Tuesday, 6 March 2012
Chile, South America
2 –18 February 2012
with Fantastíco Sur Expeditions
David M. Gascoigne and Miriam Bauman
Toronto – Santiago
Karen and John arrived at 18:00 sharp and we left for the airport. The drive was uneventful and there were no delays of any kind.
We arrived at Pearson International at 19:15. We printed our boarding passes and luggage tags, passed through security quickly and pleasantly and were at our gate by 19:45 and settled in for the long wait until boarding time.
We embarked on our huge Boeing 777 at 23:00 for a scheduled take off at 23:45, non stop to Santiago. We were seated almost at the rear of the plane in row 60. Dinner was served soon after take off with a choice of chicken or beef and a complimentary choice of a French white or red wine. I chose beef and red, Miriam chicken and white. We were happy when the food service was completed so that we didn't have to listen to the constant chorus of “Chicken or beef?” as each passenger was offered the choice. A while later this was followed by a similar refrain as the crew passed through the cabins again to collect the trays and still later to collect the garbage. Breakfast was served an hour before landing and the same series of messages was repeated anew. Ah the glamour of this job!
Touchdown in Santiago was at 11:50 local time under sunny skies. It took us a while to get through the airport, first lining up behind many others to pay the reciprocity tax of $132.00 per person. Having done this we proceeded to a similarly long line at the immigration booths, but when our turn arrived we were greeted with friendly and efficient service. Our bags were awaiting us at the carousel when we made our way to the baggage claim area, but there was another long queue to have the luggage screened before we could exit the terminal.
Our driver was waiting for us and we were soon on our way downtown. We drove alongside some dry waterways and were amazed to see a Kelp Gull right in Santiago.
We checked into the Hotel Galerías and were in our room by 14:00. Our accommodation was quite lovely but we were taken aback that there was a charge of 2,500 pesos for coffee or tea on the tray in the room. Never in our experience anywhere in the world has this not been complimentary.
We knew that we were in Chile when the safety recommendations in the room began with the procedures to be followed in the event of an earthquake!
The Hotel Galerías showcases the cultural richness of Chile at every turn. There were one of a kind collection pieces on display, with original samples of furnishings typical of the countryside, the Mapuche culture and Easter Island. Wonderful reproductions of bird and botanical paintings graced the walls.
Having rested for a while in the room, we decided to go for a walk and explore the immediate vicinity. The weather was warm, the streets were thronged with people and it was great to be in Santiago. We toured an old church and wandered through a series of ancient cobbled streets flanked by interesting period buildings. Then we strolled along a grand boulevard with a park-like centre median with trees and grass. Here we had our first lifer – Austral Thrush, a bird we would see almost every day throughout Chile. We bought an ice cold fruit drink from a street vendor and set off to find Santa Lucía, an area which Miriam had found on the map. It is an historic park on a hill which is the remnant of a fifteen million year old volcano. It has many interesting buildings and gardens, with trees and birds, and a magnificent view of Santiago from the summit. We vowed to return the next morning.
By 16:30 we were hot and, no doubt, a little tired and jet lagged so we returned to the hotel. At 18:00 we went to the dining room for dinner but were advised that dinner service began only at 19:00. So – back to the room to wait for an hour.
At 19:00 we returned to the dining room where we enjoyed a delicious dinner. To start two baskets of bread were delivered to the table; one basket contained little warm rolls, the other traditional sopaipilla, accompanied by a delicious chancho en piédra. We enjoyed a wonderful salad of two varieties of lettuce, tomato, heart of palm, all dusted with freshly grated parmesan cheese, with a lightly flavoured olive oil and a high grade balsamic vinegar. For the main course Miriam chose pork tenderloin with creamed corn and a mixture of sauteed carrots, and green and red peppers. I opted for tuna with mashed potatoes and the same vegetables as Miriam. This was accompanied by a glass of the house red wine which was smooth and palatable. Even though we declined dessert a plate arrived containing three different items – ice cream, cheese cake and a custard. Who can resist when it's on the table right before your eyes?
By 20:30 we were back in our room where we showered, read for a while, then turned out the lights to enjoy a deep and tranquil sleep. Chile had welcomed us in fine style!
All species 3 February – Southern Caracara, Kelp Gull, Common Pigeon, Austral Thrush, House Sparrow.
Accommodation – Hotel Galerías Rating – 4.5 stars.
4 February 2012
Santa Lucía – Farellones
I was awake before Miriam, having had a very restful sleep. When I woke her at 07:00 she also felt rested and refreshed. We ate breakfast in the El Tambo restaurant in the hotel at 07:30 where a terrific selection awaited us. Miriam started with a glass of cold orange juice and we both had coffee. I had some little sausages and slices of grilled tomato with tuna. Miriam had a kind of carrot omelette, and the grilled tomatoes with tuna, followed by a plate of fresh fruit (watermelon, orange, honeydew melon, pineapple and some kind of green fruit with very hard seeds).
We returned to our room and by 08:15 we were heading out to Santa Lucía. It was about a ten minute walk from the hotel, with the air refreshingly cool in the morning. The park does not open until 09:00 so we sat on a bench and waited, all the while being entertained by Eared Doves and Southern House Wrens.
When we passed through the gates into the park workers seemed to be everywhere, sweeping, cleaning and sprucing up, pruning, watering, even using dried palm fronds to brush away dust from the sidewalks. It was a great experience to be in the park from both a historic and birding perspective. At every turn there were things to interest us. White-crested Elaenias were never far from sight, some feeding young, as were the ubiquitous Austral Thrushes. We saw our first Fire-eyed Diucon of the trip and at the summit a Southern Crested Caracara screeched at us. From the very peak of the park we were treated to a magnificent panorama of Santiago.
Miriam had the unfortunate experience of being beneath a tree when a bird decided to poop all over her arm. We never did see the culprit but it obviously had been consuming copious amounts of fruit or berries since the output was purple!
By the time we left the park around noon it was filled with people – joggers, cyclists, family groups, tourists, young lovers intertwined on benches, oblivious to passers-by, a cadre of nuns, a woman reading her bible on a bench. Little food stalls and concessions were selling food and drink. The park was alive with people enjoying a fine Saturday and it was our pleasure to join them.
Rather than return to the hotel for lunch we located a little restaurant called La Pica de Clinton, which was in fact entirely devoted to Bill Clinton. All of the interior décor featured the past prez of the USA. We each had a cold draught beer, so refreshing on a hot day, accompanied by chicken and rice. It was a very agreeable lunch.
While we were sitting at our table a street vendor came in and appeared to be selling mainly socks. She made a sale to one of the employees of the restaurant. All these little vignettes of life in a different country are precious to us and will be forever etched in our memories.
We returned to the hotel around 13:15 so that we could rest a little before meeting our guide, Roberto Donoso, and our fellow birders. At about 14:30 we headed downstairs with our binoculars. In the elevator we met Thomas and Barbara Driscoll from North Carolina, our companions for the trip. We were instantly taken by their warm, friendly attitude and would find them stellar companions for the entire journey. I doubt that we could have found more agreeable fellow travellers. They had not had lunch and were off to find a restaurant, while we met Roberto and our driver, José, with his fine Mercedes minivan.
It was a little after 15:00 when we finally left for Farellones. The drive took us along winding mountain roads, moving ever higher. Birds were plentiful and we soon added Long-tailed Meadowlark, a breathtaking species, Austral Blackbird and Common Diuca Finch – lifers all. When we made a stop it turned out to be very productive indeed. Roberto spotted a Moustached Turca skulking among the rocks. An Andean Condor swooped low overhead. We could see every detail. I thought Tom might dance a jig, so elated was he to see this species, one of his most coveted. It was fortunate that we did, for after this sighting we were never again to spot them throughout the entire trip, other than for a few very distant, high observations at El Yeso. A Peregrine Falcon zoomed by, Grey-hooded Sierra Finches flitted hither and yon, Mountain Caracaras flew in formation and Black-billed Shrike-Tyrants stood like sentries.
On the way back down the mountain roads Roberto had José stop at a spot generally reliable for Chilean Tinamou. Within a short time we saw the bird moving around on a slope dotted with scrub vegetation and we all had scope views of a significant Chilean endemic.
This was an exciting afternoon of high quality birding to start our adventure with Fantastíco Sur.
It was almost 20:30 when we arrived back at Hotel Galerías so we decided to go and eat right away. It turned out that the restaurant was totally full and there were already disgruntled patrons there. We were advised that they could not seat us for at least an hour. While we were waiting one fellow got up from a table and walked out. He told us that their table had been waiting forty-five minutes and had not even received their drinks.
It appeared that we could perhaps get two tables for two so we agreed to that if it would get us our dinner any sooner. Then someone else left and we finally were ushered to a table for four but service was still slow and we had to constantly cajole the waiters to get anything brought to the table. Finally we were able to get a little bread and chancho en piédra and the waiter poured us all a glass of wine. When we eventually got to order Miriam had a salad with ham and I chose asparagus soup. Both were very good as was the salmon which followed, topped with a seafood sauce and mixed vegetables. By 20:30 we had still not been served dessert so we cancelled it. Barbara had already gone up to her room and Miriam departed too while Tom and I stayed to do our lists.
Roberto, strangely I thought, was not staying at the same hotel as us, and had left us at the door. One of the aspects of an organized tour that Miriam and I both find enjoyable is to do the list with the guide, where identification issues can be discussed and the day's birding can be reviewed and relived. Roberto never actually participated in this activity in any meaningful way, even at the locations where we all remained together, and did not have an actual check list. I always prepare my own before leaving on a trip and Tom had done so too, so it was not a great problem for us, but somehow Roberto's absence seemed to inject a bit of a void into our interaction with the guide.
