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

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.