Click here to go to TB home page

CHILE:
The Atacama to Tierra del Fuego


1 - 16 November 2008

Diademed Sandpiper-plover, El Yeso/Sam Woods
DIADEMED SANDPIPER-PLOVER
El Yeso
This enigmatic, Andean shorebird has recently been 'demoted', and re-named simply
as Diademed Plover. For many though, I am sure it will always remain 'DSP'


Leaders: Nick Athanas and Sam Woods

Report written by Sam Woods

All photos by Sam Woods unless stated otherwise

When you first glance at Chile's bird list (just over 470 species), it would be easy to think that it does not have much to offer, compared to other more diverse South American countries. However, what Chile may lack in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. This is not only in the high class birds themselves, but also in a diverse country with some of the most spectacular settings on Earth to do your birding in. We saw much of this first hand on this short custom tour. Chile is a long, thin country, stretching over 4,000 miles from north to south. The tour took the form of three distinct stages, covering the three main regions of Chile, (by way of Chile's well-developed domestic air services, and the odd 'few' hours on the road), that are well defined in terms of the birds that are found there. We began in Central Chile, where the inevitable focus was the Chilean endemics, and the smart set of tapaculos that dwell in the nathofagus forests there; from there we headed down south into the heart of Patagonia, covering the windswept steppes and grasslands, and also visited the fabled Tierra del Fuego at the 'end of the world'. Lastly, we ventured into the extreme north, birding close to both the Pervian and Bolivian borders. In this section we first found ourselves birding lush green oases valleys within the hot, dry Atacama desert. We finished by passing through some of the most barren, desolate looking habitat in order to climb up to our highest point of the tour (around 4,600m), where we experienced some classic high Andean birding on the open altiplano, in the shadow of the snow-capped Paranacota volcanic cone, surrounded by grazing vicunas.

Highlights on this varied birding tour included some 'tasty' tapaculos in Central Chile, including the giant Black-throated & Chestnut-throated Huets-huets, and the elusive White-throated Tapaculo in the chapparal of La Campana NP. All the Chilean endemics, including a showy Chilean Tinamou that walked out on the road beside us, and several noisy flocks of 'well-endowed' Slender-billed Parakeets.
However, the real showstopper in Central Chile came on our day trip into the Andes from Santiago, when we not only came across our main target for the whole tour - Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, but were treated to outstanding views of a family of them along a quiet Andean stream, that comprised of two newly fledged chicks running along the shore. The beautiful Andean setting, the exquisite shorebird itself, and the outstanding views were impossible to beat, and were considered the overall trip highlight.

In the far south, the grassy plains were just as windy as expected, although the birds did not seem to mind, and we found some really cool shorebirds, including five handsome Rufous-chested Dotterels, along with ten superb Tawny-throated Dotterels in the same Patagonian reserve. Three 'Magic' Plovers (Magellanic Plovers), were also watched feeding in their characteristic spinning way along the shoreline of a large salt-encrusted lagoon in the 'land of fire', Tierra del Fuego. A rare close-up sighting of a pair of Austral Rails in the mighty Torres del Paine NP was especially noteworthy, as it is a scarce bird with notoriously shy and retiring habits. The assortment of ducks and wildfowl on this tour is also one big appeal, with the beautiful sheldgeese in Patagonia providing some memorable moments. We encountered the rare Ruddy-headed Goose on three occasions on Tierra del Fuego, and the butch Andean Geese of the Altiplano in the northern Chilean Andes were also quite a sight in this magnificent volcanic setting. Another star waterbird was pulled out during a final few hours birding in central Chile, when a pair of Black-headed Ducks were found a short time before out final departure. Not particularly colorful, although a bird with a unique life history, being the only parasitic duck in the world.

In the north, one Oasis Valley provided some price views of a pair of the scarce Tamarugo Conebill, before we made our ascent into northern Chile's high Andes. Some of the most spectacular scenes of the tour were played out there. Herds of roaming wild Vicunas could be seen grazing across the Andean plains, with the impressive snow-capped volcanoe of Parinacota looming large in the background, this spectacular landscape being dotted with lakes and pools that played host to vast numbers of Giant Coots, Andean Geese, a few Puna Plovers and Gray-breasted Seedsnipes, while flamingos feeding on the salty edges brought a splash of color to this magical Andean scene. Bird wise the puna and altiplano there brought us some very special mountain birds, with sightings of a pair of Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes, along with a few Andean Avocets feeding around the flamingo-fringed pools.

Day 1: Santiago to La Campana NP (Central Chile)
Having moved through the airport with alarming efficiency we were soon on the road heading northwest towards the coastal mountain ranges, and Parque Nacional La Campana. Along the way a short lagoon stop was in order to begin sampling our first Chilean waterbirds, with a couple of cool passerines thrown in too. The reedy fringes of this small marsh held one of the most colorful passerines on the tour. Tyrant-flycatchers, the world's largest and often most confusing bird family, rarely set pulses racing. However, the Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, a tyrant flycatcher with an audacious spash of colors is one very clear exception, a pair of which graced us at Lampa. In general the water levels were low and the numbers of birds down on what we'd hoped, although we did see some of our first Chilean birds, including Chilean Swallow, Wren-like Rushbird, Chiloe Wigeons, Red-gartered Coots and a lucky sighting of a Stripe-backed Bittern that perched out on the edge of the reeds despite it being in the heat of the day. We then continued our journey to La Campana, an area of Chapparal and Oak woodland close to the coastal town of Vina del Mar, just 100km or so from Santiago. Just before we checked into our town hotel, before visiting the park, a roadside wire caught our attention, as a rich red-breasted male Rufous-tailed Plantcutter was found to be perched out in the open within this notably urban setting. La Campana is one of the key sites in Central Chile as it holds many of the endemics of the region. Sad to say though, despite hearing a few of them, most remained hidden during this slow afternoon, although our efforts were compensated for by the endemic Dusky-tailed Canastero. However, it was not until after dark that we were really rewarded for our persistence, when an impressive Rufous-legged Owl came in and glared angrily back at us. Thankfully Nick was on hand to fire off a bunch of shots of this powerful owl...

Day 2: La Campana NP (Central Chile)
With a bunch of endemics and cool local specialties bekoning we returned to La Campana, searching the Chaparal in particular for one of Chile's most skulking tapaculos. At first we were frustrated when a White-throated Tapaculo (listen to the song of the tapaculo) just showed briefly to one of us, although checking another area of the park brought the reward we desired - a full on view of this striking endemic calling back to us from some low scrub. Ironically our first Chilean tapaculo of the tour, also was arguably the most shy of the bunch and so a good one to kick start us. Of course once we had broken the duck the next tapaculo fell shortly after, when a pair of Moustached Turcas popped up in some low scrub further along the track. Seeing as we had been 'serenaded' by them throughout the morning this was a little overdue! Other additions in the chaparal and scrublands there included several flocks of Chilean Pigeons, our first of many, many endemic Chilean Mockingbirds, a single Striped Woodpecker, and a number of tree-hugging Thorn-tailed Ryaditos. We then dropped in on some coastal spots, picking up another endemic, Chilean Seaside Cinclodes. While watching this localized ovenbird, a large flock of sharply-dressed Inca Terns hung in the wind over the ocean, several Humboldt Penguins bobbed in and out of the waves in the warm currents just offshore, and Red-legged and Guanay Comorants, Gray Gulls and Peruvian Pellicans were perched on the rocky outcrops along the coastline.

Crag Chilia, El Yeso/Nick Athanas
CRAG CHILIA El Yeso (Nick Athanas)

Day 3: Embalse El Yeso (Central Chile)
This was a truly big day on the tour as we headed up into the Andes for the star bird of the tour - the enigmatic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. Before we get to that though, we had some birding to do on our way up. Chile abounds with Ground-Tyrants and this day illustrated this well as we picked up a number of these confusing, ground-dwelling flycatchers as we made our way up into the Andes. First off a Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant was found, quickly followed by a White-browed Ground-Tyrant. Once we reached some desolate montane rocky slopes we our first of the localized Black-fronted Ground-Tyrants, and lastly once we reached the high points we found the unusually distinctive Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant! On our way up the dusty mountain road we checked amongst the boulders for the another endemic furnariid, finding a Crag Chilia hopping amongst the rocks and even climbing up the roadside shrubs to sing to us, and a couple of more boulder-hopping Moustached Turcas were not to be scoffed at either, in addition to our first Lesser Canastero and Greater Yellow-finches of the trip. Once we got up to the reservoir we focused our minds on the streams and bogs on the edge of the reservoir. Pretty soon after getting out of the car we found a pair of Gray-breasted Seedsnipes shuffling in the dirt, and then the shout went up from Nick "DSP!", and everything else was forgotten in the frenzy to get our number one tour target. The panic seemed all a little futile when 30 minutes later we were still watching a pair of dandy Diademed Sandpiper-Plovers running along the gravel edge of a small Andean stream, with a couple of fluffy pied chicks in toe. This bird with its strange, long, and ever so slightly drooping bill is hard to pick as a plover, although apparently thats what it is! We then drove south to get ourselves in position for our first forray into the southern beech forests, and begin hunting for yet another cool Chilean tapaculo...

Day 4: Reserva Nacional Altos del Lircay (Central Chile)
Today we made our first forray into the Nothofagus forest zone. As we walked up the main track we could hear two of our main quarries - a brace of the 'mega tapaculos' that occur in this fascinating region. The Chucao Tapaculo would have to wait for another day though, as it always remained distant and out of reach. Walking up the dirt track we could hear the loud 'pooping' of the worlds largest tapaculo - the Chestnut-throated Huet-huet (listen to the huet-huet's song), and just a short way up the trail it caught us unawares as it dropped down into deep cover from a roadside song perch. We tried to lure it out again, although only received the most fleeting of glimpses. So we tried another territory and this time, in between the characteristic calls, we could hear the bird noisily scratching around
with its large feet in the dry leaf litter that drew us right to it. This individual brought us some really 'prize-wining' views as it called and searched for food, almost in the manner of the Australian Logrunners, by using its huge feet to dig into the dirt. Not long after we walked this quiet trail and heard the loud distinctive double bang of Chile's most impressive woodpecker. A little use of playback and this massive Magellanic Woodpecker swooped in and landed on a near snag. The bird was a fantastic male, sporting a rich crimson-red topknot, and powerful bill. Not long after we left this huge 'pecker in peace we ran into several pairs of the White-throated Treerunner (listen to the treerunner's calls) climbing up the beech trunks in the manner of the Old World Nuthathes, leading us to remark that perhaps it would be best known as Neotropical Nuthatch! With this slim set of forest targets in the beech woods reached (more or less), we decided to check out the river banks and agricutural land close by for a distinctive, localized parrot. Not much was found in the area initially, aside from our first of many, many Black-faced Ibis feeding in the fields, a chestnut-and-ebony Austral Negrito perched on a fence post, and then finally a flock of Burrowing Parrots dropped into the newly ploughed fields. With their bright yellow bellies, splashed with crimson and bright blue wing patch, these are very handsome and distinctive parrots. The remainder of the day was spent making our way south into the northern part of Southern Chile to be in position for another unique patch of forest within the cordillera de costa.

