Happy Holidays :)

Blessings for my dear birder friends!


Costanera Sur and La Plata

It was about time that I started writing about the Argentina trip.

We travelled to do my thesis papers and presentation, and also to visit some family. However, we managed to squeeze in some time for nature. We were not able to find a Buenos Aires birding guide until the very last day (sadly), but we met some cool people while we tried to capture some new-to-us birds on camera or taking notes for future id.

On rainy November 29th, Sunday and a day before my thesis presentation, we walked from our hotel to Puerto Madero. From there, we kept walking until we got to Costanera Sur, as our goal was to get into the Parque Ecológico that was behind a pond that separated the natural reserve from the avenue.

We never made it to the reserve that day as it was closed because of the rain, but we met a group of birders that were around and spent about half an hour with them. They showed us the bird guide we needed (Tito Narosky's guide for Buenos Aires and surroundings), and helped us learn some local names.

We learned that the Vermilion Flycatcher ('Turtupilín' in Peru) is called 'Churrinche' in Argentina, a Rufous Collared Sparrow is a 'Gorrión Americano' in Peru and a 'Chingolo' in Argentina, a House Wren is a 'Cucarachero común' in Peru and a 'Ratona' or 'Ratonera' in Argentina. A Great Kiskadee is called Benteveo and is quite common in Buenos Aires, while the only one we saw before was back in 2007 in Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay)

Cool group of Argentine birders and Mel

After exchanging some information we all continued our ways. It would have been great to be able to go birding with such a great group, they did ask us when were we leaving, as they met on weekends, but we were going to be on a plane by then :(

Two days after this meeting, we decided to go back to Costanera Sur, as it was a sunny day and we had tons of bug repellent by then (we got eaten that first Sunday, badly!)

Tommy and I finally got into the reserve and found some pretty cool birds, so many lifers!! It was an awesome experience.

Here's the list of all the birds we found in Costanera Sur and the Parque Ecológico those two days -first name is the Argentine name, second is the English name, third is the Latin name- and some pics that Tommy took (please be aware that I used Narosky's guide to id, some of the names may be different, but until I find more common or current names, I'll stick to Narosky's):

1) Cotorra – Monk Parakeet – Myiopsitta monachus (lifer!)
2) Torcaza – Eared dove – Zenaida auriculata
3) Golondrina ceja blanca – White-rumped swallow – Tachycineta leucorrhoa
4) Cisne cuello negro – Black-necked swan – Cygnus melancoryphus (lifer!)
5) Coscoroba – Coscoroba swan – Coscoroba coscoroba (lifer!)
6) Gallareta chica – White-winged coot – Fulica leucoptera (lifer!)
7) Pollona negra – Common gallinule – gallinula chloropus
8) Tero real – South american stilt – Himantopus melanurushimantopus
9) Paloma doméstica - Rock dove – Columba livia
10) Paloma manchada – Spot-winged pigeon – Columba maculosa
11) Ñanday – Black-hooded parakeet – Nandayus nenday (lifer!)
12) Sietevestidos – Black-and-rufous warbling-finch – Poospiza nigrorufa (lifer!)

Black-and-rufous warbling-finch

13) Cabecita negra común – Hooded siskin – Carduelis magellanica
14) Picabuey – Cattle tyrant – Machetornis rixosus
15) Piojito común – White-crested tyrannulent – Serpophaga subcristata (lifer!)
16) Hornero - Rufous hornero – Furnarius rufus (lifer!)
17) Chigolo – Rufous-collared sparrow – Zonotrichia capensis

Rufous-collared sparrow

18) Zorzal colorado – Rufous-bellied thrush – Turdus rufiventris (lifer!)
19) Carpintero bataraz chico – Checkered woodpecker – Picoides mixtus (lifer!)
20) Benteveo común – Great kiskadee – Pitangus sulphuratus
21) Tacuarita azul – Masked gnatcatcher – Polioptila dumicola

Masked gnatcatcher

22) Cardenal común – Red-crested cardinal – Paroaria coronata (lifer!)

