Chile 2007

...with Mark Finn

January 7th-21st

Chile proved to be a wonderful destination once again with this our fourteenth tour since 1994. Our journey took us from the extreme south including Tierra del Fuego and Torres del Paine to the arid north of Arica and the Atacama Desert. In between visits to Chiloe Island, Santiago and the central Chilean coast was made. In total we observed 286 species of birds including many sought after species notably Chatham Islands Albatross, Masatierra Petrel, Magellanic Plover, Diademed Sandpiper Plover, Burrowing Parrot, Magellanic Woodpecker, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, all the available tapaculos, canasteros and huet-huets and the majority of High Andean species. The latter included the rarely seen Creamy-rumped Miner, Red-backed Sierra Finch and the uncommon and localised Mountain Parakeet. I am once again indebted to Roberto Donoso and his knowledge of Chilean birds and his excellent guiding skills. My thanks also go out to the various drivers who drove us along high mountain roads or through the vast Patagonian steppe and stopped when requested to do so.

January 7th/8th: London - Madrid - Santiago de Chile - El Peral - Cartanegea – Quintero.

Weather: Sunny and clear with light west winds 15 C/29 C.

We met up at Heathrow and checked in for the long flight to Chile via Madrid in Spain. A few delays were encountered along the way and we arrived three hours late in Chile. We passed through immigration and customs and then met Roberto our guide for the tour. We headed towards the Pacific Ocean and the reserve of El Parel. En route to El Peral we noted some of the commoner Chilean birds notably Red-backed Hawk, Chimango Caracara, Southern Lapwing and Chilean Swallow. On arrival at El Peral we stopped at an elevated position overlooking a lagoon and extensive reedbeds. In no time at all we recorded Pied-billed and White-tufted Grebes, Red-gartered, Red-fronted and White-winged Coots, Red Shoveler, Lake Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail and Black-necked Swans. In the reeds Many-coloured Rush Tyrant and Wren-like Rushbirds and noisy Yellow-winged Blackbirds. We drove further along the road and entered a restricted part of the reserve. A shallow lagoon added Cattle and Snowy Egrets, Southern Stilt, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs and a surprise find in Cocoi Heron being chased by a Chimango Caracara. Next was an immature Plumbeous Rail feeding in the open with no fear of humans as it walked towards us. Out on the lagoon Cinnamon Teal and Spot-flanked Gallinule feeding on the vast expanses of weed. We ended the day at Cartanegra a coastal freshwater lagoon dotted with islands. Near the entrance gate a wintering Wilson's Phalarope feeding with Brown-hooded and Franklin's Gulls. Walking along the raised path looking down into the lagoon produced Silvery Grebes, Austral Negrito and a drake Black-headed Duck the latter being a scarce and localised bird within Chile. On grassy islands impressive numbers of roosting Hudsonian Whimbrels, Franklin’s Gulls, Elegant Terns and two pairs of American Oystercatchers with chicks. Returned to the bus and travelled to the port of Quintero our base for two nights.

January 9th: Quintero - Humboldt Current - Ventanas - Canchagua - Rio Pullalli.

Weather: Overcast offshore, warm and sunny pm, light south west winds, 10 C/30 C

An early start today with breakfast at 0600 followed by the short journey down to Quintero harbour. At 0645 we left the harbour and ventured out into the world famous Humboldt Current. Inshore waters held a few species notably Peruvian Booby, Guanay Cormorant, Grey Gull and South American Terns. Beyond the point we encountered our first Peruvian Diving Petrels and straggly flocks of Sooty Shearwaters. The boat went slowly out into the Pacific Ocean towards two active fishing trawlers. We started 'chumming' when flocks of birds started to appear. In no time at all the boat was surrounded by Peruvian Pelicans, Pink-footed Shearwaters, White-chinned and Westland Petrels and our first views of Salvin's and Buller's Albatrosses. As we neared the first trawler Northern Royal and Black-browed Albatrosses, Great Shearwaters and Grey Phalaropes were recorded. We ventured further out into the ocean with views of Juan Fernandez Petrel and the first of four Masatierra Petrels the latter having a fluttery flight pattern. On the return to Quintero we located a fine adult Chatham Islands Albatross, Antarctic Skua and our first Humboldt Penguins. Back at Quintero we visited the industrial pier for resting Inca, Elegant and summering Arctic Terns and Peruvian Boobies on a buoy. Returned to the main dock with a Blackish Oystercatcher feeding on a rocky island. Back to base for lunch and afterwards an afternoons birding north. A short stop at Ventanas a rather industrial and dirty area added the spectacular Spectacled Tyrant. Further along the road we entered the up-market village of Canchagua and walked along the beach road recording Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, Tufted Tit-tyrant and Black-chinned Siskins. We walked along the beach passing visiting tourists until we had a view of an offshore island. On the island itself nesting Olivaceous Cormorants, Peruvian Pelicans, American Oystercatchers and Humboldt Penguins the latter having several well-grown young. Our final stop was the countryside around Rio Pullalli. Raptors included a male Cinereous Harrier and a pair of White-tailed Kites. Scrub surrounding the road attracted Picui Ground and Eared Doves, Austral Blackbird and Long-tailed Meadowlarks. An elevated position above the river allowed us to view Cocoi Heron, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Chiloe Wigeon and the commoner ducks. Returned to base after an amazing days birding in Central Chile.