Day 5: Nahuelbuta NP (Southern Chile)
Walking in these atmospheric Valdivian forests was definately one of the tour highlights. The trees in this amazing park are an interesting and striking mixture of southern beech (nothofagus) and huge, spiky Monkey Puzzles (araucaria), interspersed with thickets of chusquea bamboo. Draped from much of the trees is a swathe of delicate pale greyish lichen, giving the forest here an almost Tolkienesque feel. However, before we reached this fascinating Patagonian forest zone we stopped on the outskirts of the park and viewed some scrubby hillsides and fields. Soon enough we heard the endemic Chilean Tinamou calling from somewhere close by, although getting a look at a Tinamou is always challenging. We waited and chased down several calls, before finally one relented and came trotting into a recording, giving us superb, out-in-the-open looks, even crossing the open dirt road we were standing on on one occasion. As we drove into the park we listened for the distinctive calls of tapaculos coming from the roadside bamboo thickets. We heard a few, although our first successful stop was for another distinctive Patagonian endemic. The calls of the elusive Des Murs's Wiretail could be heard emanating from a thick bamboo stand, and with a little playback we managed to lure this unique spinetail into view, when we could see its most distinctive feature well - the extremely long, wirey tail. The same bamboo thicket proved a boon for us as soon after a Chucao Tapaculo or two started calling from within it, and despite the bird initially sneaking past us by using a drain pipe that led under the road, we soon tracked a pair of them down, and got magnificent views of Chile's most colorful tapaculo, as it hopped around beneath the bamboo and perched up in the chusquea thickets to call back to us. We then entered the forest for real, marveling at the huge araucarias trees looming overhead and the surrounding lichen-cloaked beech trees, a really magical place to be. We were now on the hunt for another large, striking tapaculo, that Chile has an unusual abundance of. Before we got on the trail of that though we began by stirring up a group of passerines with a pygmy-owl tape, only for the Austral Pygmy-Owl (listen to the owl) to come in and perch out on the top of a nearby Monkey Puzzle, and a couple of Austral Parakeets flashed overhead. As we chased after our first calling Black-throated Huet-huet (listen to alarm calls of the huet-huet) , another giant, large-footed Chilean tapaculo, we ran into a small party of calling Patagonian Tyrants, one of strangely few tyrant-flycatchers in this South American country. Our first attempts at luring out a huet-huet were frustrated as the bird kept to deep cover, and our first encounter caught us completely by surprise when we were walking through a realy open scrubby/forest border zone when one was seen to drop down from high in the shrubbery, that then could not be lured back up again, frustrating us by calling back to us from impenetrable dense cover once again. Thankfully, a short time later another more helpful individual put us out of our misery, after we hit the trail of another close-calling bird. On this occasion, this massive tapaculo circled us and popped up on some fallen logs, that gave us a real eyeful of this strange and bizarre Chilean tapaculo. Our work was done for the day then, so we continued our journey southwards, (picking up our first Dark-bellied Cinclodes by a small river on the way down), to Osorno where we overnighted, ready for some further 'tapaculo tracking' the next day.

Day 6: Puyehue NP to Isla Grande de Chiloe (Southern Chile)
The well-named Lake District is known for being one of the wetter areas of Chile, and unfortunately we experienced some of this first-hand over the next few days, when our birding was sometimes thwarted by heavy rains. Luckily though, at the start of the day, when we were really in hot pursuit of some special target birds we just suffered from the threat of rain, rather than the real thing. As we made our way towards Puyehue NP from Osorno we noticed a large bank full of vibrant vermillion-red flowers along the roadside, and more to the point, a bunch of parrots noisily gathering around them. We swung the car around rapidly, parked up and went back to check on them. Sure enough, as we had hoped, we were faced with a large noisy flock of Slender-billed Parakeets, using their outsized bills to plunder the blooms. This is a highly-localized Chilean endemic, that was one of our top motivations for visiting this park.
We then focused on our final tapaculo species for the tour - the bamboo-loving Ochre-flanked Tapaculo, that up until then had been completely absent from all our searches. Huge banks of bamboo exist within this park, so there is tons of habitat for the bird. However, several known spots received no reply, until walking into a particular roadside bamboo thicket brought a soft reply, just as we were contemplating leaving and trying another spot. This stout-billed tapaculo was then tempted up into the bamboo canopy where we finally got some great looks at its strange bill shape, and rich, rusty flanks. In the afternoon with rain being a little limiting for further exploration of the park, we headed out to the attractive Chiloe Island, getting a 'mini-pelagic' on the way out there, by way of the cross-channel car ferry. Mid channel the birds came thick and fast - several Magellanic Diving-Petrels were disturbed off the surface of the water and fluttered past the ferry, revealing their diagnostic white collar in the process. Several Pink-footed Shearwaters cruised alongside the boat, and a few Magellanic Penguins dived in and out of the Chacao Canal.

Day 7: Isla Grande de Chiloe (Southern Chile)
A blustery, showery, and downright awful day greeted us on Chiloe, so we had to limit our birding between bouts of these challenging weather conditions. Rufous-tailed Plantcutters were found on some roadside shrubbery, while down on the coast a ghostly white male Kelp Goose sheltered from the strong winds. As we watched him for a while a female that had been hidden behind a large tussock of grass revealed herself and was seen to have a small pale gray chick with her too. On the jagged rocks, that were being buffeted by high winds and crashing waves a lone Blackish Oystercatcher beavered away, seemingly unperturbed by these harsh conditions. Just offshore a few Peruvian Boobies plunged into the icy waters. Along another area of coastline small numers of majestic Black-browed Albatrosses were seen from the shore and a number of juvenile giant petrels, that allowed us such excellent views that we could ascertain that Southern and Northern Giant Petrels were both present. We enjoyed a lunch in this area, where these huge dark ocean wanderers were sometimes even visible from the restaurant window. Checking the coastlines we found a number of Flightless Steamerducks, including a large group of 30 birds in one sheltered bay. These huge ducks were seen flapping their stunted wings, revealing their inability to fly in the process. They were also observed 'steaming' on occasion, where they flap their wings and churn up the water as they scuttled along the surface of the sea, a behaviour that led early sailors to name them steamerducks, as it reminded them of the steamboats of the time. Our journey down to the south of the island also saw us run into more groups of Slender-billed Parakeets, that to birders maybe a key endemic and very localized bird, although are considered a serious agricultural pest to farmers on Chiloe.
A stop in a sheltered area produced a great view of another Des Murs's Wiretail, that sadly was not sporting its distinctive tail, so just looked like a rusty feathered ball! We also found our first striking Spectacled Duck on a roadside pool, before we had to finally head back to mainland Chile, and the town of Puerto Montt in readiness for the next days flight to the far south of Patagonia. The ferry back again producing Magellanic Penguins diving into the icy waters, while the Chacao Canal seemed to be packed with Sooty Shearwaters with a few Pink-footed Shearwaters, and Wilson's Storm-Petrels thrown in, as well as a few further Magellanic Diving-Petrels.We then overnighted in Puerto Montt, seeing another Southern Giant Petrel cruising the bay outside our plush hotel window in the afternoon.

Rufous-chested Dotterel, Pali Aike NP/Sam Woods
RUFOUS-CHESTED DOTTEREL Pali Aike NP

Day 8: Punta Arenas to Pali Aike NP (Southern Chile)
On arrival in Punta Arenas we were greeted by strong gusts of Patagonian wind, a regular and much expected feature of the open grassy steppes there. As we made our journey eastwards we began to see our first of the smart sheldgeese of the tour, with many roadside Magellan (Upland) Geese dotting the pools and open fields along the way. Out in the bay, a brutish Chilean Skua glided along the coastline menacingly. The geese were not the only regular roadside animal though as many chunky Guanacos (a large powerfully built camel species) roamed the open grasslands and moorlands alongside the road once we had reached the vicinity of the park, and many Lesser Rheas paraded over the Patagonian plains. Other new finds for us included our first of many Red Shovelers in Patagonia, a few Coscoroba Swans (not really a true swan at all), and a few Two-banded Plovers brightened up the roadside pools. The real prizes of the afternoon though came along the road into Pali Aike NP. We scoured the roadside pools where some brilliant bright golden-yellow flashes drew our attention to several Canary-winged Finches, that were only upstaged by our first pair of Rufous-chested Dotterels hiding in the rusty heather there. A beautiful shorebird that we saw several times during the afternoon, (and then never again), by the end of the day having chalked up five of them.

Coscoroba Swan, Tierra del Fuego/Sam Woods
COSCOROBA SWAN Tierra del Fuego

Day 9: Pali Aike NP to Tierra del Fuego (Southern Chile)
Much of the day was spent driving along quiet Patagonian roads checking the open moorlands, lake and pools for any species we needed. Near the start of the day we ventured onto the windswept plains and found a streaky-backed Austral Canastero calling from the top of a small shrub. Many Common Miners fed along the roadside, and a single Scale-throated Earthcreeper was found feeding on the plains, that made up for us missing it in El Yeso earlier on the trip in Central Chile. We also picked up our first Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrants of the trip, with double figures of these racked up by the end of the day. A small wetland was not exactly packed with birds, although did hold some new waterbirds for us, including several striking Silver Teals, and a lovely pair of Rosy-billed Pochards. A short walk out onto the windy plains paid off big time when a pair of Least Seedsnipe scuttled along the ground in front of us affording some superb views. On the return walk, almost the same spot produced again, when a flock of Tawny-throated Dotterels flew in and alighted next to us. Unfortunately, this nervous party were a little jumpy and did not allow us the views we craved. Our dissappointment though was very shortlived because within half an hour Nick had located a second group of four birds, that allowed very close approach in the car when their rich tawy throats and black belly patches could be appreciated to the full. We also found a further few Chocolate-vented Tyrants feeding out on the open Patagonian plains. Late in the day we took the ferry across the Magellan Straits to the fabled 'land of fire', Tierra del Fuego. While waiting for the ferry we noticed an 'odd' gull on the beach, that turned out to be the first Dolphin Gull of the trip, this one a black-hooded first year bird. The ferry over produced a few seabirds, including Southern Giant Petrels, several Black-browed Albatrosses, more Magellanic Diving-Petrels, and many Imperial and Rock Shags. Our late arrival on Tierra del Fuego left us little time but to get to our hotel and rest up for our important morning on the fabled island the next day.



Lesser Rhea, Patagonia/Nick Athanas
LESSER RHEA
Patagonia (Nick Athanas)



Day 10: Tierra del Fuego to Puerto Natales (Southern Chile)
We began our day on the legendary archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, so named as the land of fire by the first European explorer to cross the straits, the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan, who observed the fires of the local fuegan Indians from the sea, and believed they were being lit to ambush them. In reality these fires were lit by the Yamana Indians in southern Tierra del Fuego to ward off the harsh temperatures. A short time after leaving our hotel a roadside stop on the Patagonian steppes prouced our first new bird of the day, several Short-billed Miners, here on Tierra being far more common than on the mainland. In addition to the usual Magellan (Upland) Geese that regularly sprinkled along the roadside we began seeing some other notable new sheldgeese. A lone pair of Ruddy-headed Geese were found not longer after, and then a small flock of Ashy-headed Geese was seen to hold another of these geuinely scarce geese. The Ruddy-headed Goose has been undergoing a rapid decline on the mainland and Tierra del Fuego where the population now only numbers in the low hundreds, the only really strong population now existing on the far off Falkland Islands. By the end of the morning our three sightings of this rare goose, involved three separate pairs, one of which was hanging out with the Ashy-headed Geese in the area. It was then full steam ahead some large saline lagoons on the northwestern side of Tierra del Fuego for our main target on this most southerly of archipelagos. With the wind rushing across the Patagonian plains we left the vehicle and walked out to the edge of the salt-encrusted lake, several Chilean Skuas hawking overhead on several occasions. The lake itself was loaded with waterbirds, especially swans, with over 130 Coscoroba Swans sprinkled across this huge lagoon. From the edge of the road we had brief tantalizing looks at our main target, the distinctly dove-like Magellanic Plover, that had us rushing down there to get better looks. There on the edge of the shore this delightful shorebird allowed us to walk right up to them as three of these unique waders fed at close range, sometimes spinning around in circles in a distinctly phalarope-like feeding motion. This 'plover' is actually morphologically distinct from plovers, and sits within its own monotypic family. The harsh windswept saline environment, and its unique taxonomic position make this a very enigmatic species, and one of the undoubted top birds in Chile. We then made our way back to the mainland again, stopping for a 'fenced' Aplomado Falcon on the way, and then ventured further north to the town of Puerto Natales, our base for our short exploration of the Torres del Paine area the next day.

