We will also visit the Humedales del Este Biosphere reserve where we should encounter Shortbilled Pipit and the fantastic Ombue forest for Diademed Tanager and other specialties. Each tree in the forest has its own wonderful shape with thick, twisting roots spreading out over the ground; some of the trees are over 500 years old. The Quebrada de los Cuervos (Vulture Ravine), the southernmost outpost of the Atlantic Forest, is a gorge cut into the rocky northeastern hills. Seventy per cent of Uruguay’s native flora and a great diversity of bird species, including Red-rumped Warbling-Finch, Red-winged Tinamou, Lesser Seed-finch, and three species of vulture are found here. We will bird the Valle del Lunarejo area in northermost Uruguay in hopes of sjb neeing forest birds like Sharp-tailed Streamcreeper, Glaucous-blue Grosbeak, and Chestnut-backed Tanager among others.
We will bird some of Uruguay’s finest natural spots on this tour, and also see a wide cross section of the country, both its scenery, habitats, and people. The pace will be somewhat relaxed even if by the end of the tour we will have seen a large proportion of Uruguay’s birds. The most demanding part of the tour will be several long drives to reach the best birding sites. Note also that Uruguay is about the safest and mellowest country in all of South America. It is an uncomplicated and relaxing place to bird.
Day 1: Montevideo & Surroundings. Flights from Europe and the U.S. tend to be overnight, arriving in the morning in the city. Guests will be met at the Carrasco International Airport and driven along the wonderful coastline called “Rambla” to the hotel. Lunch at the famous Mercado del Puerto, where barbecued meats reign supreme. After lunch and some time to rest, we will do the city tour & light birding. Overnight in Montevideo.
Day 2: Uruguay river & Argentinean border. We will spend much of the morning driving west along the Uruguay River on the Argentine border, getting our first real taste of Uruguayan birds with birding and sightseeing stops along the way. The drive will take approximately four hours. We will bird in the area of the estancia and we may encounter our first Greater Rhea, tinamous, and a variety of other land birds and waterfowl today. Overnight in a nice estancia in Paysandú province.
Day 3: Esteros de Farrapos. After breakfast, we will spend much of the day exploring the Farrapos area venturing into the wetlands using trails which are seasonally flooded where we may encounter some mud. This is a little-birded site but may turn out to be one of the most diverse spots for birds in the country since it has been recognized under the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Significance with 174.96 km² including 24 islands is known to be the only protected area where Maned Wolf has been recorded and the last known refuge for the Puma in Uruguay; over 200 species of birds have been recorded in the park. We will be looking mainly for seedeaters and gallery forest birds that we may not see elsewhere. Overnight in the Estancia.
Day 4: Valle del Lunarejo. After breakfast, we will do some morning birding around the Estancia before driving to the northern outpost of Valle del Lunarejo. Along the way, we will head into some side roads to look for various open country birds among which will be the wintering populations of Upland Sandpiper, a species seldom seen by North Americans on its winter grounds. Shortbilled Pipits will be around, as well as Fork-tailed Flycatchers, Firewood-Gatherers, Brown-and-yellow Marshbirds, and perhaps the Red-legged Seriema. Overnight at Posada del Lunarejo.
Days 5 & 6: Valle del Lunarejo. Headquartered at the Posada del Lunarejo, we will not only be staying next to a great little wetland with breeding herons, egrets, and ibis, but we will also be in the Lunarejo Valley which constitutes 201 km2 of beautiful valleys and gorges where some of the most impressive landscape in Uruguay can be found. It is situated between the cities of Rivera and Artigas (on
the border with Brazil) and almost 200 bird species have been recorded in the area. From here we will walk up the less-traveled roads. In the afternoon after lunch, we may head to some swimming holes higher up the valley. We have two full days to explore all the valley has to offer. We hope to get out on one evening for a bit of owling. Overnight at Posada del Lunarejo.
Day 7: Quebrada de los Cuervos. After breakfast, we will drive east towards the Quebrada de Los Cuervos (Vulture Gorge), the largest canyon in Uruguay with sub-tropical forest in the bottom of the gorge. This protected area, where the Yerbal Chico stream cuts deeply into the rocky hills of this gorge, is considered the southernmost spot of Atlantic Forest. We will enjoy some trekking in the Quebrada; as we walk down, the humidity rises and the vegetation gets really dense. In this unique area you can find 70% of Uruguay’s native flora and over 100 bird species. We will see three species of vulture along with some good landbirds, including Red-vinged Tinamou, Lesser Grass-Finch and Red-rumped Warbling-Finch. We will spend the night at Estancia Pinos de la Quebrada, a lovely working estancia close to the gorge.
Days 8 & 9: “Bañados del Este“ biosphere reserve. After breakfast, we will drive south towards the province of Rocha where marshes and large seasonally flooded fields create great habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds, and marsh-dwelling species. We will be looking for the great numbers of Pampas and marsh birds to be found here. The Bañado Del Indio is particularly good for seedeaters; both Marsh and Narosky’s may be found, as well as the rare Black-and-white Monjita and the gorgeous Saffron-cowled Blackbird. We will also do some beach birding along the isolates coast of Barra del Chuy. We will spend two nights right in the Brazilian Border, in "El Fortín de San Miguel", a charming inn into a national park were guests can enjoy the gardens, swimming pool and the relaxed atmosphere.
Day 10: The “Castillos Lagoon” & Ombu Forest. Today we will bird other areas in the Rocha Department, particularly the Laguna Castillo where waterfowl can abound. We will visit a mix of sites and have lunch at estancia Guardia del Monte, a working estancia next to the “Laguna de Castillos”. This area has been declared Natural Animal Reserve since 1996. We will have the opportunity to see the palm forests and the Ombú forest; the Ombú tree curiously rarely grows in groups of more than 2 or 3, the forest that we visit is possibly the only one in the world. Each tree has its own wonderful shape with thick, twisting roots spreading out over the ground; some are over 500 years and have a diameter of 2 meters (6 feet). In the afternoon we will drive to Estancia El Charabón, where we will spend the night.
Day 11: Cabo Polonio. Cabo Polonio is an unusual small fishing village which can only be reached by horse or four wheeled drive. The fascinating part of the area is the sand dunes where we can see good numbers of seabirds in addition to the sea lions and migrating Franca Whale that is commonly spot during the south spring. Lunch at a typical restaurant on the beach. The ride out is scenic and fun. After exploring here we will return through the dunes and bird other local areas before arriving at another comfortable and fine estancia. Night at Estancia El Charabón.
Day 12: Three coastal lagoons in the way to Punta del Este. Early after breakfast, we will drive towards the Rocha Lagoon, the most important of the three lagoons we will visit today. Rocha has a great number of wintering shorebirds as well as populations of grassland and wetland species such as Paraguayan (South American) Snipe, Bay-capped Wren-Spinetail, and a host of waterfowl. We will continue towards Laguna Garzon where we might spot some to see what it has to offer before heading to Laguna Jose Ignacio, favored by Chilean Flamingos as well as terns and shorebirds. We will spend the night at a boutique hotel on the coast, giving us a view of the lifestyle in Punta del Este.
Day 13: Following Charles Darwin path - Departure. Flights to Europe or the U.S. usually depart during the afternoon so, we will fill in our day with birding, some sight seeing, and just taking easy. After breakfast we will visit La Barra. Here Charles Darwin named the Straight-billed Reedhaunter, so we hope to see one of Darwin’s birds in the same place where he first saw it. If we are lucky, we could find the American Painted Snipe as well. We will visit a vineyard to improve our knowledge of Uruguayan wines before drive back towards Montevideo Airport.
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