22 Mar 2018

22 Mar 18 - Chile: 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.