Ashy-headed Goose, Tierra del Fuego/Sam Woods
ASHY-HEADED GOOSE
Tierra del Fuego

 

Day 11: Sierra Baguales and Torres del Paine NP (Southern Chile)
A very early start was required to get us up to the Argentine border in the Sierra Baguales. However, before we reached there we made a stop or two in some scrubby areas enroute where several Patagonian Mockingbirds were seen singing from the tops of shrubs and hopping around on the ground below them. This turned out to be an impressive day for raptors, most notably for the grandest of them all, Andean Condor, that with a wingspan of over 3m, is the largest raptor on Earth. These majestic white-ruffed vultures were out in force with our day count racking up at least 25 different birds. Once we reached the Sierra Baguales we headed off into the hills to try and find an elusive and scarce raptor that sometimes perches on the isolated cliffs in the area. Our searches drew a complete blank in difficult conditions as snow gently began to fall around us with huge towering peaks looming over us. Impressive weather in a very impressive scene. While all this was going on a few South American Snipes began whinnying in display overhead, adding to the wonder of the setting. With no sign of our quarry, we headed back to the car, and as we descended a Correndera Pipit displayed overhead, and finally a pair of White-throated Caracaras decided to grace us with their presence, by dropping down onto a near cliff face. We scrambled for our 'scopes, only for the birds to up sticks and leave before we had got an eyeful! Frustrating. We made our way down further, picking up a Cordilleran Canastero hopping, tail cocked, along the edge of a rock face. Down at the base of the hill near the car, the rare Yellow-bridled Finch was found feeding in an alpine meadow. Then one of those great birding moments occurred. As we drove away, having walked up and down steep slopes in pursuit of the caracara, we were peaved to leave with just those briefest of looks. As this was swirling around in our minds, we had to double take as right there on the road in front of the vehicle was a pied White-throated Caracara gruesomely gorging on a severed sheeps head! Aside from the head, this was the view we wanted so badly. Funny sometimes how things turn out! We then enjoyed several hours birding in the mighty Torres del Paine NP, one of the most spectacular South American national parks. We were essentially after one very special bird there, although it is such a tricky bird to see, our hopes were not high as many, many people leave empty-handed. All the same we just had to give it a shot, so we aligned oursleves alongside the lake shore overlooking a huge patch of dense reeds and played the call of Austral Rail, and almost immediately got a reply from several birds very close to us. However, as we knew only too well, this was only half the battle. Now we had found where they were, we searched for a likely spot to actually be able to see them in, and shockingly found just such an area - an open channel cutting right through the reeds we had heard them in. We played several different calls back at them, and amazingly were gifted with 4 diferent views of the birds. First a couple of brief looks as the birds scrambled across the narrow channel at high speed, and then two lingering looks as one of the birds slowly walked across an opening and then a second bird swam out in the open channel between the reeds showing off his bright carrot-red bill in the process and boldly marked flanks, brilliant! We blessed our good fortune, added a couple of Andean Ruddy Ducks and the distinctive 'Patagonian' Silvery Grebe, before we sadly had to leave the park behind and head back to Punta Arenas in preparation for our journey to the north of Chile the following day.


Guanacos, Patagonia/Nick Athanas
GUANACOS
Patagonia (Nick Athanas)

Day 12: Punta Arenas to Arica (Southern Chile to Northern Chile)
We had just a mornings birding left before we had to take adavantage of Chile's well-developed domestic flight services again, this time making the long journey to Arica, close to the Peruvian border. We therefore decided to bird the road south from the city of Punta Arenas towards Fuerte Bulnes. This scenic road hugs the coastline, and therefore brought us a number of good coastal birds. In one area we saw 5 ivory-white male Kelp Geese, one group also having a scaly black female in tow too. A number of steamerducks were along the shore, both the strictly marine Flightless Steamerduck, and the less fussy Flying Steamerduck sharing these coastal waters. A couple of Blackish Oystercatchers were seen hammering away at the boulders along the coast, and also a few seabirds were watched moving offshore. These included our only Southern Fulmars of the trip, around 15 Black-browed Abatrosses, and several more Chilean Skuas. On one beach we also found our first full adult Dolphin Gull with its subtle gray hood, feeding next to a black-hooded immature bird, and the fields along the way produced our final Ashy-headed Geese for the trip. We then had to leave these windswept Patagonian grasslands and rocky shores behind, as we headed north for our venture into the Oases Valleys of the Atacama Desert, and the spectacular volcanic setting of the Altiplano of the high Andes.

Flightless Steamerduck/Sam Woods
FLIGHTLESS STEAMERDUCK South of Punta Arenas

Day 13: Azapa Valley to Putre (Northern Chile)
This was another day where you could appreciate the extremely diverse habitats and environments within this long Andean country. We opened in a sparsely vegetated Oasis Valley south of Arica. The large valley sides were bone dry and almost devoid of vegetation, telltale signs of our location within the Atacama Desert. However, the valley bottom was dotted with greenery in stark contrast to the dusty colorless hillsides. We were here as these patches of vegetion and greenery are vital areas for life to cling on, some of which can actually be abubdant within these fragments of habitat. The steely gray Slender-billed Finch was one such bird which we found both south of Arica and also to be abundant within the Azapa Valley as well. We were south of Arica though, for one highly-localized species-the red-faced Tamarugo Conebill (listen to the song of the conebill) , that took a little finding until a pair finally came in close and put us out of our misery, giving repeated good views in the end! We then visited a haven for hummingbirds in the Azapa Valley, making a brief stop for a couple of beady-eyed Peruvian Thick-knees sitting it out in the heat of the day-they are largely nocturnal. In the hummingbird garden Oasis Hummingbirds predominated, whizzing all around the gardens. However, a few Peruvian Sheartails got a look in too, including a long tailed male.

Our time in these lush valleys was up though and we now had to move on to the pre-puna shrub zone around the Andean village of Putre, not too far from the Peruvian border. Once we had reached the lofty elevations of Putre (around 3,500m) the new birds came in thick and fast, as we birded this Andean zone for the first time. As we ascended out of the lush green valley we meade our way through parched dry desert scapes with little birdlife apart from a few Straight-billed Earthcreepers. Soon enough though we emerged out from this desert zone into the pre-puna shrub zone, where vegetation replaced the bare rocky and sandy slopes previously encountered. With this notable change in habitat came a suite of new birds. A Dark-winged Canastero was found in a narrow vegetated gully just off the highway, where we also found our first Black-hooded Sierra-finches, Greenish Yellow-finches, Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant, and Streaked Tit-spinetails, in addition to many Mourning Sierra-finches . Once we got around Putre itself we picked up a recently arrived species to Chile-Spot-winged Pigeon hanging out on the wires in town, before we dropped down into another shrub-laden valley that brought us many new birds - the local White-throated Earthcreeper, Black-throated Flowerpiercers, Blue-and-Yellow Tanagers, Band-tailed Seedeaters, many Andean Hillstars and Bare-faced Ground-doves, and our sixth and final Chilean canastero, Canyon Canastero. As we made our way to the hotel we picked out the pied form of a Mountain Caracara standing in the dry rocky country by the roadside.

Andean Goose, Lauca NP/Sam Woods
ANDEAN GOOSE Parque Nacional Lauca

Day 14: Lauca NP (Northern Chile)
This was a truly spectacular day on the tour, as we ventured high into the Andes reaching lofty elevations (4,600m), that brought us some cool new mountain birds, all within the amazing setting of the Altiplano of Lauca. At Lauca you can bird the lakes, ponds and plains with the towering snow-capped peak of Volcan Parinacota looming large in the background, while herds of Vicunas are grazing on the surrounding Andean puna. A truly magical, classic Andean scene. Soon after we entered his impressive park we stopped at our first bofedale bog. Hopping around on the bright green cushion plants were several Giant Ground-Tyrants, a Puna Ground-Tyrant, several White-winged Diuca-Finches, and best of all, a pair of the localized White-throated Sierra-finch. In the middle of the bog a pair of Andean Geese, our final sheldgoose of the trip, gleamed in the early morning sun. Further along the road another stop revealed the first of many sightings of Gray-breasted Seedsnipe for that day (over 12 birds were seen), and our first Andean Flicker was foun tanding in the middle of a bofedale bog. Dropping in on another small bog up the road we watched and admired the extremely tame Giant Coots loafing around their nesting mounds, many 'Andean' Silvery Grebes dived in the still waters, while Puna Teals, and Puna Ibis were also on the edge of the same, small bog. Overhead a small party of Andean Swallows hawked on the wing. Walking out into the Altiplano we were soon walking amongst the many domesticated Alpacas in the park, that shared the same plain with wild vicunas. The lakes and pools that dotted the landscape all held flamingos although unfortunately seemingly only Chilean Flamingos at the time, along with around nine Andean Avocets, several Puna Plovers, and on the edge of one pool, a small party of Bright-rumped Yellow-finches. Walking into drier scrubby puna saw us running into many Puna Miners and a couple of Golden-spotted Ground-doves. Around the edge of the bog several Andean Negritos fed amongst the vivid green cushion plants, and a number of Andean Gulls were also found around these high Andean marshes. A final stop on the way back oour hotel finally saw us run into three or more White-winged Cinclodes feeding alongside a clear Andean stream, that were vastly outnumbered in the altiplano in Lauca by the extremely similar cream-winged form of Bar-winged Cinclodes that were commonly encountered in the park. One of the last additions to the list that day was also one of the most dapper finds, a pair of black and gold Black Siskins.

Giant Coot, Lauca NP/Sam Woods
GIANT COOT Parque Nacional Lauca

Day 15: Lauca NP to Santiago (Northern Chile)
Our final full day in Chile was spent again in the high Andes, where we revisited some sites and also checked out some new areas. Another bog walk produced more Gray-breasted Seedsnipes, and a pair of Andean Lapwings, although more pleasing was a pair of ptarmigan-like Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes. More Black Siskins thrilled around the bog edge, that also held more White-throated Sierra-finches. We then ventured down to an isolated polylepis forest patch near the town of Belen. Here we were after a number of specialists to this distinctive flaky red-barked tree, that is highly localized an threatened throughout its whole Andean range, as it a rare source of firewood in these tree-depauparate areas. The polylepis was hot and dry when we got there in the heat of the day, and not the best time. However, we did find two of our polylepis targets with ease, three or more D'Orbigny's Chat-tyrants noisily answering their calls in the area, and a small inconspicuous party of Thick-billed Siskins were found quietly feeding in the polylepis, while on the way back from there we found our only White-browed Chat-tyrant of the trip. We then hd o force oursleves away and return to Arica for our Santiago bound flight. On the journey once again we dropped down from the altiplano of Lauca into the Lluta Valley, where the scenery changed from open grassy puna to shrubland in the pre-puna zone to open barren desertscape lower down. The desert areas appear devoid of life at times, with barely a leaf in sight, however it is in just such environments that a scarce ovenbird manages to eake out a living that had eluded us on all our previous searches but finally gave up the ghost on the way down we found the pallid form of a Grayish Miner perched up on a dry sandy bluff devoid of vegetation.

