Birding in the southern Andes: from central Chile to Patagonia

Published by Albatross Birding & Nature Tours In Chile (contact AT albatross-birding.com)

Participants: Fernando Medrano – Cristofer de la Rivera

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OVERVIEW

This is the trip report for the group of John Black, Marcia Jacklin, Ivor Williams and Lynne Freeman, very passionate birders from Buffalo, Canada. We started our tour in central Chile focusing on endemics, in second half of the trip we traveled to Patagonia to look for the southernmost species of the American continent. We traveled more than 2000 kms visiting different landscapes that this unique and marvelous region can offer. From the Austral forest of Nothofagus, to the northern steppe of Tierra del Fuego and canyons of Torres del Paine and Sierra Baguales

We have seen 156 species, of which these are highlights: Stripe-backed Bittern, Diameded Sandpiper Plover, Chestnut-throated Huet-huet, Chucao tapaculo, White-throated tapaculo, Magellanic Plover, Ruddy-headed Goose, Dolphin Gull, Aplomado Falcon, Lesser Rhea and Hooded Grebe.

ITINERARY

Day 1. Central Chile.

On our first day we started birding in central Andes, around Farellones. We were trying to watch the endemics of this area: Dusky-tailed Canastero, Chilean Tinamou and White-throated Tapaculo. We had good views of the Canastero, and pair of Tufted Tit-tyrant, but we were not lucky enough to see Chilean Tinamou, we only heard it.

The next target was the elusive White-throated Tapaculo. We saw two of them running quickly among bushes. Additionally, we saw Moustached Turca standing on hillside, a pair of Dark-bellied Cinclodes on the stream, and wonderful Giant Hummingbird flying above our heads.

We continued our trip, going up to the mountains, where we had seen first raptor species: Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, Variable Hawk, and some Andean Condors overflying mountains. Later we visited a mountain marsh, which allowed us to watch our first Rufous-banded Miners and White-browed Ground-tyrants. At this same place we saw Andean condors really close to us because there was a dead horse near. They were on a meal party!
We left this place to go to Plaza los Pumas, where we had our lunch. From where, we also got a good views on White-sided Hillstar and beautiful Greater Yellow-finch.

We started to drive back to Santiago and stopping along the curvy road. We saw lots of Austral blackbirds, Tufted Tit-tyrants and Rufous collared-sparrow.

Day 2

On our second day, we drove from Santiago until Vilches Alto, which is close to the Altos de Lircay National Reserve.

After four hours of driving we arrived to the Colbun Lake, where a surprise was waiting for us: we saw a beautiful Osprey (a common bird for the group, but a rare bird for Chile!). We have seen Andean gull, lots of Yellow-billed Pintail, Speckled Teal and an active colony of Burrowing Parakeets. It was amazing but we did not have the best views because of the fires and smoke. Park was actually closed because of that but we visited an alternative trail, which was amazing! There we saw Chestnut-throated Huet-huet, Chucao tapaculo, Austral parakeet and Striped Woodpecker all of them important for the group. Finally, we tried looking for the Rufous-legged Owl, but we could not see it because of the season.

Day 3

We started our day at the sunrise to get better views of tapaculos on our trail. We had great views of Chestnut-throated Huet-huet and Magellanic Tapaculo! That was amazing. While we were calling and watching Huet-huet, a Chilean hawk appeared! An unexpected surprise! We took good pictures of this rare bird, which was more interested in the Huet-huet than us. We spent all the morning enjoying ancient forests of Vilches.

In the afternoon we came back to the Colbun area, where we had better conditions than before. We saw White-tufted Grebe, many duck species, and we got better views of Burrowing Parakeets.

After that we left the area and we drove back to Santiago.

Day 4

On our fourth day we went to the coast of central Chile. We had two targets: the special Stripe-backed Bittern, and the endemic Chilean Seaside Cinclodes. We started on the San Jeronimo river mouth checking for the Stripe-backed Bittern. We had excellent views of three of them. In the same place we saw Spotted-flanked Gallinule, various duck species, breeding pairs of Pied-billed Grebe, and lots and lots of coots.

We continued our trip to a very nice place, where we had lunch and were looking for Chilean Seaside Cinclodes – we could see a pair of this endemic species.

