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Six days in the Atlantic Rainforest and Iguazu


pomkiwi
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I'm just back from a week in Argentina with Mrs PK.  During this time we stayed at Awasi in Puerto Iguazu in Argentina. We had plenty of time to explore the area around the falls from both the Argentinaian and Brazillian sides but also managed to spend a fair amount of time in the rainforest.

 

Expect butterflies

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Hummingbirds

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Other birds

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The occasional snake

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And possibly the odd waterfall

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Alexander33

Looking very forward to this. The Mata Atlantica may just possibly be the most beautiful forest I’ve seen, and it certainly offers a host of interesting species — including many endemics. 

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Some practicalities

 

We stayed at Awasi Iguazu which is on the edge of Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinian side of the falls. It sits within an area known as the 600 hectares which borders the river downstream of the falls and is a bufferzone between the national park and the town. Development is restricted to some hotels and settlements of the local Guarani people. Awasi is an upmarket hotel and we were given our own guide, Fran (who was excellent) and a vehicle for our stay. They have a number of excursions on offer and will adapt these to your interests but you are encouraged to explore the local areas away from the falls themselves. We did a lot of walking around the falls but also within various locations in the rainforest as well as some kayaking, some river cruises and a trip to the Misiones which taught us a lot about the history of the area.

 

The view from the room was of forest:

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There were butterflies all around (as was the case everywhere we went).

 

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The hotel laid on short talks some evenings and I spent an entertaining and informative session as the only guest one evening with a local biologist and later in the week with a wildlife photographer (Emilio White).

 

Travel. we flew from London to Sao Paulo via Zurich as SWISS had some great fares. It was simple to connect in Sao Paulo to a LATAM flight to the Brazillian side of the falls from where we were collected. It was a 40 minute drive to the hotel and crossing the border between Argentina and Brazil which we did a few times was quick although generated rather too many stamps in the passport.

 

Camera - I took a Fuji XT2 together with a walkaround 18-135mm lens which did well. I also took a 50-140mm f/2.8 lens which was great in some situations and coupled with a 2X teleconverter worked for some longer distance shots at the falls. Although the focus was the falls we learnt a lot about other aspects of the area. The falls however were truly spectacular:

 

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The Iguazu falls

 

The Iguazu falls separate the upper and lower Iguazu rivers. The river forms the border between Argentina and Brazil and a few miles after the falls flows into the Parana river which then goes on to form the border between Argentina and Paraguay as it flows south.  The falls have the fourth largest mean flow of any falls in the world (just behind Niagra and before Victoria). They form an approximate horseshoe shape but it is asymmetric and the majority of the falls are on the Argentinian side (hence the saying that Argentina has the falls and Brazil has the views). The major fall is called the Devils Throat and is shared between the two countries.

 

Panorama of the falls from the Brazilian side with the Devils Throat on the far left.

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The falls are created by water flowing over a landscape which was created by sequential lave flows building up layers of basalt rock. Weaknesses in theselayers have allowed the water to form terrraces over which the falls flow - this can be seen in the image above.

 

Looking into the Devils Throat from the Argentinian side:

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The park on the Argentinian side has a number of walkways that follow close to the falls. One walkway is across the top of some falls and give some vertigionous views:

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The lower path gives closer views of some of the smaller falls which are worth spending some time viewing:

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On the Argentinian side you can take a longer hike (or a small train) that takes you to the end of a boardwalk. This take you about 700m across the Iguazu river to a platform on top of the Devils Throat. Here you get a real insight into the scale and power of the falls - and very wet.

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Next up I will concentrate on some of the birds and other wildlife we saw around the falls.

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Butterflies

 

Everywhere we went there were butterflies

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Also a huge number of caterpillers- none of which had been there the week before apparently

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Although I think of them as nectar feeders

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They also need salt and minerals. This they get naturally from deposits on rocks:

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But will also use salt left by humansDSCF0174.thumb.jpg.2b36894e53fef27c3d22913d9cc3295c.jpg

 

To do tihs they will secrete fluid from the proboscis and dissolve the salt before sucking it back up. Although I didn't manage a picture I had one butterly on my light coloured shirt and a slowly expanding damp patch could be seen extending eventually to the size of a small fingernail.

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One even spent 40 minutes on my toe as I was kayaking - the most love anyting has ever shown my feet...

 

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We saw two varieties of cracker butterfly that are very well camoflauged but will snap their wings together with a loud crack to deter rivals if they get too close. we saw the common grey variety

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Also the much less common blue

 

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Needless to say it was possible to combine butterflies and waterfalls

 

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Edited by pomkiwi
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offshorebirder

Very nice butterflies @pomkiwi.

 

The last one is a Diaethria butterfly - known as "eighty-eights".    I am not certain but it looks like Diaethria anna - whose common name is Anna's eighty-eight.

 

 

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@offshorebirder Thank-you. I'm not certain which species it is. Interestingly (as with many) the appearance of the inside of the wings (from above in flight) is very different. This is felt to confuse predators but also further adds to the difficulties photographing them (although birds in flight now seem simple in comprison) :)

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The Atlantic Rainforest

 

The rainforest around the falls (on both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides) is the largest remnant of a large rainforest that once stretched from the Atlantic coast of Brazil as far north as Rio west into Paraguay and Argentina. Much has now been lost but in Argentina a combination of national park, regional park and private reserves has created a reasonable size continguous area of forest. In Paraguay the whole forest has been cleared to the banks of the River Parana.  Not so on the Argentinian side:

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We spent some time in the forest which is often quite open with a variety of trees and ferns.