January 10th: Quintero - Concon - La Campana - Olmue - La Dormida - Lampa - Santiago de Chile.

Weather: Overcast then warm with light west winds, 25 C/32 C

We checked out at Quintero and made the short journey to Concon a rather rundown coastal resort adjacent to Vina del Mar. On arrival the tide was rising forcing birds onto rocks and cliffs. The first stop produced Ruddy Turnstones and displaying Chilean Seaside Cinclodes. Offshore the usual cast of pelicans, cormorants and gulls. Next stop the Maritime College where we finally located Surfbirds, Red-legged Cormorants with young and several Black-crowned Night Herons looking for prey in rock-pools. A highlight here was large numbers of Inca Terns fishing and resting on the cliff face. At 0930 we headed inland towards Olmue and La Campana National Park. The latter is a mix of woodland, scrub and rocky hillsides. Near the first camping site Carol located an Austral Pygmy-owl being mobbed by White-crested Eleanias. Our walk brought us to a trail going along a steep hillside. In the oaks Thorn-tailed Rayadito, and on the path Dusky-tailed Canasteros. Further along we heard Moustached Turca and eventually views of White-throated Tapaculo a shy and elusive endemic. On a dead tree two Chilean Flickers plus fleeting views of Great Shrike Tyrant. Returned to the car park with Chilean Pigeons sitting in a eucalyptus tree. Lunch was taken in Olmue followed by a visit to La Dormida a remote hillside accessed by a rough track. En route we recorded Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, American Kestrel and California Quail. La Dormida produced some excellent birds notably a juvenile Chilean Hawk, Crag Chilia, Grey-hooded Sierra Finches, Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail and Black-winged Ground Dove. Time was getting on as we entered Lampa a small farming town near Ruta 5. The marshes were totally dry although we managed to see an immature male Cinereous Harrier hunting over the reeds. We joined the highway into Santiago for a nights stay. Tomorrow we head south to the city of Talca and a totally different environment and habitat.

January 11th: Santiago de Chile – Vilces.

Weather: Warm and sunny with light west winds, 29 C.

We departed from Santiago and headed south along Route 5 to Talca. From Talca we turned east towards the border with Argentina and the remote village of Vilces. En route we stopped in an area of farmland dotted with small trees and bushes. After a little searching we located Chilean Tinamous walking and feeding on grasses. Beyond Vilces is a national forest reserve where lunch was taken in the warden’s compound. The afternoon was spent wandering around the various trail systems dominated by large southern beech trees. Our first stop produced Chilean Pigeon, Striped Woodpecker, White-throated Treerunner, Thorn-tailed Rayadito and Giant Hummingbird. At the first stream we noted Darkish Cinclodes feeding in a pool of water. Warm weather was keeping the birds quiet although we added an immature Green-backed Firecrown searching for insects in a bare tree. We headed down another trail overlooking mature forest and the background of the High Andes. Austral Parakeet observed in flight - here at its most northerly limit. Retraced our steps up the trail when we heard two Chestnut-throated Huet-huets. Luck was with us as one bird perched in a tree before dropping onto the forest floor. Near the entrance Chucao Tapaculo singing from a log. Returned along the entrance road to a hosteria for a nights stay. After dinner we went back into the forest searching for the little-known Rufous-legged Owl. Eventually we obtained good flight views and constant calling of two owls but they remained high in the canopy. An interesting birding day in Region 7 had come to an end.

January 12th: Vilces - Lago de Colbun - Santiago de Chile.

Weather: Sunny and warm.

After breakfast we headed back to the forest reserve of Vilces. Before boarding the bus we watched a Dusky Tapaculo in the hosteria grounds. At Vilces the usual forest birds around including several Chilean Swallows prospecting for nest sites. We heard two Chestnut-throated Huet-huets calling over territory. Eventually we obtained brief but excellent views of this secretive species. Returned to Talca and drove towards the border with Argentina to visit Lago de Colbun. Shallow edges of the laguna attracted Chiloe Wigeon, Yellow-billed Pintail, White-winged and Red-gartered Coots, Great Grebe, and in the reeds Great and Snowy Egrets. Along the road we encountered a flock of Black-necked Swans, Black-crowned Night Herons and American Kestrels the latter perched on telegraph wires. The lagoon widens into a river towards the mountains bordered by trees, scrub and low cliffs. In the middle island resting Olivaceous Cormorants and Andean Gulls and an immature Southern Crested Caracara. Our main target, Patagonian Burrowing Parrot was located by Mary feeding in trees across the river. We were fortunate as several parrots were located along the road resting in alamo trees. Lunch taken in a roadside restaurant and in the afternoon we headed back to Santiago.

