In February 2012 we made our first Bird Holidays tour to Chile here is a brief account of our journeys there accompanied by some splendid photographs taken by tour participant Cliff Buckton.
Before those, here is a short clip of a Magellanic Woodpecker we saw.
Feb 25th : The group arrived in Chile and drove to Banos Morales in the upper Maipo Valley. A day of complete contrasts as within a couple of hours we had travelled from the busy capital Santiago to the high Andean Valleys. Despite being weary we picnicked at Banos Morales and kick started the tour with some special birds such as Andean Condor, Torrent Duck, Black-winged Ground Dove, White-sided Hillstar and Moustached Turca.
Feb 26th: Today we drove high up to the El Yeso National Park to an elevation of 8,500-8,700 asl. Here high in the Andes lies one of the few accessible breeding locations of the Diademed Sandpiper Plover. We lucked in on the first area of suitable habitat we searched finding two pairs feeding close together. Andean Condors were in their element here to and we watched several soaring across the stupendous backdrop of high Andean peaks. Yellow-rumped Siskins came to drink at the melt water streams and the meadows were covered with the wheatear like ground-tyrants.
the breeding grounds of Diademed Sandpiper Plover
Grey breasted Seedsnipe
Feb 27th : Still in the El Yeso Valley we concentrated our searches in the lower reaches below the dam. Mountain Parakeets came to feed and drink around the waterfall and we had good views of Scale-throated Earthcreeper, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch and Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrants.
A A A speciality here is the endemic Crag Chilia and after some persistence we were treated to great views.
Feb 28th : Transfer day to Conguillio National Park and to get there we took a short flight to Temuco from Santiago. From here we drove east to the rustic La Baita Lodge in Conguillio National Park. The setting here was extremely atmospheric amongst the Notofagus forest on the edge of a landscape scarred with blackened lava flows and in the shadow of the towering Llaima Volcano. Birds calling from the adjacent forest included Rufous-legged Owl, Magellanic Woodpecker, Black-throated Huet Huet and of course the unmistakable sound of the Chucao Tapaculo.
Volcan Llaima 3125m
Feb 29th : On day two in the National park we walked the length of the Sendero Los Carpinteros ( “woodpecker trail”). Along the way we hugged a 1500 year old giant Araucaria tree it being a leap year and all that! We also bagged at least a dozen of those giants of the forest the Magellanic Woodpecker. We obtained prolonged views of a family group bashing their way up and down the trunks of the huge Southern Beech (Notofagus)
Other forest inhabitants included the diminutive Des Mur’s Wiretail, Chucao Tapaculo, Thorn-tailed Rayadito’s and White-throated Treerunners.
Thorn tailed Rayadito
March 1st: We covered a wider range of habitats in the park on day three which increased our species list. A flock of 170 Silvery Grebes graced a lake in the shadow of the snow covered Sierra Nevada range. Laguna Verde held small numbers of Flying Steamer-Ducks with young, Chiloe Wigeon, Speckled Teal and Yellow-billed Pintails. Chilean Pigeons proved to be an attractive species whilst noisy groups of the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet crashed through the forest. Meanwhile the clouds had lifted and the sun rose on the snow capped peak of Llaima Volcano.
a juvenile Chilean Hawk a secretive raptor of the forest canopy
March 2nd: From our mountain base we headed further south into the Chilean Lake District to Puyehue National Park. Despite the drizzle we finally nailed prolonged views of both Chucao Tapaculo and Black-throated Huet Huet. Our final destination that day was our hotel at Puerto Varas. That evening we enjoyed a scrumptious meal washed down with some good wine whilst our Chilean guide regaled us with entertaining tales.
March 3rd: Soon after leaving the hotel we were on the ferry bound for Chiloe Island. The straights here held Imperial Shags, South American Terns and Pink-footed Shearwaters. Once on the island we headed for Caulin Bay and as the tide dropped we enjoyed a spectacle of 2500 Hudsonian Godwits many already moulting into fine breeding plumage. Other smart looking waders included Two-banded Plovers and Rufous-chested Dotterels. Later we headed to a rain swept beach to look for penguins and we saw two species together, Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins, at an island colony.
Black-necked Swan and cygnet a familiar sight on Chiloe
March 4th: Due to the inclement weather our boat trip out of Quellon was cancelled. However we made the most of things and visited a nearby headland overlooking the Gulf of Corcovado. In front of our eyes a seabird spectacular was unveiled as some 15,000 Sooty Shearwaters circled offshore accompanied by Albatrosses and petrels. Seaweed was being gathered and dried by the local community for use by the cosmetic industry.
this fine juvenile Aplomado Falcon was a timely distraction.
March 5th: Another boat trip was planned for today, but this time inland on the Chepu River Reserve. The highlight was point blank views of Many coloured Rush Tyrants in the floating reed beds. We successfully searched the marshes near Ancud for Plumbeous Rail and Sedge Wren.
March 6th: With the winds abated the pelagic off Quellon was on! Our route between the offshore islands once visited by Charles Darwin proved to be a fascinating journey. We encountered two entertaining pods of Chilean Dolphins before visiting an offshore Sea Lion colony complete with attendant Dolphin Gulls. On the ferry crossing back to the mainland we were treated to some enthusiastic Peale’s Dolphins breaching in our wake. .
Peale's Dolphin Chilean Dolphin
March 7th: At the Anderce Andino National Park the sun shone as we walked a trail near the park HQ. The bamboo thickets here turned out to be full of calling Black-throated Huet Huets and we had Chucao Tapaculos literally hopping around at our feet. Deep in the ancient forests here we finally caught up with the elusive endemic Ochre-flanked Tapaculo here as well as having ace repeat views of Magellanic Tapaculo.
March 8th: A mid-morning flight brought the group back to Santiago to transfer to the coast at Vina del Mar for the last few days of the tour. On the way to the coast we stopped at a Hacienda full of owls. A Magellanic Horned Owl, roosted high in an eucalyptus grove whilst two Barn Owls roosted in a rickety old barn. To complete the hat trick we found an Austral Pygmy Owl in the nearby orchards!
At the coast we visited a “bird rock” which held an Inca Tern colony several Surfbirds, Blackish Oystercatchers and Chilean Seaside Cinclodes.
March 9th: The day dawned of the second pelagic this time into the Humboldt Current off Valparaiso. Once at sea we witnessed a seabird spectacle with four species of Albatross, three Pterodroma petrels, Peruvian Diving Petrels, Westland’s and White-chinned Petrels, Wilson’s Storm Petrels and Peruvian Boobies. In the afternoon we visited the sun kissed bay at Cachagua for more penguins and pelicans.
March 10th: The sea was cold, to cold even to paddle in, and a sea fret hung low over the coast. But to dispel the gloom the Maipo Estuary was covered with thousands of birds pelicans, gulls, terns, skimmers and shorebirds. A fantastic spectacle to witness at the end of our tour.
more images of Chile 2011/2012
Cascada des Animas
El Yeso and the upper Maipo Valley home to the Diademed Sandpiper Plover, Mountain Parakeets, Black-winged Ground Dove
click here for details of our next tour to this destination