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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Natural Wonders of Chile - 27th January to 19th February 2024 (1 Viewer)


David and Sarah
We had long wanted to do a bird and nature watching tour of Chile but although we have travelled quite extensively in South America we had never made it to Chile apart from a brief day trip from Argentina and a stop at the Chilean Antarctic base.
We did think about doing a predominantly birding trip with most of it guided but costs were just too great so we ended up going for a tour with a local company “Milidon.cl” who we were put in touch with by “go local” (we had used this group before). We just had guides / shared leaders on certain tours and fitted in with other local tours or did it ourselves.

The broad tour which we tailored was called “Natural Wonders of Chile”. We dealt with Lorena who pretty much met all our needs and was in regular touch via whatsapp during the whole trip.

We started in Santiago after a direct BA flight from London. We had 4 nights in Santiago with two days birding with Birds Chile, one to El Yeso and one to the Pacific Coasts.
We then had 4 nights in the Atacama but with only one afternoon dedicated birding, we did pretty well by going on generalist tours and doing our own thing when there.
Next up was Puerta Varas in the Lake District where we had another 2 days with Birds Chile; one at Alerce Andino and one on Chiloe Island, we then had a week in Patagonia on various nature tours organised by Patagonian Planet, with overnights at Puerto Arenas and Puerto Natales before spending a couple of days at the coast.
We missed a few birds but overall the numbers we achieved were at the top end of our projections.

In Santiago we stayed in Vitacura, which was a nice area which we felt safe to wander around in, we were happy to take the metro and buses to get around (need a BIP card you buy from a metro station before travel).


Day 1 - Our first day after our long flight was short, we went to a local park with a small pond and added a few trip birds, Black-necked Swan, Austral Thrush, Monk Parakeet, Chimanga Caracara, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Spot-winged Gallinule and then a surprising Grey-flanked Cinclodes before then doing a little sight-seeing in the centre.

Day 2 – First of two days with Carolena from Birds Chile, Carolena was an interesting guide, she was a Marine Biologist at Vina del Mar University, had a TV show and guided in her spare time. She told us immediately that Sandpiper Plovers had not been found at El Yeso this year after huge snowfalls in the winter but we would look anyway, all other targets would be possible. We first stopped for Moustached Turca and saw a couple of birds well but I just couldn’t manage a decent photo as the closest bird only showed well when I was the wrong side of the road. Still great views for us and we quickly stopped for and called in another endemic the Crag Chilia, which was much more photogenic, we the headed up to the end of the paved road and went onto a ranch with some marshy land, this was the first place we tried for the Diademed Sandpiper Plover but as we had been warned we didn’t find the birds here, or beyond the reservoir, Carolena did say that she had been successful recently in the Taito area of the Atacama and to just scan ever bit of green there.
Still we were seeing quite a few new birds including Black-fronted Ground-Tyrant, Buff-winged Cinclodes, Black-winged Ground-Dove, Yellow-rumped Siskin and a nice Grey-breasted Seedsnipe,
gb seedsnipe.JPGother birds added were Giant Hummingbird, California Quail, Grey-hooded and Plumbeous Sierra Finch. Next stop was a waterfall just before the dam and we had White-sided Hillstar, and probable distant Mountain Parakeet (not counted as seen well later), our first Andean Condors of the trip and Chilean Swallow. It was then a wait for the mining traffic to stop before we could get past the reservoir but while waiting we were visited by a confiding Rufous-banded Miner.
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Once parked up we tried unsuccessfully for the plover but did get the tricky Creamy-rumped Miner, a Scale-throated Earthcreeper, and Cordilleran Canastero. That was pretty much it for birding until we stopped for some Greater Yellow-finch being harassed by American Kestrels. Not a bad first day with more lifers than we had hoped for and an Andean Mouse.

