Eco-portal de Piedra and the almost unknown Las Lancitas Reserve (Argentina)

I visited the Reserva natural provincial Las Lancitas, in the north-east of Argentina (Jujuy province), during my four months trip along the southern part of South America, in 2012. I had the luck to discover a lovely familiar accomodation in the so called Eco-portal de Piedra, where I had been literally pampered by the Silvia and Carlos. When this couple decided to settle in the valley of San Rafael, the reserve was not existing yet and they have taken an active part in the process of creation, development and protection of the area.

Cerro Santa Barbara
Cerro Santa Barbara

Now they run a productive activity of eco-tourism, never stopping with nature education with local people and childrens. The reserve of Las Lancitas was born in 2002 and now includes an area of  9536 ha located at the border between the Chaco and Yungas eco-regions, not far from the little town of Palma Sola.

One of the many streams of the valley
One of the many streams of the valley

The Eco-portal the Piedra (link to their Facebook page) hosts a series of nice little buildings, called cabañas, at the edge of the forest, where guests can sleep and definitelly chill out: the atmosphere of this place, far from noise, cities and civilization, is incredibly peaceful and relaxed.

I arrived in Las Lancitas in the second half of August, welcomed by a stunning King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa) among tens of Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) in the sky, after a couple of weeks in the high lands of Quebrada de Humahuaca and south-western Bolivia (described in this post: link), and I spent in Eco-portal de Piedra about a week. Unfortunatelly Carlos’s car had been broken for most of the days, so he couldn’t lead me to explore too much of the area: what I visited was usually reached only by walk.

Forest around Eco-portal de Piedra
Forest around Eco-portal de Piedra
Western Painted Lady (Vanessa carye)
Western Painted Lady (Vanessa carye)

I hiked a lot along the paths and trails in the Silvia and Carlos’s estate: the forest hosted a lot of species of birds, but they were usually active early in the morning or late in the afternoon, while there was almost no activity at midday hours. Those hours were much better to look for butterflies, expecially along the riverbeds.

Rufous-browed Peppershrike (Cyclarhis gujanensis)
Rufous-browed Peppershrike (Cyclarhis gujanensis)
Olivaceous Woodcreeper (Sittasomus griseicapillus)
Olivaceous Woodcreeper (Sittasomus griseicapillus)
Sickle-winged Skipper (Achlyodes mithridates)
Sickle-winged Skipper (Achlyodes mithridates)

Once I walked to the more than 2,000 m of altitude of a cerro (“mountain”) in the Sierra de Santa Barbara. The first part of the trail crossed some rather poor woodlands, heavily grazed by cows and horses: it was, in my opinion, a very big problems of Las Lancitas, but not only of that reserve. Travelling along the world I’ve often observed the devastating impact of cattle into the natural habitats and Las Lancitas was a bright sample of that phenomenon.

Impact of catle into undergrowth
Impact of catle into undergrowth

Between 1,600 and 1,800 m of altitude the habitats got much better, with an undegrowth of ferns and all trunks and branches covered by mosses and lichens.

Woodland of the Sierra Santa Barbara
Woodland of the Sierra Santa Barbara
Tillandsia recurvifolia
Tillandsia recurvifolia

In this area there were a couple of mirador (“view points”) where the panorama was really impressive.

15

View from the Sierra Santa Barbara
View from the Sierra Santa Barbara

I couldn’t reach the peak of the mountain because the paths among the brambles were too much confused by passage of damned cows…. I dindn’t see too many birds, excluding a couple of Condors (Vultur gryphus), on the top: unfortunatelly avifauna started to be active again at time of return. The best bird I had was a superb Red-tailed Comet (Sappho sparganurus).

Red-tailed Comet (Sappho sparganurus)
Red-tailed Comet (Sappho sparganurus)

Another excursion, this time by car, was that one to the El Fuerte. The rough road to the village crossed a beautiful thicket with the nice passage of families of Dusky-legged Guans (Penelope obscura).

Dusky-legged Guans (Penelope obscura)
Dusky-legged Guans (Penelope obscura)

El Fuerte was a small village, surrounded by pastures, that has taken its name from the ruins of an old fort.

Santa Barbara chapel in El Fuerte

Around El Fuerte usually come to roost thousands of Tucumán Amazons (Amazona tucumana).

Tucumán Amazons (Amazona tucumana)
Tucumán Amazons (Amazona tucumana)

The poles of fences were a good perch for Borrowing Owls (Athene cunicularia).

