Sunday, 23 April 2017

Chile part three - Tierra del Fuego

With just a two hour ferry ride separating Punta Arenas and Tierra del Fuego, it seemed an obvious option to visit this mystical, barren land while I was in southern Chile. There was one major reason why I wanted to head over the Magellan Straits and it was strangely very dudey. I'd only ever seen a couple of species of penguin - Little Blue in Australia back in 2003 and Galapagos Penguin a couple of years back. Both pretty small, and being honest, relatively unimpressive. So with the prospect of a visit to a King Penguin colony, that in itself made the trip worthwhile.
Arriving at the ferry terminal in Punta Arenas on a crisp blue morning, the sea was like a millpond. Lovely for sailing, but past experience of pelagics told me it wouldn't be great for birds. But so far away from home, and with little experience in the southern oceans, there would surely be a few bits and bobs. And that there was in the two hour trip - the highlights were a single Magellanic Diving Petrel, half a dozen Southern Giant Petrels, a single Black-browed Albatross, five Wilson's Storm-petrels, good numbers of South American Terns and a few hundred Southern Fulmars complete with their whacky looking inner primary flash. There were also a couple of bits of big blubber spouting out water, which I thought were Fin Whales: -

Arriving on Tierra del Fuego, we scooted round the bay to Porvenir where a couple of White-tufted Grebes and Kelp Geese, along with several Flying Steamer Ducks, greeted us.
And then as we arrived on the outskirts of Porvenir, in lovely light, there was a really confiding flock of Dolphin Gulls. Really close views so smashed a few hundred photos before heading on out of town...

Rufous-chested Dotterels were, like the previous day, nice and inquisitive on the foreshore as were the local Chimango Caracaras: -

Brown-headed Gulls also showed really well on the foreshore in Porvenir: -
Just outside of Porvenir, as we descended into the wilds, a couple of Fire-eyed Diucons were by the roadside. Nice birds.

Stopping off at Laguna Santa Maria, all the birds present were a reminder that I was a long way from home - Black-necked and Coscoroba Swans, large flocks of Silvery Grebes (but without the hoped for Hooded), Chiloe Wigeons, Yellow-billed Teal, Red-gartered Coot and a Chilean Skua patrolled the skies. But the commonest bird on Tierra del Fuego - present along the roadside in good numbers - was the best for me. For some reason Upland Geese were really charismatic and very different from the grey geese I'm use to seeing: -
Anyway, by mid afternoon it was time for the main event and on arrival at Bahia Inutil, there was a colony of King Penguins that provided some really good value. There were about 130 birds in all, and though the colony was nice to see, the real highlight was seeing small groups walking in typical style back along the beach from their feeding forays: -

So after that experience, it was time to drive across more Upland Goose covered landscape to the ferry terminal at Bahia Azul and head back off Tierra del Fuego to the mainland at Punta Delgada. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, and the only regret being it was just that - more time in this special place was needed...

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