At Cartagena lagoon we saw Lake Ducks, Red Shovelers, and a lifer for Lynne: Cinnamon teal (rare in eastern Canada), Black-necked swans and lots of terns and gulls.

Finally, we went to the Maipo River Mouth, place of the Gray gull (lifer for most of them), thousands of Franklin’s gulls, and lots of shorebirds (especially Semipalmated sandpiper). After visiting this wonderful place, we came back to Santiago.

Day 5

On the last day with Fernando leading the trip, in central Chile, we went to El Yeso Valley. The main goal was looking for the Diameded Sandpiper Plover! It is a specialty of Chile. We started having breakfast and birding at the same time. We were getting very good views of Crag Chilia and Moustached Turca, California quails, Black-winged ground-doves and Chilean flickers.

We continued the trip by seeing Yellow-rumped siskins, Mourning Sierra-finches, Rufous-banded miners, Mountain parakeets and White-browed Ground-tyrants on a marsh beside to the road. We visited a shrubed-place, where we saw the beautiful Sharp-billed canastero, and lots of toads and frogs.

After getting good views of Yeso water reservoir we walked some minutes by a small stream and we found one Diameded Sandpiper Plover! We spent some minutes with it, taking pictures, but we tried to avoid staying too much to avoid the disturbance. We also saw Crested duck and Yellow-rumped Siskin as well.

Along the way we stopped once again to try to see some additional birds. We saw South-American snipes, Gray-breasted seedsnipes and White-browed ground-tyrants.

With all these species spotted we decided to go back to Santiago.

Day 6 Patagonia

Leader: Cristofer de la Rivera. I met the group on the second half of the tour. Together we started a Patagonian journey in Punta Arenas, where as soon as we touched the land and claimed our bags, went to Humedal 3 Puentes, the local wetland near the city and where we got our first lifers for the trip in the south: Flying-steamer Duck and White-rumped Sandpiper. The same day in the afternoon, we drove on southern road from Punta Arenas to San Juan RIver to visit the Ruddy-headed Goose Reserve, a protected area with perfect landscape for nesting grounds. On the way we saw the Magellanic and Blackish Oystercatchers, Kelp, Ashy-headed, Ruddy-headed and Upland Goose the four types of geese of this region. We also visited the Nothofagus forest and had great views of the Austral Parakeet, Spectacle Duck, Fire-eyed Diucon, Black-faced Ibis, Thorn-tailed Rayadito and a long distance call of the Magellanic Woodpecker.

Day 7

The second day we took ferry to cross the mythical Strait of Magellan to reached Tierra del Fuego (The Land of Fire). It was a two hours navigation with excellent weather conditions (perhaps too good with no wind, so less birds flying), despite of that, Black-browed Albatross, a few Magellanic-diving Petrels, Magellanic Penguin and Two King Penguin were species that we have see.

After our arrival to Porvenir we went straight to salty lagoons to look for the scarce Magellanic Plover, a very important specie for this group! So we started looking over the rocky area where two were among Baird's Sandpiper, Rufous-chested Dotterel, Austral Canastero and Blue-and-white Swallows.

At the end of the day I decided to visit one last lagoon 7 km away. We were looking for the unique Hooded Grebe registered a few weeks earlier, and first time in 20 years in Tierra del Fuego. We were very happy because we had a very close encounter with this single individual among a group of 244 Silvery Grebe. In the following days we visited the same lagoon twice and we didn't see it again. We saw Coscoroba Swans, Black-necked Swans, South American Tern, and White-tufted Grebe at the same lagoon.

Day 8

On the third day in Patagonia we visited the King Penguin Colony in Bahía Inútil. We had an excellent visit because we saw 84 adults and 10 chicks. On the road we have seen more fueguian steppe birds mixed with coastal ones: Chilean Skua, Short-billed Miner, Cinnamon-bellied Ground-tyrant, Black-chested Buzzard-eagle, just to mention some of the sightings that day.

We arrived to the King Penguin colony, and spent about an hour enjoying the views of these spectacular creatures. We were still in the “hunt” for Magellanic Woodpecker so we moved to a very old nothofagus forest to look for it. We didn’t have luck but we saw a couple of Austral Pigmy Owl, plus all the common birds of this landscape. On the way we got to see Lesser Yellow-legs, Chiloe Wigeons and Chilean Swallows.