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)
Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia)

At Eco-portal de Piedra,  I used to sit most of the days some time on the chairs of the garden, enjoying the calls of birds and observing the funny hummingbirds coming to have a drink.

White-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia chionogaster)
White-bellied Hummingbird (Amazilia chionogaster)
Mexican Emperor (Doxocopa cyane)
Mexican Emperor (Doxocopa cyane)

My nice cabaña was about a hundred meters far from Silvia and Carlos’s home and I use to wake up with Toco toucans (Ramphastos toco) or Red-legged Seriemas (Cariama cristata) in the garden and to watch the Dusky-legged Guans on the grass from the window of bathroom!

My cabaña
My cabaña
Dusky-legged Guan Penelope obscura
Dusky-legged Guan (Penelope obscura)

The bad aspect to be in Las Lancitas in a rather dry season have been that the bush was plenty of tiresome ticks: in a week I had to remove 29 of these tiny invertebrates from my body! To not mention the even smaller polverinas… Luckly there were no mosquitos and midges that instead are apparently common during the wet season.

Unknown dragonfly
Unknown dragonfly

By night I couldn’t see many mammal, but I had the luck to find some interesting amphibians along the streams and a stunning Screech Owl in the garden of my cabaña.

Gladiator Frog (Hypsiboas sp.)
Gladiator Frog (Hypsiboas sp.)
Tropical Screech-owl (Megascops choliba)
Tropical Screech-owl (Megascops choliba)

 

In conclusion, I spent in Las Lancitas truly a great time, encoutering an amazing number of species: I will end the post with the CHECK-LIST OF OBSERVED SPECIES:

Mammals

  • Tapeti of Forest Cottontail Sylvilagus brasiliensis
  • Crab-eating Fox Cerdocyon thous