Vicuna, Lauca NP/Sam Woods
VICUNA Parque Nacional Lauca

Day 16: Lleyda Wetlands and departure (Central Chile)
With our flight not due out until the afternoon there was just enough time to sneak in some final birding around some Central Chilean wetlands for some missing waterbirds. This paid off handsomely when just after arrival virtually the first bird that our 'scopes fell on was a male Black-headed Duck. This scarce and localized species is not especialy a 'looker' although has such a biarre life history that it is enigmatic and highly prized among listers. This is the only duck in the world that does not construct its own nest, rather laying its eggs in the nests of other ducks. Once the young hatch they then drop out of the nest and fend for themselves. A parasitic duck - very strange indeed. Also on the same large lagoon were a number of Lake Ducks, Cinnamon Teals, Red Shovelers, and a Black Skimmer loafing along the shore. On another near lake some emergent vegetation held our final list addition before we had to return to Santiago for the final time, a Spot-flanked Gallinule that was preening on its banks.

This short tour sure crammed in a lot into a short space of time, visiting the high Andes and Oases Valleys of the extreme north to the open Patagonian Steppes and grasslands of the extreme south, including Tierra del Fuego itself. This aided us in seeing some great birds, from the amazing outsized Tapaculos in Central Chile, that included the tough White-throated Tapaculo, the chestnut-throated Chucao Tapaculo, the boulder-hopping Moustached Turca, and the two giant huet-huets-Chestnut-throated Huet-huet and Black-throated Huet-huet; to the impressive Magellanic Woodpecker, surely one of the finest 'carpenters' on the planet; to an extraordinary set of shorebirds. Indeed these were some of the very best birds of the trip, from the strange dove-like Magellanic Plover in fabled Tierra del Fuego at the 'end of the world', to the beauty of the Rufous-chested Dotterels running around in the rich red heather of Pali Aike National Park, and the just plain brilliant group of four Tawny-throated Dotterels that allowed us to pull our car up right beside them in the very same Patagonian park. Although we simply cannot forget the dazzling family of Diademed Sandpiper-plovers in El Yeso, where we just got fantastic prolonged looks at this unique Andean plover. Patagonia was good to us and provided the rare Ruddy-headed Goose hiding out in a flock of beautiful Ashy-headed Geese, in addition to several Least Seedsnipes both on the mainland and Tierra del Fuego. Although our time in Patagonia will perhaps be best remembered for the day when we had close up looks at a White-throated Caracara grimly feeding on a sheeps head that was on the road in front of our car in Sierra Baguales, and then headlined later in the afternoon with unforgettable sightings of a pair of the rare and extremely shy Austral Rails in Torres del Paine NP. The high Andes close to the Peruvian and Bolivian borders in northern Chile provided some of the best settings to do our birding in anywhere. While we watched seedsnipes, plovers, avocets, outsized coots and pink flamingos on the altiplano, the volcanic cone of Parinacota stood prominently on the horizon, while dozens of high Andean camels, (vicunas), grazed around us, a simply magical place. Despite not having any true pelagics on this trip we also enjoyed some cracking seabirds, including both Magellanic and Humboldt Penguins, both Giant Petrels, the truly unique and beautiful Inca Tern, and a few Magellanic Diving-petrels here and there.

BIRD LIST

 

Taxonomy and nomenclature follow: Clements, James F. 2007. Birds of the World: A Checklist. Sixth Edition. Cornell University Press. Includes recent updates.
The full checklist can be downloaded, and the very latest updates viewed at the following site: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist

 

'GO' denotes that the species was seen by the guide only.

'H' denotes that the species was only heard.
ENDEMIC
denotes that the species is endemic to Chile .

 

RHEAS: Rheidae

Lesser Rhea

Rhea pennata

Commonly encountered on the Patagonian grasslands.

The ones seen in Patagonia were of the race pennata, sometimes referred to as DARWIN ’S RHEA.

 

TINAMOUS: Tinamidae

Chilean Tinamou

Nothoprocta perdicaria

A superb bird came into tape, along the entrance road to Nahuelbuta NP.

 

PENGUINS: Spheniscidae

Humboldt Penguin

Spheniscus humboldti

A few of these penguins were seen in the warm waters off Con-con.

Magellanic Penguin

Spheniscus magellanicus

Seen during the ferry crossings too and from Chiloe Island .

 

GREBES: Podicipedidae

Pied-billed Grebe

Podilymbus podiceps

A few birds were seen in the Puerto Montt area.

White-tufted Grebe

Rollandia rolland

Just the one seen in Patagonia , near to Punta Delgada.

Great Grebe

Podiceps major

Great Grebes were first seen diving offshore at Con-con in Central Chile and were then seen at a number of sites thereafter, including on Chiloe and at Lleyda Wetlands.

Silvery Grebe

Podiceps occipitalis

Two very distinct forms occur in Chile , that some call to be split – occipitalis in Patagonia, and juninensis in the Andes . The ‘Patagonian Silvery Grebe’ was seen in Torres del Paine NP, and the ‘Andean Silvery Grebe’ was seen in good numbers within Lauca NP.

 

ALBATROSSES: Diomedeidae

Black-browed Albatross

Thalassarche melanophris

Despite doing no pelagics on this custom trip we still saw a number of these as they are often close in shore, more so than most other albatross species. We saw them from Chiloe Island , on the ferry crossing to Tierra del Fuego, and had around 15 birds just offshore from the Punta Arenas – Fuerte Bulnes road in Patagonia .

 

SHEARWATERS AND PETRELS: Procellariidae

Southern Giant-Petrel

Macronectes giganteus

This is the commoner of the giant petrels in Chile . We saw them from the ferry going to and from Tierra del Fuego, from Chiloe Island , and also from the shore south of Punta Arenas . The strangest sighting of all though was from the comfort of our plush hotel room in the city of Puerto Montt .

This species was recently re-named by Cornell, formerly being known as ANTARCTIC GIANT PETREL.

Northern Giant-Petrel

Macronectes halli

Two birds were seen very close inshore from the south of Chiloe Island , when the reddish bill tip could be seen.

This species was recently re-named by Cornell, formerly being known as HALL’S GIANT PETREL.

Southern Fulmar

Fulmarus glacialoides

Three birds were seen from the shore on the Punta Arenas-Fuerte Bulnes road.

Pink-footed Shearwater

Puffinus creatopus

Two were seen in the Chacao Canal on the ferry from near Puerto Montt to Chiloe Island , and another five birds were seen from the same ferry on the return journey.

Sooty Shearwater

Puffinus griseus

Sooty Shearwaters were abundant during the return crossing from Chiloe Island back to mainland Chile .

 

STORM-PETRELS: Hydrobatidae

Wilson 's Storm-Petrel

Oceanites oceanicus

Four Wilson ’s were seen ducking in and out of the troughs, on the return journey from Chiloe Island to mainland Chile .

 

DIVING-PETRELS: Pelecanoididae

Magellanic Diving-Petrel

Pelecanoides magellani

Three to five birds were seen during the crossings to and from both Chiloe Island and Tierra del Fuego . Good close up flight views allowed us to see the diagnostic white collar well, and we even managed a few views of them sitting on the sea too.

 

PELICANS: Pelecanidae

Peruvian Pelican

Pelecanus thagus

Common along the Central Chilean coast and around Chiloe Island in particular.

 

GANNETS AND BOOBIES: Sulidae

Peruvian Booby

Sula variegata

In high winds, these boobies were watched plunging into the icy waters off Chiloe Island .

 

CORMORANTS: Phalacrocoracidae

Neotropic Cormorant

Phalacrocorax brasilianus

Recorded at a few sites in Central Chile, and also on Chiloe Island .

Rock Shag

Phalacrocorax magellanicus

Three were first found a short time after we got off the ferry on Chiloe Island . In Patagonia there were fairly common especially along the coastline flanking the Strait of Magellan .

Guanay Cormorant

Phalacrocorax bougainvillii

This dandy cormorant was only seen the once, perched along the rocky coastline near to Concón in Central Chile .

Imperial Shag

Phalacrocorax atriceps

Commonly encountered on Chiloe Island , and also around the Strait of Magellan .

Red-legged Cormorant

Phalacrocorax gaimardi

Also commonly seen on Chiloe Island , and similarly abundant around Concón in Central Chile .

 

HERONS, EGRETS AND BITTERNS: Ardeidae

Cocoi Heron

Ardea cocoi

One was seen at our first stop of the tour at Estero Lampa, north of Santiago , and then another one was seen at Lleyda Wetlands.

Great Egret

Ardea alba

A few scattered sightings in Central Chile .

Snowy Egret

Egretta thula

A few were seen in Central Chile .

Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis

A few scattered records on the Central Chile leg.

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

A pair was seen near Vilches in Central Chile .

Stripe-backed Bittern

Ixobrychus involucris

Our first wetland stop of the tour, indeed our very first stop of tour just north of Santiago , saw us picking up one of these reed dwellers that were actually one of the very first birds of the tour. The bird flew up and conveniently perched in the reeds where we could scope it nicely.

 

IBIS AND SPOONBILLS: Threskiornithidae

Black-faced Ibis

Theristicus melanopis

This impressive ibis Very commonly encountered within southern and some parts of Central Chile . This is currently considered a separate species using the current Clements list from Andean Ibis, T. branickii, although many authors consider them one species.

Puna Ibis

Plegadis ridgwayi

Flocks of these ibis were regularly encountered within Lauca NP in northern Chile .

 

FLAMINGOS: Phoenicopteridae

Chilean Flamingo

Phoenicopterus chilensis

Small numbers were seen in the lowlands of Magallanes, on roadside pools between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales. Good numbers were seen on the scattered lakes, pools and large lagoons in the altiplano of Lauca NP in the high Andes .

 

DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS: Anatidae

Black-necked Swan

Cygnus melancoryphus

Regularly seen on Chiloe Island , where some large flocks were encountered near the dock for the ferry. Also recorded at Lleyda Wetlands in Central Chile , and near Torres del Paine NP in Magallanes.

Coscoroba Swan

Coscoroba coscoroba

These very un-swan like swans were seen a number of times in Magallanes, mostly consisting of singles or pairs, although one huge flock of over 130 birds was seen on Tierra del Fuego, when we went for the Magellanic Plovers there.

Andean Goose

Chloephaga melanoptera

These highland sheldgeese were fairly common in the Altiplano of Lauca NP.

Upland (Magellan) Goose

Chloephaga picta

A common and striking goose that was seen daily in good numbers down south in Magallanes, both on the mainland and Tierra del Fuego .

Kelp Goose

Chloephaga hybrida

A pair and a chick were seen on northern Chiloe Island , with another five birds seen from the road running south from Punta Arenas in Magallanes.

Ashy-headed Goose

Chloephaga poliocephala

Six different groups of these handsome geese were seen in Patagonia . The first group on Tierra del Fuego being part of a mixed goose flock also holding a pair of the extremely scarce Ruddy-headed Goose, along with some of the common Upland Geese too.

