October 30 saw me leaving for Argentina once again. This time I took four days off in Buenos Aires, rented a car and made it the most packed birdwatching session of my life. I really was only sleeping, driving or taking pictures, with just a very occasional stop to get gas and a couple of cookies on a petrol station. I drove roughly 1300 kilometers, saw roughly 120 bird species and added almost 40 of them to my life list.
The Entre Rios province around the Parana and Uruguay rivers is just out of this world! I knew of some small places like that, where you have some wetlands attracting birds, but there you have literally thousands of square kilometers of that - and while most of the area of interest is either private property or completely impassable, a pretty huge part is still easily accessible on some dirt roads. However the highlight of the trip was surely my late-evening arrival to the El Palmar national park, as the road was on many places blocked by sleeping Capybaras and the amount of Viscachas running around the campsite made it hard to find a place for a tent. Argentinean wildlife at its best indeed! The park is pretty cool during daytime too, the palm landscape looks unreal, but the atmosphere of the night was really memorable.
Then the fun partly ended and I had to fly and drive to Malargue for some work at the Pierre Auger Observatory. Changing the hydraulic pump that opens and closes the roof above our telescope however proved to be a fun activity and as we were pretty much soaked in the oil, we had a lot of good laughs. However the best part was when we came back in the evening, removed the CCD camera and made a stargazing session using the 30-cm telescope itself. The southern sky has some real gems that are unparalleled in the northern one!
The following days I became submerged in data processing work, because - as usual - my colleagues back at home did not really feel the pressure of the impeding presentation over the distance as much as I did looking at the conference center from very close by. It was an intense couple of days, but all the problems of the analysis have been found and finally, after six years during which I have been making sure that the telescope works properly, we are able to provide relevant data that can be used to calibrate the astro-particle data taken by the whole Observatory. A feeling of having achieved something useful is rather rare in science, but it is nevertheless satisfying.