Lomas de Arena Municipal Park
By Bennett Hennessey
Austral migrants

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Titi MonkeyLomas de Arena was initially preserved because of a small lake between sand dunes that can give the impression of having a beach.  Several types of habitats are preserved in the area: savannahs, dry forest, marshes and large water bodies.  The area is also a stop over and wintering ground for many Austral and Boreal migrants.  Over 240 birds have been recorded in the park but it is believed only 70 are actual residents (Bird List for Lomas de Arena).  The usual daily list stands at 60-80 species.  The bird community is in constant flux, with many crazy single day records of hundreds of Austral migrant birds just passing through on their way to or from Argentina.  Moreover, in Bolivia 's summer, Eastern Kingbirds and Barn Swallows can be the most abundant birds.  The area has many easily seen desired birds such as Comb Duck, Brazilian Duck, Burrowing Owl, White-eared Puffbird, White Woodpecker, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, and Chotoy Spinetail.  The area also harbours some rarities like Toco Toucan, and Red-legged Seriema.

It is advisable to visit the area with a rental 4x4 vehicle. In the dry season (May to Sept) you can visit the first ¾ of the park road in a taxi or other two wheel drive vehicle.  The last ~3 km of the road going to the lake passes a loose sand area that is only advisable for 4x4 vehicles in all weather conditions. 

With the possibilities of strong winds and the openness of Lomas de Arena, we recommend starting birding at first light.  The park opens at 7 am, but the park guard sleeps in the gate Snipeoffice and in the past he has had no problem opening the gate earlier.  All the birding in the park can be based around the first single entrance road, which travels and ends at the large lake beside a large sand dune.  The area is scattered with barbed wire to fence in cattle. Most of the park area remains private land. The wire is meant for cows and does not mean that people cannot enter- though if there are ranchers there, it is always best to ask permission as a gesture of respect.  The best method is to find a large gap between two poles, and push down with your foot on one wire while lifting the above wire.  Commonly seen birds along the entrance road are Picazuro Pigeon, Peach-fronted Parakeet, Blue-winged Parrolet, Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Dark-billed Cuckoo, Striped Cuckoo, Spot-backed Puffbird, Chotoy Spinetail, Rufous-fronted Thornbird, Barred Antshrike, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Tawny-crowned Pygmy-Tyrant, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Fawn-breasted Wren, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, and Epaulet Oriole.

Lomas de Arena mapFollow the road entering into the park, paying attention to variations in habitat. You will first travel through scrub, which is good for early morning birding.  The road will eventually come to a fork. To the left, or East (travelling South), are the fields of Simon I. Patino Centre which is a mix of pasture land and forest fragments. Taking the right fork, it will bring you down to a grassy river basin and a small river crossing. Look out here for shorebirds, and seedeaters and a Whistling Heron that is often around the opposite bank.

Continue birding the road across the small river where it rises again out of the basin and through a small dry forest area.  On the right there was an artificial lake past the cattle fence which flooded its main gates.  There is a barbed wire entrance door to this area. Possibly one could see in the area Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Cocoi Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Brazilian Duck, Rusty-margined Flycatcher, and Social Flycatcher.

Continue following the road where you will eventually come to a large forest on the left (East) side while traveling to the lake. There is a small simple road that travels into a decent forest just after a cleared field (see map). From here on, heading to the ponds, the road becomes very sandy and is only recommended for 4x4 vehicles.  Taxis can wait here while you birdwatch.  Continue along the road as the forest ends to the right.  Cross over the fence and bird the forest border savannah.  This is where the Red-legged Seriema is commonly seen.  Walk further into the grassland and walk randomly through the different types of grasses and hills and boggy areas.  Birds seen in this area are Red-winged Tinamou, White-bellied Nothura, Buff-necked Ibis, White-tailed Hawk, Southern Caracara, Burrowing Owl, White-eared Puffbird, White-woodpecker (Austral Migrant), Campo Flicker, Pale-breasted Spinetail, Hudson's Black-Tyrant (Austral Migrant), Spectacled Tyrant, Black-backed Water-Tyrant, Yellowish Pipit, Wedge-tailed Grass-Finch, and the rare Black-throated Saltator.

Further on the road is the Hotal Sol & Arena. Over the vegetated small sand dunes east of the hotel (just behind the dining area) is a large area of closed dry and mixed forest that is well worth a visit. The land is private and used for cattle pasture. There is no official trail system, but there is a well used cattle trail that travels over the vegetated sand dunes and into the forest, from there travelling north and south. In the closed forest area there is Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Blue-crowned Trogon, Blue-crowned Motmot, Chestnut-eared Aracari, Toco Toucan, Narrow-billed Woodcreeper, Buff-breasted Woodcreeper, Great Antshrike, Steaked Flycatcher, Crowned Slaty-Flycatcher, Moustached Wren, Plush-crested Jay, Grayish Saltator, and Orange-backed Troupial.

Pectoral w White-rumped Sandpipers Oct 2008During the heat of the day, visit the large lake at the end of the road where you might be able to see White-faced Whistling-Duck, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Comb Duck, and Black-necked Stilt.

Logistics: WARNING: The roads into Lomas de Arena are not paved and there are areas of deep sand, ponds and small rivers to be crossed. A 4x4 is highly recommended- without one, you will not be able to visit the entire park. Bird Bolivia can provide a 4x4 vehicle and driver for 6 passengers for 100 USD a day.

Lomas de Arena is located south of the city off Avenida Santos Demont. You need to take Avenida Santos Dumont to the very end, almost reaching the Palmasola refinery. Just before the refinery, you will see another paved road that turns left (east) from Avenida Santos Dumont. There should also be signs for the park Lomas de Arene, and to the Santa Cruz Armonia office. Follow the paved road over the railway tracks, and past the small dirt road on the right. Take the second right larger dirt road (there is a sign for the park and Armonia at this corner as well). Follow this road straight for about .5 km. You will travel over a small bridge and then come to an open area. On the left there is a sign for Armonia's office- which is only 100 m further straight. Please feel free to stop by, use their library, and buy a T-shirt to support a project. You can support their actions by becoming an Armonia member. Turn right at this intersection following the larger dirt road- which will lead to the park gates after a few hard turns (~2 km).

Within the park is the hotel Sol & Arena, which offers good accomodation in the middle of a natural setting, 30 minutes from downtown Santa Cruz. From the hotel most good birding areas are accessible by foot. Contact Bird Bolivia to make a reservation, or to order lunch at the hotel during a day visit.

GPS reading at Park entrance: S 17°53.360 W 063°10.805

Egrets in the Grass