Day 3 – Carolena had asked if we still needed Humboldt Penguin, Yes, a bogey bird with weather, bandits and mechanical breakdowns getting in the way on previous trips to possible spots in Peru. That being the case we would head first to a beach near Concon (Chigagua) where some birds were still present at a colony, before working our way south down the coast to Vina del Mar. On the beach we were seeing loads of Whimbrel, Sanderling and American Oystercatchers before we saw a key target a Seaside Cinclodes, then a few Surfbirds and a Blackish Oystercatcher before we were close enough to the off shore rocks to see our first group of Humboldt Penguin (about 20 or so), or the rocks were also Peruvian Pelican and Peruvian Boobies and we also had the treat of a tiny little Marine Otter and 2 types of starfish before we left the beach.
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Next up we stopped at an estuary reserve being run by a group of Carolena’s students. Nothing new but we did get great views of Franklin Gull, Red-Gartered Coot, Elegant Tern, Coscoroba Swan, Lake Duck, White-tufted Grebe and Black-necked Stilt. Last stop before lunch was a private reserve by some rocky headland about 10 miles north of Mantagua – we firstly got good views of Chilean Mockingbird,
View attachment chilean mockingbird cu.JPGBurrowing Owl, Long-tailed Meadowlark
and Austral Blackbird before we got to the area Carolena was targeting, before any playback or prep suddenly a Chilean Tinamou just flew across our path and flew right ahead of us for about 30 meters we all saw the bird really well and all saw it land when we got to the patch of vegetation on the cliff we couldn’t find it, but we were glad we had seen a tricky species; on the walk back to the car we saw an endemic Chilean Pacific Lizard.

We then drove to El Humedal de Mantagua for lunch and some further birding. This wetland reserve could have occupied a full day but we were only after a couple of birds. The wetland held Baird’s Sandpiper, Yellow-billed Pintail, Great Grebe, Red-fronted Coot, Cocoi Heron, West Peruvian Dove before we got one of our targets a Spectacled Tyrant, the main target wouldn’t give itself up to us despite us all sitting on the ground in the same bush as it and calling it for ages, but the endemic Dusky Tapaculo stayed as a heard only. We did though add a Fire-eyed Diucon, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter and Common Diuca-Finch
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and finished with off here with a Giant Hummingbird.

Our last stop was at Carolena’s office in Renaca (University is closed for summer), we had already seen the main target the Seaside Cinclodes but got better views, and good photos of very close up Inca Terns and some South American Sea-lions. We dropped her off at Vina del Mar and headed back to Santiago with the driver.
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This was only a couple of days before the major forest fires which killed 131 people and destroyed lots of housing and caused a major evacuation of the area. Fortunately, she and her family were OK but some students near the estuary reserve lost their houses.

Day 4- Our last day in Santiago was a normal tourist day of Museums, Cathedrals and Parks and we didn’t add any new birds.

Day 5 was a travel day and we headed to San Pedros de Atacama via Calama. We stayed at a great boutique hotel Terrantai Lodge which even gets a couple of good birds in the garden. We added Sombre Thrush (split from Chiguanco Thrush but that would have new anyway) on our arrival.

Day 6 – a trip with 5 others to the Salt Flats and Lagoons. This was operated by Gato Andino who we would use a few times. The guide was a young student who wasn’t that into birding and wildlife but she was OK to stop when we saw anything significant, we were in the front seat of the minibus; unfortunately they had changed the itinerary to exclude Chaxa Lagon a key stop I thought, but it all worked out OK over the few days.

Our first stop for breakfast was just above the meteorology station at Socaire (at nearly 11,000 feet), we had 20 minutes to wander while they made breakfast, immediately we heard Parakeets and Sarah and I ran to a clearing where we had 13 Mountain Parakeets as the sun rose, even better there were a number of Ground Doves, most were Black-winged but we found a Golden-spotted which posed nicely and flew for us to see the diagnostic spots.

Last night I had downloaded a firmware update for my camera (Canon R7 – v1.40), everything seemed fine with it then and this morning until I tried to video a Vicuna at which point the camera lost all its setting, and most functions wouldn’t work, only shots I could take were fully automatic but with no active focus points and I couldn’t view the shots. Fortunately I got a few lucky shots but lots of out of focus or over exposed rubbish.

The Salt Flats had very little wildlife just amazing scenery but we did pick out on our drives a couple of Puna Rhea and the driver spotted a Chinchilla and there were loads of Vicuna around.