Ruddy-headed Goose

Chloephaga rubidiceps

Although common with a solid population on the Falklands , the mainland population is small and localized, numbering in just the hundreds. We finally found three different pairs on northern Tierra del Fuego , one of the pairs in a mixed flock with Ashy-headed Geese.

Flightless Steamerduck

Tachyeres pteneres

Good numbers of these huge, stubby-winged steamers were seen on Chiloe Island , including one group of around 30 birds in one sheltered bay. A few others were seen south of Punta Arenas in Magallanes.

Flying Steamerduck

Tachyeres patachonicus

Two pairs were seen in Magallanes, firstly on the sea on our way to Punta Delgada, then later along the coast south of Punta Arenas .

Chiloe Wigeon

Anas sibilatrix

One of the most commonly recorded ducks on the tour, being especially common in the south and central sections.

Speckled Teal

Anas flavirostris

Good numbers were seen around the Puna bogs in the high Andes of Lauca NP.

Spectacled Duck

Anas specularis

A single bird was found huddled on a large lagoon on Chiloe Island during a blustery day there, with another pair encountered on our drive back to Punta Arenas from Torres del Paine NP.

Crested Duck

Anas specularioides

This distinctive duck was commonly encountered in Magallanes in the far south, with good numbers also seen in the altiplano of Lauca NP in the far north.

Yellow-billed Pintail

Anas georgica

Commonly encountered at many sites throughout the tour.

Puna Teal

Anas puna

Around thirty birds were seen at various ponds and pools in the high Andes of Lauca NP.

Silver Teal

Anas versicolor

Just recorded the once in Magallanes, where five birds were found on a small wetland near Punta Delgada.

Cinnamon Teal

Anas cyanoptera

Seen on four days of the tour. First off seen on our opening day, at Estero Lampa lagoon near Santiago , and later seen at Lleyda, also in Central Chile . In Patagonia, a single bird was seen on a small wetland close to the town of Punta Delgada , with others being recorded on roadside pools on Tierra del Fuego .

Red Shoveler

Anas platalea

Just two were recorded in Central Chile , at Lleyda Wetlands. In Patagonia however, they were markedly more common with good numbers seen on Tierra del Fuego , and small numbers recorded on the mainland too.

Rosy-billed Pochard

Netta peposaca

A pair of these distinctive ducks was seen on a small wetland close to Punta Delgada in Magallanes.

Black-headed Duck

Heteronetta atricapilla

Seen ‘at the death’ as they say-we opted to make a short final excursion from our Santiago hotel before our final international departures on the very last day, and were rewarded with a pair of these parasitic ducks. This species is the only parasitic duck in the world, laying its eggs in the nests of other birds, usually coots, ducks or even herons and gulls, and  sometimes also ground nesting birds-of-prey.

Ruddy (Andean) Duck

Oxyura ferruginea

Three were seen on a large lagoon near the entrance to Torres del Paine NP in Magallanes.

Andean Duck has recently (November 2008) been lumped with Ruddy Duck.

Lake Duck

Oxyura vittata

Six or so were seen on Lleyda Wetlands in Central Chile .

 

NEW WORLD VULTURES: Cathartidae

Black Vulture

Coragyps atratus

Recorded on a number of days in Central Chile .

Turkey Vulture

Cathartes aura

Recorded in more areas than the former, being recorded in both the dry northern areas, and also in Central Chile too.

Andean Condor

Vultur gryphus

This huge scavenger was out in numbers around Sierra Baguales and Torres del Paine NP in Magallanes, where at least 25 birds were seen in one day up there.

 

HAWKS, EAGLES AND KITES: Accipitridae

White-tailed Kite

Elanus leucurus

Two singles were seen in Central Chile .

Cinereous Harrier

Circus cinereus

Three sightings were made in Patagonia – firstly on the outskirts of Punta Arenas , then around Punta Delgada, and finally north of Torres del Paine NP, near Las Cumbres.

Harris' Hawk

Parabuteo unicinctus

Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle

Geranoaetus melanoleucus

Variable Hawk

Buteo polyosoma

Recorded at a number of sites on the tour, including around Lauca NP in Northern Chile . These latter ones were formerly split as Puna Hawk, with the other birds on the tour being considered a separate species, Red-backed Hawk. However, these have recently both been lumped together again as one species, Variable Hawk on the latest Clements updates (November 2008).

 

FALCONS AND CARACARAS: Falconidae

Mountain Caracara

Phalcoboenus megalopterus

Our first of these pied raptors was seen in the dry pre-puna zone as we were heading down from Putre on our first day in the north. Other singles were seen during both of our visits onto the Altiplano of Lauca NP.

White-throated Caracara

Phalcoboenus albogularis

This is a scarce raptor in Magallanes. We went for it around Sierra Baguales, close to the Argentine border. We walked around for a time drawing a blank, until we made our way down from a deep ravine, where a pair then flew onto a rocky crag behind us. Our ‘scopes were quickly swung into action, only for the birds to leave shortly after arriving, frustrating us in our attempts to get them ‘scoped up’. While grumbling over this as we left the area, we watched in disbelief when another White-throated Caracara appeared on the road ahead of us, feeding rather gruesomely on a sheep’s head just in front of the car!

Southern Caracara

Caracara plancus

Seen regularly around Torres del Paine NP and Sierra Baguales in Magallanes. The White-throated Caracara in Sierra Baguales seemed less keen on the sheep’s head once one of these larger guys turned up!

Chimango Caracara

Milvago chimango

One of Chile ’s commonest species, being common everywhere except in Patagonia , where they are notably scarcer than further north.

American Kestrel

Falco sparverius

One was seen en-route from Santiago to the ‘DSP hotspot’, El Yeso, and others were seen on the journey from Arica to Putre in Northern Chile .

Aplomado Falcon

Falco femoralis

One was seen perched on a fencepost on northern Tierra del Fuego .

 

NEW WORLD QUAIL: Odontophoridae

California Quail

Callipepla californica

This introduced species appears to be doing very well in Central Chile , where they were frequently heard. Birds were seen in several areas of La Campana NP, and also on the way into El Yeso.

 

RAILS, GALLINULES AND COOTS: Rallidae

Austral Rail

Rallus antarcticus

One of the luckier moments of tour. This rail has been staked out over a number of years at a large reed-fringed lagoon in Torres del Paine NP. Although despite everyone being well aware that it is there, it is downright difficult to see due to the dense reed cover and the bird’s very skulking nature. We felt we had to try anyhow, and were stunned to see a pair of these scarce rails cross a narrow open channel four times. The final two views being very good indeed, when we could see their bright carrot-red bills glinting in the sun, and strongly barred flanks.

Plumbeous Rail

Pardirallus sanguinolentus

Two sightings of this fine rail were made on Chiloe Island , which included a pair walking around in an open field next to our car.

Spot-flanked Gallinule

Gallinula melanops

The very last addition to the trip list during our final few minutes birding before our international departures, at a lagoon near Lleyda, west of Santiago .

White-winged Coot

Fulica leucoptera

First seen on the tour near Concón in Central Chile, and later recorded on Chiloe Island, near Punta Delgada in Patagonia, in Torres del Paine NP, and finally at Lleyda Wetlands.

Red-gartered Coot

Fulica armillata

Our first coot of the tour, picked up at our very first stop – Estera Lampa near Santiago . Later also recorded on Chiloe Island , and also at Lleyda Wetlands in Central Chile .

Red-fronted Coot

Fulica rufifrons

Two near Concón in Central Chile proved to be our only ones of the trip.

Giant Coot

Fulica gigantea

These massive coots were very, very common and tame at Lauca NP. Hundreds were seen on our full day up there, some of which allowed ridiculously close up looks by their huge nest mounds.

 

OYSTERCATCHERS: Haematopodidae

Magellanic Oystercatcher

Haematopus leucopodus

These yellow-spectacled ‘oycs’ were commonly seen during the Patagonian leg of the tour around Magallanes.

Blackish Oystercatcher

Haematopus ater

A single bird was seen on northern Chiloe Island , and another pair was seen along the coastline just south of Punta Arenas .

American Oystercatcher

Haematopus palliatus

 

STILTS AND AVOCETS: Recurvirostridae

Black-necked Stilt

Himantopus mexicanus

Small numbers were recorded in Central Chile , (e.g. Lleyda Wetlands, Estera Lampa, and near Concón).

Andean Avocet

Recurvirostra andina

Nine birds were found on a couple of flamingo-dotted lakes up in the altiplano of Lauca NP in the north.

 

THICK-KNEES: Burhinidae

Peruvian Thick-knee

Burhinus superciliaris

Two birds were found hiding out during the day in the Azapa Valley (they are largely active at night).

 

PLOVERS AND LAPWINGS: Charadriidae

Southern Lapwing

Vanellus chilensis

Commonly encountered in Central Chile and Magallanes.

Andean Lapwing

Vanellus resplendens

Two pairs were seen within the bofedal bogs in the high Andes of Lauca NP.

Puna Plover

Charadrius alticola

Three different birds were seen around the edge of one particular bofedal bog in Lauca NP.

Two-banded Plover

Charadrius falklandicus

This striking plover was recorded frequently on the Patagonian grasslands both on the mainland and on Tierra del Fuego .

Rufous-chested Dotterel

Charadrius modestus

Five different birds (two pair and a single) were found during our first afternoon on the Patagonian Steppes, in Pali Aike NP in the far south.

Diademed Plover

Phegornis mitchellii

Quite simply one of THE reasons to come birding in Chile is this, the most famous of all Andean shorebirds. It is rare that a shorebird steals the headlines, although on this tour this beautiful and unique Andean bird will always get a lot of attention. There are just too few places to reliably get this bird, so Chile is a major draw card for that alone. We had two sites lined up for it on the tour, and thankfully pressure was taken off early as we found the bird at our very first spot in El Yeso. Only around 20 minutes after we had left the vehicle Nick got a quick glimpse of a bird flying onto a large rocky outcrop, that he thought looked good except for the strange behavior it was exhibiting at the time, so we split up and circled the bog surrounding the outcrop from different directions. As I went one way a cry of DSP went up from Nick and I was soon hurtling over there in ‘blind panic’. When the initial excitement was over, and this beautiful wader was pinned down on the edge of a rocky Andean stream, we found that it was not a lone bird at all, as another equally bright bird was hiding amongst the boulders nearby, and furthermore two checkered chicks were also discretely feeding along the same bank. We then settled in and watched this family at close quarters for some time, enjoying fantastic views of one of the most instantly recognizable of all Andean birds. For some this was an ambition fulfilled, many years pouring over the illustration in the field guides leading up to this unforgettable birding moment. On this occasion the usual long walks across windswept Andean bogs were not required, and we were very grateful for that!

This has recently been shamefully re-named on the Clements list, as Diademed Plover, previously being known as DIADEMED SANDPIPER-PLOVER or ‘DSP’, I believe most of us will continue to use the later name!

Tawny-throated Dotterel

Oreopholus ruficollis

This bird made us sweat a little at our first few sites, although finally a flock of six birds flew in and landed in a grassy field in Pali Aike NP. The strong blustery wind and driving rain though made them a challenge to see well at the time. Then just 15 minutes later we chanced upon another group of four birds, that were far more co-operative and allowed us to park up right beside them affording us ‘show stopping’ views. Definitely one of the best birds of the trip.

