FW: Chile and Antarctica - October / November 2006 - Part 1 of 4

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Subject: FW: Chile and Antarctica - October / November 2006 - Part 1 of 4
From: "Bill Stent" <>
Date: Fri, 6 Jul 2007 11:22:39 +1000
Received from Chris Lester...


Sent: Friday, 6 July 2007 9:34 AM
Subject: Chile and Antarctica - October / November 2006 - Part 1 of 4

Dear Birding-Ausers,

Last year, I went to South America with some friends.  Here is a report
of the trip.  I hope you enjoy it.


CHILE & ANTARCTICA October / November 2006 - Part 1 of 4


When I started birding, I had three "must visit" birding places and
Antarctica was the third and last one after earlier trips to Ecuador and
Kenya.  Thus, 2006 became the year that Ro and I were determined to go
there.  Because it was such a long way away, we also wanted to bird a
bit in South America and chose to bird Chile over Argentina, mostly
because Argentina is too big to cover in only three weeks.  Our good
Boston friend, Jan Smith, decided to join us and we commissioned Nigel
Moorhouse of Sarus Bird Tours to arrange our trip because he had done
such a good job in 2005 with our East African foray.

The trip was planned to start in the north of Chile and end in the
south, with the trip to Antarctica to interrupt it near the end.
However, we were to start in Santiago, Chile, meeting up with Jan and
his friend, Rick Heil, and our first and main guide, Frank Lambert, on
25 October.  Frank is well known from Asia in the 1980s and 1990s. He
has been based in Peru since 2002 and has been doing research and
leading trips in South America during that time.


Central Chile - Santiago Area

Our first two days were spent in the Andes mountains east of Santiago,
mainly looking for Diademed Sandpiper-Plover (DSP), which we did not
find.  One of the other birds I really wanted to see on this trip was
Andean Condor.  It took until about 9am on the first day to see this
magnificent bird and we encountered them regularly throughout Chile.

Amid some pretty impressive scenery, we also saw Chilean Tinamou,
Mountain Caracara, Aplomado Falcon, South American Snipe, Gray-breasted
Seedsnipe, Magellanic Horned-Owl, White-sided Hillstar, Giant
Hummingbird, Chilean Flicker, Creamy-rumped Miner, Scale-throated
Earthcreeper, Crag Chilia, Moustached Turca, assorted Ground-Tyrants,
Chilean Mockingbird and assorted Sierra-Finches.  It was a pretty good
start to the trip.

Northern Chile - Arica and Lauca National Park

On 28th, we flew to Arica in the very north of Chile.  The flight was
very spectacular as the plane flies up the middle of the very narrow
Chile, with great views of the Andes on the east side and the Chilean
coast on the west.

We did some initial birding around Arica looking for and finding the
local hummingbirds, Oasis Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail and Chilean
Woodstar, in the flowers of the irrigated orchards.  In this area, we
also saw Peruvian Thick-knee, Burrowing Owl, Cinereous Conebill and
Slender-billed Finch.  On the foreshore, we were able to find Turkey
Vulture, Peruvian Diving-Petrel, Peruvian Booby, Guanay and Red-legged
Cormorants, Blackish Oystercatcher and Belcher's (Band-tailed) and Gray

Next day, we set off for the Andes.  We travelled through the amazing
Atacama Desert - no trees, no bushes, no plants of any kind.  Just rocks
and dirt.  There were only a few birds there, the most notable of which
was Grayish Miner.  I concluded that it could only eat sand as nothing
else was evident.  On this drive inland, there was an amazing contrast
between the fertile and green river valleys, with water flowing down
from the Andes, and the barren desert right above them.  In these
valleys, there was lots of produce, like fruit and crops, that was
grown.  They were also excellent for birds like Peruvian Meadowlarks,
seedeaters and a mixture of swallows and Andean Swifts.

Travelling higher into the Andes, some shrubs and Candelabra Cacti
appeared.  We saw more birds like Andean Swift, Straight-billed
Earthcreeper, Canyon Canastero, White-browed Chat-Tyrant and Peruvian
Meadowlark and encountered our first Guanacos, which are much nicer than
Llamas, their domesticated cousins.

