20 Jan 2019

19 Mar 18 - Parque Nacional Chiloe

A number of ad-hoc stops along the road to Parque Nacional Chiloe from the Pan American Highway had been very successful with excellent views of Black-throated Huet-huet & Chacao Tapaculo. I decided to carry on to the coast to see what the habitat in the National Park was like. This would give me a better idea of where was the best place to spend the rest of the late afternoon & evening. The Park turned out to be a wide coastal beach with rough scrub vegetation behind it, along with some forest paths. There was a constant movement of Sooty Shearwaters along the coast & I gave up looking after the first hundred in a few minutes. There was a stiff coastal breeze & no shelter. The sandy beach was too far from the nearest point I could drive the car & use it for shelter. There was a small chance that a prolonged seawatch might have produced a Tick, but the plan for the day was to focus on Tapaculos & I clearly wasn't I was going to find any on the beach. There were a few species including Common Diuca-finches, Rufous-collared Sparrows & Long-tailed Meadowlarks in the scrubby areas.
The scrub behind the beach at Parque Nacional Chiloe: The Pacific Ocean is just visible beyond the beach
Common Diuca-finch: This is a widespread species in Chile & Argentina which just crosses into SE Brazil
Common Diuca-finch: This must be a juvenile with the fluffy feathering around the nape
Rufous-collared Sparrow: This is one of the most common & widespread Passerines in Latin America, but one I like as it is a good-looking species
Long-tailed Meadowlark: One of the good things about Chile is there aren't too many options for anything seen
Long-tailed Meadowlark: The identification is even easier when it turned to face me
There was a woodland trail, but there were a lot of noisy people on the trail, so I decided against that option. After a general look around the area, I opted to slowly return to Castro, with a few more roadside stops. This was the better strategy with a number of species new to the trip seen on route back.
Ringed Kingfisher: This is the common Kingfisher in Chile
Fire-eyed Diucon: This is a typical Tyrant Flycatcher: sitting still & looking around a lot for the next snack
Fire-eyed Diucon
White-crested Elaenia: This individual has a 'sweet-tooth' & has developed a liking for Blackberries
Austral Blackbird: Looks like a juvenile Austral Blackbird which has been attracted to a Common Diuca-finch (I can't find anything else that fits with this rusty vent) feeding at the road edge
Black-chinned Siskin: This is the only Siskin in the South of Chile
Finally, I arrived back at Castro. I was keen to find places to look at the wide channel near Castro, as one party of Birders had bumped into Chilean Dolphins. They didn't specify where they had seen this small Dolphin. I found a few places to view the channel, but I didn't have the time in the plan to allow a proper search. With limited time, it was no surprise that I failed to see any Chilean Dolphins. However, I did see a number of Birds, including some Black-necked Swans.
Black-necked Swan: They occur from Southern Brazil to Chile & Argentina
Black-necked Swan: The black neck makes them an easy species to identify
Black-necked Swan: Juvenile. This individual has black wing tips indicating it hadn't moulted its primaries from its juvenile plumage
It was dark by the time I reached Ancud. After some dinner, I was back out looking for Rufous-legged Owls. I had no success, but there were other sites along my route so I gave up after an hour of looking.

