BirdLife: The Magazine Apr-Jun 2018 - Page 27

Birdfair 2018 A apr-jun 2018 • birdlife Mar Chiquita Photo Pablo Rodríguez Merkel water or darken the sky when clouding between invertebrate-rich shorelines. “Mar Chiquita is key to the future of shorebirds using three different intercontinental flyways”, says Rob Clay, Director, Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Executive Office. 4 Phalaropes in flight Photo Gustavo Bruno 7 This in itself might be world enough. Yet appreciating the full faunal richness of Mar Chiquita involves venturing away from water. In golden-dry grasslands, South America’s tallest bird, the flightless Greater Rhea Rhea americana (Near Threatened), canters past a diminutive Bearded Tachuri Polystictus pectoralis (Near Threatened). At night, a Maned Wilson’s Phalarope Steganopus tricolor Photo Gustavo Bruno 3 I B A / K B A F A C Mar Chiq uita Location: Central Argentina Type: Salt lake Size: 1,200,000 hectares Trigger species: Andean Flamingo, Crowned Solitary Eagle T F I L E What is it like? Measuring 70km (45 mi) by 24km (15 mi), Mar Chiquita is the world’s biggest salt lake and South America’s second biggest waterbody. This vast wetland provides ample feeding and nesting opportunities for birds both permanent and migratory. Any threats? Dam construction and water extraction are shrinking the lake at an alarming rate. The habitat is also being degraded by pollution from local industry and towns, unregulated tourism and deforestation. gargantuan pink candyfloss wisps over an immense lake in north- central Argentina before sugar- rushing upwards in a flurry of a hundred thousand wings. Mar Chiquita – South America’s second-largest waterbody, and the world’s fifth-biggest salt lake – harbours most of the planet’s Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis and nearly half its Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus. A lagoon with a legend, it is also an IBA In Danger, a national- park-in-waiting… and the focus of the British Birdwatching Fair 2018. Mar Chiquita means ‘little sea’. This vast salina (salt lake) ranges 45 miles (70km) by 15 miles (24km). Mar Chiquita is a literal oasis – and its water, marshy fringes and surrounding grasslands throng with wildlife. Up to 318,000 Chilean Flamingos (Near Threatened) have been counted, their bubblegum-pink congregation boosted in winter with up to 18,000 Andean Flamingo (Vulnerable) and smaller numbers of Puna Flamingo Phoenicoparrus jamesi (Near Threatened). Mar Chiquita’s shorebird gatherings challenge credulity. Tens of thousands of American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica, White- rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis and Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes migrate here from North America. Tens of thousands of each species, that is. But that’s small change. Six hundred thousand Wilson’s Phalaropes Steganopus tricolor winter here. Six hundred thousand. Roughly one-third of the world population of these delicate, needle-billed shorebirds pirouette hyperactively atop the What is being done? National Park status will confer greater protection. Locals will be engaged as Conservation Guardians, and livelihoods will be boosted by sustainable ecotourism. 27