It was about 23:15 before we were in bed for the night.
All species 4 February – Chilean Tinamou, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Variable Hawk, Mountain Caracara, Southern Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Kelp Gull, Common Pigeon, Eared Dove, Black-winged Ground Dove, Rufous-banded Miner, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Moustached Turca, White-crested Elaenia, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Fire-eyed Diucon, Chilean Swallow, Blue-and-White Swallow, Southern House Wren, Chilean Mockingbird, Austral Thrush, House Sparrow, Black-chinned Siskin, Austral Blackbird, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Grey-hooded Sierra Finch, Common Diuca Finch, Greater Yellow Finch.
5 February 2012
Santiago – Lampa Marsh – Near Tiltil – La Dormida – Cachagua – Quintero – Laguna Ventanas
The morning started out in disarray. I had set the alarm for 05:25 and was in fact lying in bed awake before it went off. So was Miriam, unknown to me, and it was she who realized it was later than we thought. Turns out I had forgotten to change the alarm to local time so it was in fact 07:05 and not 05:05. Since we were supposed to leave at 07:00 it was a mad scramble to throw on clothes and hasten downstairs. Roberto in the meantime had called to check whether everything was okay.
Obviously, there was no time for breakfast at the hotel, but we were able to get a coffee at a MacDonalds en route to Lampa Marsh.
While passing through the great sprawl of Santiago (about half the population of Chile lives in the greater Santiago area) one could not but be struck by the sheer volume and extent of graffiti. We had already remarked on it downtown but not a building anywhere seemed to be spared this urban blight. Certainly other cities the world over are faced with this issue but it seemed to us that we had never seen it as pervasive as in Santiago.
This legendary wetland was all but totally dry, so the expected abundance of waterfowl and marsh dwellers did not materialize. There was, nevertheless, a nice variety of birds including Cocoi Heron, Chimango Caracara, Grassland Yellow Finch, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Chilean Mockingbird, Long-tailed Meadowlark, and both Great and Snowy Egrets. California Quail, introduced into Chile by hunters and now ubiquitous, were seen scurrying along the roadside.
After we left the marsh we saw a couple of Harris's Hawks close to the road and a stop netted other species. Picui Ground Dove was quite common, as was Austral Blackbird and we observed several Tufted Tit-Tyrants, a species that would be frequently encountered throughout our trip.
Near Cachagua we had to get the “key” to a preserve from the custodian located farther down the highway. The “key” was a large kind of wrench which Roberto used to open the gate which we locked behind us. Our first species along this route was Striped Woodpecker, our first picid of the trip. There were two birds present and we were afforded excellent looks at both of them. We drove on a short way and then disembarked to walk along a mountain road, with grand Andean vistas stretching in all directions . A couple of Giant Hummingbirds entertained us, one giving us especially close looks. How uncharacteristic of hummingbirds is this species. Its size is unexpected and it doesn't fly like a hummingbird. We were all delighted to meet up with this enigma.
The Crag Chilia, a Chilean endemic, proved to be a bit of a challenge to discover, but eventually we were able to observe it very well. The Dusky-tailed Canastero was the second endemic observed at this location.
It was hot and the sun was beating down. In our haste this morning I had not brought a wide-brimmed hat, and neither Miriam nor I had applied sun block. By the end of the day we would pay for it with sun burn.
Returning to the van we joined José for lunch which consisted of cheese and crackers, sandwiches, potato chips, mixed nuts and an orange drink.
At 13:10 we headed for the central coast, driving through heavy traffic. We arrived at our lodging at 14:45 and checked in to the Hotel Yachting. This facility is right on the coast and from our room and from the dining room also there was a great view of the ocean. The rooms, however, were small and quite shabby, certainly in need of renovation.
At 15:45 we left to drive along the coast. We stopped at a beach overflowing with vacationers and sun-worshippers, and walked to a rocky outcrop for productive birding. No doubt we looked odd and out of place as we clambered along the beach with our birding attire, binoculars and scopes. It was tough walking in the sand; it would have been easier in bare feet.
This was a wonderful place to bird. We were barely disturbed as most of the beach crowd did not venture this far and we started to see one new species after another. Peruvian Pelicans were in the air and on the rocks, Humboldt Penguins gambolled in the waves and stood like little soldiers on the rocks. Blackish Oystercatchers paraded in front of us, one of which enabled us to watch it select an oyster, pry open the shell, sever the abductor muscle and gobble down the oyster. The endemic Chilean Seaside Cinclodes was never far from view and often at very close range. There were also American Oystercatchers, Whimbrel and flocks of Surfbirds, a lifer for Miriam. Peruvian Boobies sunned themselves on the rocks. This was altogether a very enjoyable spot and I must confess that rocky coasts like this are one of my favourite habitats. Given the time, one could have explored myriad fascinating tide pools, where no doubt exciting discoveries waited to be revealed.
Our already high level of excitement and enthusiasm was magnified yet further by cavorting Southern Sea Otters close to shore in the water and hauled out on rocks.
We left at 18:00 and drove to Laguna Venturas on the way back to our hotel. We had to view the birds through a chain link fence but there were many new species awaiting us. There were huge flocks of Franklin's Gulls (another lifer for Miriam) sporting distinctive, pink breasts. It seemed quite unusual on a gull and I presume is related to the coastal diet enjoyed by this species at this time of the year. There was a group of Corscoroba Swans, Red Shovelers, White-cheeked Pintails, Yellow-billed Pintails, Lake Ducks, Cinnamon Teal, White-tufted Grebes, all three species of lowland coot, White-backed Stilts and our first Austral Negrito promenading on the mud at the edge of the lake.
Arriving back at the hotel, Roberto and I were first in the dining room, and try as I might I could not get a glass of wine! Three times I tried but the waiter never brought it. Joined by the others we ordered dinner which consisted of a salad, a fish dish which was very tasty and a dish of ice cream for dessert. We tried to get a glass of white wine with dinner, but they had none, so we settled for red, except for Barbara who never drinks red wine and had a cold beer.
Everyone else left, but Tom and I hung back to do our list, following which we returned to our rooms.
Back in the room I fine-tuned my records of the day's events and turned in for a great night's sleep.
All species 5 February – California Quail, Corscoroba Swan, Cinnamon Teal, Red Shoveler, White-cheeked Pintail, Yellow-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Lake Duck, Humboldt Penguin, White-tufted Grebe, Black-crowned Night Heron, Western Cattle Egret, Cocoi Heron, Western Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Peruvian Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Harris's Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Variable Hawk, Chimango Caracara, American Kestrel, White-winged Coot, Red-gartered Coot, Red-fronted Coot, Blackish Oystercatcher, American Oystercatcher, White-backed Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Whimbrel, Lesser Yellowlegs, Surfbird, Franklin's Gull, Kelp Gull, Common Pigeon, Picui Ground Dove, Giant Hummingbird, Striped Woodpecker, Crag Chilia, Chilean Seaside Cinclodes, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, Dusky-tailed Canastero, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Austral Negrito, Fire-eyed Diucon, Chilean Swallow, Southern House Wren, Chilean Mockingbird, Austral Thrush, Austral Blackbird, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Shiny Cowbird, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Grey-hooded Sierra Finch, Common Diuca Finch, Grassland Yellow Finch.
Accommodation – Hotel Yachting (Panamerican) Rating – 3 stars.
6 February 2012
Quintero – La Campana National Park – Viña del Mar – Concón
We were up at 05:30 and in for breakfast at 06:15. There was a variety of items set out including a delicious fresh fruit salad which both Miriam and I selected. She then had a piece of coffee cake which she found a little dry while I had cold cereal. We both had tea for breakfast, given the fact that here, as in most places in Chile, the only option for coffee was Nescafé Instant Coffee which neither of us care for.
By 07:15 under slightly cloudy but pleasantly cool conditions we left for another day's adventures. By 08:30 we arrived at La Campana National Park to begin the grand tapaculo search. During this process we would tromp along forest trails, claw our way through undergrowth, get down on our hands and knees, battle branches that conspired to whip our faces and listen to tape playbacks over and over. Glimpses of tapaculos are not won easily.
Barbara, who is more of a photographer than a birder, often wandered away from the group, but generally not too far. She had a clear sense of where she was but when she caught her foot in tree roots and fell behind, we got too far ahead of her. Tom began to get concerned when Barbara did not return his calls no matter how hard he shouted. Roberto called Jose in the parking lot and he said that he had not seen Barbara, so a little touch of panic started to set in. Tom went off to find Barbara while we continued towards the parking lot with Roberto. When we got very close to our destination neither Tom nor Barbara showed up, so we waited while Roberto hiked back up the trail to try to find them. He returned with Tom, but still no Barbara.
Another call to José revealed that she was safe and sound in the parking lot. She had actually been there all along, having been off taking photographs when José had looked for her earlier! Barbara couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. Intrepid and self-sufficient woman that she is, she knew that we all had to go back to the vehicle and she simply made her own way there.
José had gone into town to collect a delicious lunch for us. We sat at tables behind the washrooms and enjoyed empanadas, steak and avocado sandwiches, peach juice and the tastiest and juiciest nectarines I have ever eaten.
We had still not succeeded in seeing a tapaculo and Roberto decided that we should try again. This time we hit the tapaculo jackpot. By a little spring, close to a campground, with many people walking to and fro, we had the enormous good fortune to have a Dusky Tapaculo, hop up onto a rock giving us unimpeded looks. It dropped to the ground and scurried under a rock, but came back out again and we saw it well over and over. Up to this point this was far and away the best look I have ever had of a tapaculo. Needless to say we were elated.