January 13th: Santiago de Chile - Banos Morales - El Yeso.

Weather: Hot and sunny with light north winds, 26 C/34 C.

An early start today in order to reach the remote village of Banos Morales nestling in the shadow of the High Andes. The suburbs of Santiago held the commoner birds, and near San Juan de Maipo we recorded a family of Harris's Hawks sitting in a dead tree. On entering Banos Morales we were treated to a family of Torrent Ducks sitting on exposed rocks in a swollen river course. We walked from the village into an area of meadows on one side, and rocky scree slopes on the other. On wet meadows we located Bar-winged Cinclodes, White-browed and Rufous-naped Ground Tyrants, Scale-throated Earthcreeper and Yellow-rumped Siskins. In drier patches of ground Common and Rufous-banded Miners, Mourning and Plumbeous Sierra Finches and Greater Yellowfinches. We left the village and travelled down to El Volcan with a Moustached Tourca en route. El Yeso was next on the agenda a beautiful area of the Andes dominated by lakes, high mountains, meadows and fast-flowing rivers of snow melt. The first sector held Baird's Sandpiper, Grey-flanked Cinclodes and Spot-billed Ground Tyrant. We walked along the river looking for a suitable crossing point, this was not possible due to high water levels. We recorded a pair of Grey-bellied Seedsnipe sitting close to the ground. Fernando our driver picked us up, and he drove across three patches of river water. Our destination was an area of flooded marshes interspersed with seasonal streams. Magellan Snipe located by and shortly afterwards a pair of Diademed Sandpiper-plovers with two fully grown young. The group had literally 'cleaned up' on the birds in this area and we headed back to Santiago in good spirits.

January 14th: Santiago de Chile - Puerto Montt - Chacao Channel - Caulin - Ancud.

Weather: Warm and sunny with light north winds, 16 C/20 C

Today we travelled to Santiago airport for the flight to Puerto Montt via Conception. Lunch taken at a harbourside restaurant in Puerto Montt. Afterwards we headed for the ferry crossing the Chacao Channel to Chiloe Island. From the ferry we recorded Magellanic Penguin, Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters, Southern Giant Petrel, Imperial, Olivaceous and Red-legged Cormorants and flocks of Black-necked Swans. Once on Chiloe we headed to Caulin a hot-spot for waders and other waterbirds. Meadows en route held Chimango and Southern Crested Caracaras and the first Black-faced Ibis of the tour. Inshore waters at Caulin were productive for cormorants, Flightless Steamerducks, Peruvian Pelicans and Yellow-billed Pintails. Exposed patches of mud attracted waders including American Oystercatcher, Hudsonian Godwit, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Sanderling, Common Knot and White-rumped and Baird's Sandpipers. Close to the shore several Speckled Teal and fishing Snowy and Great Egrets. A highlight of Caulin was wintering Black Skimmers flying by or roosting on sandbanks. We headed to Ancud recording Plumbeous Rail and Magellan Snipe on the way. Tomorrow we head south to Castro the main town on Chiloe and its adjacent forests and lakes.

January 15th: Ancud - National Monument - Castro – Cucao.

Weather: Warm and sunny with light south west winds, 20 C.

After breakfast we joined the road leading to the national monument a protected area for penguins and other wildlife. Our first stop was at a shallow lagoon attracting large numbers of Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Speckled Teal and a pair of Plumbeous Rails inspecting a discarded rubbish bin. The road passed by an area of marshes bordered by extensive mudflats the latter holding Chiloe Wigeon, Patagonian Sierra Finch and Grassland Yellowfinch. On arrival at the national monument, a beautiful region of sheltered bays, rocky islands and sandy beaches we scanned for birds on offshore islands. We were rewarded with five Kelp Geese a rare bird this far north in Chile plus Humboldt and Magallenic Penguins, Red-legged Cormorants, Blackish Oystercatchers, and offshore Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters. Time was pressing as we returned to Ancud and joined the Pan American Highway to Castro the capital of Chiloe Island. Beyond Castro we followed one of the few roads leading to the Pacific Ocean. A diversion led us to the shore of a large lagoon. In no time at all we observed parties of endemic Slender-billed Parakeets flying low over the forest. On the water Brown-hooded Gulls and Red-gartered Coots. After lunch we continued to Cucao one of the few settlements on Chiloe adjoining the Pacific Ocean. Stopping near a bamboo thicket next to mature woodland yielded Chucao and Magellanic Tapaculos. At Cucao we entered the reserve and walked along the boardwalk system. In the car park views of Des Murs' Wiretail and Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail. The forest was exceptionally quiet for birds apart from calling Chucao Tapaculos. Retraced our journey and stopped in Castro for supplies. In the evening we joined a Chilean family for dinner which was cooked in a traditional way (stone pit) an enjoyable experience for all concerned.