 

MAGELLANIC PLOVER: Pluvianellidae

Magellanic Plover

Pluvianellus socialis

Three of these dove-like ‘plovers’ were found on a large saline lake north of Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego . On this occasion the birds proving to be really obliging, letting us walk right up to them.

 

SANDPIPERS: Scolopacidae

South American Snipe

Gallinago paraguaiae

Several sightings were made on mainland Patagonia, and also a pair flew over the road in front of our car on Tierra del Fuego . The most enjoyable views though were of a ‘whinnying’, displaying bird in the Sierra Baguales that flew over our heads during a period of gentle snowfall.

Hudsonian Godwit

Limosa haemastica

Thousands of birds were seen on Chiloe Island , a very important wintering ground for the species. A quarter of the world’s population (i.e. around 12,500 birds) winter on Chiloe, the largest non-breeding population on the Pacific Coast of South America .

Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus

Also recorded in good numbers on Chiloe Island , and also seen along the rocky shorelines of Central Chile around Concón.

Greater Yellowlegs

Tringa melanoleuca

Several were recorded on Chiloe Island .

Lesser Yellowlegs

Tringa flavipes

Recorded at a number of sites, including Chiloe Island , Estera Lampa, and also on roadside pools in Patagonia .

Surfbird

Aphriza virgata

Two were found on the rocks at Concón in Central Chile . These same rocks holding a pair of the endemic Chilean Seaside Cinclodes, while just offshore a large group of Inca Terns vied for our attention with a small group of Humboldt Penguins that were ‘surfing’ the ocean waves.

White-rumped Sandpiper

Calidris fuscicollis

Commonly encountered in Magallanes, where this and the next species were both present in good numbers.

Baird's Sandpiper

Calidris bairdii

Commonly encountered around pools on the Patagonian grasslands. Others were also recorded up in the Andes, of both Lauca NP in the north, and near El Yeso Reservoir in Central Chile .

Wilson's Phalarope

Phalaropus tricolor

Small numbers were seen on roadside pools on the road leading into Pali Aike NP in Patagonia, and bigger numbers were found on similar pools in northern Tierra del Fuego .

 

SEEDSNIPES: Thinocoridae

Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe

Attagis gayi

A pair of these ‘Andean Ptarmigans’ was found shuffling across the rich cushion moss in one of Lauca NPs large bofedal bogs. This same extensive high Andean bog also held eight Gray-breasted Seedsnipes, a few White-throated Sierra-finches, and several ‘Giant’ White-fronted Ground-Tyrants.

Gray-breasted Seedsnipe

Thinocorus orbignyianus

The first of our many encounters with this smart seedsnipe came in Central Chile , when three sightings were made in El Yeso. The first of these encounters was unceremoniously disrupted when Nick’s immortal cry of ‘DSP!’ went up, which led us to drop the seedsnipe in favor of the most famous shorebird in the Andes on that occasion. These seedsnipes were frequently seen around the bofedal bogs in the altiplano of Lauca NP in the north, with eight birds being seen during a long walk around one such high Andean bog.

Least Seedsnipe

Thinocorus rumicivorus

This diminutive, lowland ‘version’ of Gray-breasted, was seen twice in Patagonia . The fist sighting involving a pair watched feeding at close range in Pali Aike NP, and another male being found within meters of our car on Tierra del Fuego , where the car proved a welcome hide and shelter from the ever-present Patagonian ‘breeze’.

 

GULLS: Laridae

Dolphin Gull

Larus scoresbii

A first year bird was seen on the beach while we were waiting for the ferry across to northern Tierra del Fuego . This was followed by a distant adult bird just north of Porvenir on the ‘land of fire’, and then later we had a good look at both an adult and first year bird, feeding on a beach south of Punta Arenas .

Gray Gull

Larus modestus

This striking gull was seen in good numbers off the Central Chilean coast around Concón and later again around Arica in the far north of Chile .

Kelp Gull

Larus dominicanus

Good numbers of Kelp Gulls were seen at a number of sites on the tour, including off the Central Chilean coast, the Patagonian coast, and along the shorelines of Chiloe Island .

Brown-hooded Gull

Larus maculipennis

Also seen at a number of sites on the tour, although especially numerous on Chiloe Island and along the coastlines of Patagonia .

Andean Gull

Larus serranus

A number of black-headed, summer plumaged birds were seen up in the altiplano of Lauca NP in northern Chile .

Franklin 's Gull

Larus pipixcan

Recorded in small numbers in Central, Southern and Northern Chile .

 

TERNS: Sternidae

Inca Tern

Larosterna inca

A frenzied feeding flock of 75 birds were seen off Concón in Central Chile that shared the same bay with a number of diving Humboldt Penguins, while a pair of the endemic Chilean Seaside Cinclodes hopped across the rocky shore in front of us, a cool place!

South American Tern

Sterna hirundinacea

Commonly seen on Chiloe Island , where huge numbers of these terns were also recorded during the short, bird-packed, crossings to and from the mainland.

 

SKIMMERS: Rynchopidae

Black Skimmer

Rynchops niger

One was found loafing around Lleyda Wetlands on our final morning in Central Chile .

 

JAEGARS AND SKUAS: Stercorariidae

Chilean Skua

Stercorarius chilensis

Seen a number of times around Patagonia in the far south, including at least ten birds that were hanging around a large saline lagoon on Tierra del Fuego , which also held a triplet of Magellanic Plovers.

 

PIGEONS AND DOVES: Columbidae

Rock Pigeon

Columba livia

Recorded around Santiago and some other urban areas.

Spot-winged Pigeon

Patagioenas maculosa

This recent colonizer was seen on wires in the village of Putre in northern Chile .

Chilean Pigeon

Patagioenas araucana

Several groups were seen in La Campana NP in Central Chile, with another single glanced on Chiloe Island .

Eared Dove

Zenaida auriculata

Recorded at a number of sites in Central Chile, and also recorded in Northern Chile .

Pacific Dove

Zenaida meloda

Commonly recorded in the Chaca and Lluta Valleys of the north.

Picui Ground-Dove

Columbina picui

We had just a couple of sightings in Central Chile .

Croaking Ground-Dove

Columbina cruziana

Recorded in the Chaca Valley in Northern Chile .

Bare-faced Ground-Dove

Metriopelia ceciliae

Around Putre in Northern Chile these were recorded frequently, with some large flocks being seen close to the town itself.

Golden-spotted Ground-Dove

Metriopelia aymara

Two were seen hiding out in the puna of Lauca NP in northern Chile .

 

PARROTS: Psittacidae

Burrowing Parrot

Cyanoliseus patagonus

Seven of these amazing parrots were seen feeding in a recently ploughed field near Vilches in Central Chile .

Austral Parakeet

Enicognathus ferrugineus

Several small mobile flocks were seen in and around Nahuelbuta NP in Central Chile .

Slender-billed Parakeet

Enicognathus leptorhynchus

*ENDEMIC*

Several small groups were seen on Chiloe Island . However, our best looks came on the way into Puyehue NP from Osorno, where a large gathering of parakeets was found in a bank of red flowering trees along the roadside, that afforded us great looks at their oddly shaped bills. They are considered a ‘serious agricultural pest’ on Chiloe Island .

 

OWLS: Strigidae

Rufous-legged Owl

Strix rufipes

Our first afternoon in La Campana NP was pretty quiet with few birds performing as we’d hoped. However, we lingered on after nightfall and this impressive owl saved the day, coming right in close to us on several occasions and glaring menacingly back at us in the spotlight, as only an owl can.

Peruvian Pygmy-Owl

Glaucidium peruanum (H)

A bird responded to our tape in a shrubby gully behind the town of Putre , in northern Chile .

Austral Pygmy-Owl

Glaucidium nanum

One of these little owls showed up and perched right out on top of massive Monkey Puzzle tree in Nahuelbuta NP, in Central Chile .

Burrowing Owl

Athene cunicularia

A couple of sightings were made in the Oases Valleys of the north.

 

NIGHTJARS: Caprimulgidae

Band-winged Nightjar

Caprimulgus longirostris

A single bird flew up into the car headlights as we headed up the Lluta Valley towards Putre in the north. Others were heard after nightfall in La Campana NP in Central Chile .

 

HUMMINGBIRDS: Trochilidae

Sparkling Violet-ear

Colibri coruscans

Just the one was seen, in a eucalyptus grove in the Andean village of Putre .

Andean Hillstar

Oreotrochilus estella

This handsome hummer was seen regularly in the pre-puna shrub zone around Putre, in northern Chile .

White-sided Hillstar

Oreotrochilus leucopleurus

Two of these flashy hummers were seen alongside the road leading up to the reservoir at El Yeso, in Central Chile .

Giant Hummingbird

Patagona gigas

The largest hummer in the world. We saw them regularly in La Campana NP, in Central Chile .

Green-backed Firecrown

Sephanoides sephaniodes

Recorded in La Campana NP and Nahuelbuta NP, both in Central Chile .

Oasis Hummingbird

Rhodopis vesper

Commonly seen in the hummingbird reserve in the Azapa Valley of the north.

Peruvian Sheartail

Thaumastura cora

Two were seen in Azapa’s hummingbird reserve, including a long-tailed male bird.

 

KINGFISHERS: Alcedinidae

Ringed Kingfisher

Megaceryle torquata

Several of these giant kingfishers were seen on Chiloe Island .

 

WOODPECKERS: Picidae

Striped Woodpecker

Picoides lignarius

A pair was seen in the chaparral of La Campana NP in Central Chile .

Chilean Flicker

Colaptes pitius

A pair was seen on the edge of the city of Puerto Montt , with another single seen on Chiloe Island .

Andean Flicker

Colaptes rupicola

A couple of these high Andean birds were seen in the altiplano of Lauca NP, where they nest in cavities in low earth banks up there.

Magellanic Woodpecker

Campephilus magellanicus

A spectacular red top-knotted male was seen Reserva Nacional Altos del Lircay in Central Chile .

 

OVENBIRDS: Furnariidae

Common Miner

Geositta cunicularia

This was indeed the ‘common’ miner on mainland Patagonia , with regular sightings being made around Pali Aike NP.

Short-billed Miner

Geositta antarctica

Three of these miners were easily found once we reached northern Tierra del Fuego, where they are much more common than on mainland Patagonia .

Grayish Miner

Geositta maritima

This species seems to inhabit one of the bleakest environments on Earth-the barren sandy and rocky areas of the Atacama Desert that are all but devoid of vegetation. We found one finally on our way down from Putre, standing on a sandy bluff with no plants in sight anywhere!

Puna Miner

Geositta punensis

Commonly seen up in the puna at Lauca NP in northern Chile .

Rufous-banded Miner

Geositta rufipennis

The most common miner in the Andes at El Yeso. At least seven birds were seen up there, being the only miner we found at El Yeso, which was the only site we recorded this species on the tour.

Scale-throated Earthcreeper

Upucerthia dumetaria

One was seen in the Patagonia grasslands on the mainland.

White-throated Earthcreeper

Upucerthia albigula

This localized earthcreeper was seen in a dry gully close to Putre, sharing the same gully with the much more common and similar Plain-breasted Earthcreeper.

Plain-breasted Earthcreeper

Upucerthia jelskii

One was seen in the pre-puna shrub zone close to the Andean village of Putre in northern Chile .

Straight-billed Earthcreeper

Upucerthia ruficaudus

Several were seen in some dry rocky areas as we made our way up in the Andes to Putre.

Crag Chilia

Chilia melanura

*ENDEMIC*

A single showy bird was found on our way up to El Yeso reservoir in the Andes close to Santiago .