Flushed with this success we tried again for the White-throated Tapaculo. We heard it calling very loudly, but neither Miriam nor I saw it. Roberto, Tom and Barbara were more fortunate, however and glimpsed the bird.
At 15:10 we left La Campana and drove to the beach at Viña del Mar. We birded a rocky coast near to a university research facility where there were Inca Terns, Peruvian Boobies, a Blackish Oystercatcher, Guanay Cormorants, Ruddy Turnstones, Surfbirds and the ever-present Kelp Gulls. A surprise for Roberto was a Grey-flanked Cinclodes, which he said was well outside its normal habitat.
We left at 17:30 driving along the coast, through busy little towns, seeing crowded beaches and spectacular scenery to delight the eye.
Our next stop at Concón found us at a park with several viewing platforms, but the wind was fierce. The number of Franklin's Gulls was simply mind-boggling and there were numerous Black-necked Skimmers also, always an enigmatic bird. The highlight of this stop, however, was the gorgeous little Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, a lifer for everyone.
Before leaving for the motel at 18:45 José produced delicious chicken and avocado sandwiches which we all enjoyed.
We all had time to shower before dinner which was set for 19:45. Tonight they had white wine to accompany our fish, but since we were using anti-sea sickness patches, we eschewed the consumption of alcohol. Neither Miriam nor I have ever been sea sick but given the once and only opportunity to make the pelagic to the Humboldt Current the next day we didn't want to take any chances. Dinner consisted of a salad followed by seafood risotto topped with a flat fish, which we all enjoyed very much. Dessert was peaches with ice cream.
As usual everyone returned to their rooms while Tom and I stayed to do the list for the day, revelling in some of the successes we had enjoyed.
We were in bed before 22:00, all packed and ready to leave the following morning.
All species 6 February – Western Cattle Egret, Western Great Egret, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, Neotropic Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Chimango Caracara, Red-fronted Coot, Blackish Oystercatcher, American Oystercatcher, White-backed Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Ruddy Turnstone, Surfbird, Black Skimmer, Brown-hooded Gull, Franklin's Gull, Kelp Gull, Inca Tern, Common Pigeon, Picui Ground Dove, Striped Woodpecker, Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, White-throated Treerunner, Moustached Turca (heard), White-throated Tapaculo (heard), Dusky Tapaculo, White-crested Elaenia, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, Chilean Swallow, Chilean Mockingbird, Austral Thrush, Austral Blackbird, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow.
7 February 2012
Pelagic Trip to the Humboldt Current – El Peral Nature Reserve - Maipo River Mouth at Santo Domingo
Our alarm was set for 04:30 in order to get an early start to Valparaiso to start our pelagic trip out to the fabled waters of the Humboldt Current. We had breakfast at 05:00. We both had tea, fresh fruit salad and a kind of pie with fruit encased in gelatin. We were packed and ready to leave by 05:45.
We were at dockside at 06:30 under overcast, cool conditions. Our boat pulled away from the pier at 07:00. I am not sure how far we sailed out into open waters but along the way we were accompanied by enormous flocks of Franklin's Gulls. Kelp Gulls were our constant companions and as we got farther from land Red-legged and Guanay Cormorants flew alongside us. As we sailed on Wilson's Storm Petrels began to appear and soon there were White-chinned and Westland Petrels also. Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters sliced through the air while Peruvian Boobies cruised overhead. The stars of the show, however, were the numerous Salvin's and Northern Royal Albatrosses displaying their mastery of flight. A fishing boat hauling in its nets provided a feeding bonanza and we were treated to all manner of birds alighting on the water to sate their appetites. Peruvian Diving Petrels rocked on the swell adjacent to the boat and a couple of Masatierra Petrels sped by.
It was interesting to watch a gathering of giant squid break the surface and Southern Sea Lions were never far from the bounty of food being provided by the trawler.
Snacks were made available throughout the trip but the pièce de résistance was wine served in stemware as we chugged back into the harbour. A celebration indeed of a memorable pelagic adventure.
We reconnected with José and left for the El Peral Nature Reserve. Along the way we stopped to have lunch. There were sandwiches of roast beef, tomato and green beans followed by fresh fruit.
There were several viewing platforms at El Peral where we saw many species including three Black-necked Swans, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter and a cooperative Plumbeous Rail right out in the open keeping company with a couple of Spot-flanked Gallinules.
A walk along the beach at the Maipo River mouth provided the spectacle of scores of Sanderlings feeding at the water's edge and scurrying back up the sand as the waves rolled in. I got a decent look at a Spectacled Tyrant in the reeds which Miriam missed unfortunately. Several Yellow-winged Blackbirds darted in and out of shoreline vegetation and Peruvian Pelicans rested on the water.
At 18:30 we set off for Santiago, stopping en route to buy cold drinks, and then spending a good deal of time in one traffic jam after another. It was 21:00 before we were checked into our room at Hotel Galerias and we joined Tom and Barbara for dinner fifteen minutes later. As had previously been the case in Santiago Roberto and José lodged elsewhere.
The dining room was not busy and we were soon served a salad, followed by roast beef with mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley. I passed on dessert but Miriam had fresh fruit with a scoop of ice cream.
Miriam was back in our room by 20:15 and I arrived a little later having completed the checklist with Tom.
All species 7 February – Black-necked Swan, Cinnamon Teal, Red Shoveler, Yellow-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Lake Duck, Humboldt Penguin, Northern Royal Albatross, Salvin's Albatross, De Filippi's (Masatierra) Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Westland Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Pink-footed Shearwater, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Peruvian Diving Petrel, Black-crowned Night Heron, Western Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, Red-legged Cormorant, Neotropic Cormorant, Guanay Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Chimango Caracara, Plumbeous Rail, Spot-flanked Gallinule, White-winged Coot, Red-gartered Coot, Red-fronted Coot, Blackish Oystercatcher, American Oystercatcher, White-backed Stilt, Southern Lapwing, Whimbrel, Lesser Yellowlegs, Sanderling, Black Skimmer, Brown-hooded Gull, Franklin's Gull, Kelp Gull, Common Pigeon, Picui Ground Dove, White-crested Elaenia, Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, Austral Negrito, Spectacled Tyrant, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, Chilean Swallow, Chilean Mockingbird, Austral Thrush, Austral Blackbird, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Shiny Cowbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow.
Accommodation – Hotel Galerías Rating – 4.5 stars.
8 February 2012
Santiago – El Yeso
Breakfast at 06:30 was taken at the extensive buffet in the hotel dining room. Miriam chose the carrot and egg “quiche” and an assortment of fresh fruit with a slice of cake/pie. I selected some little sausages which were quite delicious and fresh fruit also. We both enjoyed hot brewed coffee.
We departed for El Yeso at 07:25 driving along a winding dirt road alongside the reservoir that provides water for Santiago. The scenery here is quite magnificent and we reminded ourselves how fortunate we are to be able to travel to these far flung panoramas of the earth.
Barely into the El Yeso valley we were all thrilled to see a Moustached Turca, and see it well we did. We watched the bird until finally (and unusually for a tapaculo) it positioned itself upright on a rock, and like a primo uomo in an opera, on stage with an appreciative audience, it sang for us, and we all mightily enjoyed the performance. If a call for encores would have worked we would have been there for hours! No less than four Crag Chilias presented themselves to us.
We drove into a flat plain where Andean seeps and bogs provided perfect habitat for the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, our target bird for the day. On the way in José suddenly screeched to a halt as Barbara and Miriam both yelled “Stop” at about the same moment. They had seen a Grey-breasted Seedsnipe alongside the vehicle.
I have not the slightest doubt that the sandpiper-plover had piqued the interest of everyone while studying the bird before the trip and our level of anticipation was high at the prospect of seeing this monotypic species still puzzling to taxonomists. Despite a long and dogged search, however, it was not to be. Try as we might we simply could not locate the bird.
El Yeso had many highlights, nonetheless. An Aplomado Falcon was the first of the trip, as were two Chilean Flickers. We were able to get very close looks at a Giant Hummingbird feeding on a plant that reminded us of protea in South Africa. At one point it almost flew into our faces. We saw Spot-billed, Cinereous and White-browed Ground Tyrants, in addition to a Scaly-throated Earthcreeper, the 3,000th bird on Tom's life list. Grey-hooded Sierra Finches flew all around us and Bar-winged Cinclodes were quite common.
It was sunny at El Yeso but the winds were truly fierce.
Our picnic lunch consisted of salad, avocado halves, a ham and cheese sandwich for Miriam, tuna for me, crackers and a very tasty cheese spread, nectarines and juice. Let me say a word about the avocados (palta) we enjoyed almost daily on this trip. We noticed immediately the superior taste and texture of locally grown produce as compared with unripe fruit flown into North America. We always looked forward to palta served to us in so many different ways. I think that Barbara would have gladly lived on palta and nothing else!
We left for Santiago at 17:30 arriving at the hotel at 19:30. We quickly showered and changed and met Tom and Barbara for dinner at 20:00. Miriam and I both started with a well-prepared ceviche; Miriam then chose sirloin steak with mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. I opted for sea bass with a spinach in cream sauce with mixed vegetables. The fish was cooked to perfection – very enjoyable indeed. We shared a plate of fruit for dessert.
Following the nightly ritual of the list we returned to our room to get packed up for departure in the morning.
