29 Jan 2019

24 Mar 18 - My Final Two Chilean Tapaculos

All too quickly, it was my last day of Birding in Chile. I decided to try & see the two new Chilean Tapaculos for me: White-throated Tapaculo & Dusky Tapaculo. Both occur at Parque Nacional La Campana, on the North side of Santiago. Moustached Turca also occurs in the park, but this was the only Tapaculo I had seen on my first short visit to Chile in Sep 02. The park doesn't open till 08:00 so I had chance to get breakfast before the park opened. I arrived to find a slow-moving queue of people trying to get into the park to go walking. I had been caught out by getting used to not seeing people while I was Birding & trying to get into a popular park near the capital on a Saturday. After a fifteen minute wait, I was finally able to get into the park. Fortunately, the other people were walkers & weren't going in the direction I wanted to go. I headed into the park until I could find a small path into the dry Chaparral habitat on the right-hand hillside. After a few minutes of walking into the habitat, I found a more open area & tried the recording of White-throated Tapaculo. Within a couple of minutes, a White-throated Tapaculo had responded.
White-throated Tapaculo: It showed well until I lifted my camera, when it disappeared back into the vegetation. It hung another for another ten minutes, but was very skulky
Dusky-tailed Canastero: This is the nominate humicola subspecies which occurs in central & Northern Chile
Tufted Tit-tyrant: Another species that likes the dry Chaparral habitat
It had already got hot & I decided I needed to push on. The next site in the park was the forest trails where I was hoping to find find a Dusky Tapaculo. After a bit of searching, I managed to see my last new Tapaculo, but I failed to get any photos of it. Just after this, I bumped into a couple of American Birders who were the first Birders I had seen since the Arica pelagic. They had been at one of the nearby high-altitude sites, El Yeso, & seen a couple of Diademed Sandpiper-plovers. I hadn't been expecting they would still be around at El Yeso as they disperse from the central Chilean sites outside of the breeding season.
Striped Woodpecker: Another Chilean near endemic that was on my hit list
It was now late morning & very hot. Time to head out of the park & find a cold drink. My plan had been to try a local reservoir on the way back to Santiago. I had seen on eBird, that a local Birder had seen a South American Painted Snipe at the site recently. It seemed a long shot, but worth a look. However, as I was driving back towards Santiago, I realised I should have enough time to get up to El Yeso. Given it was still really hot, I decided I didn't fancy walking around the reservoir site. A quick check of the map & I was heading to El Yeso. It took a bit longer to get there than I had hoped, which cut into my time to look for the Diademed Sandpiper-plovers. It might have helped to have asked the American Birders for detailed directions, but visiting El Yeso hadn't seemed a realistic plan at the time. I tried all the obvious areas I could see & with more time maybe I would have been successful. It probably didn't help that a lot of other Santiago residents had decided to have a weekend's camping at the site. It was a cracking place to visit & will be on my route for my next visit to Chile.
El Yeso: it was stunning scenery. However, the deep shadows indicated I really needed to head to the hotel which was around a three hour drive
El Yeso: I didn't have any access problems with a normal car. However, I couldn't follow some of the 4WDs off the road by the lake as I didn't have their clearance
I had run out of time. I needed to head back towards the airport & the Hostal Sol y Luna for my last night. It was a bit tricky to find, but I found it in the end. After a final packing of the bags I was ready for my early morning departure to catch the early morning plane to Buenos Aires. I would have a six hour wait there before the late afternoon plane to Ushuaia. Trailfinders haven't been able to find a better connection. I had plenty of time to start entering all my Chilean sightings onto the laptop. Chile had been a brilliant trip & a good use of my time between the Colombian & the Atlantic Odyssey trips. I had seen thirty two Ticks on my second trip to Chile, out of a total of around forty five potential ticks. I saw another three new species from that hit list around Ushuaia within the next couple of days. Many of the species I still need are either possible to see at the high-altitude sites near Santiago or are Peruvian overshoots into Northern Chile. So I have a reasonable chance to seeing them in the future, especially as I plan to return at some point to visit Easter Island & the Juan Fernandez Islands, which will mean passing through Santiago again.