At the two high elevation Lakes (Miscanti and Miniques), there was not a lot of obvious bird life and the other 5 in our group didn’t spot anything at first but with a bit of work, we picked out and showed them Andean Gull, Northern Silvery Grebe (new also for the guide), Horned Coot, Andean and Chilean Flamingo.

Over lunch we did a bit of birding and added Straight-billed Earthcreeper, Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch and Puna Miner. We were then due to do some birding on the way back but as were already late this didn’t happen. Back in the hotel I got a call from the manager of the tour company. He heard I wasn’t very happy, we had done quite well with what we had seen but a spot that had been mentioned for a couple of special birds hadn’t been visited as well as dropping Chaxa. I was assured that on our trip tomorrow we would be going to a new stand-out place.

Day 7 – Very busy day off to Taito Geyser to get there by sunrise, back by 13.30 and then off for a Birding/Photograhy private tour until sunset. My camera still wasn’t behaving and I couldn’t regress the Firmware upgrade from my phone.

We were with the same people as yesterday plus a couple of Chileans - we also had a new guide; Kevin, who was much more knowledgeable. The geysers were quite impressive and I found a very range restricted bird – Red-backed Sierra-Finch as we walked around the park seeing the Geysers.

We then went for breakfast at a place that Kevin called White Geyser Marsh, (I don’t think that is a widely known name and JP a top local e-birder and guide, who we went out with in the afternoon didn’t know this name and hadn’t been here, but he said his wife had done some Sandpiper Plover survey work and had found a bird and three chicks around here, he said he really needs to get up there).

Anyway we had half an hour while they were preparing breakfast and we were able to scan the many ponds and marshy areas. First we found Andean Goose, Crested Duck, White-cheeked Pintail, Horned Coot, Giant Coot and then I called Sarah I’ve got three Juvenile Plovers, and we were really happy to see these birds but then Sarah pointed an adult Diademed Sandpiper Plover, it was just 20 yards to the right of the juveniles, I couldn’t believe our luck even though I couldn’t focus on the birds in the camera, we were delighted to see them, we also saw Andean Avocet, James (Puna) Flamingo and Cream-winged Cinclodes albeit we couldn’t get photos of anything apart from the Sierra Finch that came right up to us a breakfast.

On the way back Kevin stopped at a Marshes near Putana and Machuca with close up views of all three Flamingo species more Andean Avocet, Puna Plover, Baird’s Sandpiper, Puna Ibis and Black-crowned Night Heron and both Coots.

Over lunch I decided to do a factory reset of the camera and got everything pretty much working but without my settings for the afternoon. We discussed with JP who runs “On Safari” with his wife, where to go and decided to go to the lower pools to get some shots of the things we missed this morning and hopefully a few additional birds. We didn’t have enough time to go back up to the Geyser area and the other areas nearby didn’t hold any major targets. On the road up we stopped for Black-headed Sierra Finch, Black Siskin, Puna Ground Tyrant, Rufous-naped Ground Tyrant, Cordilleran Canastero before we got to the Marsh and was able to get shots of Chilean, James and Puna Flamingo, Andean Avocet, Horned Coot, Giant Coot, Puna Teal and Northern Silvery Grebe and an Andean Negrita.

Other wildlife included Viscacha, Vicuna and Guanaco.

Day 8 –
we called for and saw the Tamaruga Conebill in the hotel garden a tip from JP. The rest of the day we did local things and then went to the Valley of the Moon afternoon and sunset tour. Nothing new to report.


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Chilean Lake District

Day 9 – We seemed to get bumped from our early flight to Puerto Montt via Santiago, so we had a later start 10am not 6am pick up and even better news we had been upgraded so we were at the front of the plane. Flights went Ok and we arrived in Puerto Varas just before dark. Only birds seen on walk to dinner were Austral Thrush, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Neotropic Cormorant and Franklin Gull. We would be picked up at 7.30 by Felippe from Birds Chile tomorrow.