All species 8 February – California Quail, Neotropic Cormorant, Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Mountain Caracara, Chimango Caracara, American Kestrel, Aplomado Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Southern Lapwing, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Baird's Sandpiper, Brown-hooded Gull, Common Pigeon, Black-winged Ground Dove, White-sided Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Chilean Flicker, Rufous-banded Miner, Crag Chilia, Scaly-throated Earthcreeper, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, Sharp-billed Canastero, Moustached Turca, White-crested Elaenia, Spot-billed Ground Tyrant, Cinereous Ground Tyrant, White-browed Ground Tyrant, Black-fronted Ground Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Blue-and-White Swallow, Chilean Mockingbird, Austral Thrush, Yellow-rumped Siskin, Austral Blackbird, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Grey-hooded Sierra Finch, Mourning Sierra Finch, Plumbeous Sierra Finch, Common Diuca Finch, Greater Yellow Finch.
9 February 2012
Santiago – Colbún – Altos de Lircay
Roberto had advised us that we needed to make an early start so we arose at 05:15 and made a coffee in the room – for the exorbitant fee of 2,500 pesos. There was only one cup and saucer so we used a glass as a second vessel. There was sugar but no coffee whitener or cream for Miriam. When we got downstairs into the lobby we realized that we could have had juice and coffee there!
It was already warm as we headed south from Santiago. At 07:45 we stopped at a gas station where we ate the breakfast we had brought from the back of the vehicle. We had coffee, yoghurt, crackers, cheese, pâté and cookies.
At 08:15 we moved on, driving past tobacco fields, apple orchards and vineyards. We were delayed briefly by a truck that had lost its load of lumber.
At 09:35 we stopped at a post office in San Clemente where we hoped to mail our post cards. It was almost comical to see the look of consternation on the face of the clerk when we told her what we wanted to do. She rushed to get her manager who seemed similarly nonplussed at the prospect of mail destined for outside the country. The upshot was that we were unable to mail our postcards!
Since we were stopped we went to a supermarket where we bought soft drinks to have with lunch.
At about 10:30 while driving alongside a reservoir “Eagle Eyes” José spotted a tree laden with Burrowing Parrots. After this we called him “El Guía!”
We were able to see these birds very well and both Barbara and Miriam got pictures.
A short distance farther we stopped again to scan a river and were rewarded with our first Bronze-winged (Spectacled) Ducks. Across the road on the lawn in front of a house there appeared to be a family gathering underway and everyone seemed to be curious about us. There were many children there and I gave a Canada flag pin to each of them, with even a couple of the adults wanting one. After several pictures and an entourage of people waving us goodbye we moved on.
Later we stopped at what I think was a private school. There was a bridge crossing a river and Roberto asked permission for us to enter the grounds to hunt for Chestnut-throated Huet-huet. We were unsuccessful, but certainly aroused the curiosity of some of the girls who came to talk to us. This called for another round of Canada flag pins – alas, we never did find the bird.
We drove on to Vilches Alto to Turístico El Roble where we would be spending the night. Our cabins were not ready so we laid out lunch at a table under a couple of umbrellas. José and Roberto set out bread buns, canned tuna, cheese, sliced tomatoes and avocado and we helped ourselves. It was quite lovely, really, except for the yellow jackets who decided to join our repast.
It was very hot and we were happy to sit and relax for a bit. Our first Chilean Pigeons were high in the trees and a flock of Austral Parakeets landed in a tree close by where we all had very good looks.
One cabin was ready so everyone's luggage was placed in it and we headed out at 14:15 to Altos de Lircay Nature Reserve.
Our search for Chestnut-throated Huet-huet yielded passable looks at one bird and we also heard Chucao Tapaculo. We took immense pleasure in walking through the magnificent forest.
At 18:30 we left to return to our cabins which were rustic but very pleasant I thought. Dinner was not until 19:30 so Miriam had time to shower and wash the clothes she had worn today, shaking out a kilo of dust first!
Miriam and I were seated in the dining room first and we were the victims of an older gentleman who was determined to talk to us whether we wanted to or not and to offer his firm conviction that General Pinochet was the best thing that ever happened to Chile and that any reports of misdeeds or atrocities were pure fabrications of the western media. We were glad when others joined us so that we no longer had to listen to this diatribe.
Local bread was on the table with chancho en piédra and we were served a delicious avocado half stuffed with tuna and topped with a dollop of mayonnaise, all on a bed of salad greens. The main course was a braised chicken leg with scalloped potatoes. On the table was a platter of sliced tomatoes, corn, heart of palm and green beans for everyone to share. Dessert was mote con huesillo, a dessert Roberto had been vaunting to us. It is a peach and wheat dish in a sweet syrup and very representative of Chile. We all enjoyed it.
Dinner was accompanied by a couple of bottles of Casillero del Diablo wine which everyone shared and enjoyed.
Actually, there is a funny story attached to the dessert. When Roberto was explaining it to us in English while travelling, we misinterpreted “peach” for “fish” and we were all amazed and not a little grossed out by this fabulous dessert with fish juice!
After dinner Roberto, Tom and I had headed uphill from the cabins in search of Rufous-legged Owl. Despite playing the call at several different spots we could not elicit a response. At 21:30 Roberto announced that he would get Jose's van and we would drive to other locations to try for the owl. I was exhausted by this time and I declined the offer and returned to the cabin. Tom and Roberto set off and found the owl much later at the very last stop they made.
All species 9 February – California Quail, Bronze-winged Duck, Black-faced Ibis, Snowy Egret, Turkey Vulture, White-tailed Kite, Cinereous Harrier, Variable Hawk, Chimango Caracara, American Kestrel, Southern Lapwing, Baird's Sandpiper, Brown-hooded Gull, Dolphin Gull, Kelp Gull, Common Pigeon, Chilean Pigeon, Eared Dove, Picui Ground Dove, Burrowing Parrot, Austral Parakeet, Striped Woodpecker, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-throated Treerunner, Chestnut-throated Huet-huet, Chucao Tapaculo (heard), White-crested Elaenia, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Fire-eyed Diucon, Patagonian Tyrant, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, Blue-and-White Swallow, Southern House Wren, Chilean Mockingbird, Austral Thrush, House Sparrow, Black-chinned Siskin, Austral Blackbird, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Common Diuca Finch.
Accomodation - Turístico El Roble Rating – 3.5 stars.
10 February 2012
Turístico El Roble – Altos de Lircay – Santiago
The earliest Roberto was able to arrange breakfast was 07:30 so anyone wishing to sleep in had the chance to do so this morning. I was still up quite early but Miriam stayed in bed until 06:40.
We were treated to excellent views of both Chilean Pigeon and a noisy flock of Austral Parakeets on our way over to the dining room.
For breakfast we were treated to tea, scrambled eggs, a toasted bread bun, cheese, marmalade and a slice of kuchen. We got up from the table stuffed!
We were back in our cabin by 08:00 to finish packing and once again store all our luggage in one cabin as we headed back to the nature reserve.
I was immediately struck once again by the sheer beauty of the forest. It really was a source of inspiration for me.
Today would be marked by a more cooperative response from both the Chestnut-throated Huet-huet and the Chucao Tapaculo! We had excellent looks at both species. The birding was very pleasant as we ambled through the forest. It was a little cooler than yesterday, but every bit as dusty!
Thorn-tailed Rayaditos greeted us at every turn, as did White-throated Treerunners. What enchanting little birds they are. We also revelled in great great views of Des Murs's Wiretail and Patagonian Tyrant.
At noon we returned to Turístico El Roble and even though a boxed lunch had been prepared for us we were permitted to eat in the dining room before leaving. Lunch consisted of a chicken salad sandwich, a peach, chocolate, a granola bar, papaya juice and a bottle of water. It seemed that every day we got more chocolate, little packages of cookies, potato chips, granola bars etc. and we were rapidly accumulating a whole stash of these items.
Once lunch was over we departed for Santiago, making a stop en route to use the washrooms and get gas.
We decided to stop in San Fernando to try once more to mail our postcards. Same result as in San Clemente! It seemed to us that in Chile finding birds was easy, mailing a postcard was a challenge. However, on this occasion we were offered some kind of postal sticker with a bar code, which we were assured would guarantee safe passage of our post cards to Canada and the United States. To date, none of the ones we mailed have arrived!
We arrived back at Hotel Galerías at 17:30 so we had time to relax and Miriam did laundry for both of us before dinner at 19:00. Both Miriam and I started with a scrumptious cream of zucchini soup, followed by salmon with squid and shrimp sauce, mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. For dessert I had a fruit platter and Miriam had a plate filled with a variety of sweet things. Miriam had white wine with her dinner, as did Barbara. Tom and I both had the house red wine which we found very much to our liking.
Miriam was back in our room by 20:30 and I followed shortly afterwards, having completed the daily list with Tom.
All species 10 February – California Quail, Western Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture, Cinereous Harrier, Chimango Caracara, Southern Lapwing, Common Pigeon, Chilean Pigeon, Eared Dove, Austral Parakeet, Green-backed Firecrown, Des Murs's Wiretail, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-throated Treerunner, Chestnut-throated Huet-huet, Chucao Tapaculo, White-crested Elaenia, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Fire-eyed Diucon, Patagonian Tyrant, Southern House Wren, Austral Thrush, Austral Blackbird, Shiny Cowbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow.
Accomodation - Hotel Galerías Rating – 4.5 stars.
11 February 2012
Santiago – Puerto Montt – Entre Lagos – Puyehue National Park
Our alarm was set for 04:45 for an early start to the airport. We didn't make coffee in the room, remembering that last time it had been available in the lobby. This time we were thwarted, there was neither juice nor coffee available.