January 16th: Ancud - Chacao Channel - Osorno – Antillanca.

Weather: Warm and sunny with building clouds, south winds, 18 C/21 C

Checked out at Ancud and visited a marsh on the outskirts of Ancud. Stands of reeds attracted Grass Wrens and a male Spectacled Tyrant. Open waters held White-tufted Grebes, Chiloe Wigeon, Speckled Teal and Yellow-billed Pintails. Headed to the ferry terminal and crossed the Chacao Channel with similar birds to two days ago. We passed Puerto Montt and headed north to Osorno travelling through prime farmland dotted with large trees. In Osorno we turned east towards the border with Argentina. Fields by the road held hundreds of Southern Lapwing, Chimango Caracara and Black-faced Ibis. Lunch taken at park headquarters. At 1400 hours we walked a forest trail bordered by thickets of bamboo and huge southern beech trees. Thorn-tailed Rayaditos and Green-backed Firecrowns were fairly common along with calling Chucao Tapaculos and at least two Magellanic Tapaculos. Higher up on the trail we located Patagonian Tyrants a rather scarce and secretive bird. Retraced our path towards the entry point with calling Black-throated Huet-huets and Des Murs' Wiretails. Another trail was taken with the main habitat being bamboo. Roberto finally located an Ochre-flanked Tapaculo skulking around in the undergrowth. Back to the bus and upwards to Antillanca a ski-resort. The last two kilometers were spent walking along forest trails or the main track with huge beech trees and an understory of bamboo. Flies were a problem here but thankfully not the biting variety. Chilean Flickers located feeding on a rotten tree and in the distance the distinctive 'knocking' of its larger cousin. We followed the knocking and were indebted to Arturo who was having a 'call of nature'. Two male and one female Magellanic Woodpeckers performed for us high in the canopy searching for grubs and clambering up trees.

January 17th: Antillanca - Puerto Montt - Punta Arenas.

Weather: Overcast around Puerto Montt, windy in the south, 9 C/14 C

An earlier breakfast today in order to check the beech woods around the hotel. Similar birds to yesterday afternoon plus brief views of Black-throated Huet-huet. Our journey back to Osorno produced large numbers of Black-faced Ibis feeding in newly mowed meadows. Joined the motorway back to Puerto Montt and onto the airport for the flight south to Punta Arenas. The flight to Punta Arenas was on time although we arrived late due to strong southerly air-streams. Picked up our bags and set off for the penguin colony at Seno Otway. The first flooded pool we came across had Upland Geese, Yellow-billed Pintail, White-rumped Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs and a bonus in two Rufous-chested Plovers. Near the old coal mine the first Lesser Rheas of the tour. On arrival at Seno Otway we followed the boardwalk towards the main penguin viewing area. On the beach reasonable numbers of adult and juvenile Magellanic Penguins, Flightless Steamerducks, Hudsonian Whimbrels and Rock Cormorants passing by in flight. Near the bridge an obliging Magellan Snipe and in the distance flocks of South American Terns. A large lagoon attracted Crested Ducks and a single Ashy-headed Goose in among the Upland Goose flocks. We returned to Punta Arenas with a bonus bird in Aplomado Falcon a rather scarce and nomadic resident in Magallenes.

January 18th: Punta Arenas - Pali-ake - Tierra del Fuego – Porvenir.

Weather: Sunny with moderate to strong south east winds, 14 C

Our first birding stop was on the outskirts of Punta Arenas in an area of flooded fields and pools. A wide variety of South American ducks were on view including Red Shoveler, Crested Duck, Chiloe Wigeon and Speckled Teal. On the other side of the road a female Flying Steamerduck with one well grown duckling. On the fields Upland Geese and a few Ashy-headed Geese plus the first Magallenic Oystercatchers of the tour. Today’s journey followed the Straits of Magellan towards the border with Argentina. We turned onto a gravel road leading to the remote reserve of Pali-ake. In the first field Two-banded Plover, and on a nearby pool Coscoroba Swan. A surprise was in store for us as a pair of Tawny-throated Dotterels appeared on the road - great views. Further down the track Least Seedsnipe, Aplomado Falcon, Grey-hooded Sierra Finch and hundreds of White-rumped and Baird's Sandpipers. Luck was to play a part again as Roberto located a Band-tailed Earthcreeper an extremely rare and localised species in Chile (formerly regarded as an Argentine endemic). Our journey continued through the Patagonian Steppe passing remote estancias and one large flock of sheep being herded by gauchos and sheepdogs - a wonderful experience to have witnessed. Beyond an estancia we stopped and walked into an area of rough grassland with a freshwater pool. The latter attracted the rare Black-throated Finch and Correndera Pipits. Paddocks used for sheep attracted high numbers of Rufous-chested Plovers and Tawny-throated Dotterels. Lunch taken and then several more kilometers of dirt road with stunted shrubs and ungrazed grassland being the major habitats. Chocolate-vented Tyrants located, and on pools Wilson's Phalaropes and a single Sanderling the latter looking 'out of place'. Before crossing the Straits of Magellan we visited a wetland area. This was excellent as we located the very rare Ruddy-headed Goose among Upland Goose flocks. Open waters attracted the localised Silver Teal and surprisingly six Black-headed Ducks (well out of range) and Andean Ruddy Duck. Arturo then located a pair of Rosy-billed Pochards an irruptive species in Chile. Crossed the Straits of Magellan with Magellanic Penguin, Rock Cormorant and Southern Giant Petrel for company. On entering Tierra del Fuego we turned towards Porvenir the major town. Highlights included two Magellanic Horned Owls, Common and Short-billed Miners and Chilean Skuas near Porvenir. Arrived in Porvenir for a stay of two nights in a comfortable hotel with excellent rooms, food and wine.