Day 9

On forth day, driving day, we had to cover long distances. Early in the morning we took the northern exit of the town Porvenir towards short ferry crossing called Punta Delgada. In this first part we saw Magellanic Horned Owl, Aplomado Falcon, more than 100 Tawny-throated Dotterel, Patagonian Yellow-finch, pretty good for a fueguian morning.

Once in the continent we started to look for continental steppe birds, so it was time for Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Silver Teal, and the impressive Lesser Rhea, all of them in this shruby-flat ecosystem. We went through extense and vast steppes on our way to Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine. On the road we got great views of Least Seedsnipe and some Rufous-colared Sparrows. Finally, we reached our destination in Puerto Natales, the entrance to the NP Torres del Paine.

Day 10

On fifth and last day of the tour, earlier than any other day, we started to drive heading towards the mountains. We visited two different sierras in the search of forest and high Andean species, plus the amazing views of the peaks of Torres del Paine. So we started with Torrent Duck in our first hike within the park, and also saw Chilean Flicker, Austral Blackbird, and Cinereous Harrier. There are great views of glaciers! We kept driving within the park stopping in different lagoons and lookouts, until we reach the lagoon with higher rush vegetation, the perfect ambient for the extremely shy Austral Rail. We set the playback equipment and the little bird started to call back just a few meters away from us! Sadly, after 30 min of trying to look for it in different places, it never showed up.

Then we spent the second half of the day in Sierra Baguales, a higher sierra where we could drive through the valley and look for northern species that reach this latitude. As soon as we got there we found the Patagonian Mockingbird, Grey-flanked Cinclodes and Sharp-billed Canastero, getting higher in a small pond we saw Red Shoveler, and Chilean Flamingo. I would say that we arrived a little bit late so we didn’t have much bird activity left.

In general I think it was an excellent trip, clients were satisfied (and by the way had a lot of birding skills), excellent weather conditions. We traveled more than 2200 kms by the sea and land, and saw more than 110 species in 5 days in the southernmost part of the continent.

Species Lists

Taxonomic order and notes follows South American Classification Committee
http://www.museum.lsu.edu/~Remsen/SACCBaseline.html

Detailed checklists available on eBird

ORDER STRUTHIONIFORMES
Family Rheidae [Rheas]
Lesser Rhea Rhea pennata

ORDER TINAMIFORMES
Family Tinamidae [Tinamous]
Chilean Tinamou Nothoprocta perdicaria (just heard)

ORDER ANSERIFORMES
Family Anatidae [Swans, Geese and Ducks]
Black-necked Swan Cygnus melancoryphus
Coscoroba Swan Coscoroba coscoroba
Upland Goose Chloephaga picta
Kelp Goose Chloephaga hybrida
Ashy-headed Goose Chloephaga poliocephala
Ruddy-headed Goose Chloephaga rubidiceps
Torrent Duck Merganetta armata
Flying Steamer Duck Tachyeres patachonicus
Flightless Steamer Duck Tachyeres pteneres
Crested Duck Lophonetta specularioides
Spectacled Duck Speculanas specularis
Chiloe Wigeon Anas sibilatrix
Yellow-billed Teal Anas flavirostris
Yellow-billed Pintail Anas georgica
Silver Teal Anas versicolor
Cinnamon teal Anas cyanoptera
Red shoveler Anas platalea
Lake Duck Oxyura vittata

ORDER PODICIPEDIFORMES
Family Podicipedidae [Grebes]
White-tufted Grebe Rollandia rolland
Great Grebe Podiceps major
Silvery Grebe Podiceps occipitalis
Hooded Grebe Podiceps gallardoi

ORDER PHOENICOPTERIFORMES
Family Phoenicopteridae [Flamingos]
Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis

ORDER SPHENISCIFORMES
Family Spheniscidae [Penguins]
King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus
Humboldt Penguin Spheniscus humboldti
Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus

ORDER PROCELLARIIFORMES
Family Diomedeidae [Albatrosses]
Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris

Family Procellariidae [Petrels and Shearwaters]
Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus

