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Central Chile - Mountains and Sea

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Old Monday 7th March 2011, 11:34   #51
Hamhed
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Fantastic scenery, Peter. I suppose then that the APOW picture is DMM's?

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Old Monday 7th March 2011, 12:50   #52
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Too bad about the Snowcap: we had two different sightings at Rancho Naturalista ...

(Yes I know, that does not help any )

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Yes, Niels, you're right ... it don't
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Old Monday 7th March 2011, 12:51   #53
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Fantastic scenery, Peter. I suppose then that the APOW picture is DMM's?

Steve
Thanks. And, stay tuned...
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Old Wednesday 9th March 2011, 13:13   #54
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Well done Peter, looks like an excellent adventure!
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Old Sunday 13th March 2011, 02:46   #55
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Day 08: Sunday, Jan 02. Hacienda Laguna Torca - Santiago

The dreaded day had finally arrived - departure. (¡Que Lastima!) However, thanks to our the convenience of having an overnight flight back to Toronto (departing at 1945), we weren't really in a terrible hurry today; even leaving a generous amount of time (I estimated 5.5 hrs) for the drive back to the Santiago airport, we still had a few hours for birding along the way...

First, though, had to make a farewell visit to the Reserva before breakfast. For one thing, I was really hoping to get another crack at photographing Mr. "Pied Bagelface". So, replacing scope with camera atop the tripod, I started to march down the HLT entrance lane one more time. This lane runs through their olive grove, and I had just entered this stretch when I saw what I could only describe as a "problem bird". It was thrush-shaped, and it perched briefly on top of one of the small olive trees, calling once before dashing off again. It was both like and unlike a standard zorzal - it seemed to be the right size, but much too dark, especially on the breast, and the flight didn't seem quite right to me either ... hmmm...

Unfortunately, being burdened with a lot of photographic hardware, and lacking the assistance of my "spotter" (who still back at the Cascada lodge, fussing over the packing or something - I'm more of a "toss everything in the bag five minutes prior to departure" sort of person), I lost sight of this bird before being able to get any kind of reasonable look at it. Intriguing, though.

After staking out the Spectacled Tyrant for a while (without success), DMM joined me, and we paid a brief visit to the Rush-tyrants along the boardwalk. They were still at their popping-corn best, and it seemed like every adult we saw had a hungry young one chasing it around. We went along as far as the nest we'd seen the other day, and noticed that the young in it had fledged - or, at least, the nest was empty, we hoped they had fledged! (They did seem awfully young when we first saw them, just 2 1/2 days ago; on the other hand, it's true that small passerines can grow up very fast.) On our way back, DMM got a good look at a Plumbeous Rail from the boardwalk - I just managed to catch the brightly-coloured feet as it stalked away into the rushes.

After another wonderful breakfast at the main house, we very regretfully took our leave of Hacienda Laguna Torca. But the Hacienda - or, at least, its birds - were not quite done with us; before we were even halfway down the lane, I spotted my "not-thrush" again. It was perched in plain sight, and didn't seem in a hurry to go anywhere. This time, I had the scope handy (I'd made sure not to pack that just yet), so we got a much better view. We could now see that this was not a thrush at all, but actually a shrike-tyrant, one of a group of very big new world flycatchers - a very exciting find, indeed! Out of that genus, we were able, based on the all-dark tail, the heavily streaked throat, and very heavy bill, to narrow it down to the largest of the bunch, the Great Shrike-tyrant. (Oh, and the range was a bit of a factor too). This species is extraordinarily large for a flycatcher, slightly exceeding American Robin or (Eurasian) Blackbird in length and bulk; large enough, according to Birds of Chile, "to eat small birds" on occasion.

