pick some of the best birds and landscapes in South America. The north west of the country is the most varied region in terms of both wildlife and scenery, and our local guides have described this as the best itinerary in Argentina. We will explore a variety of habitats, from lush cloud forests to the driest Puna heaths of the Altiplano. Away from more traditional tourist routes, this is the place that the Argentineans keep secret for themselves. The high number of birds restricted to this region makes it difficult to beat; in 2006, we saw some bird species that few people have ever seen. As well as great birding, this tour provides some respite from the cold and damp pre-Christmas days at home.


The enigmatic Diademed Sandpiper-plover is one of the most attractive and sought after waders in the world. Neither plover nor sandpiper, it is in a league of its own. Little is known about its habits and it is difficult to find. However, our local guide has located some accessible birds at a reliable site. This was the only known site in Argentina until Phil and Hector located more breeding birds elsewhere this spring. Three species of high-altitude flamingos are found at a nearby salt-lake. Northwest Argentina holds the bulk of the country’s endemic birds. In 2007 we were the first tour company to see Dinelli’s Doradito on its breeding grounds.


The magnificent Andean Condor flies high over the valleys keeping a watchful eye on us throughout our visit. Torrent Ducks play in the rivers, whilst parrots nest in dramatic red sandstone cliffs. Mammals include the delicate Vicuña, a distant relative of the camel, whose fine wool is used to make some of the most exquisite fabrics.





We will spend our first night in Buenos Aires. The next morning we will fly to La Rioja, birding our way to Villa Union. We may get a view of our first Andean Condor en-route. The next morning we enter Talampaya National Park, the spectacular gorge is a World Heritage Site. Monte brushland and Chaco woods hold Black-legged Seriema, Spot-winged Falconet and Many-coloured Chaco-finches. Chaco Owl is also possible here.


Our next day will see us climbing into the High Andes in search of the Andean, Chilean and Puna Flamingos that inhabit Laguna Brava. The Diademed Sandpiper-plover can be found nearby as well as Creamy-rumped Miner and Red-backed Sierra Finch. The fantastic Red-tailed Comet, males of which have a six inch long red tail, should satisfy any hummingbird enthusiasts at lower elevations.



On our sixth day we will drive through a land dominated by large cacti reminiscent of Arizona, to visit salt pans near Salinas. Hundreds of Chilean Flamingos gather to feed, while the very localised Salinas Monjita and Dinelli’s Doradito nest here. Few have ever seen them but we saw both well last year.


We will then move on to explore the Yungas cloud forests and high Andean grasslands of the Aconquija range. The lush vegetation is home to the endemic Yellow-striped Brush-finch. Torrent Ducks can be found in pairs swimming in the fast flowing mountain streams, alongside the localised Rufous-throated Dipper.


Tafí del Valle is a tourist resort with a quiet mountain village ambience. Montane forests give way to treeline alder woodlands. Here we can find the endemic White-browed Tapaculo and the Giant Hummingbird. Further up the slopes of the Aconquija range one reaches El Infiernillo, a pass at 10,000 ft. Shrubby ravines are home to the Tucumán Mountain-finch, a stylish endemic bird. Other species of the Andean grasslands are the charismatic Andean Flicker, Andean Tinamou, White-browed Chat-tyrant and Black Siskin.



At El Infiernillo we will cross to the western side of the mountains, to reach Quilmes. Dry valleys are characterised by the presence of tall columnar cacti and creosote bushes. This is monte brushland, a habitat found only in Argentina. It is home to more Argentine endemics, including the Sandy Gallito and Golden-billed Saltator.


Our night at Quilmes is a real highlight. This is the Argentinean Machu Picchu, with our private lodge tastefully situated within the ruins themselves. In 2007, we counted 40 White-fronted Woodpeckers roosting on massive cacti here and flocks of Burrowing Parrots gathering at dawn. These raucous creatures provide quite a show when in large numbers!


We will also visit a Burrowing Parrot colony in the amazing red sandstone formations of the Quebrada de las Conchas. Just north of Quilmes, this is some of the most fantastic scenery of the whole trip.


Salta provides a base to reach Cuesta del Obispo. We will climb up to 11,000 ft. to a truly spectacular landscape. The scrubby ravines and grassy fields around the striking rock formations hold the showy Sparkling Violetear, White-tipped Plantcutter and Mitred Parakeet. Add some very local or threatened species such as Rufous-bellied Saltator, Zimmer’s Tapaculo, Moreno’s Ground-dove and yet more Andean Condors, to make for a fantastic day!