January 19th: Tierra del Fuego including Porvenir and Useless Bay.

Weather: Overcast with light north winds, 16 C

Overnight rain had cleared before 0700 leaving us with the rare sensation of no wind on Tierra del Fuego. This morning we concentrated birding around the lagoons and marshes surrounding Porvenir. In a stand of stunted bushes we enticed an Austral Canastero into view giving us close views of this localised and uncommon summer visitor. Up the road we checked a marshy area next to a salt lake. Luck was with us again as fourteen Spectacled Ducks were seen next to small pools. The latter also held White-rumped and Baird's Sandpipers, Wilson's Phalaropes, Bar-winged Cinclodes and overhead a party of calling Black-necked Swans. Next to the lake Coscoroba Swans, and on the gravel areas Common and Short-billed Miners. Next on the agenda was a freshwater lake bordered by a pebble beach, grassland with shrubs, and layers of 'volcanic' sand. After a while we located Patagonian Yellow Finches singing from a low cliff. We walked towards a stony peninsula and located our target species Magellanic Plover. Long views of obtained of this rare and unusual wader with a pair feeding a well-grown chick and teaching it how to forage. Also present were Two-banded Plovers and in the lake itself Flying Steamerducks. Back in Porvenir we checked the harbour area recording Chilean Skua, Kelp, Brown-hooded and Magellan Gulls and Great Grebes. Lunch taken at the hotel and afterwards a visit to Useless Bay which is on the way to Cameron. En route Aplomado Falcon and Cinereous Harriers. On arrival the old jetty had considerable numbers of Rock, King and Imperial Cormorants and several adult Magellan Gulls. Along the shore familiar waders in addition to impressive numbers of Two-banded and Rufous-chested Plovers. Out in the bay groups of Great Grebes, both steamerducks and a few Magellanic Penguins. Returned to Porvenir for our final night on Tierra del Fuego.

January 20th: Porvenir - Straits of Magellan - Punta Arenas - Puerto Natales - Cerro Guido.

Weather: Overcast with occasional sunshine, light north west winds 15 C/17 C

An early start was essential today in order to catch the 0800 ferry to Punta Arenas. The harbour held the same birds as yesterday with the addition of a White-tufted Grebe. The Straits of Magellan were as flat as a mill-pond, ideal conditions to observe seabirds. Black-browed Albatrosses were present in their hundreds either flying by the boat or loafing around in loose flocks. Other species recorded included King and Rock Cormorants, Magellanic Penguin, Southern Giant Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel and several Magellanic Diving Petrels. Landed on time at Punta Arenas and headed north to Puerto Natales with a lunch stop near Rubens. The road towards Torres del Paine is gradually being improved and we had a few delays due to road construction. At one stop we recorded our first Andean Condor circling low over a cliff face. Arrived at Cerro Guido, base for the next two nights set among some of the most spectacular scenery in South America. In the gardens Lesser Rhea, Southern Crested Caracara, American Kestrel, Austral Blackbird and ever-present Rufous-collared Sparrows.

January 21st: Los Cumbres - Torres del Paine.