So - what a fine send-off from HLT that was! (I love these last-minute finds.) Or, it would have been our send-off, except that - after we had congratulated ourselves, packed scope, bins, and selves back into the car, and driven about 100 m. further down the lane - I saw a small, brown, blur: it crossed the lane in front of us, flew into the neighbour's pasture, and disappeared into a large thorn bush. That, in itself, was not so interesting; but the cacophony of angry bird-calls, which erupted from this bush immediately afterwards - this, most definitely, was.
[aside] I doubt that anyone who is reading this needs to be told this, but paying attention to bird sounds - even sounds which I don't recognize - is always incredibly important in the birding game. I would seldom see anything at all if I didn't hear it first, and I am still surprised at how surprised "muggles" are at this; they think they can natter away constantly on outings, and still expect to see birds...
In this case, without the auditory component, that "brown blur" could have been virtually any small bird; but, with the sound of a whole bunch of other birds going ballistic added, we instantly knew we had a predator of some kind on our hands... [/aside].
Anyway, we hastily unpacked scope, bins, and selves again, and directed all of the above at the aforementioned bush. A Chilean Mockingbird was on the near side of it, jabbering constantly, while a Thorn-tailed Rayadito fluttered around on top, obviously in a state of considerable agitation. Also, somewhere in there, I could hear at least one Southern House Wren adding to the chorus of ire. And, there at the focus of it all, was a small round head, out of which stared a pair of baleful yellow eyes. What a lucky break, our second Austral Pygmy-owl in as many days! (And to give my her credit, la señora was very glad - relieved might be a better word - that I wouldn't be having to go home without one...).

One small problem was that the owl was out of camera range - and the six-foot-tall barbed-wire fence surrounding the pasture seemed to lack a gate anywhere. But it was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I (verrrrry carefully) climbed over and stalked up to it - never got really close, but good enough for a few shots. (Hence, the picture from last week's instalment - it just seemed like a better place for it.) Looking at these two birds cost us a bit of time, but it was still only about 0900 when we tore ourselves away; this left us, in my estimation, a good 3-4 hours "flex-time" for sight-seeing on the way to the airport.

There were, roughly speaking, two routes available to get us up to Santiago. One, the fastest, would be to go through the wine country around Santa Cruz, and get back on the big north-south highway at San Fernando. The second, more time-consuming, route would be to stick with the coast until Pichilemu, and then take an angled route across country, approaching the capital from the south-east. We choose the latter option, partly because we thought it would be a more relaxed drive than the "Ruta 5" (and, incidentally, skip some toll booths), but also because we would be able to check out Lago Rapel along the way. This is a large artificial lake about halfway between Pichilemu and the southern outskirts of Santiago, and our road would take us right over the dam at the north end of it.

Our first priority, however, was to visit Punta Lobos again, for seabirds - this time, with scope! It was bright and sunny when we arrived, with an bit of an onshore breeze - good conditions for actually being able to see the pelagics this time, I thought. With better magnification, those few "little black crosses" we'd previously seen multiplied into hundreds - just clouds of them swirling about over the ocean's surface as far as the scope could reach. Even the closest of them were not really that close, but we could ID some of them as Sooty Shearwaters (who knows, they may have all been Sootys - they are supposed to be the most abundant shearwater in the area). It was interesting to watch their movements - they were by no means evenly distributed out there, but seemed to "clump" a lot. After a while, it seemed to us that we could detect a pattern to this behaviour - a "clump" of shearwaters would be gathered around an individual Peruvian Pelican, presumably using it as a "beater".

Once, however, we witnessed something rather different - the tubenoses were scattering, rather than gathering. Something large, and very fast, was flying amongst them, and the this "something" had big white patches in its wings - definitely a skua of some kind or other. I cannot say much more than that (it was very far out), except that it was a big bird - comparable to a Kelp Gull, one of which we saw it pursuing for a while.
We also saw a large, dark tubenose, not a shearwater, pass by again. This time, we were able to see the bill well enough to be able to say that yes, that's really massive - so it just had to be a giant-petrel. No way, though, that we could tell which giant-petrel without a much better view - we sat for quite a while, hoping it would return, but it never did. While waiting, DMM noticed a mammal in the waves below; not a surfer, for a change - there was a sea lion poking his head above the surface every once in a while. These can be distinguished from all the other local pinnipeds by their sharply turned-up noses - how about that? Learn a new thing every day.

After Punta Lobos, we visited Pichilemu again, to gas up the car. It was absolute mayhem in there, it seemed like half of Santiago had decided to come down for the weekend. I was worried, a bit, that we'd have some very heavy traffic to face on the way back to the city. Thankfully, this did not turn out to be the case, and once were on highway K-150 (to Las Damas and Litueche) all was relatively quiet again. Nothing of birdy significance, then, until we stopped at the Rapel reservoir. This was a bit of a bust, in that we only saw one species of waterbird there (Great Grebe), but that may have had much to do with the time of year; I can well imagine that, had we been visiting in fall or winter, we might have found it to be full of migrants from Patagonia and the high Andes.