Red-crested cardinal

23) Torcacita común – Picui ground-dove- Columbina picui (lifer!)
24) Tordo músico – Bay-winged cowbird – Molotrhus badius (lifer!)
25) Gorrión - House sparrow – Passer domesticus
26) Pirincho – Guira cuckoo – Guira guira

Guira cuckoo

27) Calandria grande – Chalk-browed mockingbird – Mimus saturninus (lifer!)

Chalk-browed mockingbird

28) Calandria real – White-banded mockingbird – Mimus triurus (lifer!)
29) Ratona común - House wren – Troglodytes aedon
30) Biguá – Neotropic cormorant – Phalacrocorax olivaceus/brasilianus
31) Picaflor común – Glittering-bellied emerald – Chlorostillbon aureoventris
32) Golondrina parda – Brown-chested martin – Phaeoprogne tapera (lifer!)
33) Sirirí pampa – White-faced whistling-duck – Dendrocygna viduata (lifer!)
34) Varillero congo – Chesnut-capped blackbird – Agelaius ruficapillus (lifer!)
35) Carancho – Southern crested-caracara – Polyborus plancus (lifer!)

Southern crested-caracara

36) Carpintero real común – Golden-breasted woodpecker – Colaptes melanolaimus (lifer!)

Golden-breasted woodpecker

37) Jilgero dorado – Saffron yellow-finch – Sicalis flaveola
38) Tordo renegrido – Shiny cowbird – Molothrus bonariensis
39) Matico – Troupial – Icterus icterus
(lifer!) - This one was awesome to find, too bad we couldn't photograph it, however, one of our new Argentine birder friends, Roberto Güller, helped us id it, when we described the bird to him he sent us a pic and there it was! A beautiful bird!
40) Chiricote - Grey-necked wood-rail - Aramides cajanea

Grey-necked wood-rail

Later on we travelled to La Plata to meet the family, on the way there we found:
1) Tero común – Southern lapwing – Vanellus chilensis
2) Garza blanca – Great egret – egretta alba
3) Benteveo común – Great kiskadee – Pitangus sulphuratus
4) Chiricote - Grey-necked wood-rail - Aramides cajanea
And a big bird with pending id.

In a few days I'll let you know about the awesome trip to Berisso and the many cool lifers we got there!


Will be back after I unpack!

Oh, and if you are curious about how it went... visit this. Ok, ok, that's in Spanish, but maybe you manage to understand a little bit ;)

I did it!! THANK YOU all for the great wishes and all your support during these past couple of years.

Here with the group that defended thesis on November 30th. I went first. It was a bit scary, but also exciting. Yes, that's me in green.

During the following weeks I'll post about the new birds we found in Buenos Aires and around. Few lifers!!


Gone for a week

I will be back in a week, hopefully with good news :)


A walk before lunch

If you have been following this blog for a while, you are well aware of my lack of posting due to working on my thesis.

In less than a week I will travel to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to defend my investigation in front of a room filled with people. I can't deny I'm a bit nervous.

And last Friday it was too much. I found out that I can't get my degree unless I do the paperwork to become a resident all over again. Even if I don't live or plan to live there anymore. The university told me that even though I had the go-ahead for defending the thesis, they couldn't register me for it.

EXCUSE ME??? I've been asking since last March about costs, papers, etc. and one week before I find out that I wasn't going to be able to defend and get my degree??? After e-mails, phone calls, conversations, arguments, etc. I had authorization to defend it on November 30 as I was told before. But I can't get my degree unless I become a resident again. Ok. No comments on that one, as I've been pretty upset due to that.

This morning I decided to just leave the bad news behind and move forward. I decided to go for some birding-healing.

Vermilion Flycatcher - Sooty Morph

Tommy and I took a walk before lunch. I have to confess I was still a bit grumpy, but my lovely hubbie did a great job cheering me up. He even let me use his camera for a few shots :)

I can't believe how good for the heart that was. It was sunny and a bit too hot, but we had a nice time and an ice cream to take care of the heat.