Bar-winged Cinclodes

Cinclodes fuscus

Recorded in the Andes of Central and Northern Chile . Especially common in the puna at Lauca NP, where we scrutinized many in order to find the odd White-winged Cinclodes in their midst. One was also seen in Southern Chile , near Las Cumbres.

Gray-flanked Cinclodes

Cinclodes oustaleti

Just two were seen at El Yeso in Central Chile .

Dark-bellied Cinclodes

Cinclodes patagonicus

A single bird was initially found by a small river on our way down from Nahuelbuta NP in Central Chile . Later on the trip, they were frequently encountered on Chiloe Island .

Chilean Seaside Cinclodes

Cinclodes nigrofumosus

*ENDEMIC*

A pair was found on the rocks at Concón in Central Chile . From this same rich spot we could also enjoy several Surfbirds feeding further along the same rocky outcrop, while Inca Terns hung in the wind offshore, and Humboldt Penguins dived in and out of the troughs. A magic spot for sure!

White-winged Cinclodes

Cinclodes atacamensis

At least three birds were seen feeding alongside a small stream on a large bofedal bog in the high Andes of Lauca NP in Northern Chile .

Wren-like Rushbird

Phleocryptes melanops

This was one of the first birds we heard as we alighted from our vehicle at our very first birding stop of the tour, at Estera Lampa in Central Chile . We managed views of several different individuals there, and later saw another bird briefly at the ‘Austral Rail’ lagoon in Torres del Paine in Patagonia .

Thorn-tailed Rayadito

Aphrastura spinicauda

These distinctive ovenbirds were fairly common in the chaparral of La Campana NP, and were seen at a few other sites in Central Chile , including RN Altos de Lircay.

Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail

Leptasthenura aegithaloides

Recorded once in La Campana NP in Central Chile, and later also seen on the way up to Lauca NP in Northern Chile .

Streaked Tit-Spinetail

Leptasthenura striata

Three of these spinetails were found in the pre-puna scrub zone on the way up to the tiny Andean town of Putre in Northern Chile .

Des Murs's Wiretail

Sylviorthorhynchus desmursii

This highly distinctive, spiny-tailed furnariid was seen twice on the tour. Firstly, an excellent individual showed off his most striking feature in a dense stand of bamboo in the atmospheric Monkey Puzzle forests of Nahuelbuta NP. A second sad and tailless individual was found at an unscheduled road stop on Chiloe Island . The bird is just not the same without its defining feature!

Canyon Canastero

Asthenes pudibunda

One was seen (and a few more heard), in a dry scrubby gorge just below the Andean town of Putre in Northern Chile .

Cordilleran Canastero

Asthenes modesta

A single bird was seen hopping over boulders, with tail-cocked, in the Patagonian Andes near Las Cumbres.

Austral Canastero

Asthenes anthoides

A single singing bird was found perched up on top of a low bush, on the entrance road into Pali Aike NP in the Patagonian Steppe.

Sharp-billed Canastero

Asthenes pyrrholeuca

Two birds were found along the roadside on the way up to El Yeso, in the Central Chilean Andes .

This has recently undergone a name change on the Clements list from Lesser Canastero.

Dusky-tailed Canastero

Asthenes humicola

*ENDEMIC*

One was seen well on our first afternoon in La Campana NP in Central Chile .

Creamy-breasted Canastero

Asthenes dorbigyi

A single bird was taped in, within the pre-puna shrub zone, on the way up to Putre in Northern Chile .

This subspecies, arequipae, was until recently considered a separate species, Dark-winged Canastero, although under recent revisions has been lumped again with Creamy-breasted.

White-throated Treerunner

Pygarrhichas albogularis

Only seen at the one site, Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay, where a couple of pairs were seen really well, and others were heard frequently. A cracking little, nuthatch-like, bird that is not closely related to the other ‘treerunners’ of the northern Andes . Neotropical Nuthatch would be a better name for it!

 

TAPACULOS: Rhinocryptidae

Chestnut-throated Huet-huet

Pteroptochos castaneus

*ENDEMIC*

Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay paid off for this species big time. As we walked up the open dirt track near the entrance our pace quickened in response to a calling bird further up the road. Unfortunately a little bit of ventriloquism and a slightly too rapid pursuit led us to inadvertently flush it from its high singing perch beside the road. Our follow up attempts to better our views were thwarted, the bird then only allowing the briefest of glimpses. We decided to go after another calling bird and found a convenient trail seemingly leading straight to the source of the sound. As we walked this open track we stopped suddenly at a loud scratching sound beside the trail, quite reminiscent of the noisy feeding sound of a Logrunner in the Australian rainforests. We waited patiently peering into the low undergrowth, where once the bird began scratching around with its huge feet once again, the game was all but up as it led us to some truly crippling views of this giant tapaculo. Several times the bird even crossing from one side of the track to the other just feet away from us. A superb experience with one of the world’s largest and strangest tapaculos. The true stars of the Chilean Nothofagus forests.

Black-throated Huet-huet

Pteroptochos tarnii

Another large and impressive Chilean tapaculo. We focused our efforts on getting it in the beautiful setting of the Nahuelbuta NP. Despite hearing a number of them during our first few hours there, they were hard to get a good look at, either not responding vocally at all, or remaining in deep cover. We decided therefore to check out another trail where on the way to the trail we got another short unsatisfactory look at one, as it dropped down from its song perch. A little further up the trail though we finally got what we had come for – a close encounter with this massive tapaculo - when it circled us a few times and revealed its full self when running along a few huge fallen logs at eye level, brilliant stuff.

Moustached Turca

Pteroptochos megapodius

*ENDEMIC*

Arguably the easiest of Chile ’s cool set of tapaculos, as they are prone to calling from the tops of large boulders in the open. Something the others just don’t do. We first heard a number of them in La Campana, where they are a little less easy to get a look at than at some other sites. We did eventually though track down a pair in one low bush that afforded some good views. However, a few days later at El Yeso they were much more impressive, when we got the ‘classic’ view of them as they sung from the top of large boulders on an Andean mountainside.

White-throated Tapaculo

Scelorchilus albicollis

*ENDEMIC*

Arguably the trickiest of the tapaculos, we went after this one first at La Campana NP in Central Chile . They were not hard to hear in the park, and by are not uncommon there. Getting a clear view of one though in some of the thickets there though is another matter, and just the briefest of views was had by some in one area of the park, that prompted us to try another spot. Strangely in the end our best views were had in the heat of the day, just after lunchtime, where by creeping under a low tree we managed to tape a pair into the branches above us. For anyone used to searching for Andean tapaculos in the gloom of the forest floor this may seem a strange place to see a tapaculo (looking UP at one), but then many of these Chilean tapaculos are far from normal in many respects! So ironically the trickiest became our first one of the tour.

Chucao Tapaculo

Scelorchilus rubecula

For me at least, this sharp-dressed tapaculo is the best of the bunch. They were heard at a number of sites, on Chiloe Island , and around the reserve at Altos de Lircay. However, it was on our memorable morning in the mixed beech and monkey puzzle forests of Nahuelbuta that we finally connected with this gorgeous bird. Our first attempt was thwarted by what can only be described as the downright deviousness of the tapaculo. Just as we thought we were going to clap eyes on the bird as it moved closer to us in response to playback, the bird foiled us by using a drainpipe to cross the road and evade us in the process. Our frustration at this was short-lived though, and at another roadside stop where a Des Murs’s Wiretail calling from some bamboo had us scrambling out of the car, we soon heard another Chucao. This time a pair responded excellently, hopping about into some open areas between the bamboo thickets, where the rich chestnut throat brought a striking bit of color to the gloom of the forest floor.

Ochre-flanked Tapaculo

Eugralla paradoxa

Strangely silent at the first few sites we visited we finally managed to get one at Puyehue NP. This whole park is swathed in huge dense clumps of bamboo, and by creeping into one such a stand we managed to get good looks at this odd tapaculo as it crept quietly around in the bamboo above us. Others were heard on Chiloe Island .

Magellanic Tapaculo

Scytalopus magellanicus

Singles of this white-topped tapaculo were seen in the beech forests of RN Altos de Lircay, and the ‘mystical’ aracauria forests of Nahuelbuta NP.

Dusky Tapaculo

Scytalopus fuscus (H)

*ENDEMIC*

A definite disappointment was not getting a look at this one, which was only heard distantly during our time in La Campana NP, and was silent at the other site we visited.

 

COTINGAS: Cotingidae

Rufous-tailed Plantcutter

Phytotoma rara

Our first sighting was a little bizarre and unexpected. While trying to navigate the streets of Vine del Mar to our hotel a red-breasted bird sat on a street wire stopped us in our tracks, as a male was found sitting there right in the heart of this ‘concrete jungle’. Another, this time a female, was seen on the outskirts of Puerto Montt, and finally, a few more were found on Chiloe Island .

 

TYRANT-FLYCATCHERS: Tyrannidae

White-crested Elaenia

Elaenia albiceps

One of the commonest flycatchers in Central Chile recorded at a number of sites, including La Campana NP, RN Altos de Lircay, and Nahuelbuta NP. Also seen on Chiloe Island , and at Las Cumbres, near the Argentine border in Patagonia .

Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant

Anairetes flavirostris

Only recorded in the dry shrubby gorges around the Andean town of Putre in Northern Chile , where five or so birds were seen.

Tufted Tit-Tyrant

Anairetes parulus

Commonly encountered in La Campana NP, the only site where we ran into it on the tour.

Many-colored Rush-Tyrant

Tachuris rubrigastra

This rush-loving bird breaks the mold in the tyrant-flycatcher family, being both distinctive and interesting to look at! This extremely colorful reed-dwelling flycatcher was our first main target of the tour at Estera Lampa not far out of Santiago on our first day. It did not take long for one of these beautifully marked flycatchers to come into within 10 feet of us, as we stood ‘spellbound’ at the edge of the reeds.

Austral Negrito

Lessonia rufa

Our first negrito was found while we watched a flock of Burrowing Parrots, near Altos de Lircay Reserve in Central Chile . They were also recorded on Chiloe Island , although were most commonly seen on the open Patagonian grasslands of Southern Chile .

Andean Negrito

Lessonia oreas

Small numbers were seen on both of our visits into Lauca NP in Northern Chile .

D'Orbigny's Chat-Tyrant

Ochthoeca oenanthoides

This is a polylepis specialist, being largely confined to that highly threatened Andean ‘woodland’. A small, remnant patch of these scaly-barked trees still exists near the town of Belen in Northern Chile . A short trip out there from Putre produced three of these distinctive chat-tyrants, along with a small flock of another scarce polylepis specialist, Thick-billed Siskin. The chat-tyrants were highly responsive, several different birds reacting angrily, and quickly, to playback.

White-browed Chat-Tyrant

Ochthoeca leucophrys

On our way back from the polylepis patch near Belen, we tried playing for this in a likely patch of sparse scrub in the pre-puna shrub zone, and were immediately rewarded when one of these chat-tyrants popped up on a low bush. This was our only sighting of the trip.

Patagonian Tyrant

Colorhamphus parvirostris

Two birds were seen well as they piped out their high-pitched calls, in the magical Monkey Puzzle woodland of Nahuelbuta NP, ( Central Chile ).