After Lago Rapel, a bit of ho-hum driving across farming country took us to the small city of Melipilla. From there, we were back on to the fast toll-road system, which got us back to Santiago in a flash. Since we had made pretty good time, we still had a couple of hours to play with; so, we decided we could afford to continue right through the city, and visit the Lampa marshes, a bit to the north.

This marshy stretch, right along a road, is relatively well-known, largely because of the presence of South American Painted-snipe. Apparently, this is one of the best places in the world to find this species, or so I had read (although always with the qualifier "when the water level is right"). Well, I don't know if the water levels were right or not, but we certainly couldn't find any! Plenty of birds around, mostly Cattle Egrets, stilts, and lapwings, but nothing remotely snipe-like. To be fair though, we didn't have a lot of time to devote to this place, and mid-afternoon is hardly the best time of day. Nonetheless, I can really see why people would recommend alternatives to this place (like nearby Batuco); there's quite a bit of traffic going by, and also quite a bit of trash blowing around. There is a bit of a viewing platform, from which we saw some ducks (including Red Shoveler) and coots, but nowhere nearby to park! So, not a very good experience, from out point of view - I suppose the experience of Laguna Torca had rather spoiled us.

Anyway, the clock was pushing 1700, and I thought we might need about 45 minutes to get to the international airport - so, time to put the scope away, and get a move on. Managed to not get lost on the way, and returned the (very dusty) El Pequeño to the Econorent office at the airport just after 1800hrs. (They were wonderful about this; although we were, strictly speaking, more than four hours late, they charged us for only the regular one-week rate, plus one hour overtime. Better still, they chose to overlook the small, ahem, incident involving the gate post I grazed back at Lago Vichuquen.)

Not being ones to ever let any time go to waste, after our checking the baggage, we thought we'd did a quick walk around the airport grounds. Didn't turn up any new birds at all, but - after seven days and a bit - I finally, finally, managed to get a decent picture of a zorzal.

92. Great Shrike-tyrant
93. Sooty Shearwater
94. Black-crowned Night-heron
95. Red Shoveler

Photos: Route from Laguna Torca to Lampa; a female plantcutter at HLT; a slightly different angle on the Pygmy-owl; pelicans at Punta Lobos; neat lizard (species unknown) at Punta Lobos.
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Old Monday 14th March 2011, 16:43   #56
Hamhed
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Thanks for the trip to Chile, Peter. Sorry to see it end, as I guess you were.

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Old Monday 14th March 2011, 23:11   #57
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Agree with Steve, I have enjoyed reading your report!

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Old Tuesday 15th March 2011, 10:31   #58
willito
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Hello,
as I said before, I totally enjoyed your report. It's great to learn about your own country from outside, that provides a completely new point of view. And you certainly have the gift to describe things in such an enthusiastic way, that I cannot wait for my next trip out of Santiago.


By the way, the lizard is a 'Liolaemus nitidus'. I don't know if it has a common name, but "neat lizard", as you call it, is a very good one.
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Old Tuesday 15th March 2011, 20:37   #59
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Thanks for the trip to Chile, Peter. Sorry to see it end, as I guess you were.

Steve
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Agree with Steve, I have enjoyed reading your report!

Niels
As they say on the ID forum 'thirded'. It's been such fun following your travels, sad to get to the end.

Roberta
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Old Wednesday 16th March 2011, 01:48   #60
borealowl47
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Very nice read.
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Old Wednesday 16th March 2011, 12:25   #61
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RE: Replies

Thank you, everybody, for the kind words, and for following along.

Hamhed: Well, feelings about it ending are kind of mixed. I am sorry, in a way, that I have no more of these memories to relate - that part was enjoyable; on the other hand, I'll be glad to be rid of the damn thing, it keeps me tied to this accursed machine too much. (And, not that I am the type who just has to get the last word in - I really am not - but I have still one more entry to make...)