We found this Croaking Ground-Dove just relaxing in the sun. I'll do the same. Just close my eyes and relax in the sun.

Then it will be time to go back to work again. The thesis era is almost over, even though massive bureaucracy is ahead.

Nature is healing. I came back in a totally different mood. The brightness, the colours, the sounds. It is all good for the heart.

Tommy saw this Tropical Kingbird perched high on a tree. I managed to take a pic of it. It looks so proud! I like it! Will I be after defending the thesis?? Maybe.

It's amazing how much you can learn from birds. But you knew that already.



New lifer yesterday! And not just any lifer.

I met my first blogger/birder friend!

Paul, The Wandering Tattler, and the lovely Sonja were visiting Peru for a few weeks. I'm waiting for their photo of our lunch together to post it here. (UPDATE: Paul sent me the pic the waiter took of us, here it is!)

It was sooo much fun to meet them. Too bad that I had to go back to work after a few hours and that we couldn't go birding together.

They were in Lima only for a day, after a trip that covered places such as Cusco, Arequipa, Madre de Dios, Ica...

They were just a few birds away from hitting the 200 birds mark for the trip (I hope they managed to find a few or id the ones they couldn't yet!)

We spent a few hours together, but it was so nice! It must be because birders rock ;)

I wish that we could meet again soon, and I'll wait for Paul's posts on my country. This place is full of contrasts, and I'm sure there are plenty of stories to come (Stop by and read!)

Thank you Paul and Sonja for a wonderful time, hope to see you soon!



This is the highest on a tree I've seen a Vermilion Flycatcher.

I went to visit grandma and on her garden, tall trees and palm trees make it difficult for the Vermilion to catch some food. They usually perch on small bushes or trees, waiting for the moment to fly and catch a fine meal.

This bird was much higher than any other of its kind I've ever seen. The tree is around 10 meters tall, and this fellow was on top of it. It dived for flies and bugs and didn't seem to get any. I'm not sure if it managed to get some, I didn't have my binoculars with me to see.

After a while, it just stopped diving to the ground. It stood there, on top of the tree, its bright feathers shinning in the sun. It was a beautiful thing to watch, even from the distance I was. It looked so proud and beautiful!

I'm also going to stop diving for things I won't get anyway, I'll start focusing on the future and the wonders to come.

Many changes ahead, that I will share with you in the near future :)


Vermilion Flycatchers and Life changes

If you've been following this blog for a while, then you will know that I've been posting off and on for months now.

I've been working on my thesis for quite a while, and I finally finished it! I have to defend my work in front of a "jury" of professors and other students by the end of this month in Buenos Aires. This blog was born in Buenos Aires, and I hope that the trip marks a new beginning for it, with more learning and sharing, more pics and birds, birds, birds!!

I plan to reinvent myself in the following months, a change of life for the better. I want to learn new things and visit new places.

It is a bit confusing still, as everything is "under construction" right now - plans, dreams, hopes, future!

And speaking of confusion... Something that has me a bit confused too are these Vermilion Flycatchers:

The male is usually bright red with black when adult, like the one above.

Lima has a sooty morth population of these birds, the dark brown ones like the one in the next photo (I love these cute "chocolate" ones!):

But, what I don't understand, is what exactly is the bird that follows...

Tommy found it in his walks in Parque El Olivar and it is a complete mystery to me: It has the brown body like the sooty morph and a red crown like a "regular" Vermilion, although the red is not as bright. (Thanks for the pics babe!)

Do you know what could be happening?? The bird has been seen on many occasions for a few months now and no molting has been observed. Please, feel free to leave your ideas on what you think or share what you KNOW.

... I wonder if the new Mel will end up like this bird, a mixture of the old Mel but with brighter, happier, unique feathers ;)


Blog Action Day 2009

Let's all fight global warming...



Last Sunday I sent my thesis to my tutor in Buenos Aires. Today I got news... he likes it! Yes!! Already made the few minor changes he marked.

There is still some work to do, but writing is over!

Freedom is a few months away :) I feel a bit like this Saffron finch, half in-half out of the cage...