Day 10- Off to Alerce Andino reserve. We aim to spend most of the day here looking for some scarce forest birds but first we stop at the coast for a look down onto the beach. We saw Peruvian Booby, Imperial Cormorant, Brown-headed Gull and then a Dark-bellied Cinclodes,
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I was intent in getting a good photo of the Cinclodes as it crept in and out of vegetation and rocks on the beach below, just when I thought I had nailed a completely clear shot, I found myself falling, I didn’t notice there was a flight of 14 concrete stairs on to the beach. Sarah and Felippe came running as all they could see were my feet at the bottom of the stairs, fortunately as I shook myself down all I had was some cuts and bruises pretty much everywhere and a broken watch strap, it took until after I was home for the last of the bruises to go, but I was really lucky as nothing was broken on me or my camera. So after a bit of clean-up we were on our way.

We had no sooner parked to check in at the reserve when I spot a woodpecker, it is a Striped Woodpecker but it flies just as Sarah gets on it, fortunately she sees it. The most common bird around the trail was White-crested Elaenia which kept drawing our attention but the call that echoed through-out the forest was a Tapaculo and we decided to try for it immediately. After a little while we manged to coax a bird into a clearing and ticked off Chucao Tapaculo, we even managed a little bit of video and a few photos of the bird in the open a little later, the next bird we tried for took a lot longer before we finally had a White-throated Treerunner come down from the tree tops and show itself. We soon got good views of Chilean Pigeon which had been flying but not showing well all morning. We could then hear the distinctive call of Huet-Huet in the distance, we approached the general area and tried the call, this was much more like a Tapaculo with the bird only after ages of trying to see it, showing itself in bits and my photo of Black-throated Huet-Huet being a typical shot of an obscured bird. However we were on a role an Felippe couldn’t believe it when we called a Magellenic Tapaculo and an Ochre-Flanked Tapaculo popped out onto an open branch and the Magellenic Tapaculo showed just below it, I blame my injuries for my failure to get shots of either bird as both showed only for a couple of seconds before retiring into the thick stuff and I just wasn’t quick enough in getting the camera raised and focused. Still that is my best ever session of Tapaculo watching.

We added a lovely little hummer a Green-backed Firecrown to the list before we decided to break for lunch. After lunch the forest wasn’t very productive for new species so we went to another spot by the river to try for new targets, we first got Tufted-Tit Tyrant, then Thorn-tailed Rayodita and the lovely little Des Mur’s Wiretail then some repeats; Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, Grass Wren, Chilean Mockingbird, Black-faced Ibis and Austral Blackbird before we went to some more open habitat, we then had Whimbrel, Southern Lapwing, Baird’s Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and American Oystercatcher before we finally found a couple of our target birds - Magellenic Snipe.

I had made it pretty well through the day but I decided it was now time to head back to town and to the hotel room and have a long soak and some pain-killers and a few beers with some food.

Day 11- Trip to Vicente Perez Rosales NP. This was a group tour with very little hard walking (or at least it was after we decided to take the ski lift up and down Osorno Volcano to the ski centre rather than trek). First we walked around the relatively flat nature walk at Saltos del Rio Petrohue. I also decided to rest my shoulder and only carried the short lens on the camera. We managed to call in another Chucoa Tapacola, saw Chilean Pigeon and Green-backed Firecrown before coming across a Grey Fox. We then decided not to do the boat trip but to look for birds in the forest, a reasonably good call as we added Austral Parakeet and even managed a record photo.

After a nice barbecue lunch we headed up Osorno largely for the views rather than the wildlife but we did add Yellow-bridled Finch. Tomorrow back out with Birds Chile.

Day 12 Chiloe Island. We did a little birding on the way to the ferry port. Only new bird was Slender-billed Parakeet, which we tried repeatedly to photograph without success. On the ferry across only seabirds were Sooty and Flesh-footed Shearwaters, South American Tern and Kelp Gulls. On docking there was plenty of common stuff on the beach and shingle, Black-necked Swan, Chiloe Wigeon, Red Shoveler, Baird’s Sandpiper, Sanderling, Dark-bellied Cinclodes and Whimbrel among them.