Family Hydrobatidae [Storm-Petrels]
Wilson's Storm Petrel Oceanites oceanicus

Pelecanoididae [Diving Petrels]
Magellanic Diving Petrel Pelecanoides magellani

ORDER SULIFORMES
Family Phalacrocoracidae [Cormorants]
Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus
Magellanic Cormorant Phalacrocorax magellanicus
Imperial Cormorant Phalacrocorax atriceps

ORDER PELECANIFORMES
Family Ardeidae [Herons]
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax

Family Threskiornithidae [Ibises]
Black-faced Ibis Theristicus melanopis

Family Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
Peruvian pelican Pelecanus thagus

ORDER CATHARTIFORMES
Family Cathartidae [New World Vultures]
Andean Condor Vultur gryphus

ORDER ACCIPITRIFORMES
Family Accipitridae [Hawks and Eagles]
Cinereous Harrier Circus cinereus
Variable Hawk Geranoaetus polyosoma
Chilean Hawk Accipiter bicolor chilensis
Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle Geranoaetus melanoleucus

ORDER GRUIFORMES
Family Rallidae [Rails and Coots]
Austral Rail Rallus antarcticus
Plumbeous Rail Pardirallus sanguinolentus
Spot-flanked Gallinule Porphyriops melanops
Red-gartered Coot Fulica armillata
White-winged Coot Fulica leucoptera
Red-fronted Coot Fulica rufifrons
ORDER CHARADRIIFORMES
Family Charadriidae [Lapwings and Plovers]
Tawny-throated Dotterel Oreopholus ruficollis
Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis
Two-banded Plover Charadrius falklandicus
Rufous-chested Dotterel Charadrius modestus
Black-bellied plover Pluvialis squatarola
Semipalmated plover Charadrius semipalmatus

Family Haematopodidae [Oystercatchers]
American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus
Blackish Oystercatcher Haematopus ater
Magellanic Oystercatcher Haematopus leucopodus

Family Pluvianellidae [Magellanic Plover]
Magellanic Plover Pluvianellus socialis

Family Recurvirostridae [Avocets and stilts]
White-backed Stilt Himantopus mexicanus melanurus

Family Scolopacidae [Sandpipers]
South American Snipe Gallinago paraguaiae
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Surfbird Aphriza virgata
White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla
Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii

Family Thinocoridae [Seedsnipes]
Least Seedsnipe Thinocorus rumicivorus

Family Stercorariidae [Skuas]
Chilean Skua Stercorarius chilensis

Family Laridae [Gulls and Terns]
Brown-hooded Gull Chroicocephalus maculipennis
Franklin Gull Leucophaeus pipixcan
Gray gull Leucophaeus modestus
Dolphin Gull Leucophaeus scoresbii
Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus
Elegant Tern Thalasseus elegans
South American Tern Sterna hirundinacea

Family Rynchopidae [Skimmers]
Black skimmer Rhynchops niger
ORDER COLUMBIFORMES
Family Columbidae [Pigeons]
Rock Pigeon Columba livia
Chilean Pigeon Patagioenas araucana
Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata
Black-winged Ground Dove Metriopelia melanoptera

ORDER STRIGIFORMES
Family Strigidae [Owls]
Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
Austral Pygmy Owl Glaucidium nana

ORDER CAPRIMULGIFORMES
Family Trochilidae
White-sided Hillstar Oreotrochilus leucopleurus
Giant Hummingbird Patagona gigas
Green-backed Firecrown Sephanoides sephaniodes

ORDER CORACIIFORMES
Family Alcedinidae [Kingfishers]
Ringed Kingfisher Megaceryle torquata

ORDER PICIFORMES
Family Picidae [Woodpeckers]
Striped Woodpecker Veniliornis lignarius
Chilean Flicker Colaptes pitius
Magellanic Woodpecker Campephilus magellanicus (just heard)

ORDER FALCONIFORMES
Family Falconidae [Falcons]
Southern Caracara Caracara plancus
Chimango Caracara Milvago chimango
American Kestrel Falco sparverius
Aplomado Falcon Falco femoralis

ORDER PSITTACIFORMES
Family Psittacidae [Parrots]
Austral Parakeet Enicognathus ferrugineus
Burrowing Parakeet Cyanoliseus patagonus

ORDER PASSERIFORMES
SUBORDER TYRANNI [Suboscines]