Trusty José arrived promptly as usual and soon after 05:30 we were on our way to the airport. We bade farewell to José and I am sure that we all felt that we had been well served by him. Passage through the airport was quick and easy and in no time we were at our gate. I went to Starbucks to get coffee and muffins for Miriam and me but the lineup there was almost longer than at the security check points! Eventually I was served but we barely had time to finish before we had to board a shuttle bus to take us to the plane. The flight attendants were all cheerful, helpful and exuded friendship and a great attitude. It was touching to see one of them hold a baby for a mother trying to get herself and two children settled.
The plane took off at 07:30 for our one hour and twenty minute flight to Puerto Montt. Soon after take off we were served juice and a snack pack containing salted peanuts, a little cake and a chocolate chip cookie. This snack was provided on every LAN Chile flight that we took. It was always identical.
Everything proceeded smoothly at Puerto Montt, although it took a while for Miriam's suitcase to arrive. Outside the terminal we were greeted by the driver of a Peugot van, our transportation for the next few days. From this point onwards Roberto would serve as both driver and guide.
By 09:30 we were on our way out of Puerto Montt. It was considerably cooler than we had been used to in Santiago and was quite overcast. After a while Tom, who always demonstrated great ability to spot birds from a moving vehicle, saw parakeets fly into a tree. We stopped to check and were delighted to discover that they were the endemic Slender-billed Parakeets. Kudos to Tom for this sighting. They had landed in a tree in a field containing large numbers of both Black-faced Ibis and Southern Lapwing.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called San Sebastien in the small town of Entre Lagos. It was a very pleasant stop and was mostly set up for a large group. We were served the same lunch as the group. We had wonderful fresh dinner rolls with ample salsa, a lettuce salad, roasted chicken and fried potatoes, plus a cold drink. Dessert consisted of huge slices of water melon and honey dew melon. All of that for a mere 3,500 pesos. It was a bargain and delicious too.
At 13:15 were back on the road. By now the temperature had climbed to 32 degrees C and the skies were clear.
We were treated to spectacular views of the volcano which had recently erupted before entering Puyehue National Park, and skirted around numerous lakes. The temperature dropped as we ascended into an area of dense forest, with ferns and bamboo along the roadside.
Roberto parked and we walked, half bent over most of the time, through a tunnel of bamboo to search for Black-throated Huet-huet. The bird responded to the tape but never revealed itself.
At about 15:30 we moved on to another location and walked a short way down a road where we located a female Magellanic Woodpecker. This was the Holy Grail of woodpeckers and while we were all ecstatic to see this bird, I think that none of us quite matched Tom's elation. This is one species where the female is arguably more attractive than the male. Personally I thought so, but in short order we spotted a male also. There was also a unique attraction to their curious double beat as they drummed on trunks which projected sound at long distances. It seemed somehow primeval, the very essence of wilderness.
Yet another tapaculo quest ensued, this time with splendid results. We had two Ochre-flanked Tapaculos in the same binocular field, one of which burst into song. We also saw three Magellanic Tapaculos.
By 17:30 we moved up to the Hotel Antillanca, which is part of a ski resort. The buildings look like they have seen better days. We were shown to our room which contained two single beds and a bunk bed. The bathroom was very small but the shower yielded instant hot water with great pressure. We had a little difficulty finding the dining room, but eventually arrived there for dinner at 19:30. The first course was vegetable soup with bread, followed by salmon, mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. Even though this dish is always done well, we are starting to tire of it a little. Dessert was a chocolate flan. A pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon complimented our meal.
Miriam was back in the room by 21:00 and as usual Tom and I hung back to do the list.
All species 11 February - Black-faced Ibis, Neotropic Cormorant, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Southern Crested Caracara, Chimango Caracara, American Kestrel, Southern Lapwing, Common Pigeon, Chilean Pigeon, Austral Parakeet, Slender-billed Parakeet, Green-backed Firecrown, Magellanic Woodpecker, Des Murs's Wiretail, Black-throated Huet-huet (heard), Chucao Tapaculo (heard), Ochre-flanked Tapaculo, Magellanic Tapaculo, White-crested Elaenia, Patagonian Tyrant, Chilean Swallow, Chilean
Mockingbird, Austral Thrush, House Sparrow, Austral Blackbird, Long-tailed Meadowlark.
Accommodation - Hotel Antillanca Rating – 3 stars
12 February 2012
Puyehue National Park
I was up and about by 06:00 to do some pre-breakfast birding with Roberto and Tom but Miriam decided that her cozy, warm bed was more appealing and turned over to go back to sleep.
Like the three musketeers we sallied forth together to search for the elusive Black-throated Huet-huet. Roberto located some promising habitat and played his tape eliciting a response almost immediately. It took a while to actually see the bird, but when we did we had the most amazing looks – and for a prolonged period too. In fact we located two individuals both of which displayed for us. And remember, these are tapaculos, birds of the darkest cover in the forest and reluctant to show themselves. Without a doubt Roberto was elated to have delivered these birds and Tom and I were thrilled to have such quality looks.
The Austral Parakeets that flew to a nearby tree seemed almost insignificant!
At 08:00 I returned to the room to tell Miriam of our great success and to accompany her to breakfast.
A variety of food was laid out, pretty much the same fare as elsewhere, but oatmeal was available and by mixing it with the hot milk for the coffee and adding a little jam for sweetener I had a fine bowl of porridge. Given that the outside temperature was about 5° C it was very welcome and tasted quite wonderful.
After breakfast Roberto thought that we should try anew to see the Huet-huet since our photographers Barbara and Miriam had not been present to record our earlier success. In fairly short order we relocated the bird and it was very obliging once again. It was a little foggy but Miriam got some decent shots and even though they may not be of award-winning quality they nonetheless will memorialize the event for us.
At 10:30 we all boarded the van to head to a higher elevation, above the tree line in fact. Our destination was Crater Raihuen, a long extinct volcano. We parked at the rim of the crater and descended downwards into it. Our target bird was Yellow-bridled Finch, which we never did find, not there nor anywhere else during our trip. The bird, however, was almost a distraction that day, and I say this as a dedicated lifelong birder. To use an overworked colloquialism I was “blown away” by this location. First of all the scenery was magnificent, awe-inspiring, breathtaking and capable of inducing a distinct feeling of both my own insignificance and a clear understanding of the privilege of being there. The floor of the crater was primarily basalt but much of it had been coated with ferrous oxide imparting a distinctive red colouration. Two European hares bound along and lichens and other ground plants hugged the earth. There were tiny lizards and a myriad of insects. Both Barbara and I commented that we would gladly have remained there for the rest of the day. The weather cleared and the sun even provided a little warmth.
We drove a little higher and ate our lunch at a magnificent vista feeling that we were on top of the world. Our meal consisted of a steak sandwich with tomato, cheese and lettuce, the usual assemblage of cookies, chocolate etc., plus a banana and a nectarine.
At 13:10 we drove back down to the hotel, where we all took advantage of a washroom break. Shortly afterwards we saw a perched White-throated Hawk, and Miriam and Barbara photographed butterflies and fuchsia.
There seemed to be no firm destination in mind thereafter and Roberto drove around randomly. We returned to the location where we had seen Magellanic Woodpeckers the day before and were able to get another sighting of the male. We also saw a female Green-backed Firecrown, all the while hoping for the male.
We returned to our room a little after 17:00 and went to dinner at 19:30. We started with what was referred to as chicken consommé, which was in reality chicken noodle soup, followed by a pork chop with rice and sauteed vegetables. Dessert was a bowl of jello.
Miriam and Barbara left to go back to their rooms at 21:00 while Tom and I stayed to do the list, as usual.
All species 12 February – Yellow-billed Pintail,
White-throated Hawk, Southern Crested Caracara, Chimango Caracara, Chilean Pigeon, Austral Parakeet, Green-backed Firecrown, Magellanic Woodpecker, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Black-throated Huet-huet, Chucao Tapaculo (heard), White-crested Elaenia, Dark-faced Ground Tyrant, Chilean Swallow, Blue-and-White Swallow, Southern House Wren, Austral Thrush, Black-chinned Siskin, Patagonian Sierra Finch.
13 February 2012
Puyehue National Park – Osorno Volcano – Ferry to Chiloé Island – Puerto Montt
We were up at 06:30 for breakfast at 07:00. Roberto had tried to arrange for an earlier breakfast but apparently even 07:00 was considered too early. In fact when we arrived at the dining room nothing was set out and the lone worker had to unlock the door to let us in.
The food was identical to the previous day and I again had hot oatmeal. We had been having tea with breakfast each day, but Miriam tried the instant Nescafé and said that it wasn't too bad as long as you added lots of hot milk.
Roberto mentioned that the manager of the hotel had given him a hard time both over the time of breakfast and the preparation of a boxed lunch so early in the day. Apparently he was belligerent and downright rude.
Just before setting off on the day's journey Roberto tried to call in an Austral Pygmy Owl, but without success. Tom said that he thought he had seen one on the way over to the dining room but he wasn't sure.
A Rufous-tailed Hawk flew over a raucous flock of Austral Parakeets.
It was 5 degrees C when we left and we stopped at the park headquarters at 08:45. We thought they might open at 09:00, and Barbara had her eyes on a tee shirt, but they were taking inventory that day and refused all of our entreaties to let us spend some money there.
There were lots of birds in and around the parking lot including a Ringed Kingfisher that flew overhead. Roberto and Tom saw a Chilean Hawk go after some passerines; unfortunately the rest of us missed it.