Unexpected Birding for Lifers!

A couple of weeks ago, Tommy and I got an invitation for a family gathering in Mala, south of Lima.

At first we didn't want to go, as I had some writing to do and Tommy needed to study for his classes.

Finally, we decided to go, and take the binoculars and the camera with us, just in case we managed to escape for a moment and explore around the area before the meal was ready.

It ended up being a great decision. We found some birds there, including a few lifers!

Now, pardon my excitement, but my favourite were by far the owls (lifers!) we found just a few metres from were we were going to have lunch! We counted five Burrowing Owls, so close to us that we couldn't believe it!

We found them by total chance. We had already found some common birds there, and were about to head back to the house when I asked Tommy to take a picture of the flowers of the peach tree in front of me.

While he was taking the pic, I felt movement to my left and decided to look around with the binoculars. I found two owls staring at me! And after a moment we could see three, four, five!!

This was the third time I spotted owls. The first and second time were Peruvian Pygmy-Owls (VERY cute lifer!) and this time a Burrowing Owl. Tommy started calling me 'Owl Spotter', lol.

I'm still hypnotized by the owl's eyes, you must forgive me, but all the bird images I took that day were of these guys.

The list for that day:

- Southern Beardless Tyrannulet
- Amazilia Hummingbird
- Croaking Ground Dove
- Hooded Siskin
- Vermilion Flycatcher
- Blue-black Grassquit
- West Peruvian Dove
- Long-tailed Mockingbird
- Blue-and-white Swallow
- Blue-grey Tanager
- House Sparrow
- Groove-billed Ani (lifer)
- Drab Seedeater (lifer)
- Chestnut-throated Seedeater (lifer)
- Collared Warbling Finch (lifer)
- Burrowing Owl (lifer!!!)
+ a couple that we haven't been able to id, and don't have great images.

I'm looking foward to another unexpected birding-lunch-date!


The Violin Player

As you know, I'm on 'thesis mode', so, no birding time for me, not even on weekends (for a few weeks at least).

Tommy, however, has some time after classes and can walk around watching beauties and taking some pictures. Here is his photo of a Blue-gray Tanager.

Here, this Blue-gray Tanager was introduced some time ago in the capital (Lima) from the Amazon. Some people brought birds as souvenirs from jungle trips or to sell in the black market and somehow a few escaped and started a colony in the city. It is very common to see them now in parks and gardens in the city, mostly in pairs.

Something that interests me a lot is the different names of birds around the world. Sometimes there are discussions about the 'correct' scientific name, the common name, the English name, etc. But, it gets even harder if you are - like in my case - living in a Spanish speaking country, and there is no agreement on how to call a bird.

Locals from all over Latin America give them different names, which can be quite annoying if you are in another country trying to ask a non-birder about a particular bird and have no image refference to show.

Let's take this Blue-gray Tanager (Thraupis episcopus) as an example. The most literal translation to Spanish should be 'Tángara Azuleja'. In Colombia it is called 'Azulejo' (azul means blue), in Costa Rica it is 'Viuda' (name given to a female widow), and in Peru it becomes a 'Violinista' (violin player), this last one explained due to the song of the bird. I bet there are many more names for it all over the world, given by local non-birder residents or ancient cultures.

Do you have problems like these with the English names?? I know that there are some discrepancies, but most of the times it is a unique name, isn't it? Please, tell me about it!

Oh, did you know that
in Trinidad and Tobago this bird is called Blue Jean?? Cool!


Back on thesis mode...

Yes, I'll start working on my thesis again.

It's been a while since I worked on it and I have to finish and defend it by the end of the year.

Sorry, I won't be able to post often (something that has became 'normal' this year, sadly)

Please, send me good vibes and tips on how to focus on this while working on a full time totally un-related to thesis job; with just a few hours a week to dedicate to it.

I wish you happy birding and lots of adventures.


Cleaning up!

Have you ever taken part in one of these activities?

For me, last Sunday was the first time, and it was such a great way to begin!