18 Jan 2019

19 Mar 18 - Chilean Tap Dancing

My main reason for choosing Chile as a fill-in destination between the Birdquest Colombian trip & the arrival into Argentina in time for the Atlantic Odyssey trip, was to look for the Chilean Tapaculos. There are eight species of Tapaculos in Chile. Tapaculos are a family that are well known to Birders visiting any part of the South American Andes. They are easily described. Imagine the skulkiest Wren you have seen, now make that a uniform dark grey or blackish & imagine that skulking in the darkest part of the forest. Take away the loud song of a Wren & replace it with a quiet chattering call. Finally, change the name to blah-blah-blah Tapaculo, from the one that was in range at the last site you visited & that's virtually all of the family. Chile has a couple of Tapaculos that fit that description. But it also has another six species which look closer to one of the Antpittas than the standard Tapuculo template. On my first visit, I had managed to see one of the Tapaculos, Moustached Turca, at Parque Nacional La Campana, but I hadn't been able to find the other two species there. I didn't get in range of the remaining species. I was keen to improve on my Tapaculo list. Their stronghold are sites in Central & Southern Chile & Chiloe Island was a good place to start as four species can be seen on the island. I had spent a fair bit of time the previous evening downloading calls & songs to my iPhone. I had a small bluetooth speaker with me which allowed me to place the speaker on the ground & back away from it. I was now ready to go looking for Tapaculos. The plan was to drive South on the Pan American Highway about half of the length of Chiloe Island to the town of Castro. Sixteen miles South of Castro was a small road heading to Parque Nacional Chiloe on the West coast. Previous reports had similar messages, it was best to find patches of native forest, get into the forest & try the tapes. The Tapaculo species were fairly widespread & it was a case of just bumping into them. They are inquisitive & will respond well to recordings, providing they are fairly close.
Castro: Castro was a normal looking Chilean town, but this northern suburb was more colourful
First, I had to get to Castro. The Pan American Highway is a normal road on Chiloe. I had only travelled a few miles along it, before having to stop for roadworks. Normally, having to wait would be frustrating. But this time I was hoping I wouldn't get waved on, as there were a party of Slender-billed Parakeets feeding in the trees next to where I was waiting: my first Tick of the day. Many of the reports I had read said Slender-billed Parakeets were hit & miss & had given people a lot of grief trying to find them. However, it looks like March is a better time to see them as I saw over a hundred at various sites during the day.
Slender-billed Parakeet: This species disappears into the extensive Nothofagus forests during the breeding season, but after the breeding season appears in large flocks in agricultural fields
Slender-billed Parakeet: Head & shoulders showing how it got its name
There were a number of other species I saw fairly regularly as I was driving around the Chiloe Island roads.
Chimango Caracara: A common species in central & Southern Chile
Black-faced Ibis: Another species I just bumped into every now & then along the drive
Green-backed Firecrown: This is the common Hummingbird in central & Southern Chile & adjacent Argentina
After a late breakfast or early lunch in Castro, I carried onto the road leading to the Parque Nacional Chiloe. For the final two thirds of its length, the road runs alongside Lago Huillinco. A fair bit of the forest along the shore was private, but I managed to find some patches of native forest that weren't fenced off. One of the ad-hoc stops produced my first of around six Chucao Tapaculos I saw in Chile (I heard another fifteen). They are inquisitive & will often respond to a recording of themselves or another Tapaculo, although I can't be sure if they are calling in the background of the other recordings. They were easily my favourite species from the Chile trip.
Chucao Tapaculo: This is the rubecula subspecies which occurs in Southern Chile & adjacent West Argentina
Chucao Tapaculo: Absolutely brilliant & breaks all the Tapaculo rules by being fairly showy
Having seen Chucao Tapaculo, I changed my focus to Black-throated Huet-huet. This is a large Tapaculo. The first attempt drew a blank & it seemed the same at the second random stop. I then got distracted by another Chucao Tapaculo, which popped in.
Chucao Tapaculo
I then realised something moving very close & just above where I was kneeling. I moved carefully to see be able to see it: a Black-throated Huet-huet which had only come into investigate my recording a few minutes after I had stopped playing it: magic.
Black-throated Huet-huet: Uncropped photo showing how close the Black-throated Huet-huet was
Black-throated Huet-huet: Fortunately, my 100-400 mm lens allows me to reduce the magnification, so this it is now a 240 mm lens
Black-throated Huet-huet: The two species of Huet-huets are the largest Tapaculo species & similar in size to some of the larger Antpittas (although they are longer-tailed)
Black-throated Huet-huet: Some Birders have found them difficult to see & have spent a day or two of looking at known sites, so perhaps I was lucky
Black-throated Huet-huet
Black-throated Huet-huet: They occur in Southern Chile & adjacent SW Argentina
Black-throated Huet-huet
Black-throated Huet-huet
Black-throated Huet-huet
Black-throated Huet-huet
Four of the eight Chilean species of Tapaculos occur on Chiloe Island & I had just seen the two most enigmatic species. It has been a good twenty minutes. I carried on along the road looking for other areas of interesting habitat for ad-hoc stops. I didn't see any more Tapaculos, but my next stop produced a couple of Ochre-flanked Tapaculos which called, but didn't show themselves. However, I did see a Des Murs's Wiretail & a Thorn-tailed Rayadito. Both appeared briefly as they moved through the trees.
Des Murs's Wiretail: This species has a Wren sized body, with a tail which is at least twice the body length. The tail feathers are the pale brown (out of focus) feathers in the top left part of the photo
Des Murs's Wiretail: This is another species which occurs in the forests of central & Southern Chile & adjacent Argentina
Thorn-tailed Rayadito: This has a similar range to Des Murs's Wiretail in the Southern forests
Thorn-tailed Rayadito: A better photo of the bizarre tail feathers
Thorn-tailed Rayadito
It had been a good early afternoon along the road to Parque Nacional Chiloe, but I hadn't reached the West coast or the National Park yet. I'll finish off the other species in the next Post.