We headed south towards the Penguin Islands stopping at likely spots for birding, the best we had was Spectacled Tyrant, White-tufted Grebe, South American and Snowy-crowned Tern, Hudsonian Godwit, Greenish Yellow-finch and more Slender-billed Parakeets. It was then onto the beach for our penguin trip. We were wheeled out over the water and on to a small boat ( trips go every 30 minutes) we first went to see the Kelp Geese and Red-legged Cormorant, Imperial Cormorant and then to the Island with mainly Magellenic Penguins but with at least one Humboldt.

After a nice seafood lunch on the beach we did some birding on the way back to the ferry but all we added was a fly over Chilean Flicker. The ferry trip back to the mainland was much more interesting with hundreds of seabirds on the water feeding on a huge school of fish and birds being around us for almost the whole journey. Most birds were Sooty and Flesh-footed Shearwaters and a couple of Pincoya Storm-Petrel and a single Wilson’s – good to compare the two. There were also quite a few Boobies and Pelicans and our first Chilean Skua of the trip.

That was it for our time in the Lake District of Chile, really scenic place with some excellent birds it was now off to Patagonia tomorrow.


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Patagonia Part 1

Day 13 – up very early (4.15 taxi) to get to Puerto Montt for our early flight to Punta Arenas. Annoyingly the flight was slightly delayed and the airport wasn’t even open for bag drop or even a coffee until after 5am. Still after a little wait we got through and onto the plane which was only 30 minutes late in the end. On arrival at Puerto Arenas our driver met us and gave us bus tickets for our trip to Natales (in a few days time) but we had some time around Puerto Arenas first. As we were too early to check into our hotel we left our luggage in reception and headed out for the day for some brunch, sight-seeing and a bit of birding.

On the sea front we added a couple of good birds including 2 Magellenic Plovers, loads of Imperial Cormorant, a couple of Guanay Cormorant, Magallenic (Flightless) Steamerduck, Dolphin Gull, Upland Goose, Southern Giant Petrel, and Black Cinclodes (now split from the Blackish we saw on the Falklands).

Only birds we saw in the park and the Cementerio Sara Braun were Chilean Swallow, Rufous-collared Sparrow and Austral Thrush.

Day 14 –
another busy day, we had a trip to Magdalena Island then in the afternoon a trip to a Condor watchpoint and finally a stop off at a local wetland.

The trip to Magdalena Island was with a group of 8 booked via Fiordos del Sur and we were on the top deck of the boat for setting off and returning, although once at sea people were free to move around the decks. Weather was great for us so we spend over an hour on Magdalena Island plus around 4 hours at sea – we didn’t go to Marta Island so we missed seeing Sheathbill and Sealions (not an issue for us).

The island had up to 170,000 Penguins mainly Magellenic, fortunately there is no sign of bird flu here. Despite having seen penguins many times the chance for close up views where we could study behaviour and smell the colony was irristable, there was also close up views of Cormorants, Geese and Skua. Sightings on the way out included many Northern Giant Petrel, dozens of Black-browed Albatross and a single Wandering (snowy) Albatross, a few Magellenic Diving Petrel we also had a Sei Whale, a Pod of Spinner Dolphin and a few Comerson Dolphin. On the Island we had to stay as a group so not ideal for bird watching but on the way round I still found Rufous-chested Dotterel, Bairds’ Sandpiper, Magellenic Plover, Magellenic Oystercatcher, Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant, Coscoroba Swan, Upland Goose and Austral Thrush as well as both Penguins and Chilean Skua.

On the trip back it was a bit more blowy and there was a bit more action at sea, mainly Black-browed Albatross over 100 seen, and dozens of Giant Petrel, Antarctic Tern, Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Cape Petrel, Buller’s Shearwater, Northern Royal Albatross and best of all an adult Chatham Albatross with its unmistakeable yellow bill / grey head combo which I got a few people, including the wildlife guide, on. We also saw 3 more Sei Whales. It was then back to the hotel where we just had time to grab a few cereal bars and then we were off for the afternoon.

We didn’t know exactly where we were going, just that there were some cliffs and private farm land. It is actually about 20 minutes drive after St Gregory on the road into Argentina. On the road in I had the driver stop for our first Lesser (Nandu) Rhea and for a Ruddy-headed Goose.