Caju-Perú (Comité Ambiental Juvenil), a local organization that joins together volunteers and different groups run by young people with the commitment to preserve the environment and educate population, was celebrating its '8th birthday'. For the occasion, they organised a clean up in a place called 'Lomas de Lúcumo', in Quebrada Verde, Pachacamac.

When I got the invitation, I really didn't know what to expect. I didn't know the place and I only knew a couple of people there besides Tommy.

We woke up very early and went to the meeting point, where around a hundred volunteers congregated. I felt so old! I was probably one of the oldest in the group!

Two extremely crowded buses took us to Quebrada Verde. The place was grey and seemed like a lifeless hill from where we gathered. I was a little worried.

People from all ages and districts of Lima joined the campaign. It was a particular joy to see kids from the community proudly wearing vests that ID them as 'environmental promoters'.

We got instructions and were divided into five brigades. Each brigade took a different path, and armed with gloves and bags started our morning picking up the inorganic waste that we found along the trails.

The higher we got up the hills, the greener they became. Life started to show. It was an amazing climb, picking up lots of garbage, and enjoying the stunning views.

I used my right eye and hand to bird, and my left eye and hand to pick up waste. Right hand was in charge of binoculars, left hand was in charge of cleaning up. It was a bit hard not to stop every two seconds to enjoy the view, as the rest of the volunteers walked faster and focused totally on the goal. I have to admit that I couldn't do both, I was torn between them and kept trying to; but, eventually, I had to give up birding with the promise to return.

High up on the hill (that was our brigade's main goal), the fog and mist around us made me feel as if I was in a magical world. I felt a bit sad watching such a beautiful place and imagining the people who left all those things behind. It was also sad to think of getting back to the grey, super noisy and dirty city.

The way down was harder, it was foggy and slippery. My legs were shaking after four hours of climbing and jumping and generally moving around! I spend too much time in an office. I discovered that I lost some of my strength and drive for these things (it could also be that the average age of the volunteers was ten years younger than me!). But I am moving forward now, trying to do things I enjoy and believe in, together with people I love and care about.

It was an awesome experience that I plan to repeat. I loved the place, its simple beauty and its quiet trails. I loved the activity and the perfect company of great people with such different backgrounds, but united in one single goal. I loved to see so many young people involved in it.

It was awesome. Whatever I could have expected of it, this was by far, so much more. So much better.



Perús National Bird, "Gallito de las Rocas Peruano" (Andean Cock-of-the-rock) finally made it to Birdorable!

Yes! I loved it when I read Birdorable's mail, sent by Amy, letting me know that my suggestion finally made it to such a cool site. Make sure to stop by and admire all the new designs! They are creating and creating new ones as you read. Awesome work!


A bird or two

Time hasn't been a friend lately.

I haven't been able to go birding, missed a pelagic and my thesis is way waaaay behind.

At least I've managed to take a couple of walks with Tommy around the house or while visiting family over the weekend.

I miss birds!! I miss watching them feed or groom, picking little twigs or materials for their nests or fighting for the best spot in the tree or the bush. I miss finding common birds with not so common features and just staring at them for ages. I miss finding them staring at me!

I want TIME, can anyone help me with that?


Say whaaaat???

Hi there!

I was very excited because Gunnar offered us an awesome wedding present: A pelagic this Saturday...

But, as this is not a perfect world... A girl from my area, working in the same floor as me (5 or 6 metres or so from my desk) has been confirmed with the AH1N1. Thank God she's fine, and so are her kids (all got the virus) and she'll come back to work next week. However, we've been advised to take precautions such as to wash hands often, sneeze on handkerchiefs and to avoid public places (both to prevent getting infected or to infect others in case we have the virus).

I travel to and from work in public transportation, each trip takes me over an hour, in which I could get in contact with hundreds of people. I have to go shopping for food eventually and do other stuff that involves human contact. And I will continue to do so.

BUT, I won't go to the pelagic. I know there is a scarce risk of being infected and passing it on, but I certainly don't want to be the one to start the outbreak among birders!!

Anyway, I'll keep you posted, hopefully nothing serious will happen and my hubby and I will be able to enjoy a great wedding present later on.