We drove to the Osorno Volcano where we again tried to find the Yellow-bridled Finch, but we had no better luck than on our previous attempts. The scenery was quite splendid and we enjoyed walking around. We found a picnic bench to have our lunch which consisted of an indifferent ham and cheese sandwich on white bread. A dog hanging around us got lots to eat! The balance of the bag consisted of the usual assortment of cookies, chocolate etc.
At 13:25 we left the volcano and stopped at a lookout where there was an abundance of fuchsia and where Barbara thought she had seen a hummingbird on the way up. It was now 18 degrees and sunny. A couple of hummingbirds were indeed feeding on the fuchsia and Miriam managed a picture of a female Green-backed Firecrown.
Roberto had come up with the great idea that we should take the ferry to Chiloé Island as walk-on passengers and make the round trip without getting off. It was a pleasant experience and productive from a birding standpoint. There were four Flying Steamer Ducks, Magellanic Oystercatchers, numerous Imperial Shags and several Humboldt Penguins out at sea. We were told that the fee each way was 600 pesos each but no one ever collected the money from us and we never did pay.
By 17:45 were were on the road to Puerto Montt and arrived at our hotel, Club Presidente, about an hour later. The front desk was a model of cordiality and efficiency and we were soon in our room. This was perhaps the best room we have ever had. It had a king size bed, a large sitting area with two couches, a chair and a coffee table. There was also a dining area which featured a table, a buffet and six chairs, all screened off from the sleeping area. Best of all the windows faced the ocean and we had a magnificent view of the waterfront and beyond with South American Terns diving for fish.
Dinner was at 19:30 so Miriam quickly showered and changed and we met the others in the dining room. I chose chicken soup to start and Miriam ordered Peruvian eggs. Tom, Barbara and I paid extra to upgrade from the choices offered the group to a King Crab dish which was tasty but not exceptional, but it was accompanied by a delicious salad. Miriam, unfortunately, had the only bad meal of the trip. She chose chicken curry and rice. The chicken was tough and there was hardly a hint of curry about the entire dish. Dessert was wonderful crepes with dulce de leche and a scoop of ice cream, truly a wonderful treat. I enjoyed a very fine coffee and Miriam a camomile tea. Both red and white wine had been enjoyed with dinner and afterwards we were all served a complimentary whiskey sour.
Miriam returned to the room at 21:30. Tom and I stayed to do the list and retired about twenty minutes later.
All species 13 February – Black-necked Swan, Flying Steamer Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Sooty Shearwater, Black-faced Ibis, Western Great Egret, Red-legged Cormorant, Neotropic Cormorant, Imperial Shag,Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, White-throated Hawk, Variable Hawk, Rufous-tailed Hawk, Southern Crested Caracara, Chimango Caracara, American Kestrel, Magellanic Oystercatcher, American Oystercatcher, Southern Lapwing, Franklin's Gull, Kelp Gull, South American Tern, Common Pigeon, Chilean Pigeon, Austral Parakeet, Slender-billed Parakeet, White-sided Hillstar, Green-backed Firecrown, Ringed Kingfisher, Chilean Flicker, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Chucao Tapaculo (heard), White-crested Elaenia, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Fire-eyed Diucon, Chilean Swallow, Austral Thrush, House Sparrow, Black-chinned Siskin, Austral Blackbird, Patagonian Sierra Finch, Grassland Yellow Finch.
Accommodation: Hotel Club Presidente Rating – Five stars.
14 February 2012
Puerto Montt – Punta Arenas
We met Tom for breakfast at 07:00, Barbara having decided to get a little extra sleep. Miriam had fruit salad, yoghurt, scrambled eggs and ham and a couple of small sausages, with juice and coffee. I had bread, cold meat, cheese, sausage and tea.
After breakfast we walked along the edge of the water with Tom, birding as we went but also enjoying the morning air and chatting about all things unimportant. No weighty issues troubled our tranquil stroll. The “bird of the walk” was a Peregrine Falcon.
We returned to the hotel to leave our binoculars behind, met up with Barbara, and the four of us set off to visit a local handicraft market about a half hour's walk away. All manner of items were for sale, although many of the stalls had not yet opened for business. I bought a great leather belt for 10,000 pesos.
We hastened back to the hotel to complete final packing and were in the lobby by 10:30, where we received our boarding passes. Two taxis came to collect us and we were en route to the airport by 11:00.
It was a little slow to get our luggage checked but we breezed through security. Barbara and Tom ordered a ham and cheese sandwich but inadvertently somehow got two of them. I accepted their offer of half a sandwich and even that was huge and delicious, liberally laden with avocado.
Miriam and Barbara both had window seats on the plane and were hoping for good photographs as we flew over the southern ice field. Alas, there was cloud cover all the way.
Our plane landed in Punta Arenas at 15:10 and we were through the airport in a half hour. We were met by Roberto's brother-in-law, a very congenial fellow named Boris. He had driven Roberto's Mercedes van to meet us and came armed with box lunches. There was a tasty sandwich of cold meat, avocado and lettuce on a bun, with a banana and the expected trove of other stuff.
We dropped Boris off and immediately set off to the south to start our birding in Patagonia. It was clear and sunny, but windy and quite cool. We travelled as far as Punta San Juan and the birding along the entire stretch of the coast was fullfilling indeed. We had a clean sweep of all the unique geese of the area – Upland Goose, Kelp Goose, Ashy-headed Goose and Ruddy-headed Goose, as well as a range of other waterfowl. Magellanic Penguins swam offshore and we saw our first Black-browed Albatross and Southern Giant Petrels. Rock Shags were abundant.
The land is rugged and very interesting. This sort of landscape holds great appeal for me.
We birded until about 19:30 and then went back to Punta Arenas where we checked into the Hotel Diego de Almagro around 20:45 with the sun still well above the horizon. Roberto went home to be with his family. The hotel was modern and we had a very nice room with two double beds.
We met Tom and Barbara at 21:00 for dinner. Our appetizer was “chicken and beef cocktail,” which piqued our interest. In fact, it was a substantial salad which was very enjoyable. The main course was tilapia served on potato wedges with tartar sauce, well presented and quite delicious. We each enjoyed a couple of glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon which we found very much to our liking. Dessert was described on the menu as “rhubarb and cheese caulk!” I never knew that caulk tasted so good!
We were back in our room by about 23:00 where we fell into bed and slept soundly.
All species 14 February – Flying Steamer Duck, Upland Goose, Kelp Goose, Ashy-headed Goose, Ruddy-headed Goose, Crested Duck, Bronze-winged Duck, Chiloé Wigeon, Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Magellanic Penguin, Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, White-tufted Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant, Rock Shag, Imperial Shag, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Southern Crested Caracara, Chimago Caracara, Peregrine Falcon, Southern Lapwing, Rufous-chested Plover (Dotterel), White-rumped Sandpiper, Franklin's Gull, Kelp Gull, South American Tern, Chilean Skua, Common Pigeon, Eared Dove, Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Dark-faced Ground Tyrant, Fire-eyed Diucon, Blue-and-White Swallow, House Sparrow, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Rufous-collared Sparrow.
Accommodation - Hotel Diego de Almagro Rating – 4.5 stars.
15 February 2012
Punta Arenas – Ferry Crossing to Porvenir – Laguna Verde and Bahía Inútil
A comprehensive breakfast buffet awaited us at 06:45 in the dining room. There was good coffee and we both had hot oatmeal, fresh fruit and yoghurt to which we added almonds and granola.
We returned to the room to finish packing, making sure that we had warm clothes for the ferry ride across the Straits of Magellan.
This was an exciting day for me. It hardly seemed possible that I could actually be crossing to Tierra del Fuego. Since my childhood days when I already loved to gaze at maps Tierra del Fuego was a land imbued with mystery. It seemed to be at the very end of the earth, and here I was about to set foot on its shore. Despite the fact that everything is effortless in this day of modern travel I still felt like an explorer in a strange land.
It was another beautiful day and our vehicle was one of the first to drive onto the ferry which was loaded with the speed and efficiency we had come to expect in Chile. Naturally we made an instant bee line to the top deck where it was windy but not too cold.
Some people spotted whales almost as soon as we left the dock but Miriam and I missed them, but there were birds aplenty. Both Black-browed Albatrosses and Magellanic Penguins were common, as were Magellanic Diving Petrels. A contingent of Peale's Dolphins kept us company, often surging above the waves, seeming to enjoy every moment they coursed alongside the hull. Imperial Shags were very common and Southern Giant Petrels flew by at close range.
As we approached the dock at Porvenir the wind picked up and it got quite cold. We docked at about 11:15 and had lunch (which was virtually identical to yesterday) in the van shortly afterwards.
We drove a short distance and walked across a field to a wetland where we saw beautiful Silver Teal with other waterfowl. Roberto's quarry was the Magellanic Plover, however, and this we did not find.
It was cool and overcast with a slight drizzle at times.
We moved on again at 13:30 and stopped at Laguna Verde. We walked out at least a couple of kilometres to a point where we at last discovered three Magellanic Plovers. It is a very distinctive bird which we were able to watch for quite a while. It was well worth the effort.
At 15:15 we headed out in earnest to the King Penguin colony, established in very recent years in Tierra del Fuego. It was a long drive on dirt roads so we headed out there with determination, not stopping for much at all. We arrived at 17:00 and were greeted by a truly magnificent spectacle. There were twenty-four adults, a few young, and one bird incubating an egg, from what we could tell. One of the young birds was pecking at the bill of an adult to induce regurgitation. King Penguin is an apt name; these birds looked regal and splendid. There was, quite sensibly, a line beyond which one could not pass, but the owner of the property allowed Miriam and Barbara to approach more closely to take photographs, provided they stayed low and took pictures while maintaining a crouched position. It was a special privilege to visit this place.
