26 Mar 2018

26 Mar 18 - Garibaldi Biscuits

I spend 25 March with a long day of travelling with a breakfast flight from Santiago to Buenos Aires. This was followed by a six hour wait for the connecting flight down to which didn’t arrive in Ushuaia till 19:00. While waiting for the Ushuaia flight, I spotted another Birder, Glenn Overington, with a Wildwings label on his hand luggage. Glenn quickly confirmed he was also on the Atlantic Odyssey trip from Ushuaia back to Cape Verde which was my reason to be heading to Ushuaia, albeit I was continuing on the ship all the way back to Holland.

After collecting the car from Avis, it was a maze of small roads until Glenn & I finally found the Hotel Tolkeyen which was to be our base for the next three nights. Having forgotten to grab a google map of Ushuaia didn't help. Arriving at the Hotel Tolkeyen, we were greeted by a number of other Birders who were also staying at the same hotel, including Tony Pollard prior to joining the Atlantic Odyssey.

Tony & I had already been in touch by email in the UK with a plan to team up & share my hired car. We also persuaded Glenn to join us for the following day. My Plan A option was to see if the Garibaldi Pass looked feasible to get onto the rocky top to look for White-bellied Seedsnipe and Yellow-bridled Finch. The Plan B option was to continue onto Rio Grande (about a 3 hour drive) to look for Austral Canastero & Ruddy-headed Goose. We arrived at the Garibaldi Pass to find relatively good conditions with no snow or rain & high cloud. Therefore, it seemed worthwhile to try to get up to the high tops. There were three Belgium Birders (Olivier, Filiep & Koen) who were just leaving their car & who got onto the trail before us.
The trail to the top of the Garibaldi Pass went through this beautiful forest
It was a slow journey up the hillside through the trees for us, as Tony was struggling with the path & Glenn & I were keen we all kept together.
Austral Thrush: This was one of the few species seen in the forest
Thorn-tailed Rayadito: This cracking species is another of the commoner forest species. It seems to think it is both a Tit & a Nuthatch, as well as, being a Furnariid
Unidentified Fungi
Once I reached the top of the rocky top, I saw brief views of a party of Yellow-bridled Finches. I quickly tried to relocate them, but they were clearly mobile. Rather than trying to chase the Yellow-bridled Finches, I decided I needed to focus on finding a White-bellied Seedsnipe.
The Garibaldi Pass: Proof that Tony made it above the treeline
This looks to be a difficult task given the amount of suitable habitat & how cryptic White-bellied Seedsnipe are. However, on one of the initial scans, I spotted one of the Belgium Birders appearing on a ridge about ¾ mile away, followed quickly by his mates with a lot of pointing, before the cameras were raised. They then started to slowly stalk the Bird there were looking at.
Glenn & Tony deciding whether to continue
I quickly walked back to where Glenn & Tony were standing close to the treeline to say I think the Belgium lads had found the White-bellied Seedsnipe. Glenn & Tony weren’t keen to come up, but Glenn told me to keep going.
The White-bellied Seedsnipe were on one of the distant hillsides in the middle of the photo
After a 15 minute walk across the screen slopes, I reached the Belgium lads who confirmed they had found five White-bellied Seedsnipe. I was then invited to find them myself with calls of colder, warmer, nearer, before I picked them up about 25 metres in front of us: Belgium humour I guess. They had had their fill & left me to slowly crawl closer. Most Birders visiting Ushuaia don’t try for White-bellied Seedsnipe & those that do, rarely seem to see them, so I appreciated how lucky I was to see one of the toughest of Ushuaia’s near endemics.
White-bellied Seedsnipe: With a bit of habitat to show how difficult they can be to locate
White-bellied Seedsnipe
White-bellied Seedsnipe
White-bellied Seedsnipe
White-bellied Seedsnipe: The photo of the trip for me, but keep following the blog as there are plenty more cracking photos to come as this was only day one of a brilliant seven weeks trip