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Independant Birding in Chile

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Old Tuesday 7th June 2005, 13:16   #1
Montagu
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Independant Birding in Chile

Hi I found myself in Chile for personal reasons at the end of May of this year (2005) and was surprised that I could find little information about birding at this time. It is the beginning of winter for Chile although temperatures in Santiago were a comfortable 16°C during the day and very pleasant in the sun. I used Mark Pearman’s Birding in Chile and confined myself to the areas in and around Santiago. I got a street map of Santiago and another of Chile from www.elsteadmaps.co.uk and mapped out my routes to some of the sites in Mark’s book. These are my observations:

1) Birding in May is not as prolific as the Summer months (might sound obvious), Crag Chilia, Dusky Tapaculo, Moustached Turca are all still possible but Diademed Sandpiper Plover isn’t..

2) Embalse El Yeso: The snow line didn’t allow me to get closer than 6km to the reservoir. A snow plough had been up the mountain path for approximately 18Km but the road disappeared into the snow at that point. A 4WD is ESSENTIAL in my view at anytime, if hiring a vehicle. Even when I visited in Summer (January) it was still necessary, if not for the terrain for the comfort and possible expensive damage to a hire car not suited to a dirt track. Crag chilia and Moustached Turca were seen as were Andean Condor and Black Chested Buzzard Eagle. A large flock of mixed tyrants were lower down below the snow line. BEWARE of where you park the car OR make sure you know where the goats are as they start mini landslides which can dislodge large rocks which could potentially hit you or damage a car.

3) Colina Station: This marsh is stated by Mark Pearman as seasonally flooded. I have visited it in summer and winter and it seemed the same. This site is not for those who want an aesthetic and picturesque experience, it is raw birding in my opinion and is for the more dedicated birder. Visit early in the morning, around 7am earlier if the light is good enough as it is only viewable from the road and there are precious few places to park up out of the way of traffic. I visited it at 7am in the summer and 3pm in the winter and would far rather suffer the mosquito (summer) bites early in the morning than the large lorries and buses hurtling at speed along the road in late afternoon. In Summer take insect repellent as mosquito’s are more than willing to eat you and wear long trousers. This area is strewn with rubbish alongside the road and in the marsh but this doesn’t seem to deter the birds. In the summer of 2003 I didn’t notice any great pollution but in Winter 2005 there was a strong smell of sulphides around the area making it unpleasant. Also Chile has a large feral dog population that while being friendly does scavenge and are neglected. Be prepared to see dogs scavenging with sores and mange looking starved anywhere, also be prepared to see them run over and lying in the road.

4) Quintero: This is recommended as a sea watching point, as with sea watching anywhere if the weather is against you, you’ve had it! I had a nice still day that was very unproductive. In Mark’s book he says park by a pine plantation, I found this to be a municipal park with a walk down to Punta Liles of approx 1km. It takes two hours to get to from Santiago. Again it’s near a port so is not as picturesque as you might think. Again for the dedicated birder. Horcon is just up the coast for a picturesque village and good seafood emapanadas.

5) Laguna El Peral
The road to the entrance is down what looks like a golden sand track and a bill board with a picture of black necked swan and the words “Parque Naturalista” on it. The entrance is on your right and is about 50 metres back from the road. It is open from 10am-1pm and from 2pm-5pm. It is a nice comfortable reserve with a small trail but a lot of birds in Summer. Visit during the week as the local Chilean population visit at weekends to enjoy the surroundings and do not take such a keen interest in the birds. This means that if you are looking at something on the path in front they will walk past and spook it, this is not deliberate, the Chilean people are very friendly, they just don’t understand our version of birding.

I hope these few tips are useful.
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Old Wednesday 8th June 2005, 01:00   #2
Grousemore
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Very useful info, thanks for sharing.
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