Friday 14 April 2017

Chile part one - El Yeso, Santiago

I'm kind of burdened with the number of superlatives that could be used for my trip to Chile as I sit here in Santiago on my final morning. We've spent just 10 days travelling around this wonderful place - from the far south (Punta Arenas and Tierra del Fuego) to the extreme north (Arica) with 6 hours of internal flights in between. Plus a couple of days in and around Santiago (when we landed and then when we left). Full of birds (gulls in particular obviously) but as it was a bit of a Karen holiday too, some nice restaurants, lovely accommodation and culture too.

I'll start with a summary of just the first day here around Santiago - in fact a trip up to El Yeso to see a few Andean species straight from the airport. Given that it was April (so autumn), it was going to be a bit a bit hit and miss whether Chile's most iconic bird - Diademed Sandpiper-Plover - was still on its breeding grounds (its wintering area isn't that well known). As it was, most had indeed cleared out, but there was a showy juvenile that performed rather nicely which put to rest the desire to see this species, ever since I thumbed through the old Helm Shorebirds guide as a young kid. Pretty exquisite looking thing...
Diademed Sandpiper-Plover El Yeso, Chile April 2017
High up in the Andes, there were also some nice endemics (or near-endemics to) with Crag Chilia, Moustached Turca and Chilean Mockingbird easily seen.
Crag Chilia El Yeso, Chile April 2017
Chilean Mockingbird El Yeso, Chile April 2017
On the alpine-like meadows Buff-winged Cinclodes, Rufous-banded Miners and Grey-hooded Sierra Finches were common while by the reservoir itself three Mountain Caracaras were a nice change from the abundant Chimango Caracaras. While the mother of raptors, the Andean Conder, cruised over the peaks above: -
Andean Condor El Yeso, Chile April 2017
The glacial streams provided nice views of Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe and a couple of Baird's Sandpipers that looked like they should probably be heading north.
Grey-breasted Seedsnipe El Yeso, Chile April 2017
Baird's Sandpiper El Yeso, Chile April 2017
Grey-flanked Cinclodes El Yeso, Chile April 2017
Rufous-crowned Sparrows of the pale crowned race were cheekily scrubbing about too.
Rufous-crowned Sparrow El Yeso, Chile April 2017
Other birds noted included a Magellanic Tapaculo scrotting around on one of the infinite rocky hillsides, a brief Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, both White-browed and Dark-faced Ground-tyrants, four Crested Ducks and a few Southern Lapwings. And all this with a backdrop of high peaked Andean mountains and remnant glaciers.

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