After a second night at our hotel near Salta, we will depart for Calilegua National Park, birding along the way in Yungas forests. Black-backed Grosbeak, Highland Elaenia, Yellow-winged Cacique, Rufous-capped Antshrike, Yungas Pygmy-owl, Rusty-browed Warbling-finch and Stripe-headed Brush-finch are among the noteworthy birds.


Day twelve will be spent exploring Calilegua National Park. We will visit the whole altitudinal range, from the foothills to the montane forests. The Yungas cloud forests of Calilegua are particularly lush, in a spectacular mountain setting. Orchids, bromeliads and other epiphytes cover every branch of every tree. The birds of Calilegua include Dusky-legged Guan, Golden-collared Macaw, Blue-capped Puffleg, Blue-crowned Trogon, Lyre-tailed Nightjar, the spectacular Giant Antbird and the elusive White-throated Antpitta. There is a good chance of mammals including Coati, Tayra and Brown Capuchin Monkey.



On day thirteen, we will drive to Yala, our base for one night. We will birdwatch in the montane forest here. Red-faced and Dusky-legged Guans feed among fruiting trees that attract Alder and Mitred Parrots. Crested Becard and Plush-crested Jay are two of the many attractions here. Later we must take an afternoon flight back to Buenos Aires, where we will spend our last night.


Finally, we will spend the last day birding in the pampas at Costanera Sur, a fantastic reserve close to the city. Here, we will look for Black-necked Swan, Spectacled Tyrant and the lovely Masked Gnatcatcher. We will have plenty of time before our evening flight home.



Breakfast will be early in order to take advantage of the best birding. Full days will be spent in the field with short/medium length walks. Birding will be mostly on gently sloping terrain. The high altitude in the Andes can affect some people but the pace here will be appropriately slow.



Full-board accommodation is provided with one night at the Hotel Lafayette, Buenos Aires, three nights at Villa Union, one night at Dean Funes, two nights at nights at the Hotel ACA, Tafi del Valle, one night at the Hotel Ruinas at Quilmes, two nights at Selva Montana, Salta, two nights at the Posada del Sol, Libertador General San Martin, one night at Hosteria Yavi and one night back at the Hotel Lafayette in Buenos Aires. All are of a good standard with en suite bathrooms. Packed lunches will be taken when away from the hotel in the middle of the day.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation, soft drinks at meal times, local transport by mini-coach, reserve entrance fees, international flights and taxes.



Our optional travel insurance, payable at the time of booking. Items of a personal nature, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flight from London Heathrow to Buenos Aires using the scheduled services of Iberia Airlines. Outbound flight departs early morning, return flight arrives back late afternoon. Shuttle flights are available on this tour for £70 return (due at time of booking), from Manchester and other regional airports.



Customers already booked have asked about an extension to these spectacular falls. We can organise this independently, or if numbers permit, will arrange a group visit.



15 nights including

one overnight flight:


Principal leader:


Local guide:



Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

17th August 2008):


Full Cost:


Single supplement:




Insurance premium:




29th Nov. to 14th Dec. 2008


Phil Palmer


German Pugnali or Hector Slongo


12 clients with one leader

and a local guide



£3440 per person sharing


£3590 per person sharing






£59 due at time of booking

(£89 for age 65 to 69)

(£118 for age 70 and over)




We saw several Condors on our last tour. Phil managed this excellent shot in February 2008.

Red-tailed Comets are a common hummingbird in Northwest Argentina

Aplomado Falcons were seen almost daily on our 2007 tour.


The ancient ruins at Quilmes are the Argentinean version of Machu Picchu, but far less visited. Our wonderful lodge in the private grounds of the ruins  allow us access after the park is closed. This allows us to see the masses of Burrowing Parrots that gather here when visitors leave.


Andean & James's Flamingos.

A pair of Magellanic Horned Owls was one of the highlights as they allowed us to approach so close. Seemingly unconcerned.

There are various colour variations among the Torrent Duck populations found along the Andes range.

We saw several while searching for Rufous-throated Dipper. 

A recently described species, the Salinas Monjita has a tiny distribution centred around the saltpans near the town of Salinas.

Olive-crowned Crescent-chest - restricted to NW Argentina & Bolivia, it is a must-see bird.

The striking rock formations are a superb backdrop to some excellent birding.



Guanacos can be obliging.

Toco Toucans are numerous in the forest.


An extension to the famous Iguaçu Falls is planned for 2008. If you would like to include this, please contact our office.

For photos from the       High Andes and Iguaçu Falls           Click Here.

A Black Vulture soars in front of the mighty falls.

Iguaçu from the air. We can arrange a helicopter ride for you too!


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