You park up and then walk about 45 minutes to a Condor Viewing area – we saw at least 26 Condors all reasonable close up coming in to a roost site on the cliffs. The guide has a scope on the cliffs, helpful as a few people had no viewing aids. As well as the Andean Condors, we had Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Patagonian Mockingbird Striated Caracara, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Rufous-collared Sparrow and at the shrubby area a White-bridled Finch.

At the wetland area on the way back to Puerta Arenas, we saw Chilean Flamingo, Red Shoveler, Chiloe Wigeon, Southern Caracara, Black-necked Swan, Black-faced Ibis, Kelp Gull and Great Shrike Tyrant.

Day 15 –
leisurely start and then go downtown to catch the bus to Puerta Natales. The bus takes just over 3 hours and drops us just outside of town. We had drivers from Patagonia Planet for the next few days and we were soon in our Hotel. Just a short explore along the promenade as the weather had got quite rough and we could see snow falling on the mountains. We hope for better weather tomorrow as we are trekking in Torres del Paine.


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Patagonia Part2

Day 15 – leisurely start and then go downtown to catch the bus to Puerto Natales. The bus takes just over 3 hours and drops us just outside of town. We had drivers from Patagonia Planet for the next few days and we were soon in our Hotel. Just a short explore along the promenade as the weather had got quite rough and we could see snow falling on the mountains. We hope for better weather tomorrow as we are trekking in Torres del Paine.

Day 16 – Torres del Paine; with hindsight we should have allowed ourselves an overnight here rather than a single very long day. However the weather was great all day and we had the benefit of snowy peaks from yesterday falls.

We picked a three hike tour with West Circuit, pick up was before breakfast but fortunately we were able to grab some cold cuts and bread to wolf down and also take some more on leaving the hotel as our packed lunches had not been delivered and going without breakfast and lunch didn’t appeal. Before we entered the NP we stopped for a large group of Guanaco and a few Lesser Rhea, we also had three distant Condor. It was then up to the Porteria Sarmiento gate to enter the park, you need to buy entry tickets on-line in advance. We stopped at Laguna Amarga and another small lake before our first trek, we added Flying SteamerDuck, Ashy-headed Goose, Silver Teal, Southern Silvery Grebe, Chilean Flamingo and a huge group of Wilson’s Phalarope.

The first walk up to the Cave Painting and back to the next entrance was slightly disappointing in that we didn’t see any Pumas who pretty regular in this area just lots of Guanaco on the hills acting as sentries, and a Grey Fox; only birds were Andean Condor, Patagonian Tyrant, Grass Wren, Austral Blackbird and Austral Negrito.

The next trek was to Salto Grande waterfall and then to the Mirador Cuernos, great views but not a huge lot of wildlife – just Great Grebe, Magellenic Oystercatcher, Blue and White Swallow and Great Shrike Tyrant seen.

After a late picnic lunch and a drive around the park trails we had choices either do a third steep hike up to a Condor view point our go to Pehoe Lake and café, we didn’t fancy another hike and thought we had better chances of wildlife around the lake, only 3 of 10 decided to do the hike. It was a pretty good choice, no sooner had we sat down with coffee than we quickly saw Rufous-tailed Plantcutter and I then heard a Austral Pygmy Owl, not too far away, I played the call and the Owl flew in to the tree in front of us, however it also brought in some smaller birds mainly Rufous-coloured Sparrows and Grey-hooded Sierra Finches plus a Patagonian Mockingbird and two Southern Caracara. The birds quickly dispersed but a couple of Germans who were on our tour and who I had pointed out a few birds to; came from the other side of the café to let me know the Caracara were feeding on a bird, when I took a look, I saw that one of them had a young Pygmy Owl in its claws and it was picking it apart. I felt real guilt that I had called in the Caracara but the guys said they had been round that side of the café since they arrived. It did though ruin the mood a little and Sarah said I shouldn’t use that call again on the trip. Only other bird before we set off was Long-tailed Meadowlark which I finally got a good photo off.

It was a two hour drive home via Grey Lake and view of the glacier.

Day 17 – A boat tour to Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers and a short walk in Bernado O’Higgins NP. The weather which was perfect yesterday had turned and we had rain all morning and very strong winds at the ice field and coming down from the glaciers. Views were still excellent but wildlife watching was poor.

