Wednesday, 29 March 2023


Today was incredibly successful, as we birded the shoreline, lakes and marshes on the outskirts of Montevideo. No tender ashore required today, we just walked off the ship and met up with our excellent local guide, Florencia Ocampo. When I say today was a great day, it was! We saw 106 species in total and I think i'm right in saying that none of us wanted today to end. Our first site was a large lagoon just inland form the massively wide Rio de la Plata, where we spent a pleasant hour or so watching all the activity as birds kept coming and going, and we notched up many new trip ticks. My particular favourite was a Snowy-crowned Tern that appeared right in front of us and landed on a small island. Amazing! 

Snowy-crowned Tern

This was proper birding and thoroughly enjoyable and we began with Picazurro and Spot-winged PigeonsGreen Kingfisher, Rufescent Tiger-Heron, a flock of Black SkimmersSpot-flanked Gallinule, several Hudsonian Godwits, and plenty of common species. 

Hudsonian Godwit

In the sedges right in front of us, a few stunning Rusty-collared Seedeaters appeared and looked gorgeous! On the far side of the lagoon a Sooty Tyrannuletwas spotted, then a few Black-necked Stilts appeared, followed by both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and a couple of Baird’s Sandpipers. We continued scanning through the masses of Lake Ducks and found a few Silver Teals as well before moving on towards the river. 

Rusty-collared Seedeater

As we walked out to the beach, a pair of Long-tailed Reed-Finch showed well and a Spectacled Tyrant popped up in view. Along the shoreline there were masses of birds present, flocks of Snowy-crowned, Cabot’s and a few Common Terns were constantly on view and flying past us, several groups of American Golden Plovers were present, there were more skimmers, godwits and yellowlegs, groups of White-fronted Ibis took to the air, flocks of ducks whizzed by, and we also found a few Royal Terns. Florencia was excited by a Magnificent Frigatebird out on the river, apparently a rare bird here. Moving inland again we picked up Small-billed Elaenia and Gilded Hummingbird, before calling at another section of beach where a few Chilean Flamingo’s were another rare bird for Uruguay, and we also had nice close views of White-rumped Sandpiper too. 

White-rumped Sandpiper

Then we drove to a pool beside the highway where a flock of Black-necked Swans looked superb in the sunshine, there was another Spot-flanked Gallinule, a family of Cinnamon Teals and best of all, a Rufous-sided Crake skulking at the base of the reeds. A flock of Bare-faced Ibis also flew over as we rejoined the minibus.

Cinnamon Teal

Black-necked Swans

By now it was late morning and our stomachs were grumbling and we were ready for lunch, so drove to a Eucalypt woodland along the river. But the drive there was superb and we picked up many trip ticks and a few previously seen species, beginning with Burrowing Owl, Greyish Baywing, Screaming Cowbird, Red-crested Cardinal, White Woodpecker, Brazilian Teal, Whistling Heron, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Grey Monjita, and also a brief White Monjita.


Lunch consisted of a selection of empanadas, before we staked out a nearby marsh. There’s been a drought so the marsh was practically dry but that didn’t deter a pair of Narrow-billed Woodcreepers that were on view for quite a while. 

Chestnut Seedeater

Chestnut and Dark-throated Seedeaters

Chestnut and Dark-throated Seedeaters

But it was my new favourite family, seedeaters that stole the show as we saw several Double-collared, a few Chestnut and a stunning male Dark-throated Seedeater. Further scanning produced White-tipped Dove, Dark-billed Cuckoo, Rufous-capped Antshrike, Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch, Masked Gnatcatcher, Hooded and Black-chinned Siskins, Southern Yellowthroat, Variable Oriole, a skulking Freckle-breasted Thornbill, and a White-crested Tyrannulet

Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch

So, by now it was late afternoon and we had to return to the ship, arriving in plenty of time for yet more food and drinks and time to relax! It’s a little but like a holiday!!!

Monday, 27 March 2023


Another day at sea, sailing north towards Uruguay resulted in a superb shearwater spectacle as we estimated 1450+ Great Shearwaters, 200+ Sooty Shearwaters and at least 25 Manx Shearwaters. Many of these were sat on the water just in front of the ship and we could hear the ‘pitter patter’ of their little feet as they struggled to take off and move away! 

Great Shearwater

We could often look right down on them and could literally see every feather detail. There was also 26 Black-browed Albatross, 73 Magellanic Penguins and 8 White-chinned Petrels as well. 

We were looking all day for Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross and had to wait until late in the day to finally nail one, but we were all ecstatic with it. 

Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross

Just before getting this much-wanted species, we’d had a weird albie that we initially called as yellow-nosed but realised that it was much too long winged and wondered if it was a Salvin’s, which shouldn’t really be in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Mystery Albatross south of Montevideo

I’m still not sure on it, but wondering if it’s an immature White-capped Albatross….? 


Anyway, that’s all for today!

Sunday, 26 March 2023


This was truly an epic day ashore as we docked in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Once we were allowed to walk off the ship, we found it to be a fairly long walk along the pier to our waiting minibus. Along the way we saw Great Grebes and several numerous & very close South American Terns. Our first stop was just along the coast a few minutes away to view a high tide roost of gulls and shorebirds, but not the hoped for (and definitely a long shot) Chubut (White-headed) Steamer-Duck that had been reported a few days ago. We just saw some Crested DucksAmerican and Blackish OystercatchersGrey-hooded Gulls etc etc. Moving north towards the Valdes Peninsula we made a few quick stops to view Variable Hawk, Chalk-browed and Patagonian Mockingbirds, Southern Martin and Chiguanco Thrush

Patagonian Mockingbird

Veering inland slightly we entered steppe country covered in bushes and pulled up beside an isolated house. There were several Elegant Crested Tinamous present and we had nice views of these and a couple more over the next hour. 