Weather: Cloudy and pleasant with no wind, 17 C

After breakfast we turned left and travelled towards the remote hamlet of Las Cumbres nestling under high mountains and the border with Argentina. At the first patch of low scrub we located a pair of Grey-bellied Shrike Tyrants a localised and rare summer visitor to north east Patagonia. We continued up the road and encountered a huge flock of sheep probably numbering c5000 animals being accompanied by several gauchos and sheepdogs. We stopped again looking at high cliffs with Andean Condor roosts/nests and two White-throated Caracaras sitting on the ridge. Nearby we watched a sub-adult Black-chested Buzzard-eagle and an immature Aplomado Falcon. Next stop was a walk along the road with adjacent meadows and streams this produced Scale-throated and Band-tailed Earthcreepers, Dark-bellied and Bar-winged Cinclodes, Austral Negrito, Correndera Pipit and Mourning and Grey-hooded Sierra Finches. Our journey took us up in altitude and the spectacle of c80 Andean Condors flying overhead or perching on riverside cliffs. On grassy slopes with rocks Cinnamon-bellied Ground Tyrants. Returned to base with a family of Patagonian Mockingbirds perched in a stunted bush by the road. Lunch taken at the hosteria followed by an afternoon excursion into Torres del Paine National Park. Lakes and pools held the commoner wildfowl. The last lake visited produced close views of Wren-like Rushbird and Grass Wrens. In the reeds calling Austral Rails although on this occasion they did not show. Back to base with many Guanacos feeding by the roadside. Tomorrow we head back to Punta Arenas and onto Santiago where we spend the night.

January 22nd: Cerro Guido - Punta Arenas – Santiago.

Weather: Overcast in the south warm in Santiago, 18 C/29 C

Checked out of Cerro Guido for the journey back to Punta Arenas and north to Santiago. The first section of the journey to Puerto Natales was largely uneventful for birds apart from an adult Black-chested Buzzard-eagle. Brief stop in Puerto Natales and onto Rueben’s. Before Ruebens we checked a large lake and adjacent woodland for birds. On the lake Andean Ruddy Duck, Speckled Teal and Lesser Yellowlegs. At last we had good views of Austral Parakeets in flight and perched in dead trees. Other species present included Black-chinned Siskin, Austral Negrito and Chilean Flicker. Beyond Reubens the road passes through cattle country with abundant Southern Crested Caracara, Black-faced Ibis and Upland Geese. Checked in for the flight to Santiago via Cochrane and Puerto Montt. On arrival in Santiago we made the short transfer to the airport hotel for the night.

January 23rd: Santiago - Antofagasta - Arica including North and South Beaches and Chalca Valley.

Weather: Warm with west winds, 26 C

An early departure from Santiago saw us arrive in Chile's northern city of Arica at 1040. Met up with Cristian our driver and headed towards the north beach. En route we stopped to purchase water with Oasis Hummingbird and Pacific Dove in roadside trees. On the North Beach river outlet Franklin's Gulls were present in their thousands along with Kelp, Band-tailed and Grey Gulls, Little Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Olivaceous Cormorant, American Oystercatcher and hundreds of Sanderling. Offshore we noted Peruvian Pelicans, Peruvian Booby, Elegant Tern and Guanay Cormorant. Two shallow lagoons adjacent to the beach held Common Moorhen, Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated and Snowy Plovers and Killdeer. Bushes behind the pools produced Peruvian Meadowlark and the localised and scarce Slender-billed Finch. Lunch of fish and chips followed by checking into the Azapa Hotel (grounds now much diminished). Out again at 1515 to visit another area of Arica and a valley further south. First stop was the south beach an area of rocky outcrops adjacent to a small bay. This was productive for north-bound Hudsonian Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone and Surfbird. Offshore Grey Gulls and Inca Terns. Our journey continued south along Route 5 to an area of the Chalca Valley. A section of farmland used for vegetable production produced Blue and White Swallows, White-crested Elaenia (Peruvian sub-species) and post-breeding flocks of Rufous-collared Sparrows. Down the road I noticed movement in a small tree which turned out to be a Tamarugo Conebill a species first described as recently as 1974. Excellent views obtained of four birds searching for insects and seeds. We checked the opposite side of the highway recording the very rare Chilean Hillstar, Oasis Hummingbird, Cinereous Conebill, Chestnut-throated Seedeater and a juvenile Shiny Cowbird being fed by Rufous-collared Sparrows. Back to base at Arica a tired, dusty and contented group of birders.

January 24th: Arica Harbour - Lluca Valley – Putre.

Weather: Sunny with light west winds, 24 C

Our first stop today was Arica Harbour which is literally full of rusting trawlers and a container area for goods going up to Bolivia. The north side allows good views along the pier and out to sea. On the former Peruvian Booby, Peruvian Pelican, Olivaceous and Guanay Cormorants, Elegant Tern and a single summering Common Tern. Offshore an old wooden boat hosted in excess of 200 Inca Terns. A surprise came when we located two Peruvian (Chilean) Terns fishing near the boats. Revisited the north beach with similar birds to yesterday plus several Black-crowned Night Herons and a Spotted Sandpiper. We headed into the Lluca Valley a rather lush area used for agriculture but surrounded on both side by arid and barren hillsides. American Kestrels were particularly numerous perched on telegraph poles. In a fallow field Peruvian Thick-knees with one juvenile bird. Other species present included Croaking Ground Dove, Chestnut-throated Seedeater and summering Barn Swallows from further north. Near a washed out bridge we added the localised Blue-black Grassquit feeding on reed heads. Over maize fields fantastic views of Andean Swifts. Stopped at a restaurant for lunch and walked behind the buildings recording Peruvian Meadowlark and Groove-billed Ani. The road starts to wind and ascend in altitude beyond the valley passing through barren hillsides and dry boulder-strewn river beds, the latter having a group of Greenish Yellowfinches. By a truckers restaurant we found Ash-breasted, Black-hooded and Mourning Sierra Finches and Dark-winged Canasteros. We turned off the main highway to visit several isolated Andean villages. The first in a steep valley with trees produced Hooded Siskin, Black-billed Shrike Tyrant, Streaked Tit-spinetail and Sparkling Violetear. In the next valley Bare-faced Ground Dove and White-winged Cinclodes. We checked an area for Giant Conebill without success. Overhead Andean Condors and Puna Hawk. Back to the main highway and onto Putre. An added bonus was a flock of Mountain Parakeets flushed from the roadside and in Putre itself Spot-winged Pigeon a recent colonist from further east.