Bird fun


The king of the urban jungle

Married life is awesome, especially with such a nice and cute husband as mine, hehe... Work has been very heavy and paperwork to have everything sorted with immigrations, Interpol, civil records, etc. is slow but happening.

We haven't had time to go birding, but some time ago, while we were running around trying to get all the wedding stuff and paper's sorted, we found this scene...

Made us smile, thinking of that poor sculpture of the king of this 'urban' jungle, being pooped all over in a not so 'royal' way.

Who's the king now??

We hope to be able to go birding soon, maybe a pelagic? We shall see!


I'm back :)

As you know, Tommy and I got married last weekend.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and some family and close friends joined us for the brief ceremony.

Among those friends there were two special ones. One in flesh, one in thought.

Celeste and Leslie

We met Celeste and Leslie some time ago, when we got in contact with the Wildlife Brigade. I've writen about Celeste in the past, when I told you about Zöövenirs-Peru.

Celeste and Leslie thought about us and decided to give us a wonderful gift. Celeste couldn't make it, but Leslie showed up with a small basket. She approached us after the ceremony, once we were outside the building with that little basket.

She said: "Butterflies can't speak, but they can carry your wishes for the future in their wings".

She asked us to whisper a couple of wishes to the butterflies she had in the basket, before we set them free. We did. Then we opened the basket. The butterflies stayed there.

We offered them our hands, and they gently climbed on them. They listened to our wishes again, stayed for a couple of pictures and after a couple of minutes, they were on their way.

I had never had a butterfly in my hand before. It was an amazing experience, an awesome surprise on a very special day.

Thank you, Celeste and Leslie, for making our very simple wedding, something extraordinary and unforgettable!

Mel and Tommy



I've been busy for the past couple of weeks... but I wanted to share something with you...

Lots of things to do... just a couple of weeks left!!

Will be back in June :)

(Thanks to cousin Malú for her awesome drawing!)


Some time at the Zoo

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post. I had a week off work after Easter and after that it has been a bit harder to catch up.

On my first day of 'vacations', Tommy and I met some friends to go to the Parque Zoológico Huachipa, a small zoo about 45 minutes from home. Tommy already wrote about it and posted some cool pics here.

It was a hot day but a bit cloudy. We got there early, and it seemed that some residents were not completely awake yet...

We don't like to see animals in cages or in spaces were they can't leave, but this was an opportunity to at least SEE animals and to learn about them.

Festive Parrot

We found a zone with a few parrots and macaws. The Blue-and-yellow Macaw of the next picture was enjoying the scratching very much. When I took the picture it reminded me of one of those 'oh yes, he got me the biggest rock he could find, isn't my ring gorgeous??' comments...

Blue-and-yellow Macaw

After that we saw a few residents that came a long way...

... one of them gave us the 'I'm-watching-you-you-better-be-careful' look...

And then we got in what became my favourite spot of the whole place: El Bosque de Aves (The forest of birds). There were some really nice but hard to get in camera birds. I've never seen them before, and I won't be able to see them in the wild anytime soon, so, I'm glad we had the chance. Tommy got some pretty good shots, and I just managed to get these...

Speckled Chachalaca

... And this HUGE Jabiru, which I swear was taller than me! It was awesome to see it soo close, and to be able to walk around a place where new-to-us birds could fly around us. Too bad that there were not good signs to actually help you id the species.


When we got out of the forest of birds, we found a small pond where the residents had to share the food with some visitors...

Black-crowned Night-heron

We stayed close to see the Humboldt Penguins in detail. They were all swimming together, all but one. One of them was very close to where we were, and was trying to get something. When we got closer, we found out that this guy was trying to get a plastic bottle cap! He dived many times to get it, splashing around... I think I got it when he just grabbed it :)

Humboldt Penguin

So, what do you think the caption should be for the next one? 'I think I'm adopted' comes to mind...

We spent a few hours in that zoo, saw some really beautiful creatures, but we left with a bitter sweet smile, knowing that those beauties were staying there...