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One thing we did not expect to find was cactus which is a remnant from much warmer and drier times long ago. It grows to an impressive height.

 

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Spiders were common. Our guide had a good relationship with the spider below. If he threw a small twig up which stuck to the net the spider came down and removed it dropping it into his hands below. Suffice to say this was only demonstrated when we were the only people around to avoid lots of others hurling sticks at arachnids...

 

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We saw several tarantulas, mainly crossing the road - at which point our guide would stop and usher them across to avoid them being run over.

 

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Fungi were also common but not as widespread as normal as we were in a dry period - 6 days in a rainforest with only sunshine.

 

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We saw a couple of snakes. This green snake posed beautifully in the light. I was less composed when a similar specimen but grey and about 1.5m long fell from a tree above me onto the toe of my boot before exploding off into the bush.

 

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We saw only 3 mammals. The first were the coati (think racoon) that frequent the area around the falls but I couldn't get a photo that didn't include a fast food stall so I didn't bother. The second was a red brocket deer that crossed the road in front of us and the last was a small troop of capuchin monkeys in the canopy - difficult to get a good view.

 

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We will have to go back for our jaguar....

 

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Edited by pomkiwi
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michael-ibk

Really like your butterflies and the snake. Great views of the falls as well. I agree they are just breathtaking, an incredible example of what master architect nature is capable of. 

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Black Vultures

 

2 bird species dominate the Iguazu falls - at least for the casual visitor like myself. The species use the falls in quite different and unique ways. We will return to the dusky swift later but for now focus (no pun intended) on the black vulture.

 

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The black vulture has a range that extends from the mid-western USA in the north down to Uruguay and central Chile in the south. It generally prefers lowland habitats and broken woodland. It is quite content scavenging from rubbish dumps and has caused problems at some South American city airports in proximity to dumps.

 

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The vultures congregate around the falls in great numbers

 

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The nest away from the falls but arrive in large flocks in the mid-morning:

 

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The reason is not to do with an abundance of food but because the large amount of exposed rock around the  falls heats up rapidly in the sun generating the thermals that the vultures use to aid soaring to altitude in order to locate food.

 

The coming and going of the birds to convenient trees provides some dramatic photo opportunities.

 

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Edited by pomkiwi
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Forest Birds

 

We heard a lot of birds but saw few!

 

The best sites were around the ruins of the Jesuit Misiones which provided more open terrain.

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Even so the views we got were distant and images not great.

We saw a male collared trogon

 

 

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Also a black throated trogon although this was less cooperative

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A lineated woodpecker

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Also a number of toucans

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They fly surprisingly gracefully

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Fun to see but not really Big Year material....

Edited by pomkiwi
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What you have as Black-throated Trogon is definitely not a Trogon :)  Look at that super-long tail! Hard to be sure but looks to me like Squirrel Cuckoo.

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@janzin I think you are correct.

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Hummingbirds

 

Somewhere we returned to a couple of times was the hummingbird garden. 

 

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This was a garden in a house in one of the streets in Puerto Iguazu. Several years ago the owners had planted a lot of flowers and also started leaving out a number of feeders for hummingbirds. Although rather garish to my eyes these attract a large number of hummingbirds that feed on a sugar and water solution that must be made up fresh each day after the feeders have been thorughly cleaned - failure to do so apparently allows dieses to speread amongst the birds.  The garden is not enclosed and the birds free to come and go.

 

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It was challenging to try and photograph the birds - I used a high frame rate and estimate that I took nearly 400 shots in an hour - 100 were in pretty good focus, 100 were not and 200 were of the space a hummingbird had just left. This was one occasion when I wished I was using a  DSLR rather than a mirrorless camera with EVF.

 

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It was fascinating to watch the activity and the frequent competition for airspace (although there were planty of feeding oportunities available)

 

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It was also very relaxing and a lovely memory - an hour watching the birds, sitting in the shade and sharing mate.

 

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Edited by pomkiwi
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Ah I'd forgotten about the hummingbird garden, we'd visited it too! It was very challenging to photograph there, you did well. 

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@janzin The garden certainly repaid some thought and planning as there were lots of contrasts of light and shade. It also took a while to begin to be able to anticipate some of the movement patterns.

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Dusky Swifts

 

Something I had read about but not expected to find as special as I did are the dusky swifts, seen below with a black vulture in attendance. 

 

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These large members of the swift family live in significant numbers in the Iguazu area. I had read somewhere that they tended to be active early or late in the day but we were treated to a sighting of large numbers when we visited the Brazilian side of the falls

 

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They nest in very close proximity to the falls.

 

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If this terrain did not in itself provide sufficient cover from predators many actually nest behind the falling water and need to fly through the wall of spray to enter and leave.

 

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We were stood close to this fall which was about 40m high - I can attest to the power of the water. It was incredible to watch the birds disappear into the fall and re-emerge  a minute or two later.

 

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Thanks to all who have followed along.  We thoroughly enjoyed our 6 days at Iguazu and particularly the opportunity to explore the surrounding rainforest. There is a lot of interest in terms of plants and animals but also a rich history that I have not dwelt on in this report.

 

However I always found myself drawn back to the main atraction.

 

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Edited by pomkiwi
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Thank you for a very interesting report. The falls themselves are amazing, but the Swifts are incredible. I think you did really well with the hummingbirds- no problem in taking lots of photos to get a few good ones - I do it all the time when photographing birds:)

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6 days at Iguazu is a very nice stay, I wish we had so long. Those swifts are amazing, right? I managed a picture of them resting on an almost vertical cliff, and of course, it was wet cliff. No idea how they can do that...

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