January 25th: Putre and surrounding area.

Weather: Sunny although cool at times 16 C/24 C

After breakfast we joined the main road towards Bolivia. At the army barracks Black Siskin perched on wires. Turned off onto a dirt road searching for birds of pre-puna scrub. Species observed included Straight-billed Earthcreeper, Cordilleran and Dusky-winged Canasteros, Mourning, Plumbeous, Ashy-breasted and Black-hooded Sierra Finches and Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant. Retuned to the main road with Rufous-naped Ground Tyrant perched on low bushes. Headed back to Putre along the old road with wetter areas having Andean Swallow and Bar-winged and White-winged Cinclodes. Around the alfalfa fields large numbers of sierra-finches, Bare-faced Ground Doves and Puna Hawk. Back in Putre we checked an area of eucalyptus recording Sparkling Violetear, Giant Hummingbird and Andean Hillstar. Among the flowers Blue and Yellow Tanager and a family of Black-throated Flower Piercers. In a nearby tree two Aplomado Falcons a fitting end to a mornings birding. Set off at 1500 to explore a canyon and run down agricultural fields near Putre. Birds were similar to the morning although we managed better views of Andean Hillstar and Giant Hummingbird. At the bottom of the canyon White-throated Earthcreeper digging around under a cliff. On the opposite side of the river two Canyon Canasteros a scarce resident in the Putre region. Roberto, Arturo and Mary located a nesting Plain-breasted Earthcreeper on the town boundary.

January 26th: Putre - Lauca National Park – Arica.

Weather: Sunny with light west winds 23 C/27 C

We left Putre with an immature Aplomado Falcon perched on a telegraph wire being mobbed by an Andean Hillstar. Joined Highway 11 towards Lauca National Park stopping near the army barracks. Walked into pre-puna scrub searching for birds. John located a family of Mountain Parakeets feeding on seed heads, excellent views of this scarce and localised species. Roberto then found a group of Ornate Tinamou on a hillside. Our journey took us into an area of high cliffs with bogs, and streams, in the valley bottom. The cliffs held Andean Geese with one being harassed by an immature Puna Hawk. On the bog Puna Ground Tyrant, Bar-winged and White-winged Cinclodes. Further up the road another stop produced a family of Puna Tinamou, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe and Bright-rumped Yellowfinches. Near the ranger hut rocks attracted Andean Flickers, Puna Miner, Andean Negrito and White-fronted Ground Tyrants. On hillsides groups of Vicuna and the 'rabbit like' Vizcacha. The road wanders slowly upwards passing through an immense area of alti-plano surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. Our main interest was the lakes and grassland where we observed Andean and Chilean Flamingos, Puna Ibis, Puna Teal, Giant Coot and the very scarce Andean Lapwing. We turned off onto a minor road running close to extensive bogs and streams. A juvenile Mountain Caracara feeding on prey, and nearby, White-winged Diuica Finch and White-throated Sierra Finch the latter being a scarce Andean bird. Lunch taken at a picnic site with a panoramic setting of volcanoes. At the picnic site Black-hooded Sierra and Plumbeous Sierra Finches looking for hand outs and a Bar-winged Cinclodes nesting in a stone wall. On the lake itself huge numbers of Silvery Grebes, Giant and Andean Coots, Andean Gulls and Puna Teal. Near the customs post White-tufted Grebes, Andean Ruddy Ducks, Baird's Sandpiper, Common Miner and Straight-billed Earthcreeper. Beyond the customs post (permission required) we added Puna Rhea, Puna Yellowfinch and flocks of Andean Geese. Returned to Arica with the hazards of slow-moving Bolivian trucks. Greyish Miner observed by John in the arid sector. Checked in at Arica after a long day in the field. It was a relief for us all to be at sea level after three days at 10000-15900 feet and the effects of altitude sickness. Tomorrow we head south to Antofagasta and inland to San Pedro de Atacama the heart of the vast Atacama Desert.