Willto: Muchas gracias, Guillermo, por me da un nombre por ['a'?] esta lagartija. Creo que se llama "Shining Lizard" en inglés. And, what a bonus, a Chilean endemic, no less!
(It's always good to have something one is really ignorant about, and for me it is herps (well, and plants, fish, ....). Helps me relate to "muggles" when I'm leading outings, who don't automatically know what a Warbling Vireo looks like...)

RobertaG: A-ha! Lurking again, I see!
Hope you get a trip to South America (or somewhere similar) yourself, soon. And, no, I have not forgotten, I will write about Australia, someday...
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Old Wednesday 16th March 2011, 15:25   #62
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yeah good report Peter, brings back nice memories for me!
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Old Wednesday 16th March 2011, 21:12   #63
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Thank you, everybody, for the kind words, and for following along.

RobertaG: A-ha! Lurking again, I see!
Hope you get a trip to South America (or somewhere similar) yourself, soon. And, no, I have not forgotten, I will write about Australia, someday...
Hi Peter - yup - indeed I am still lurking and travelling vicariously via the forum, although I have now had a fab trip to Brazil at the end of last year (posted a couple of pictures in the gallery). It was a with a organised tour (so I didn't really think about a doing trip report), I'm not quite young nor brave enought to go completely on my own but have definitely got the (neo) tropical bug and am planning a trip to Ecuador towards the end of this year - this time I hope to do a bit of independant stuff too. And hey - I keep looking for the Australia report but don't like to nag

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Old Thursday 17th March 2011, 10:42   #64
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... but I have still one more entry to make...)
Woohoo!
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Old Thursday 17th March 2011, 14:21   #65
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Chile 2010-2011: Epilogue - Back to life, back to reality…

The flight home was – as they always are, if one is lucky – completely uninteresting. It departed Santiago around 2145 (right on time) and got us into Toronto Pearson around 0600 the next morning. The parents-in-law were good enough to pick us up – and drive me right to my office, which happens to be very close to the Toronto airport. I was back at my desk by 0800, just like any other work day … oh, joy.

But, want to hear something really funny? The first thing we saw on the news, when we hit Toronto, was a story about the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that had hit “central Chile” the day before. We said: “what quake?” We’d been chasing Austral Thrushes around the airport when it hit, and hadn’t noticed it at all. (Apparently, the initial news reports had been a bit vague, geographically – it was centred quite a bit to the south, not in “central Chile” at all – nobody else in Santiago noticed it either.)

To sum up: I need hardly say, after going on and on about it for pages and pages (19,622 words, up to the end of Jan 02 – I counted) that the trip was a success.

But, was it an unqualified success? Well, no; I have yet to see an earthcreeper of any kind, or a Huet-huet of any throat-colour. But, in light of what we did see, it would be more than a little churlish to complain. (What’s better - three Andean Condors? … a pair of Stripe-backed Bitterns? An entire flock of Burrowing Parakeets? And, regarding that Giant Hummingbird, I am even starting to doubt myself – I feel a sort of kinship with those Air Force pilots who report seeing UFOs …)

I am not one who believes in numbers much – I don’t really think that the number of birds seen per day, or per kilometre driven, are a measure of the value of a birding trip. Even so, numbers are something that I can unambiguously communicate, so they may be useful to somebody. Here they are: in about 7.5 days, we drove about 965 km, hiked roughly 22 km, and saw 97 species. Potentially a more useful thing to look at, if you want a number, is what I would call the “lifer ratio” – i.e. how many species were life birds, out of the total number we saw. By that measure, this was the best trip I’ve had in many years – as evidenced by the fact that, when I went to work this out, I found that it was much easier to just count the non-lifers, and subtract! Of the 97 birds positively identified, 69 were lifers, and four of those Chilean endemics. (Alert readers will have noticed that this does not match the numbering of the birds in this thread; that’s because I forgot to include a Black Vulture Back on day 2, and mistakenly used #37 twice on day 3.)

Strategically, there were some good decisions we made along the way, and some bad ones (I made all of the latter on my own, of course – but Somebody should have tried to stop me!). Among the good decisions – to ask for, and carefully consider, advice from people on Birdforum; that’s how we ended up at staying at Hosteria de Vilches, and I very much doubt if would have found it otherwise. Likewise, paying close attention to Tripadvisor reports (even though these have to be judged rather more sceptically), which is how I discovered both Hacienda Laguna Torca, and the car hire company.