Birds

  • Whistling Heron Syrigma sibilatrix
  • Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
  • Buff-necked Ibis Theristicus caudatus
Buff-necked Ibis (Theristicus caudatus)
Buff-necked Ibis (Theristicus caudatus)
  • Black Vulture Coragyps atratus
  • Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
  • Andean Condor Vultur gryphus
  • King Vulture Sarcoramphus papa
  • Rufous-thighed Hawk Accipiter (striatus) erythronemius
  • Bicoloured Hawk Accipiter bicolor
  • Great Black Hawk Buteogallus urubitinga
  • Roadside Hawk Rupornis magnirostris
Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris)
Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris)
  • Short-tailed Hawk Buteo brachyurus
  • Red-backed Hawk Geranoaetus polyosoma
  • Southern Crested Caracara Caracara plancus
  • Chaco Chachalaca Ortalis canicollis
  • Dusky-legged Guan Penelope obscura
  • Grey-necked Wood-rail Aramides cajaneus
  • Red-legged Seriema Cariama cristata
Red-legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)
Red-legged Seriema (Cariama cristata)
  • Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis
  • Domestic Pigeon Columba livia domestica
  • Picazuro Pigeon Patagioenas picazuro
  • White-tipped Dove Leptotila verreauxi
  • Yungas Dove Leptotila megalura
  • White-throated Quail-dove Zentrygon frenata
  • Golden-collared Macaw Primolius auricollis
Golden-collared Macaw (Primolius auricollis)
Golden-collared Macaw (Primolius auricollis)
  • Mitred Parakeet Psittacara mitratus
  • Green-cheeked Parakeet Pyrrhura molinae
  • Scaly-headed Parrot Pionus maximiliani
  • Tucumán Amazon Amazona tucumana
  • Turquoise-fronted Parrot Amazona aestiva
  • Guira Cuckoo Guira guira
Guira Cuckoo (Guira guira)
Guira Cuckoo (Guira guira)
  • Tropical Screech-owl Megascops choliba
  • Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia
  • Glittering-bellied Emerald Chlorostilbon lucidus
  • White-bellied Hummingbird Amazilia chionogaster
  • Red-tailed Comet Sappho sparganurus
  • Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata
  • Chaco Puffbird Nystalus striatipectus
  • Toco Toucan Ramphastos toco
  • Ocellated Piculet Picumnus dorbignyanus
  • White-barred Piculet Picumnus cirratus
  • Dot-fronted Woodpecker Veniliornis frontalis
  • Golden-olive Woodpecker Colaptes rubiginosus
Golden-olive Woodpecker (Colaptes rubiginosus)
Golden-olive Woodpecker (Colaptes rubiginosus)
  • Cream-backed Woodpecker Campephilus leucopogon
  • Olivaceous Woodcreeper Sittasomus griseicapillus
  • Great Rufous Woodcreeper Xiphocolaptes major
  • Narrow-billed Woodcreeper Lepidocolaptes angustirostris
  • Sooty-fronted Spinetail Synallaxis frontalis
  • Stripe-crowned Spinetail Cranioleuca pyrrhophia
  • Little Thornbird Phacellodomus sibilatrix
  • Rufous-fronted Thornbird Phacellodomus rufifrons
  • Buff-browed Foliage-gleaner Syndactyla rufosuperciliata
  • Streaked Xenops Xenops rutilans
  • Giant Antshrike Batara cinerea
  • Variable Antshrike Thamnophilus caerulescens
  • Rufous-capped Antshrike Thamnophilus ruficapillus
Rufous-capped Antshrike (Thamnophilus ruficapillus)
Rufous-capped Antshrike (Thamnophilus ruficapillus)
  • Southern Beardless Tyrannulet Camptostoma obsoletum ?
  • White-throated Tyrannulet Mecocerculus leucophrys
  • White-bellied Tyrannulet Serpophaga munda
  • Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet Phylloscartes ventralis
Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes ventralis)
Mottle-cheeked Tyrannulet (Phylloscartes ventralis)
  • Pearly-vented Tody Tyrant Hemitriccus margaritaceiventer
  • Black Phoebe Sayornis nigricans
  • Great Kiskadee Pitangus sulphuratus
  • Plush-crested Jay Cyanocorax chrysops
  • Southern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx ruficollis
  • House Wren Troglodytes aedon
  • Chiguanco Thrush Turdus chiguanco
Chiguanco Thrush (Turdus chiguanco)
Chiguanco Thrush (Turdus chiguanco)
  • Rufous-bellied Thrush Turdus rufiventris
  • Rufous-browed Peppershrike Cyclarhis gujanensis
  • Tropical Parula Setophaga pitiayumi
  • Brown-capped Redstart Myioborus brunniceps
  • Two-Banded Warbler Myiothlypis bivittata
  • Purple-throated Euphonia Euphonia chlorotica
  • Blue-and-yellow Tanager Thraupis bonariensis
  • Sayaca Tanager Thraupis sayaca
  • Hepatic Tanager Piranga flava
  • Common Bush-tanager Chlorospingus flavopectus
  • Grayish Saltator Saltator coerulescens
  • Golden-billed Saltator Saltator aurantiirostris
Golden-billed Saltator (Saltator aurantiirostris)
Golden-billed Saltator (Saltator aurantiirostris)
  • Ultramarine Grosbeak Cyanocompsa brissonii
  • Red-crested Finch Coryphospingus cucullatus
  • Saffron-billed Sparrow Arremon flavirostris
  • Black-capped Warbling-finch Poospiza melanoleuca
  • Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis
  • Golden-winged Cacique Cacicus chrysopterus
  • Screaming Cowbird Molothrus rufoaxillaris
  • Grayish Baywing  Agelaioides badius
  • Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus
Crested Oropendola Psarocolius decumanus
  • Variable Oriole Icterus pyrrhopterus
  • Hooded Siskin Spinus magellanicus
  • House Sparrow Passer domesticus

Amphibians

  • Gladiator Frog Hypsiboas sp.
  • Beaked Toad Rhinella sp.
Beaked Toad (Rhinella sp.)
Beaked Toad (Rhinella sp.)

Butterflies

  • White Angled-sulphur Anteos clorinde
  • Cybdelis mnasylus
  • Southern Monarch Danaus erippus
Southern Monarch (Danaus erippus)
Southern Monarch (Danaus erippus)
  • Mexican Emperor Doxocopa cyane
  • Pedaliodes palaepolis
  • Western Painted Lady Vanessa carye
  • Sickle-winged Skipper Achlyodes mithridates
  • Orcus Chequered Skipper Pyrgus orcus
  • Heliopyrgus domicella
Heliopyrgus domicella
Heliopyrgus domicella

Ending, I would like to tell the most heartfelt thanks to Silvia and Carlos that made my experience in Eco-portal de Piedra so unforgetable!!

Me with Silvia and Carlos
Me with Silvia and Carlos

Luca Boscain

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