This is the report of tailored made tour for Cara Borre, Asta Tobiassen and Nicholas Hamill; three North-American friends visiting Chile during a stopover to Falklands and South Georgia. The aim of this tour was to explore the Andean Mountains looking for endemic and rare species of birds, allowing participants to taste the best of the Andean landscape plus a great wildlife photo-opportunity.
We spent the first day birdwatching along Farellones road mainly at the Mediterranean brushlands of lower curves; and the second day in El Yeso Valley putting all the effort into finding one of the gems of the tour: the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover (Phegornis mitchelii). This unusual shorebird inhabits bogs and small streams placed in high elevated Andean steppe and scrublands, above 2500 mts.
Overall we found 54 species, including highlights as Torrent Duck, Andean Condor, Gray-breasted Seedsnipe, White-sided Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, several finches and ground-tyrants. We also spotted endemics species such as Chilean Tinamou, Moustached Turca, White-throated, Dusky Tapaculo and Crag Chilia.
Rodrigo picked up birders at mid-morning from their international flight, asked for baggage storage in one of the hotels at the international airport and then headed directly to Farellones on a 32 km paved road, which connects Santiago with famous ski resorts in the central region, ranging from 2500 to 3000 mts.
In the lower curves we spotted a very cooperative Culpeo Fox, posing for photos in exchange for some food. We got the photos, but of course we did not give him anything to eat! A little bit later, we followed a narrow path and scanned carefully for Chilean Tinamou. After some time of hearing and following its sound, we managed to get first class view of the bird, which was out in the open!
After this successful beginning we headed to Yerba Loca Park, an amazing protected area managed by the local Council. There we birded all the way up, as far as our vehicle and road got. Eventually we stopped for picnic lunch at a riverbank and in nice shade. There we saw the 3 endemic tapaculos: Moustached Turca, White-throated and Dusky Tapaculo.
During the afternoon we climbed further up and birded a bit more. Then we headed back to the hotel, providing passengers time to get some rest and to organize for the following day.
We left Santiago early and drove for 1 ½ hour to the entrance of El Yeso valley, from where we birded at different altitudes. We reached proper habitat to look for the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, but we had some action even before that – we found Torrent Duck female in the Maipo River.
In the lower section of El Yeso valley we spotted a couple of Crag Chilia, an endemic ovenbird, which resembles to a Canyon Wren, and was perfectly photographed by Nicholas. We also found some handsome Giant Hummingbirds feeding on large flowers of Puya plant.
We did some good birding in the grasslands and bogs where we found several Ground-Tyrant, Sierra-finches and even a flock of Mountain Parakeets, which is not rare locally but always challenging to spot.
By mid-morning we made a first attempt for “the” Plover and failed on it, but we decided intent again before lunch, which finally allowed us to spot this defiant bird, in what it seemed to be its breeding territory. This was a great opportunity to take out some seriously big lenses and to try to take some beautiful portraits of this wonderful bird!
After our tasty picnic lunch located in this vast Andean landscape, we birded a bit more and then started to drive all the way down to the hotel, where we said goodbye to each other.
Taxonomic order and notes follows South American Classification Committee
Detailed bird list available at eBird
1. Chilean Tinamou – Nothoprocta perdicaria/ Endemic species
2. Andean Goose – Oressochen melanopterus
3. Crested Duck – Lophonetta specularioides
4. Torrent Duck – Merganetta armata
5. California Quail – Callipepla californica
6. Andean Condor – Vultur gryphus
7. Variable Hawk – Geranoaetus polyosoma
8. Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle – Geranoaetus melanoleucus
9. Southern Lapwing – Vanellus chilensis
10. Diademed Sandpiper-Plover – Phegornis mitchellii
11. Gray-breasted Seedsnipe – Thinocorus orbignyianus
12. South American Snipe – Gallinago paraguaiae
13. Andean Gull – Chroicocephalus serranus
14. Black-winged Ground-Dove – Metriopelia melanoptera
15. Eared Dove – Zenaida auriculata
16. White-sided Hillstar – Oreotrochilus leucopleurus
17. Giant Hummingbird – Patagona gigas
18. Chilean Flicker – Colaptes pitius
19. Mountain Caracara – Phalcoboenus megalopterus
20. Chimango Caracara – Milvago chimango
21. American Kestrel - Falco sparverius
22. Mountain Parakeet – Psilopsiagon aurifrons
23. MoustachedTurca – Pteroptochos megapodius / Endemic species
24. White-throated Tapaculo – Scelorchilus albicollis / Endemic species
25. Dusky Tapaculo – Scytalopus fuscus/ Endemic species
26. Rufous-banded Miner – Geositta rufipennis
27. Crag Chilia – Ochetorhynchus melanurus/ Endemic species
28. Scale-throated Earthcreeper – Upucerthia dumetaria
29. Buff-winged Cinclodes – Cinclodes fuscus
30. Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail – Leptasthenura aegithaloides
31. Cordilleran Canastero – Asthenes modesta
32. Tufted Tit-Tyrant – Anairetes parulus
33. White-crested Elaenia – Elaenia albiceps
34. Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola maculirostris
35. Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola flavinucha
36. White-browed Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola albilora
37. Black-fronted Ground-Tyrant – Muscisaxicola frontalis
38. Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant – Agriornis montanus
39. Rufous-tailed Plantcutter – Phytotoma rara
40. Blue-and-white Swallow – Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
41. Barn Swallow – Hirundo rustica
42. House Wren - Troglodytes aedon
43. Austral Thrush – Turdus falcklandii
44. Chilean Mockingbird – Mimus thenca
FINCHES & SPARROWS
45. Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch – Phrygilus gayi
46. Mourning Sierra-Finch – Phrygilus fruticeti
47. Plumbeous Sierra-Finch - Phrygilus unicolor
48. Common Diuca-Finch – Diuca diuca
49. Greater Yellow-Finch – Sicalis auriventris
50. Rufous-collared Sparrow – Zonotrichia capensis
51. Yellow-rumped Siskin – Spinus uropygialis
52. Black-chinned Siskin – Spinus barbatus
53. Long-tailed Meadowlark – Sturnella loyca
54. Austral Blackbird – Curaeus curaeus