Sunday, September 15, 2013

One day, MANY endemics!

Did I mention that Jorge and I saw some national endemics while birding the Sierras Grandes west of Córdoba (central Argentina)?  In my previous post, I pictured the Carbonated Sierra-Finch which is an Argentina endemic with a quite large distribution within the country.  Beside the sierra-finch, we found other three (3!) national endemics that day in Pampa de Achala.  The first one was a species that, like the sierra-finch, also has a large distribution within the boundaries of Argentina: the Cinnamon Warbling-Finch.
We saw a male mixed with Rufous-collared Sparrows as you can see in the photo.  There are some autumn and winter reports from Uruguay, but that seems to be a rare vagrancy pattern.  In contrast, the next species (and subspecies) are completely restricted to these plateau.  Jorge took me to the banks of the Yuspe river and waited.  Soon, one of our first targets showed up as expected by Jorge:
Previously considered a subspecies of a more widely distributed species, the Olrog's Cinclodes is essentially restricted to Pampa de Achala.  Notice the conspicuous white in the closed wing, the bicolored eyebrow and the short, thin bill.
We walked a little bit, finding another Olrog's Cinclodes, this time accompanied by a Common Miner... also an endemic subspecies (contrerasi) for these sierras.  The spanish name of "caminera" refers to the habit of walking that these birds exhibit.
After a while, we found other furnariid sharing the same riverine habitat: a White-winged Cinclodes.  Compared to Olrog's Cinclodes, notice the obvious longer bill, the striking white bar in the closed wings, and the darker look overall.  This is also an endemic subspecies, schocolatinus, looking quite different to the geographically distant nominate.
With our targets in the bag, we moved to the highest part of the road reached that day, the Cuchilla Nevada, well over the 1800 meters above sea level.  No water up there, only arid grassy and shrubby pampa with rocky stands.  Now, we were after other endemic, the third cinclodes species for the day.  We did several stops in apparently suitable sites... then, the bird materialized in front of us.
That's right: Cordoba Cinclodes!  Just with the name you can assume that this is a range-restricted endemic (even with its Latin name: Cinclodes comechingonus).  Notice the rufous wing band.  My  next photo shows the yellow base to the lower mandible... but that was not very evident in the field.
By that time, I was more than happy... but Jorge had another surprise for me.  We stopped at a different type of habitat... this time less rocky and more shrubby.  Some playback and then a Puna Canastero hopped into evidence atop a shrub.  This species was first described from these sierras, and some think that the other subspecies described later don't belong to this species... some even call this bird "Cordoba" Canastero.
That was really a great day... full of endemics and distinct forms.  As bonus, we visited the shores of the San Roque lake, in the Punilla valley, finding the forth species of cinclodes for the day: two Buff-winged Cinclodes.
Formerly part of the Bar-winged Cinclodes complex, this partially migratory species is restricted to the south cone of the continent... so it was a lifer for me!  Four Cinclodes in one day, all of them lifers for me... amazing!  But the lifers festival don't stop here... stay tuned for more!

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