We arrived in Putre, our home for the next three nights, and birded
locally in the late afternoon.  It was quite high at 3,500 metres and
the birds were quite different.  That evening and on the morning of our
last day there, we found Bare-faced and Black-winged Ground-Doves,
Spot-winged Pigeon (which wasn't on our Chilean list), Peruvian
Pygmy-Owl, Andean Hillstar, Plain-breasted and White-throated
Earthcreepers, Cordilleran Canastero, Chiguanco Thrush, Blue-and-yellow
Tanager and Black-throated Flower-piercer.  We didn't find Golden-billed
Saltator, which is a speciality of Putre, even though we looked hard for

On the 30th and 31st, we went up to Lauca National Park, which is
seriously high at 4,500 metres.  This park is visually stunning with
mountains and volcanos, large expanses of high-altitude bogs, sweeping
plains and lots of lakes.  We saw lots of Vicunas, another Llama-like
animal that was endangered not long ago.  However, they have been
protected for a while now and their numbers have significantly
recovered.  There were also Viscachas, a strange South American cross
between a rabbit and a squirrel, and Cupeo, a South American fox.  And,
the birds were just fantastic.  I was keen to see the three South
American flamingos and we saw them together on one small saline lake -
the rare Puna and Andean and the more widespread Chilean - just
fantastic.  We also found Puna Rhea, Ornate and Puna Tinamous, assorted
high-altitude grebes, Puna Ibis, Andean Goose, several ducks including
Puna Teal and Andean Duck, Giant Coot, Andean Avocet, Andean Lapwing,
Puna Plover, Puna Snipe, Baird's Sandpiper, Andean Gull, Golden-spotted
Ground-Dove, Andean Flicker (a woodpecker that doesn't need trees), Puna
Miner, White-tailed and Black-billed Shrike-Tyrants, more
Ground-Tyrants, Hooded, Black and Yellow-rumped Siskins, several
Sierra-finches including White-throated, White-winged Diuca-Finch and
Band-tailed Seedeater.  But, the piece-de-resistance was Diademed
Sandpiper-Plover.  We only found one, but it was very special in its
Andean bog.

The park seemed badly overgrazed with lots of domesticated Llamas and
Alpacas grazing with the Vicunas.  They were having a large detrimental
affect on the bogs, in particular.  Even so, the birdlife was plentiful
and interesting and we saw lots of variety.

On 1st November, we returned to Arica and birded in that area again.  We
went sought out Chilean Seaside Cinclodes, a speciality of the area on
the coast.  We also visited the harbour and saw Peruvian Pelican and
South American Sea Lion.  We were to do a pelagic trip out of Arica the
next day and we bumped into the boat driver in the harbour.  He showed
us his boat, which horrified us quite a bit.  It was very small with one
out-board motor.  We gave serious thought to not going as it was too
small to head out into the Pacific Ocean to the shelf in search of
seabirds.  But, as he had a radio and assured us that all the organised
tours used him, we decided to go as long as the weather was fine and the
sea remained dead calm.

A little unsettled, we went north to the mouth of the Lluta River and
indulged in some waterbird and wader watching.  We saw Little Blue
Heron, Snowy Egret, White-cheeked Pintail, American Oystercatcher,
Semipalmated Plover, Surfbird, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Wilson's
Phalarope, Franklin's Gull and Black Skimmer.  We got very excited about
a Western Sandpiper, which is quite rare in Chile.

So, the 2nd dawned fine and calm and we set off on our first pelagic
with Raoul.  The boat was pretty slow, but we saw interesting birds from
near the start and eventually made it a fair way out (although I think
we were well short of the shelf).  The best birds among 31 species seen
from the boat were Humboldt Penguin, Westland Petrel (in very heavy
moult), Pink-footed Shearwater, White-vented (Elliot's) and Markham's
Storm-Petrels, Peruvian Diving-Petrel, lots of Gray Phalaropes, Chilean
Skua, South Polar Skua, Pomarine and Long-tailed Jaegers, Sabine's Gull
and Elegant, Peruvian and Inca Terns.  The Inca Tern is a truly
spectacular tern.  As well, we saw Dusky Dolphins.  It turned out to be
an excellent day.  Luckily, it was calm.

Before our flight back to Santiago, we rushed down to the Chaca Valley,
a bit south of Arica, to look for Tamarugo Conebill.  We were successful
and also had good looks at Chilean Woodstar, which was more plentiful
away from the Peruvian Sheartails around Arica.

Part 2 follows .......... <M

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