We had to leave around 18:15, just as a Grey Fox came to visit us.
A group of curious Guanaco came close to the road and seemed to be as interested in us as we were in them.
We drove through a rain shower which produced a spectacular double rainbow. Shortly afterwards we stopped to feast our eyes on Chilean Flamingos which we had seen while moving relentlessly towards the penguins earlier.
Our accommodation for the night was Hosteria Yendegaia in Porvenir and we arrived there at 20:30. We dropped off our stuff in the room and left to go to a restaurant a couple of blocks away. Miriam and I walked down with Roberto, and Tom and Barbara followed in short order.
I ordered cream of mushroom soup and Miriam opted for cream of chicken. While the soups were excellent, we envied Roberto and Tom who received a salad loaded with King Crab. This was followed by a well-cooked steak with a pimienta sauce accompanied by mashed potatoes for Miriam and rice for me. The steaks were tender, well prepared – very agreeable indeed. All was accompanied by Casillero del Diablo red wine.
We left the restaurant at 22:30 and headed back to the hotel.
The Hosteria Yendegaia, owned by Enrique Couve of Fantastico Sur, was quite attractive in its own way and we enjoyed staying there. The biggest drawback was that the rooms were so small there was not enough room for any suitcases, particularly an open one.
We were in bed by 23:00 following a memorable day.
All species 15 February – Corscoroba Swan, Fuegian (Flightless) Steamer Duck, Upland Goose, Kelp Goose, Ashy-headed Goose, Ruddy-headed Goose, Crested Duck, Bronze-winged Duck, Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed Teal, Silver Teal, King Penguin, Magellanic Penguin, Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel, Magellanic Diving Petrel, Common Diving Petrel, Great Grebe, Silvery Grebe, Chilean Flamingo, Black-faced Ibis, Imperial Shag, King Shag, Southern Crested Caracara, Magellanic Plover, Southern Lapwing, Greater Yellowlegs, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Brown-hooded Gull, Dolphin Gull, Kelp Gull, South American Tern, Chilean Skua, Common Pigeon, Common Miner, Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Austral Negrito, Chilean Swallow, House Sparrow, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Patagonian Yellow Finch.
Accommodation – Hostería Yendegaia Rating – 3 stars
16 February 2012
Porvenir – Punta Arenas
Breakfast was served at 06:15 and we were there promptly to dine on hot oatmeal and yoghurt. Miriam tried the Nescafé instant coffee again but I stuck to tea.
It was a cool morning with a little cloud. We were underway by 06:55, heading north towards the ferry terminal at Punta Delgada, birding all the way.
Long-tailed Meadowlarks, ever beautiful, were common and we spotted a Correndera Pipit. Upland Geese were abundant. Roberto almost slammed his brakes on as we crossed the Río Verde. He had seen a Lesser (Magellanic) Horned Owl perched on a rock. We all disembarked to get a better look and Miriam and Barbara slowly and carefully edged their way closer in hopes of good picture opportunities. After a few minutes the bird flew down to a rock in the stream and began to drink. This was the first time I had ever seen an owl exhibit such behaviour. The river was posted as a salmon stream with rules as to the catch limits etc. and it led me to wonder whether the bird might have developed a technique for plucking fish from the water, as it seemed quite at home on the rock, mere centimetres above the surface. Roberto commented that the surrounding fields were home to numerous rats which probably comprised the bulk of the owl's diet. It would be interesting to dissect some pellets, however.
Before the bird flew away Miriam and Barbara managed to get some reasonable pictures.
A short while later we were afforded a brief look at Two-banded Plover, but only from the vehicle.
Guanacos, those marvellous creatures of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, seemed to be everywhere one looked. White-rumped Sandpipers were ubiquitous – and to think that they are relatively rare when we are at home in southern Ontario.
We arrived at the ferry crossing at 10:15 and lined up behind a cavalcade of vehicles all from Argentina. It was interesting to see an elderly couple sitting in their car sipping yerba maté tea. Two Great Grebes were at the water's edge as were numerous Brown-hooded Gulls.
After about an hour we drove onto the ferry for the twenty minute crossing to the mainland. The stars of the show were Commerson's Dolphins cavorting alongside us. What a striking creature!
By 11:45 we were on the road again and starting to see Lesser Rheas at every turn. While looking at one individual to size up the photographic possibilities, an Austral Canastero landed in a nearby bush affording us great looks (and photographs) on our only representative of this species.
We had lunch at about 12:30 and it was basically a repetition of most other days. Our stash of junk food is getting heavy to carry!
The landscape was desolate and windswept, quite forbidding in some respects and monotonously the same. Most of us nodded off from time to time but along the way we perked up for gems such as two Least Seedsnipe and a flock of about a dozen Tawny-throated Dotterels.
Our destination was the Magellanic Penguin colony at Otway Sound. Now this was a marvelous experience! There were literally hundreds of penguins engaged in just about every activity that penguins are capable of and we had a staggering experience observing it all. Penguins were in their burrows, on the way to their burrows, on the beach, in the water, in adult plumage with many partly feathered young. One little group gathered on the beach appeared to be discussing matters of consequence. They would nod their heads as though in agreement, then some would point their bills skyward and bray loudly. Four individuals marched through the tussock grass in search of their burrows like four little soldiers in strict formation.
I know that I am anthropomorphizing and I make no apologies for that. I was absolutely captivated by what I experienced there. In addition to the miracle of watching bird behaviour there was unalloyed joy of the most basic kind.
In addition to the penguins several species of birds were flying around. Rufous-collared Sparrows were very common and we saw two Short-eared Owls. On the way out of the reserve we had an Aplomado Falcon perched on a rock beside the road.
We were checked into our room at Hotel Diego de Almagro shortly after 20:00. We bade goodbye to Roberto and went for dinner with Tom and Barbara. We were brought a glass of wine and a basket with crackers and a cream cheese-like spread which was quite delicious. The salad was a kind of turkey/ham roll stuffed with cheese and chive paste, placed over lettuce. The main course was a fine seafood paella and dessert was Charlotte mousse.
Miriam said goodbye to Tom and Barbara since they were leaving early the next morning and I said farewell to Barbara. Tom and I stayed to do the list one last time and sip a last glass of wine together.
We then said goodbye and went off to bed.
All species 16 February - Lesser Rhea, Corscoroba Swan, Upland Goose, Ruddy-headed Goose, Crested Duck, Chiloé Wigeon, Speckled Teal, Red Shoveler, Yellow-billed Pintail, Silver Teal, Magellanic Penguin, Southern Giant Petrel, Great Grebe, Black-faced Ibis, Imperial Shag, Cinereous Harrier, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Southern Crested Caracara, Chimango Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, White-winged Coot, Southern Lapwing, Two-banded Plover, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Least Seedsnipe, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, White-rumped Sandpiper, Brown-hooded Gull, Kelp Gull, South American Tern, Chilean Skua, Lesser (Magellanic) Horned Owl, Short-eared Owl, Short-billed Miner, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, Austral Canastero, Austral Negrito, Chilean Swallow, Sedge (Grass) Wren, Austral Thrush, Correndera Pipit, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Patagonian Sierra Finch, Patagonian Yellow Finch.
Accommodation - Hotel Diego de Almagro Rating – 4.5 stars.
17 February 2012
Punta Arenas – Punta San Juan – Punta Arenas – Santiago
We were out of bed by 06:00 and showered shortly thereafter. We then packed for our flight to Santiago this evening.
We went down to the dining room for breakfast at 07:00. There was a standard variety of items available and we both started with coffee and yoghurt. I then had sliced turkey and cheese and Miriam had a banana. The decibel level of the music they were playing (for what reason we'll never know) was simply incredible. And it was American rock too, not even some gentle Chilean folk song. We could literally barely hear each other speak, and we could see that it was bothering other people too, so we asked them to turn it down. They did – by the very slightest margin so we escaped back to the quiet of our room.
At 07:45 we took the elevator down to the lobby with our luggage. We checked out and arranged to store our bags at the hotel while we birded during the day. Within minutes we were greeted by Enrique Couve of Fantastíco Sur and we joined another couple to journey south.
It had rained during the night but the sky was clear when we left and it looked like a fine day ahead.
The first part of our trip retraced the areas we had covered with Roberto but it was our pleasure to bird there a second time. Initially we spotted the same species, most of which were lifers for the other couple. We then veered off to a forested area, where some old growth forest remained, but most of it had been burned by early settlers to create pasture land. It resembled nothing so much as a clear cut, and the denuded sections were extensive. Enrique tried to call in tapaculos, but he had no success here, nor would his luck improve at any time during the day. He did, however, lure in a pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers and an Austral Pygmy Owl.
Back along the shore we espied two Fuegian (Flightless) Steamer Ducks which gave us better looks than we had previously. An adult and a juvenile Southern Crested Caracara were feeding on the carcass of a Chilean Skua – one species of scavenger feasting on another!
Enrique advised us that Charles Darwin had spent a couple of months in this area waiting for favourable winds. There was a small cemetery where two captains of The Beagle are buried, having both committed suicide.
It rained a little while we were driving, but cleared when we had lunch, which it does not bear repeating, had an uncanny resemblance to every other boxed lunch! As we were eating Enrique yelled “Snipe” and a South American Snipe flew into a nearby marshy area– our second lifer of the day.