On the sound out to the Glaciers and Waterfalls all we had was Rock and Imperial Cormorant, Black-necked Swan, Crested Duck and Southern Lapwing. On dry land at the National Park – we waited in a sheltered spot rather than following the crowd to the glacier edge, we got good views of a White-throated Treerunner and a poor view of a female Magellenic Woodpecker which did a fly pass in response to me playing the drumming call, this was a lifer for Sarah as she missed one in Argentine a few years ago and we never did get a better view.

We then stopped at a ranch for a barbecue lunch on the way back to Natales, the rain was now off and we had a very good lamb and chicken bbq lunch but not a lot of wildlife on this particular ranch. All we added for the day was Chiloe Wigeon, Yellow-bridled Finch, Austral Thrush and Upland Goose.

Day 18 –
We took a small boat with 6 others from McLean dock to McLean ranch, now run but the McLeod family but keeping the original name. After coffee and a pastry you could chose a morning horseback riding, 4x4 drives or a nature walk. All the other people on the trip and the people staying at the ranch went horse riding, so we went out with just a volunteer ranger on our own. Weather was still pretty wet but the wind had dropped and we had a pretty good time. The ranch had some great habitat, a few pools, some cliffs, some forest and some steppe.

The young South African girl who guided us was happy to just stop whenever we heard or saw anything; and in the marshy ground not even a kilometre from the ranch when we stopped to scan a nearby pool, White-tufted Grebe and Black-faced Ibis we had 2 large dark snipe, Fuegian Snipe which I hadn’t even thought was a possibility, but Cara said she had seen them here before but didn’t know what they were, a great start up the hill and in some shelter of the forest I found a couple of really soggy Austral Parakeet, a White-throated Treerunner and a Patagonian Sierra-Finch on leaving cover we disturbed a Chilean Flicker but couldn’t pick it up again for better views or a photo. As we climbed to the edge of the cliff we had a Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Eared Dove then on the rocks a bird I was scanning for all the time at Torres del Paine but without success a White-bellied Seedsnipe, another bird I didn’t expect here but perhaps the rain and snow had an effect.

Down to the marshy ground and towards the shore we added Grey-flanked Cinclodes, American Kestrel and Chilean Swallow. On the shore it was Baird’s Sandpiper, Blackish Oystercatcher, White-winged Coot and Black-crowned Night-heron.

That was pretty much it in terms of birding but we enjoyed a superb lamb lunch and saw some sheep shearing etc. before catching the boat back to Puerto Natales.


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Day 19 – Fly back to Santiago for one night. Only bird seen in the vicinity of the hotel were Monk Parakeet, Austral Blackbird, House Sparrow and Chilean Swallow.

Last few days at the Coast –
we stayed in Valparaiso and while there was no evidence of fire here or in the town of Vina del Mar but once you left the town you could still smell the smoke from the fires and in all honesty it didn’t feel right to be going to the remnant forest which just days before had been completely closed to all because of further fire risk, there was also destroyed homes at the edges of the area so we pretty much stuck to the coast doing tourist things. In the end we also decided against a trip to Managua for the Dusky Tapaculo, as no one could tell us if it was affected by the fire so that remained heard only.

So the only birds seen during the last few days were Peruvian Booby, Peruvian Pelican, Neotropic Cormorant, Kelp Gull, Brown-headed and Franklin Gulls, Giant Hummingbird, Chilean Mockingbird, Monk Parakeet, Seaside Cinclodes, Inca Tern, Blue and White Swallow and Austral Thrush.


Although we saw fewer total birds than on any of other of our trips to South America we did add over 80 lifers which was at the high end of our expectations and if we hadn’t previously visited Argentine, Peru and the Falklands/Antarctica it would have been quite a few more.


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My top 5 birds were

Diademed Sandpiper Plover*, Black-throated Huet-Huet, Crag Chilia, Andean Avocet and Horned Coot (* no picture picture )

Sarah’s were

Chucoa Tapaculo, Lesser Rhea, Humboldt Penguin, James Flamingo and Austral Parakeet.


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