Family Rhinocryptidae [Tapaculos]
Magellanic Tapaculo Scytalopus magellanicus
Dusky Tapaculo Scytalopus fuscus (just heard)
White-throated Tapaculo Scelorchilus albicollis
Chucao Tapaculo Scelorchilus rubecula
Chestnut-throated Huet-huet Pteroptochos castaneus
Moustached Turca Pteroptochos megapodius

Family Furnariidae [Ovenbirds]
Common Miner Geositta cunicularia
Short-billed Miner Geositta antarctica
Rufous-banded Miner Geositta rufipennis
White-throated Treerunner Pygarrhichas albogularis
Band-tailed Earthcreeper Ochetorhynchus phoenicurus
Crag Chilia Ochetorhynchus melanurus
Buff-winged Cinclodes Cinclodes fuscus
Gray-flanked Cinclodes Cinclodes oustaleti
Dark-bellied Cinclodes Cinclodes patagonicus
Seaside Cinclodes Cinclodes nigrofumosus
Wren-like Rushbird Phleocryptes melanops
Thorn-tailed Rayadito Aphrastura spinicauda
Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail Leptasthenura aegithaloides
Des Murs’s Wiretail Sylviothorhynchus desmursii (just heard)
Austral Canastero Asthenes anthoides
Sharp-billed Canastero Asthenes pyrrholeuca
Dusky-tailed Canastero Pseudasthenes humicola

Family Tyrannidae [Tyrant Flycatchers]
White-crested Elaenia Elaenia albiceps chilensis
Tufted Tit-Tyrant Anairetes parulus
Austral Negrito Lessonia rufa
Many-coloured Rush Tyrant Tachuris rubrigastra
Dark-faced Ground Tyrant Muscisaxicola maclovianus
Cinnamon-bellied Ground Tyrant Muscisaxicola capistratus
White-browed Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola albilora
Black-billed Shrike-tyrant Agriornis montanus
Great Shrike-tyrant Agriornis lividus
Fire-eyed Diucon Xolmis pyrope
Spectacled tyrant Hymenops perspicillatus

Family Cotingidae [Cotingas]
Rufous-tailed Plantcutter Phytotoma rara

SUBORDER PASSERES [Oscines]
Family Hirundinidae [Swallows]
Blue-and-white Swallow Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
Chilean Swallow Tachycineta meyeni

Family Troglodytidae [Wrens]
House Wren Troglodytes aedon
Sedge Wren Cistothorus platensis

Family Turdidae [Thrushes]
Austral Thrush Turdus falcklandii

Family Mimidae [Mockingbirds]
Patagonian Mockingbird Mimus patagonicus
Chilean Mockingbird Mimus thenca

Family Motacillidae [Pipits and Wagtails]
Correndera Pipit Anthus correndera
Family Thraupidae [Tanagers]
Grey-hooded Sierra-finch Phrygilus gayi
Patagonian Sierra-finch Phrygilus patagonicus
Mourning Sierra-finch Phrygilus fruticeti
Patagonian Yellow-finch Sicalis lebruni
Grassland Yellow-finch Sicalis luteola
Greater Yellow-finch Sicalis auriventris
Common Diuca-finch Diuca diuca

Family Emberizidae [Sparrows]
Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis

Family Icteridae [New World Blackbirds]
Austral Blackbird Curaeus curaeus
Yellow-winged Blackbird Agelasticus thilius
Long-tailed Meadowlark Sturnella loyca

Family Fringillidae [Finches]
Black-chinned Siskin Spinus barbata
Yellow-rumped Siskin Spinus uropygialis

MAMMALS

Armadillos | Dasypodidae
Pichi Zaedyus pichiy

Rabbits & Hares | Leporidae
Old World Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Brown Hare Lepus capensis

Camels | Camelidae
Guanaco Lama guanicoe

Dolphins | Delphinidae
Peale's Dolphin Lagenorhynchus australis
Commerson's Dolphin Cephalorhynchus commersonii

Eared Seals | Otariidae
Southern Sea Lion Otaria bryonia

Dogs | Canidae
Southern Grey Fox Pseudalopex griseus
Culpeo Fox Pseudalopex culpaeus

Skunks | Mephitidae
Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk Conepatus humboldti