Another good judgment call was electing not to be too ambitious about how far we would travel once we were in Chile. I had originally planned to visit one destination in the Santiago area, and another in the Lakes district, inland from Puerto Montt. That would have an excessive amount of travel; even as it was, seemed like we spent too much time on the road.

Speaking of which, here’s an example of a really dumb decision I made: To go on that “mad dash” to the mountains on January 01. The scenery was lovely, and it was the only place we saw condors up close, but driving all the way up the Rio Teno was not worth the investment of time. It would have been a much better idea to have stayed in the lowlands that day, and just concentrated on finding the birds we still “needed” there. (As a “for instance” on last day at HLT, somebody – I won’t say who – mentioned that they have a resident Chilean Tinamou there. Ahhhhh! Now you tell us!) That said, I would do the drive up the valley of the Teno, and the one up the Rio Maule, again - but only if I were staying overnight somewhere much closer by.

In effect, I would characterize this trip as a having been not so much a birding vacation, as a very successful scouting expedition – we have now acquired some idea of where the really good locations are, all we need is another (ideally, three-week-long) trip in order to see them properly….

Hasta luego,

Peter C.
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Old Thursday 17th March 2011, 18:13   #66
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So true, even with a small country and much less one as large as Chile, there is never time enough ...

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Old Friday 18th March 2011, 06:43   #67
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Hi Peter,
A newbie here I'm so much impressed with the pics and the story behind all the adventure. Must be having lots of fun and challenges.
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Old Saturday 19th March 2011, 00:48   #68
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But, was it an unqualified success? Well, no; I have yet to see an earthcreeper of any kind, or a Huet-huet of any throat-colour. But, in light of what we did see, it would be more than a little churlish to complain. (What’s better - three Andean Condors? … a pair of Stripe-backed Bitterns? An entire flock of Burrowing Parakeets? And, regarding that Giant Hummingbird, I am even starting to doubt myself – I feel a sort of kinship with those Air Force pilots who report seeing UFOs …)

I am not one who believes in numbers much – I don’t really think that the number of birds seen per day, or per kilometre driven, are a measure of the value of a birding trip.
Ain't that the truth?! So easy to fall into the numbers game. Did you enjoy yourself? Did you end the trip with fond memories? Did you climb up past the mundane for a time? See new places and shake up the brain cells a little?
I'd say you were very much sucessful and are already thinking about the next adventure. I'll be looking forward to reading about it!

Steve
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Old Wednesday 23rd March 2011, 23:20   #69
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The flight home was – as they always are, if one is lucky – completely uninteresting. It departed Santiago around 2145 (right on time) and got us into Toronto Pearson around 0600 the next morning. The parents-in-law were good enough to pick us up – and drive me right to my office, which happens to be very close to the Toronto airport. I was back at my desk by 0800, just like any other work day … oh, joy.

But, want to hear something really funny? The first thing we saw on the news, when we hit Toronto, was a story about the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that had hit “central Chile” the day before. We said: “what quake?” We’d been chasing Austral Thrushes around the airport when it hit, and hadn’t noticed it at all. (Apparently, the initial news reports had been a bit vague, geographically – it was centred quite a bit to the south, not in “central Chile” at all – nobody else in Santiago noticed it either.)north carolina mountain real estate

To sum up: I need hardly say, after going on and on about it for pages and pages (19,622 words, up to the end of Jan 02 – I counted) that the trip was a success.