26 Jan 2019

22 Mar 18 - More Tapaculo Fun & Games

I woke up at first light at Parque Nacional del Laja to find the campground looked like it was near a slate mining area in Snowdonia. The steady drizzle made it seem even more like Snowdonia. I didn't have a lot of recent information about the park, but it was an old site for seeing Chestnut-throated Huet-huet. I struggled to find the small paths that were marked in the reports which lead to the Bamboo areas where they had been seen in the past.
Pacque Nacional del Laja: The low cloud added to the Welsh feel. It was scenic & somewhere up higher were the Bamboo clumps, but I reckoned I could spend a lot of time wandering around in the rain without any success
Pacque Nacional del Laja
After a look around & a bit of early morning Birding, I decided to cut my losses & move on. I had other sites for Chestnut-throated Huet-huet. Those sites were further North & I hadn't wanted to drive for a few more hours on the previous night to reach them. One of the best-looking sites was Termas de Chillan which had some nice bamboo groves which Chestnut-throated Huet-huet likes. Magellanic Tapaculos were also at the same site. I didn't reach the Termas de Chillan site till early afternoon as it was another site at the end of a long, slow side road into the mountains. I quickly found the site that others had visited. This was a massive area of dense Bamboos on the flat valley bottom and at the base of the hillside.
Termas de Chillen Bamboo: It looks great habitat, but also very dense to see into
Termas de Chillen Bamboo
Time to get out & start looking. I quickly had a response from the first of several Magellanic Tapaculos that I saw or heard at the site.
Magellanic Tapaculo: My fourth Tapaculo tick for the Chile trip & the only reasonable photo of all the photos taken. The light was grim & typical for a Tapaculo, it was skulking behind bits of vegetation on all the other photos
I heard a Chestnut-throated Huet-huet, but it only called a couple of times, but I had a rough area from where it had been calling from. After an hour of looking I gave up on that individual. Another Chucao Tapaculo did show itself from the same area, but that was the wrong species. After three hours of looking, it was getting cold & the little activity in the area had stopped. I ended up trying to find some accommodation for the evening. Given it was a big tourist valley, I thought it would be easy. It turns out I was looking in the off-season period & nearly everywhere was shut for the off-season or they wanting to rent me a chalet for six or more people at the prices that they would charge for a group. Eventually, I found a room in a small hotel next to a pizza restaurant. Hopefully I would have more success in the morning. Overnight rain didn't improve my optimism, but at least it had stopped raining by the morning. I returned to the same general area, but tried to find other small paths into the Bamboo. I did hear another Chestnut-throated Huet-huet, but it refused to come to the edge of the cover & I couldn't find a place to get into the Bamboo.
More great-looking, but impenetrable Bamboo
Finally, I decided to return to the first track & see if the first Chestnut-throated Huet-huet was prepared to show itself. I could at least approach the area from a different angle by crossing the stream. First, I tried sitting quietly for some time in case my arrival had disturbed it. Then I tried the recording & it responded a few times. After another ten minutes of waiting, it finally showed itself. Long enough to enjoy bins views, but too tucked into cover for a chance of a photo. It was similar to the showy Black-throated Huet-huet I seen a few days earlier on Chiloe Island, but with a chestnut-rufous colouration extending from the belly to the throat. I was happy just to have seen it. It was now late morning. I could now move on towards my last destination of of Parque Nacional La Campana, to the North of Santiago. I had a late morning pizza, in preparation for the four hundred mile journey. I didn't reach La Campana till 21:30. After a bit of searching I had sorted out a hotel room for the night & directions to a restaurant. After some food, I headed up to one of the park entrances. Old reports had said there were Rufous-legged Owls around some of the campsites in the park. The park entrance was locked up. I tried to walk in, but was immediately spotted by a park guard. The campsites for closed for the season & he said they had CCTV operating, so it would be obvious to his bosses if he had let me in to look around after dark. I tried plan B for the next hour of looking around the outsides to both entrances to the park, but no joy. This was a blow as this had been my most reliable site on paper for Rufous-legged Owl. I hadn't tried too hard earlier in the South, as my information hadn't been great & I was banking on this site. In the end, I did see Rufous-legged Owl in Ushuaia a few days later. But I had had to go out with a lot of the punters who were booked on the Atlantic Odyssey with local guide, Marcelo. His prices for the evening, were a complete rip off & he was also the worst person I've ever looked for Owls with. The evening left me completely unimpressed with his guiding abilities, although the Rufous-legged Owl was finally good to see.

24 Jan 2019

21 Mar 18 - New (Chilean) Pastures

I had arrived after dark at Parque Nacional Puyehue on the previous evening & found a self-catering cabin at a cabanas about six miles before the park entrance road at a sensible price. It turned out to be a good decision with Slender-billed Parakeets, Chilean Pigeons & Green-backed Firecrowns flying about the cabin at first light. After having some breakfast in the chalet, I left for the park. The conifer trees were tall & dense and combined with the steep-sided hills, it meant that the forest was cold & dark & there was little activity. I stayed on the main gravel road in the park & only explored less than a mile beyond the lake on the right-hand side of the road.
This river passed under the road next to the second of two big, expensive hotels on the approach road
The road was a gravel track after the river
The roadside lake: The sun had been up for over two hours, but it doesn't seem like that
My main reason for visiting the park was in the hope of finding a Magellanic Tapaculo, which I hadn't been able to find on Chiloe Island. There were some potential sites I could have tried on Chiloe Island. However, I decided that as I still had several sites further North, that I could try one of those sites & start reducing the distance to Santiago. I did succeed in seeing a Magellanic Tapaculo & hearing a second individual. However, I didn't manage to get any photos. I was more successful in getting photos of a couple of Chucao Tapaculos in the roadside vegetation. I heard another ten Chucao Tapaculos: they are clearly common in the park.
Chucao Tapaculo: They really are brilliant
Chucao Tapaculo
Chucao Tapaculo
Chucao Tapaculo
There were a few Chilean Pigeons flying around. I had seen a few on Chiloe Island, but only in flight. It was good to finally see one to photograph.
Chilean Pigeon: This one was feeding on the gravel road through the park
One of the other species, I had hoped to see in Chile was Austral Pygmy-owl. I had unsuccessfully looked for them around Ushuaia in Dec 1998 & during my short visit to the central Chile in Sep 02. I hadn't had any luck on Chiloe & was still trying. I was still surprised when an Austral Pygmy-owl started responding from the trees close to where I was standing. After a couple of minutes of waiting, I saw where it was calling from.
Austral Pygmy-owl: They occur in the Andes of South Chile & Argentina & winter to North Argentina
Austral Pygmy-owl: I'm always happy seeing Owls, especially if they are new
By this point in the trip, I had seen most of species I was keen to see & I was looking for specific targets. Magellanic Tapaculo has been the main target & the Austral Pygmy-owl has been a bonus that I had hoped to see. There was a chance of seeing Patagonian Tyrant, but I couldn't find any. Despite my successes, the Birding had been fairly quiet & it was time to move on. I spent the rest of the day driving onto Parque Nacional del Laja. Again, I didn't arrive until after dark. I hadn't been able to find any accommodation in the small towns on the approach to the park, so ended up booking a camping slot within the park for a few quid. I had a sleeping bag & was happy to kip in the car.

