It's the final instalment... Having survived our slightly nerve-racking journey North, we arrived in Iguazu National Park. It was beautiful (and almost certainly still is!), don't get me wrong, but we were a bit unlucky with the weather. It didn't rain, it wasn't windy, it was far far too hot, both for us and seemingly the birds. We did spend a very enjoyable 3 days exploring both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides of the falls, but it was hard work.
We crossed into the Brazilian side the first day, which when coming from Argentina was rather expensive. We took a trek into the rainforest accompanied by a guide, and we didn't see a single bird as we walked. What we did see though, were butterflies; heaps and heaps of stunning butterflies. Giant Blue Morpho, easily mistaken for small birds were loafing along the trails. We found Many-banded Daggerwing resting in sunny patches along with The Malachite and on almost every bush as we approached the Iguazu river there were resting Diaethria (88) species.
|Pyrrhogyra neaerea, common name possibly Banded Banner!|
|"88" butterfly, Diaethria eluina|
|Many-banded Daggerwing, Marpesia chiron|
|Broad-banded Swallowtail, Papilio astyalus|
|Along with Butterflies, we also found this impressive beast.... whatever it is.|
We were also lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a troop of Black Capuchin Monkeys as we made our way along the trails. Apparently they are named after an order of Catholic Friars from the 16th century. Upon reaching the Americas and discovering Capuchin Monkeys, the explorers are said to have thought they bore a remarkable resemblance to said Friars! Having never met a Capuchin Friar, I am in no position to comment! This particularly obliging individual sat in a tree right above us and enjoyed some foliage! There were numerous signs around warning that they have a nasty bite, and you can see from this photo how they get that reputation. However, what we couldn't understand was how you would ever get into a situation where one would need to bite you! But there you go....
Aside from all the fantastic wildlife, the main attraction for most in this part of the world are the Iguazu Falls. I feel like I lack the eloquence to describe just how breathtaking these falls are; all I can say is that you must visit. I have been to Niagara, and I hate to say it but they just don't compare to these. There can be anything up to 300 separate waterfalls along the 2.7km edge depending on the water level, some up to 80 metres in height and all contributing to an overwhelming assault on the senses. Add to that hundreds of Black and Turkey Vulture soaring above the cascades and Great Dusky Swifts darting in and out from underneath them, and you have one hell of an experience.
|The Garganta del Diablo, complete with soaring vulture|
|Panoramic from the Brazilian side of the falls|
The following day we stuck to the Argentinian side. Both sides are well worth a visit, and I would suggest the Brazilian side first to get a feel for the falls as a whole, then the Argentinian side for a slightly less busy and more involved experience. We arrived early both days to miss the rush and to try and beat the heat, although there really wasn't any beating it at all, as we easily managed to spend a full day on each side. We managed our best views of the Dusky Swift this side, and it was quite remarkable to see them clinging to the side of the rock as the water tumbled down beside them.
|Achingly picturesque. Can you spot the Swift?|
|A true marvel of the natural world - Great Dusky Swift|
We also took a couple of trips on the river, marketed as ecological tours. They were very pleasant, but perhaps due to the heat there wasn't much wildlife around. We did, however, get cracking views of Greater Ani, with its honking bill and unusual reproductive behaviour (not that we observed that). Unable to recognise their own eggs or nestling's, chicks are raised communally.
Aside from the vast array of butterflies also on offer on the Argentinian side, the two wildlife highlights came in the form of Coatis and a very special dragonfly! The Coatis were common on both sides, and also very tame. Related to the Racoon, they spend a lot of their time in large groups, foraging in the undergrowth using their wonderfully designed snouts to locate food. As they do this, they make a wonderful array of squeaks and grunts, especially the young. According to the signs, they also have a nasty bite! And as for the Dragonfly, well before I saw this I would have probably laughed if you'd told me that there is a PINK Dragonfly out there. Needless to say we were both amazed by this beautiful little insect, and it posed wonderfully for us as well!
|Splendid. Carmine Skimmer, Orthemis discolor|
|Coati mother and baby - look at those teeth!|
|If you insist. One more of the stunning Iguazu Falls|
In order to ease our woes at having missed out on some splendid tropical bird species, we decided to visit the Jardin de los Picaflores (Hummingbird Garden) located in the middle of Puerto Iguazu. We'd read good things, but were not expecting what we found. Upon performing the customary clap to alert the home-owner, we were let into the little garden. It was like a mecca for Hummingbirds, we were blown away. We sat on a little bench and for half an hour (before it shut for lunch) sat and watched no less than six species of Hummingbird including Swallow-tailed and Planalto Hermit, Bananaquit, Sayaca Tanager, Epaulet Oriole, Blue Dacnis and many others.
|Female Black-throated Mango|
It was one of the highlights of the entire trip for both of us, and a perfect way to end our first South American journey. Until next time.....