But, was it an unqualified success? Well, no; I have yet to see an earthcreeper of any kind, or a Huet-huet of any throat-colour. But, in light of what we did see, it would be more than a little churlish to complain. (What’s better - three Andean Condors? … a pair of Stripe-backed Bitterns? An entire flock of Burrowing Parakeets? And, regarding that Giant Hummingbird, I am even starting to doubt myself – I feel a sort of kinship with those Air Force pilots who report seeing UFOs …)

I am not one who believes in numbers much – I don’t really think that the number of birds seen per day, or per kilometre driven, are a measure of the value of a birding trip. Even so, numbers are something that I can unambiguously communicate, so they may be useful to somebody. Here they are: in about 7.5 days, we drove about 965 km, hiked roughly 22 km, and saw 97 species. Potentially a more useful thing to look at, if you want a number, is what I would call the “lifer ratio” – i.e. how many species were life birds, out of the total number we saw. By that measure, this was the best trip I’ve had in many years – as evidenced by the fact that, when I went to work this out, I found that it was much easier to just count the non-lifers, and subtract! Of the 97 birds positively identified, 69 were lifers, and four of those Chilean endemics. (Alert readers will have noticed that this does not match the numbering of the birds in this thread; that’s because I forgot to include a Black Vulture Back on day 2, and mistakenly used #37 twice on day 3.)

Strategically, there were some good decisions we made along the way, and some bad ones (I made all of the latter on my own, of course – but Somebody should have tried to stop me!). Among the good decisions – to ask for, and carefully consider, advice from people on Birdforum; that’s how we ended up at staying at Hosteria de Vilches, and I very much doubt if would have found it otherwise. Likewise, paying close attention to Tripadvisor reports (even though these have to be judged rather more sceptically), which is how I discovered both Hacienda Laguna Torca, and the car hire company.

Another good judgment call was electing not to be too ambitious about how far we would travel once we were in Chile. I had originally planned to visit one destination in the Santiago area, and another in the Lakes district, inland from Puerto Montt. That would have an excessive amount of travel; even as it was, seemed like we spent too much time on the road.

Speaking of which, here’s an example of a really dumb decision I made: To go on that “mad dash” to the mountains on January 01. The scenery was lovely, and it was the only place we saw condors up close, but driving all the way up the Rio Teno was not worth the investment of time. It would have been a much better idea to have stayed in the lowlands that day, and just concentrated on finding the birds we still “needed” there. (As a “for instance” on last day at HLT, somebody – I won’t say who – mentioned that they have a resident Chilean Tinamou there. Ahhhhh! Now you tell us!) That said, I would do the drive up the valley of the Teno, and the one up the Rio Maule, again - but only if I were staying overnight somewhere much closer by.

In effect, I would characterize this trip as a having been not so much a birding vacation, as a very successful scouting expedition – we have now acquired some idea of where the really good locations are, all we need is another (ideally, three-week-long) trip in order to see them properly….

Hasta luego,

Peter C.
good read but long :)
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Old Tuesday 5th April 2011, 20:05   #70
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Stunning report

Hola Peter from HLT.
It was indeed a pleasure to host you and DMM on your chilean adventure, and I can only stand open mouthed at the depth and quality of your report.You certainly have a way with words and I found the adventure rivetting reading!
I am indeed fortunate to live next to the Laguna and it has supplied hours of interest and oportunities to indulge in watching the birds and animals, you missed the coypu!
Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to complete your report, much appreciated.
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Old Wednesday 6th April 2011, 13:01   #71
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Thank you Mr. "Surfinchile"!

You know, I didn't even know you had Coypu there! (What, you mean, for dinner? ... ¡es de chiste, solemente un chiste!)

We never did make it to the ranger station at R.N.L.T, no doubt we would have learned more about the non-avian aspects of the resevra if we had ... but goes to show how much depth there is to be had there.

Of course, for me, the mammal is nothing ... we've got beavers coming out the wazoo up here, if one is inclined to (figuratively) hunt for large rodents. The perdiz chilena, however, THAT I regret missing!

Oh, and by the way, as is traditional here ... I see this is your first post, so welcome to BirdForum.
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Old Wednesday 6th April 2011, 13:15   #72
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surfinchile,
also from me a welcome to Birdforum!

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Old Friday 8th April 2011, 12:01   #73
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Many thanks for the kind welcome, I must admit to being a newcomer to birding, my long dormant interest being reawoken after moving to HLT 4 years ago. being a bit short sighted, I tend to go for the larger species, you cant miss those Black-necked swans! but also the family of 4 or 5 Black Vultures, that majestically soar around the locale, riding the thermals.
I bought a new camera last year , a Fuji finepix S 2000 with x15 zoom,and sadly it has turned out to be of rather limited perfomance, still you get what you pay for, but I intend to keep up the search for good pictures.
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