17 Jan 2019

18 Mar 18 - Chile: First Impressions Of Chiloe Island

It had been a late arrival into Santiago the previous evening & it was a pre-dawn alarm call to get breakfast at the Hostal Sol y Luna near the airport. The owner then dropped me back at the airport for my mid-morning flight. After five hours of flying, including a stop en route, I arrived at Puerto Montt. This is the nearest city to my next destination of Chiloe Island. I quickly collected the hire car which was a one-way drop into Santiago airport on 24 Mar. It was an hour of easy driving on the dual carriageway to Pargua which is the ferry point across to Chiloe Island. The only thing that slowed me down were a few toll booths on the road. Toll booths are a regular feature on the motorway-standard roads in Chile & the tolls quickly mounted up on a long journey.
The roads were good & quiet
The ferry to Chiloe Island at Pargua: Within a few minutes I was boarding for the thirty minute crossing
The ferry was a reasonable size & there are three or four ferries leaving every hour
The other ferry company
Looking back at Pargua on the mainland
The equally small ferry slipway on Chiloe Island at Pargua
I was Birding from the raised part of the ferry on the crossing. It is a wide channel & not too far from the open sea, so there is always the chance of Seabirds. Very occasionally, Birders have seen the newly described (2013) Pincoya Storm-petrel from the ferry, although March didn't look a likely time of year from eBird. Not surprisingly, I didn't see any on this calm crossing. There were a few Magellanic Penguins, Sooty Shearwaters, Imperial Cormorants & Peruvian Penguins on the crossing.
South American Sealion: Three of the eight I saw on the crossing
House Sparrow: An introduced species that seems to survive in many countries outside of its natural range
It was a thirty minute to the Northern town of Ancud where I was staying. I quickly found my self-catering accommodation, the Casa Damasco Chiloe Guesthouse, for the next two nights. A quick look around the town confirmed most of the cafes were shut as it was a Sunday, so I tried one of the hotels for some food, as I hadn't eaten since breakfast. Chiloe Island is a large & pleasant place to visit. There seems to be plenty of places to stay on the island & it has a sleepy laid-back lifestyle that is reminiscent of the islands on the Scottish West coast. It was my favourite part of Chile & I could easily have spent a few more days exploring the island.
Dark-bellied Cinclodes: There were a couple of in the small hotel car park. They have a strong white eyebrow, strong white streaking continuing down the breast, consistent colouration across the middle of the belly, more uniform flanks & longer bill. The very similar-looking Grey-flanked Cinclodes has a paler belly, less streaking on the breast, a thinner white eyebrow & which is browner in front of the eye, a thinner, shorter bill & is a smaller Cinclodes. I've struggled writing this Post on the identification of these two similar Cinclodes, partly as I don't think I saw Grey-flanked Cinclodes on my trip (I would welcome any comments on my identifications)
Dark-bellied Cinclodes: Another photo which I think was also taken at the hotel with the Canon 7D hence the better colouration tones (20 Mar 18)
Dark-bellied Cinclodes: Another at Punihuil Penguin colony
There was still some light to get out Birding as sunset wasn't until 20:15 (sunrise isn't till 08:00). I headed off for the beach by the Punihuil Penguin colony. There is a small colony of Magellanic Penguins on the rocky islands off the beach, but I was more interested in the chance of seeing Marine Otters here. I didn't see any Marine Otters, but there was a reasonable selection of coastal Birds to keep me interested.
The beach at Punihuil Penguin colony
The beach at Punihuil Penguin colony
The beach at Punihuil Penguin colony: One of the ribs going out to the Magellanic Penguin colony. There are a couple of Magellanic Penguins on the rocky island
Kelp Goose: The black male & white female
Kelp Goose: Male
Kelp Goose: Female
Flightless Steamerduck: I've found identification of lone Steamerducks where both Flying Steamerduck & Flightless Steamerducks occur can be tricky for those newly arrived in their range. The bill looks bulky & deep-based indicating Flightless Steamerduck
Flightless Steamerduck: Identification is made easier when you can see a pair as they are similar in Flightless Steamerducks & a noticeably darker grey colouration in females of Flying Steamerducks. Female Steamerducks also have a green bill with a dull orange base. The other key feature is the wing length which looks very short
Flightless Steamerduck: Just in case there was any doubt about whether this individual could fly
Flightless Steamerduck
Southern Lapwing
Blackish Oystercatcher
Kelp Gull: Adult
After a good look around the bay from the beach, I decided against a trip out on one of the ribs. I was keen to spend the rest of the light driving back along the dirt road heading West from the Magellanic Penguin colony, rather than the main road. I had read that one of the other Birders had bumped into Slender-billed Parakeets along this route. I had no joy on the Slender-billed Parakeet front, but I did see my first Bicoloured Hawk.
Fire-eyed Diucon
Austral Thrush
It had been a good start to my time on Chiloe Island.