Received from Chris Lester...
Sent: Friday, 6 July 2007 11:21 AM
To: Bill Stent
Subject: Chile and Antarctica - October / November 2006 - Part 4 of 4
CHILE & ANTARCTICA October / November 2006 - Part 4 of 4
The Patagonian Steppe
Ro, Jan and I then joined up for southern Chile with Ricardo Matus, who
is a local guide from Punta Arenas with Natura Patagonia and who was
organised by Nigel to complete our tour. As we had done so well in the
first part of the Chilean trip, he was left with a relatively small
number of reasonably hard birds to show us. But, as I will relate, he
did very well.
We started in Chilean Tierra del Fuego birding around Porvenir and Cerro
Sombrero. At Laguna Verde, we were able to see two very special waders
in Two-banded and Magellanic Plovers at close quarters. A little later,
we saw the rare Ruddy-headed Goose, a bird that is significantly
endangered by the predations of the introduced Pampas Fox, which we also
saw. During this afternoon, we also saw Chilean Flamingo, White-rumped
and Baird's Sandpipers, Wilson's Phalarope, Least Seedsnipe and
Brown-hooded Gull and lots of Guanacos.
Next morning, we caught the ferry from Puerto Espora across the Magellan
Straits, seeing quite a few sea birds and Commerson's Dolphins. We then
headed into the Patagonian Steppe area, birding from Punta Delgada to
Morro Chico. It was quite windy but very interesting. In the east,
there were extensive wetlands and then, as we travelled west, very
extensive grasslands. The best of the birds we saw were Rosy-billed
Pochard, Rufous-chested Plover, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Common and
Short-billed Miners, Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Patagonian Mockingbird and
Canary-winged (Black-throated) Finch. The two waders rounded out a very
impressive trip for shorebirds. We ended up at Puerto Natales, a large
tourist and back-packer town.
Then, it was on to the last scenic highlight of our trip, Torres del
Paine. This is a very impressive mountain range at the end of the Andes
with truly stunning scenery. And, the birds were pretty good too, with
Spectacled Duck, Austral Rail, Austral Pygmy-Owl, Lesser Canastero,
Grey-bellied Shrike-Tyrant and Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant.
Then, on our last real birding day in Chile, an unusual thing happened.
For the first time on the trip, it rained throughout a miserable and
windy day and it seriously affected our birding. One wet day in more
than 5 weeks - pretty poor really. We did visit the Milodon Caves, an
archaeological site near Torres del Paine, where the sloth-like Milodon
grazed up until 5,000 years ago. Then, it was off to Punta Arenas.
On the way, Ricardo had one last trick up his sleeve and detoured to a
spot to look for Patagonian Yellow-Finch. We found it and Austral
Canastero as well as a great Hog-nosed Skunk walking down the road.
Finally, we ended up in Punta Arenas for the night and then flew off to
Santiago at the end of our trip.
The Finale - Santiago Area, again
Jan went straight home to Boston from Santiago, but Ro and I had one
last day left. Ricardo had told us about a couple of swamps north of
Santiago where we might find a couple of rarer species that we had not
seen to date. We looked in vain for South American Painted-Snipe, but
we did find Long-winged Harrier for our final new bird in Chile.
Then, on 29 November, we boarded the plane in Santiago and flew out for
Melbourne via Auckland and Sydney arriving home on 1 December.
>From all viewpoints, our trip was a resounding success. We recorded 282
bird species in Chile, 61 in Argentina and 30 in Antarctica and its
surrounds. I ended up with 309 birds for the whole trip (with 201 new
ones) and Ro with 296 (and with 262 new ones). We judged this a very
We saw lots of exceptional mammals, which I have detailed above. The
scenery in Chile was terrific and Chile impressed us as a country with
good infrastructure and helpful and friendly people. All our
arrangements went tremendously well.
Finally, Antarctica was unbelievable, every bit as impressive as we had
been promised and more. The scenery down there is breath-taking with
the ice, snow, icebergs and pack-ice. And, the wildlife is truly
We have to thank our helpers. The expertise, knowledge and skill of our
two Chilean guides, Frank and Ricardo, and their friendly manner did
much to ensure the success of our trip. The crew of the Grigoriy
Mikheev were also highly skilled and thoroughly professional and ensured
that our needs in Antarctica were well met. And once again, Nigel's
organisational skills proved exceptional.
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