Photography near Gualeguaychú in Entre Rios

Jan 2011

By: Laura Crawford Williams

I recently returned from Argentina where I was working on a project in the wetlands of the northeast. I like to explore someplace new with each visit, so on the way back to Buenos Aires we stopped at an estancia near Gualeguaychú in the Entre Rios Province. Entre Rios has a variety of habitats: dry palm savannas, vast floodplains, fertile grasslands, hot springs, and lush rolling hills. We spent our time in the flood plains near Gualeguaychú, about 150 miles northwest of Buenos Aires where the rivers Paraná and Uruguay join to form the the Río de la Plata.

Over the past three years, ninety percent of Argentina has been experiencing serious drought. I feel a little guilty because the misfortune of the country has created unique photo opportunities. Both temporary and permanent wetlands have reduced in size or disappeared completely. Wildlife is concentrated around the remaining wetlands and the wetlands in Entre Rios are a birder’s paradise.

Target Species
We were in Entre Rios for five days. In that time, I wanted to photograph five different species: Brazilian Duck, White-faced Whistling Duck, Fulvous Whistling Duck, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, and Rosy-billed Pochard. These are all truly beautiful birds, but typically very difficult to get close to.

Plan of Action
We spent the first morning learning our way around the estancia. We used a GPS to mark interesting areas and sightings of animals along the way. An estancia employee helped us choose two small ponds where ducks fed in the morning and evening. Since the ponds were open in the middle of the day, it was a perfect time for setting up blinds. Blinds should never interfere with normal behavior, so we returned that afternoon to see how the animals were reacting. Within 15 minutes they were swimming and feeding nearby, so no problem.On the second day we left the blinds alone giving the birds a little more time to acclimate to their presence. Instead, we drove around looking for what I call “photography gifts”; random subjects you happen to find while exploring. We also visited the GPS coordinates where we’d spotted various species the day before. A Grey Fox with kits, hundreds of Monk Parakeets, and a bevy of small birds along fence lines were our main subjects that day.I finally went into one of the blinds at 4:30 on the third morning. Birds began arriving at twilight. Egrets and herons were the first to arrive and I couldn’t believe how many large fish they were catching. The ducks soon followed. I could hear their wings buzzing over-head as they flew into the water. It’s a loud jet-like sound with a tiny little splash at the end. It always makes me laugh. That afternoon, I went into the second blind and for the next three days I rotated between the two.

I was able to photograph all target species. There were even guest appearances by Silver Teal and a beautiful Ringed Teal with his bright blue bill. Other willing subjects included: Great Kiskadee, Yellow-legs, Giant Wood-rail, Plumbeous Rail, Common Snipe, and Coypu. Coypu are native to South America. They aren’t pretty and are often referred to as giant rats. But, I loved watching them as they fought and played. They chased each other, went nose to nose with open mouths, held each other under water and then came up fighting. Occasionally they chased ducks, but the ducks simply waddled or swam out of their way. It was hard to tell what was fighting and what was playing. I think it was a little of both.

After being away from home for two weeks, German (my business partner and guide) was tired of waiting for me and I was stiff from time spent in cramped blinds. But, this is what we love to do so how can we complain?