We moved on at 14:10 and drove to the end of the southernmost road in the Americas. We stood on the shore and watched birds out in the Strait of Magellan. There were thousands of birds feeding offshore and Enrique suggested there might be a whale out there stirring up krill and other organisms. Chilean Skua came very close and we had the magnificent spectacle of a half dozen Black-browed Albatrosses giving us a demonstration of their mastery of flight, as they soared barely above the waves, then glided upwards and banked again to resume their wave-hugging action. It was a magnificent experience.
We started back towards Punta Arenas checking out every bird as we motored along and stopping whenever the situation warranted it. Before going to the hotel we went to a lagoon in town to view a variety of waterfowl, passing piers inundated with tightly-packed Imperial Shags.
Upon our return to the hotel we said goodbye to everyone and retrieved our bags to wait for our ride to the airport. It was very easy to pass through the airport where security was virtually non-existent. We did not have to remove our jackets or money from our pockets etc and when we walked through the scanners the woman on the other side never even glanced up. We were at our gate by 19:05 to wait for our flight scheduled for 20:35. We took off on time and tried to get a little sleep, but a youngster, clearly unhappy to be flying, screamed pretty much the whole way to Santiago, nixing any chance we had to snooze.
Our flight arrived in Santiago around midnight; unfortunately we had to wait forever for our luggage to appear. My suitcase was the second to last and Miriam's not much before that.This marked the end of our tour with Fantastíco Sur.
We quickly found a taxi, where the driver showed us a rate card beforehand so that we knew exactly how much it would cost, and made good time to the hotel, there not being much traffic at that time of night.
Our room at the Leonardo da Vinci was very nice but we didn't have time to appreciate it as we jumped quickly into bed to try to get a little sleep before we had to get up again at 06:15.
All species 17 February – Flying Steamer Duck, Fuegian Steamer Duck, Upland Goose, Kelp Goose, Ashy-headed Goose, Ruddy-headed Goose, Crested Duck, Bronze-winged Duck, Speckled Teal, Red Shoveler, Yellow-billed Teal, Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, White-tufted Grebe, Black-faced Ibis, Black-crowned Night Heron, Western Great Egret, Neotropic Cormorant, Rock Shag, Imperial Shag, Southern Crested Caracara, Chimango Caracara, Plumbeous Rail, Red-gartered Coot, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Southern Lapwing, Rufous-chested Plover, South American Snipe, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Baird's Sandpiper, Brown-hooded Gull, Kelp Gull, South American Tern, Chilean Skua, Austral Parakeet, Austral Pygmy Owl, Ringed Kingfisher, Chilean Flicker, Magellanic Woodpecker, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-crested Elaenia, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Austral Negrito, Fire-eyed Diucon, Chilean Swallow, Southern House Wren, Austral Thrush, Black-chinned Siskin, Austral Blackbird, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Rufous-collared Sparrow.
Accomodation – Hotel Leonardo da Vinci Rating – four stars.
18 – 19 February 2012
Santiago – El Yeso – Waterloo
We were still tired when the alarm went off at 06:15, but we were downstairs with our luggage packed at 07:00.
Since we had the entire day in Santiago we had arranged before leaving Canada to bird with a local biologist, Rodrigo Silva. For $300 we would be picked up at the hotel, guided for a day and dropped off at the airport.
Rodrigo picked us up promptly and we were immediately struck by this pleasant young man. He had initially planned to take us to Farrelones but when we told him that we had missed the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover at El Yeso he agreed to switch destinations.
It was too early to have breakfast at the hotel so we stopped at a gas station where we were able to buy coffee and muffins.
As we drove through various small towns in the Greater Santiago area we saw Austral Thrush, Austral Blackbird, Chilean Mockingbird and Eared Dove. Moving into the foothills we spotted American Kestrel frequently. We stopped at an area that looked productive for birding, and indeed it was. We stayed there for quite while enjoying Grey-hooded Sierra Finches, White-browed Ground Tyrants, a juvenile Yellow-rumped Siskin preened on a rock in front of us and a Scaly-throated Earthcreeper probed for food. There were Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Rufous-banded Miners and the ever-present, highly engaging Rufous-collared Sparrows. It was a wonderful stop, sunny and bright with cool mountain air, and the high slopes of an Andean mountain pass as a backdrop.
We moved farther to look for what by now had been named the DSP. Initially, for about two hours we searched and searched in the same area as we had done with Roberto – and with the same results unfortunately.
Rodrigo had brought along tea, cookies and fruit and we shared them together before moving to a higher location actually inside the El Yeso Reserve. The custodians kindly permitted us to park outside the gate and walk in. Again we tromped all over bogs and seeps, ideal habitat to be sure, but could not locate a DSP. Then just as we were about to give up since we had to give some thought to getting to the airport, a Chimango Caracara landed and flushed a bird for us. It landed in some high sedge and Rodrigo flanked it to drive the bird towards us. In total he saw three individuals, two adults and a juvenile, but Miriam and I managed only the two adults but we had great looks, often quite close, for about a half hour. Needless to say we were elated and when we all reassembled together it was a high-five moment!
Counting the time we had spent with Roberto hunting for this bird, plus the time with Rodrigo we had invested about seven hours in the search so we felt well rewarded with our stellar views.
We stopped at the park gate and explained to the people there, who appeared to be part of the same family, how important the bird was and how we had come from Canada to see it. I gave everyone Canada flag pins and they requested that we all pose together for photographs. I reiterated our appreciation of the fact that they had permitted us to park outside and walk in.
Before leaving we also had clear, unimpeded looks at Ochre-naped Ground Tyrant, another lifer.
We left the area at about 15:00 and given the fact that it was the weekend it took us about an hour and a half just to get out of El Yeso Valley. Progress was then slow until we reached the airport expressway when we drove at highway speed to the terminal. We arrived at 17:50, bade a fond farewell to Rodrigo whom we had really come to like during the day we spent together and entered the terminal.
We went through security and stopped to get something to eat. Other than coffee and a muffin in the morning we had only had cookies and a nectarine which Rodrigo had brought along during the entire day. I had a steak sandwich and Miriam had avocado with shrimp.
When we got to our boarding lounge it was totally deserted and it was then we realized that our flight was at 21:45 not 19:45! Better early than late I guess.
We took off on time and had an uneventful flight to Toronto where were met by Karen and John.
We all went to Jack's for breakfast ,which was great as always, and then it was home to rest.
All species 18 February – American Kestrel, Southern Lapwing, Diademed (Sandpiper-)Plover, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Common Pigeon, Eared Dove, White-sided Hillstar, Rufous-banded Miner, Scaly-throated Earthcreeper, Bar-winged Cinclodes, Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Spot-billed Ground Tyrant, Ochre-naped Ground Tyrant, White-browed Ground Tyrant, Black-fronted Ground Tyrant, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Blue-and-white Swallow, Chilean Mockingbird, Austral Thrush, Yellow-rumped Siskin, Austral Blackbird, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Grey-hooded Sierra Finch, Greater Yellow Finch.
This was a fabulous trip which we thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish and we fell in love with Chile. It is a modern country with good infrastructure and helpful, friendly people. One may easily see why Chilean immigrants to Canada are economic migrants or perhaps have fled from earlier draconian regimes, but they will never have the influence of their native soil removed from their soul. As a branding iron sears the flesh, the land of Chile is forever tattooed into the very fibre of their being. It was a great privilege for us to visit this country and we were especially enamoured of the rugged areas of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, but every area we visited had its own special allure. Viva Chile!
From the time we first started to correspond with the office we were impressed with this company. All of our correspondence was answered promptly and efficiently. Every time we asked a question it was answered completely. Changes to our initial arrangements were handled cheerfully and well. All of the transfers were smooth and we always felt well served in Chile. Special thanks are due to Cecilia Faúndez who proved herself to be a true professional.
There are a couple of very minor issues, but it would be trivial and mean-spirited of me to go into them.
I have not the slightest hesitation in giving Fantastíco Sur my highest recommendation. I would travel with them again tomorrow.
Roberto Donoso – A hard-working guide who strove diligently to find the birds for us. We had some very long days – for us it was a birding vacation, for him it was work. He was flexible and modified the schedule to enable us to enhance our experience – the trip to the King Penguin colony being the most outstanding example of this.
Enrique Couve – Naturalist, birder, raconteur, bon vivant, humourist and a fierce Chilean patriot. It was an enormous pleasure to bird with Enrique for the day. We only wished that we could have spent more time with him. If ever we make the trip to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia I will make sure it is with him.
Rodrigo Silva – This young man (he is only twenty-six) has a great future ahead of him if ever he chooses to guide professionally. He is charming, knowledgeable, hard-working, eager to please and an all round agreeable person to be with. We were very lucky to have been put in touch with him.
In the months leading up to the trip we studied and researched the birds using every resource available to us, especially monographs of the species we hoped to see. I am always happy to have such a huge personal library when I am preparing for a trip.
Our field guide of choice was Birds of Chile by Alvaro Jaramillo. We found this to be absolutely first class and it gave us all the information we needed while in the field. The illustrations by Peter Burke and David Beadle were accurate and enabled quick identification. Furthermore the book is very portable.
I would say to birders heading for Chile, “If you take no other book, take this one and use it well.”
I have been an admirer and a supporter of the work done by Frank Gill, Minturn Wright et al from the very beginning of their quest to standardize the English nomenclature and taxonomy of the birds of the world and I converted my life list to reflect this. Any references in this report follow the IOC World Bird List 2011.
Contact David M. Gascoigne or Miriam Bauman, 519 725-0866, email: firstname.lastname@example.org