Elegant Crested Tinamou

As well as this superb species, one of the non-avian highlights for some in the group was the Lesser Cavy! However, we were here for one special bird – White-throated Cachalote, an Argentinian endemic. 

White-throated Cachalote

It took a while to locate it but with the breeding season over, I think we were extremely fortunate to get the crippling views we did. What a bird! So, moving on we had Rufous Hornero, Burrowing Owl, Harris’s Hawk and other common species before arriving at a lake in Trelew, about an hour south of the port. This was choc full of waterbirds and we thoroughly enjoyed sifting through all the ducks and other goodies present. The main stars for ‘duck’ enthusiasts comprised Black-headed Duck, Lake Duck, Red Shoveller and Yellow-billed Pintail, with many White-tufted and just a couple of Silvery Grebes also in the mix. 

Black-headed Duck

Lake Duck (female)

Lake Duck (male)

All three species of coot were here: White-winged, Red-fronted and Red-gartered Coot, and we saw them all at close quarters. 

Red-fronted Coot

Red-gartered Coot

White-winged Coot

At the far end a few Chilean Flamingo’s were largely ignored in favour of Picui Ground-Dove, Great Kiskadee, Shiny Cowbird and a very confiding Southern Lapwing!

White-tufted Grebe

Southern Lapwing

Leaving here we drove even further south and inland, into the wild and remote Patagonian Steppes, passing Lesser Rheas along the roadside. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to nail Carbonated Sierra-Finch – yet another Argentinian endemic. But we did! 

Carbonated Sierra-Finch

Our next major target was at a seemingly random place amidst this vast landscape where, despite the strong wind, we located a party of the endemic Rusty-backed Monjita. A Chocolate-vented Tyrant was also found and scoped. After the disappointment of dipping on this mega at Punta Arenas, this was a particularly thrilling encounter. So with better views of the monjita for everyone we continued to another spot for Mourning Sierra-Finch before hitting the coast for a last throw of the Chubut dice. 

Patagonian Canastero

A walk along a sandy cliff top path to view a beach yielded nothing, but the walk back gave us the endemic Patagonian Canastero and this bird proved to be rather inquisitive! A few Royal Terns also flew by before we reached the minibus. Amazingly, Dan picked up a pair of steamer-ducks about a mile further along the beach, so with inconclusive views we pushed our luck (and time) to drive around and get closer. 

Chubut (White-headed) Steamer-Duck

With Flying Steamer-Duck also a possibility even this far north, we just had to be sure and sure enough the views were much better and we could high-five each other with our lifer Chubut (White-headed) Steamer-Duck. What a result! And all that was left was to hightail it back to the ship and go get some food and coffee, despite having the best packed lunch of the trip so far!


As we walked along the pier to the ship, some Cayenne Terns flew over. Now, depending on your taxonomy (or religion as I sometimes say!) this is either a new species for you or just a race of Cabot’s Tern (and we had these as well) and according to the IOC is a sister species to Elegant Tern and not Sandwich Tern. So there you go! Anyway, as we sailed away from Puerto Madryn we all met at the front of the ship to see what was about. You are actually in a vast bay and sheltered from northerly and southerly winds, so this may have been why we had Pomarine, Long-tailed and Arctic Skuas here! Sailing further out we were surrounded by many Sooty and Great Shearwaters, as well as a surprising number of Manx Shearwaters. Oh and of course there were the usual Black-browed Albatrosses present as well. Nice!

Friday, 24 March 2023


A rather quiet day as we continued our slow sailing towards the Argentinian coast and Puerto Madryn. The undoubted highlight being our 3 Grey Petrels seen at various stages throughout the day. 


Today’s Totals:

5 Southern Royal Albatross

20 Black-browed Albatross

3 Grey Petrel

7 Southern Giant Petrel

9 White-chinned Petrel

8 Great Shearwater

12 Sooty Shearwater

4 Brown Skua


Thursday, 23 March 2023


 Yes, we should have been in the Falkland Islands ticking Falkland Steamer-Ducks, visiting the penguin colony at Volunteer Point etc etc. But our captain in his infinite wisdom decided the weather was too rough to dock, even without consulting the port authorities in Port Stanley. So he informed us that we would sail towards our next port of call at Puerto Madryn very slowly. Anyway, what can you do apart from carry on sea-watching and it did prove to be rather productive with a count of 55+ Soft-plumaged Petrels today. 

Soft-plumaged Petrel

In August 1988 as a 20 year old manic twitcher I was sea-watching at Porthgwarra when Peter Harrison uttered those immortal words “SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL” and this was, at that time, possibly my most exciting moment as a birder. Subsequently this Pterodroma complex has been split into several species and I’ve been fortunate to see Desertas Petrel & Zino’s Petrel over the past few years. And so Soft-plumaged Petrel remained a mythical being for me as it inhabited the far away South Atlantic Ocean. That was until today when this species was our constant companion all day as we sailed north towards the Argentinian coast.

Slender-billed Prion

Subantarctic Shearwater

Peale's Dolphin

Other keynote species from today were a single Subantarctic Shearwater that just Dan and I saw, 1 probable and 1 confirmed Blue Petrel, 8 Slender-billed Prions, and some extremely acrobatic Peale's Dolphins.

Todays count:

3 Southern Royal Albatross

12 Great Shearwater
1 Subantarctic Shearwater
1 Blue Petrel
55 Soft-plumaged Petrel
15 Southern Giant Petrel
8 Slender-billed Prion
3 Brown Skua