January 27th: Arica - Azapa Valley - Antofagasta - San Pedro de Atacama

Weather: Warm and sunny with light west winds, 20 C/26 C

A later start today as we headed to the lush Azapa Valley. First stop along an unmade road produced two Burrowing Owls by their nest holes. Cristian our driver then took us to a private garden festooned with flowers. Walking slowly around the grounds enabled us to study Oasis Hummingbirds at close range. Mid-morning back to Arica stopping to admire a male Peruvian Sheartail. Arica north beach had fewer birds than before suggesting northward migration was in full swing. Checked in at the airport for the flight down to Antofagasta and onto San Pedro de Atacama. The journey to Calama was largely uneventful apart from a Greyish Miner and flocks of Turkey Vultures. Near Calama we passed 'ghost' villages abandoned between 1920/1952 and working copper mines. The scenery near San Pedro is simply breathtaking with rocks changing colour with the light. Checked in at San Pedro a small town with strong links to the 'hippy' era of the1960's/early 1970's.

January 28th: San Pedro de Atacama - Los Flamencos – Solaire

Weather: Hot and sunny with cool winds at Los Flamencos 24 C/32 C

At 0800 we headed to the remote reserve of Los Flamencos straddling the border with Bolivia and Argentina. At Solaire we came across flocks of Bright-rumped Yellowfinches and Mourning Sierra Finches. Near the church in Solaire, Black-winged Ground Doves, Andean Hillstar and Black Siskins. Turned off to the reserve with immature Puna Hawks for company. We then came across a flock of Golden-spotted Ground Doves feeding among grass tussocks and bushes. Up the road a Cinereous Ground Tyrant was located perched on low bushes - excellent views of this highly localised bird. Checked in at the reserve centre and visited the first lagoon set in a stunning location. By the shore Dark-fronted, Ochre-naped and Rufous-naped Ground Tyrants, Puna Miner and Baird's Sandpipers. In the lagoon close views of the flightless and rare Horned Coot (this species is only found on a handful of lakes in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina and has a population of perhaps as few as 10000 birds). Other species present included Silvery Grebe, Crested Duck, Chilean Flamingo and Andean Gull. Visited the smaller lagoon where larger numbers of Horned Coots were present. Back to Solaire for lunch. Afterwards we visited a farming area with stands of trees. In the first tree four Mountain Parakeets perched in the shade. Black-hooded and Plumbeous Sierra Finches were particularly numerous plus a lone Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail. We visited another village but few birds were present. Returned to San Pedro de Atacama as the weather was turning very hot.

January 29th: San Pedro de Atacama - Chaxha - Bolivia border road

Weather: Warm with cool winds at high altitude 20 C/30 C

Chaxha was our first birding stop which is literally in the middle of the Atacama Desert. Arrived before the 'tourists' and walked along the salty paths. On the first lagoon Chilean Flamingos, Baird's Sandpipers and several Puna Plovers. From another path large numbers of Andean Flamingos (feeding and in flight) and five Puna Flamingos the latter being scarce in Chile. By 1000 the saltpans were hotting up so we returned to San Pedro de Atacama stopping at an acacia woodland. This was poor for birds with Cinereous Conebill and Scale-throated Earthcreeper being present. We joined the road to Bolivia passing by deep gorges and puna habitats, all this against a backdrop of smoking volcanoes. We came across a family of Puna Tinamous totalling nine in number and a Mountain Caracara circling overhead. Stopped for lunch overlooking a rather lush area with Puna Rhea, Cinereous Ground Tyrant and parties of Vicuna for company. Little did we know that a bird-rich lagoon was a few minutes away. The lagoon produced Chilean Flamingo, Andean Geese, Giant and Andean Coots, Puna and Speckled Teals and a surprise find in Pectoral Sandpiper. On the other side the lagoon is bordered by cliffs and scrub. This unique habitat lured Mountain Parakeet, Black-hooded Sierra Finch and the uncommon Red-backed Sierra Finch the latter often going down to feed on the marsh edge. Around the marsh Bar-winged and White-winged Cinclodes, Ochre-naped, Rufous-naped and Dark-fronted Ground Tyrants and Andean Negrito. Returned to San Pedro de Atacama after an enjoyable days birding in Region Two of Chile.

January 30th: San Pedro de Atacama - Calama - Santiago – Farallones

Weather: Sunny with light west winds 24 C/30 C

An early departure from San Pedro de Atacama to connect with the flight from Calama to Santiago. On arrival we passed through the city to the high Andes ski resort of Farallones. On the way brief views of Moustached Turca and in open rocky areas Common and Rufous-banded Miners. Below the ski station we located Yellow-rumped Siskins, Greater Yellowfinches and overhead Red-backed Hawks and several Andean Condors. At the summit we finally found the rare and localised Creamy-rumped Miner. Back to Santiago for our last night in Chile. At 2200 we said our goodbyes to Roberto who was travelling south to Punta Arenas. An enjoyable tour had come to an end.

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