Chocolate-vented Tyrant

Neoxolmis rufiventris

If it was not for a certain flashy, reed-dwelling flycatcher, this was arguably the best of the flycatchers seen on the tour. A very distinctive and unique species. Five sightings were made in the end. Our first cool, windy day on the Patagonian Steppe saw us bump into three of these tyrants on the open plains of Pali Aike NP. Others were found the following day in the same windy Patagonian park, and more sightings were made on Tierra de Fuego.

Fire-eyed Diucon

Xolmis pyrope

Commonly recorded around La Campana NP, and also seen at LLeyda, Nahuelbuta NP, Chiloe Island , and also a few times in Patagonia .

Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant

Agriornis montanus

Recorded once in El Yeso in Central Chile, and a further few times in Northern Chile .

Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant

Muscisaxicola maculirostris

One was seen (along with five other species of ground-tyrants) at El Yeso in Central Chile , and two others were seen on another ground-tyrant filled day in the altiplano of Lauca NP in the north.

Puna Ground-Tyrant

Muscisaxicola juninensis

Three were seen up at Lauca NP in Andes of the far north.

Cinereous Ground-Tyrant

Muscisaxicola cinereus

A few of these were seen at El Yeso, in a day where we picked up six different species of ground-tyrants.

White-fronted Ground-Tyrant

Muscisaxicola albifrons

Perhaps this would be better named as Giant Ground Tyrant. This powerful ground tyrant was seen during both of our excursions out onto the bofedal bogs of Lauca NP.

Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant

Muscisaxicola flavinucha

The ground-tyrant group is generally a tricky ID challenge, although this one with its bright yellow crown stripe is a bit easier than the others! We saw this distinctive ground-tyrant at three sites on the tour. Initially a few were found above El Yeso Reservoir in Central Chile, with further sightings made close to the Argentine border in Patagonia, and in the north a few more were seen strutting around the puna in Lauca NP.

Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrant

Muscisaxicola rufivertex

Just recorded in the Central Chilean Andes around El Yeso, where they were frequently encountered in our day up there while searching for the ‘DSP’.

White-browed Ground-Tyrant

Muscisaxicola albilora

One of six ground-tyrant species sighted during our day up at El Yeso.

Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant

Muscisaxicola capistratus

Good numbers were seen in Patagonia , where over ten birds were seen around Pali Aike NP, and double figures were also seen around Las Cumbres, north of Torres del Paine NP.

Black-fronted Ground-Tyrant

Muscisaxicola frontalis

Four of these localized ground-tyrants were found along the Andean mountain road leading up to the reservoir at El Yeso.

 

SWALLOWS: Hirundinidae

Chilean Swallow

Tachycineta meyeni

One of the most frequently encountered birds in Central Chile and Patagonia .

Blue-and-white Swallow

Notiochelidon cyanoleuca

Commonly encountered in the Andes of Central Chile , and also recorded around Putre in the north.

Andean Swallow

Haplochelidon andecola

A flock of around fifteen birds was found circling a small, Giant Coot-packed pool in Lauca NP, in the high Andes of Northern Chile .

Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

A large flock was noted in the Lluta Valley , Northern Chile .

 

PIPITS AND WAGTAILS: Motacillidae

Correndera Pipit

Anthus correndera

Recorded at a few spots on the windswept Patagonian plains, including close to Argentine border at Las Cumbres.

 

WRENS: Troglodytidae

House Wren

Troglodytes aedon

Recorded at a number of sites including La Campana NP, and on Chiloe .

Sedge Wren

Cistothorus platensis

A single bird was inadvertently recorded in the background of our Austral Rail recording, and proceeded to climb up to the top of the reeds and call angrily back at us, every time we attempted to lure in the rail. Another bird also made an appearance in that same reed-fringed lagoon in Torres del Paine NP.

 

MOCKINGBIRDS: Mimidae

Patagonian Mockingbird

Mimus patagonicus

Much trickier than the other mockingbird, they are far from common in Chilean Patagonia . We saw three different individuals south of Las Cumbres, near the Argentine border.

Chilean Mockingbird

Mimus thenca

*ENDEMIC*

The easiest of the 8 Chilean endemics, they are very common in Central Chile, where they were seen at many sites, including La Campana NP, on the way up to El Yeso, around Altos de Lircay Reserve, and also in the area around Nahuelbuta NP.

 

THRUSHES: Turdidae

Chiguanco Thrush

Turdus chiguanco

A few were seen around the tiny Andean town of Putre in the north.

Austral Thrush

Turdus falcklandii

A common and widely recorded species on the tour, (e.g. La Campana NP, Chiloe Island , RN Altos de Lircay).

 

OLD WORLD SPARROWS: Passeridae

House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

Scattered sightings throughout the tour.

 

SISKINS, CROSSBILLS AND ALLIES: Fringillidae

Thick-billed Siskin

Carduelis crassirostris

This stout-billed siskin is associated with polylepis woodland in the Chilean Andes , an endangered habitat that is now very rare and highly fragmented. We visited the small patch of polylepis that still exists near the town of Belen from Putre, and bumped into a small flock of these siskins feeding in a low polylepis. The same area also held three or more D’Orbigny’s Chat-tyrants, another bird that is associated with this rapidly disappearing Andean habitat.

Hooded Siskin

Carduelis magellanica

A few were seen in the Putre area, in Northern Chile .

Black-chinned Siskin

Carduelis barbata

Scattered sightings were made in Nahuelbuta NP, on Chiloe Island , on Tierra del Fuego , and lastly in Torres del Paine NP.

Black Siskin

Carduelis atrata

This sharp-dressed siskin was recorded on both of our trips onto the puna of Lauca NP, in Northern Chile . A few different small parties were seen during both of our days there.

Yellow-rumped Siskin

Carduelis uropygialis

Recorded in the Andes of Central and Northern Chile .

 

 

TANAGERS: Thraupidae

Cinereous Conebill

Conirostrum cinereum

Regularly seen, while we were on the hunt for Tamarugo Conebills, in the Chaca Valley .

Tamarugo Conebill

Conirostrum tamarugense

This colorful conebill has a very restricted range in Chile , and therefore was a big target species for us in the Oases Valleys of Northern Chile . We checked several spots in the Chaca Valley, just south of Arica, where we eventually picked up a pair of these red-and-blue ‘tanagers’ in amongst the decidedly more common Cinereous Conebills. Using tape of a Peruvian Pygmy-Owl brought in a mixed mobbing party, which included a pair of these cool conebills, in addition to several Cinereous Conebills, and a few Slender-billed Finches. The Tamarugos soon disappeared, although were soon brought back in with a little use of playback of their own song, giving much longer looks at this time.

Blue-and-yellow Tanager

Thraupis bonariensis

Two different birds were found in a dry scrubby gorge just below the town of Putre , in the Andes of Northern Chile .

 

BUNTINGS, SPARROWS, SEEDEATERS AND ALLIES: Emberizidae

Black-hooded Sierra-Finch

Phrygilus atriceps

This, the smartest of the sierra-finches, was only seen a few times, in the scrubby pre-puna zone near the town of Putre in Northern Chile .

Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch

Phrygilus gayi

Good numbers of these finches were seen in the Andes at El Yeso in Central Chile, and at a number of different spots in Patagonia .

Patagonian Sierra-Finch

Phrygilus patagonicus

This forest-dwelling sierra-finch was found in the strange aracauria forests of Nahuelbuta NP, and further south in Puyehue NP.

Mourning Sierra-Finch

Phrygilus fruticeti

A lone pair was found perched on a fence at El Yeso, in the Andes of Central Chile . Much greater numbers were found at the end of the tour in the north, when good numbers were commonly encountered around the quiet Andean town of Putre .

Plumbeous Sierra-Finch

Phrygilus unicolor

Commonly seen during our time in the Andes of both Central and Northern Chile .

White-throated Sierra-Finch

Phrygilus erythronotus

One of the scarcer sierra-finches, we found a few on both of our trips up onto the altiplano of Lauca NP in the north.

Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch

Phrygilus plebejus

A few were seen around the village of Putre in Northern Chile .

Canary-winged Finch

Melanodera melanodera

This superb finch, with the distinctive yellow wing flashes, was recorded a number of times in the Patagonian grasslands of Pali Aike NP.

Yellow-bridled Finch

Melanodera xanthogramma

A single individual of this scarce species was found feeding in an alpine meadow, near Las Cumbres in Patagonia .

White-winged Diuca-Finch

Diuca speculifera

Small numbers were seen on both of our days within Lauca NP.

Common Diuca-Finch

Diuca diuca

Seen at three sites in Central Chile - La Campana NP (where they were commonly seen), Altos de Lircay Reserve, and Lleyda.

Slender-billed Finch

Xenospingus concolor

Just recorded on the one day on the tour – in the Oases Valleys of the north. They were frequently seen in the Chaca Valley , and also in the hummingbird reserve in the Azapa Valley .

Blue-black Grassquit

Volatinia jacarina

Just seen near the end of the trip in the Lluta Valley in the north.

Chestnut-throated Seedeater

Sporophila telasco

Three birds were seen in the Lluta Valley .

Band-tailed Seedeater

Catamenia analis

Just recorded in the north, around the village of Putre .

Black-throated Flowerpiercer

Diglossa brunneiventris

A dry gorge below the small Andean village of Putre held a few of these handsome flowerpiercers.

Grassland Yellow-Finch

Sicalis luteola

A few were seen around Estera Lampa and La Campana NP in Central Chile, and also on Chiloe Island .

Bright-rumped Yellow-Finch

Sicalis uropygialis

Three were found feeding along the edge of a flamingo-lined pool in the Andes at Lauca NP in the north.

Greater Yellow-Finch

Sicalis auriventris

This localized species proved easy to find along the road into El Yeso, where they were regularly encountered.

Greenish Yellow-Finch

Sicalis olivascens

A few were seen in the pre-puna scrub zone below the Andean village of Putre .

Patagonian Yellow-Finch

Sicalis lebruni

Scattered sightings were made in Patagonia, firstly around Pali Aike NP, and later on Tierra del Fuego .

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Zonotrichia capensis

Commonly seen at many sites on the tour.

 

TROUPIALS AND ALLIES: Icteridae

Yellow-winged Blackbird

Agelasticus thilius

This wetland species was first seen at Estera Lampa on our first birding stop, and later in Torres del Paine NP in Patagonia, and finally at Lleyda in Central Chile.

Peruvian Meadowlark

Sturnella bellicosa

A few were seen in the Lluta Valley in Northern Chile .

Long-tailed Meadowlark

Sturnella loyca

This handsome bird is one of the more widespread species in Chile and was seen every day in both Central and Southern Chile .

Shiny Cowbird

Molothrus bonariensis

One was seen in Northern Chile .

Austral Blackbird

Curaeus curaeus

Regularly recorded in Central Chile .

 

MAMMAL LIST

 

Southern Viscacha

Lagidium viscacia

These comical chinchillas were readily seen up at Lauca NP.

Southern Gray Fox

Pseudalopex griseus

A number of these foxes were seen roaming the Patagonian plains in Magallanes.

Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk

Conepatus humboldti

This handsome skunk was seen a number of times in the Patagonian grasslands of Magallanes.

Vicuña

Vicugna vicugna

This slender ‘camel’ was common up in the Puna at Lauca NP. One of the great sights on this tour was standing up on the open lush green altiplano, being surrounded by grazing vicuña with the massive snow-covered volcanic cone of Paranacota in the background.

Guanaco

Lama guanicoe

This powerfully built camel was commonly encountered on the windswept Patagonian grasslands of the south (e.g. around Pali Aike NP), with further sightings in the high Andes of the north.