22 Jan 2019

21 Mar 18 - A Boat Trip To See The Penguins

Today was my final morning on Chiloe Island. I wanted another attempt at Marine Otter & Ochre-breasted Tapaculo. Previous reports had said that Ochre-breasted Tapculos occurred in many of the hedges & bushes along the roads near Ancud & the Punihuil Penguin colony. It was just a case of looking & finding a territory. So, I headed back to the Punihuil Penguin colony. Although I had seen the Magellanic Penguins from the beach, I was keen to get out on a trip around the bay on one of the ribs, in the hope of seeing one of the Marine Otters. I asked about my chances & was told it wasn't high, but there was a chance. Not surprisingly, I didn't see any. But I did get to see some better views of the Magellanic Penguins & some of the Cormorant species.
Getting on & off the rib: The punters are wheeled out to the rib
The rib
South American Sealions on one of the large rocks in the bay
Panoramic view of the bay
Coming back into the beach
Magellanic Penguin: This is a mainland breeding Penguin which occurs from Chiloe Island to Argentinean Patagonia
Red-legged Cormorant
Red-legged Cormorant: The eye ring looks like it's modelled on some Elton John glasses from the 70s
Rock Shag: Two adults with a spotty-breasted immature
South American Sealion
South American Sealion
The highlight of the rib trip was a small pod of my first Peale's Dolphins which appeared close to the rib for a short period. I only managed to get a couple of photos, however, that was enough to confirm the identity.
Peale's Dolphin: The black of the head continues down towards mouth. The other potential species is the similarly sized, shaped & marked Dusky Dolphins, but they have a white band on the lower forehead. Peale's Dolphins have a pale panel on the lower body in front of the dorsal fin & this is just about visible on this photo. More distressing as I was sorting these photos was to find this individual was caught up in fishing gear
Peale's Dolphin: An out of focus photo of the rear body showing a large white flank marking. This marking is similar to Dusky Dolphins, except there is a second thin white line that goes up towards the dorsal fin on Dusky Dolphins. Additionally, Peale's Dolphins have a dark grey-black dorsal fin with a thin paler trailing edge, which compares to the broad dark & pale two-tone dorsal fin of Dusky Dolphin
I spend some time checking the scrubby edges at the back of Punihuil Beach for Tapaculos, but I had no joy. However, there were a few other species of interest.
House Wren: This is the chilensis subspecies which occurs in Southern Chile & Southern Argentina
Lizard sp.: There were a couple of these cracking green Lizards in the scrub at the back of the beach
Butterfly sp.: I don't know much about South American Butterflies, but if this was in Europe, I would call it a Fritillary sp.
On the way back to Ancud, I managed to see my first Ochre-flanked Tapaculo, but it wasn't prepared to pose for the camera. But there was a good selection of species which were more obliging.
Chimango Caracara
Ringed Kingfisher
Rufous-tailed Plantcutter: This occurs in central & Southern Chile & Southern Argentina
 Chilean Swallow: This species breeds in Southern Chile & Argentina & migrates North to winter in Bolivia & Brazil
Chilean Swallow: A closer crop of the last photo showing the left-hand individual
Austral Blackbird
Black-chinned Siskin
A typical habitat photo
One of the many dirt side roads on Chiloe
A final habitat photo
Time for a final lunch in Ancud & to head off for the ferry. My time on Chiloe had been a great & I could easily have spent longer in the area. I will certainly consider returning on a future visit to Chile. However,  I was still seven hundred miles from Santiago, without allowing for a number of lengthy side journeys off the main road. My initial plan was to get to Parque Nacional Puyehue for the following morning. This was about one hundred & fifty miles from the ferry terminal, which was a two & a half hour drive. I had a few minutes wait at the ferry before being allowed to board the ferry.
The ferry was packed: But at least I was on the first ferry
View of a Chilean mountain from the ferry