4 December 2011
A Day in Chile
Chile. Claudio Vidal, from Fantastico Sur, met us in the Hotel at 04:15 for breakfast before setting out toward the coast. A brief roadside stop produced singing Common Diuca Finch, the obligatory Rufous-collared Sparrows and a smart Chilean Flicker. Back in the van we drove to a smart Pacific Coast resort of Cachagua, north of Valparaiso. The van dropped us at one end of the road and drove to the car park by the beach. We walked slowly along the road stopping frequently. A pair of Rufous-tailed Plantcutter showed on the telephone cables, and a Fire-eyed Diucon flicked around the gardens. Pishing in a vegetated garden produced an amazing reaction with 4 Thorn-tailed Rayadito, 2 Plain-mantled Tit Spinetail, 2 Tufted Tit Tyrant, 4 White-crested Elaenia, Common Diuca Finch, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Shiny Cowbird, Gray-headed Sierra Finch, Austral Blackbird and a Giant Hummingbird flew overhead looking like a thin winged Bee Eater. An Austral Pygmy Owl began calling and was easily called in for better views, though it suffered considerable aggression from Austral Thrushes and other passerines. The Giant Hummingbird sat in a small dead branch allowing more prolonged views as we walked the last section to the sea and a pair of Chilean Mockingbird sat atop the fence.
|Common Diuca Finch|
|Plain-mantled Tit Tyrant|
|Austral Pygmy Owl|
Our objective was a small island just off the shore and we walked the short distance along the beach. At least 60 Hudsonian Whimbrel were feeding in the beach, Kelp Gulls were roosting with a single Franklins Gull. On the island 50 Humboldt Penguin were nesting (our ninth species of Penguin in two weeks), with Kelp Gulls, Turkey Vulture, and Peruvian Pelican and a single Peruvian Booby. A Marine Otter was feeding around the rocks and three Chilean Seaside Cinclodes gave good views as a few Blue and White Swallow fed over the beach.
|Chilean Seaside Cinclodes|
|Chilean Seaside Cinclodes|
We next headed south along the coast to a small wetland area beside a Sulphuric Acid plant (always the most attractive of locations). The pool was largely an excavation but some reed and rush vegetation attracted a nice variety of birds. Duck included Lake Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Chiloe Wigeon and Yellow-billed Pintail. A small colony of egrets held Great, Snowy and Cattle. A couple of Coscoroba Swan, pair of White-tufted Grebe and three different species of Coot completed the water birds (White-winged, Red-gartered and Red-fronted). Black-necked Stilt, American Oystercatcher and Southern Lapwing represented the waders. Around the margins we found four Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, 2 Spectacled Tyrant, Yellow-winged Blackbird and 2 Grassland Yellow Finch. As we left a flock of 100 Franklins Gulls arrived, circled over the water and away.
Our next stop was a small nearshore island in Canton. Unfortunately our visit coincided with the Chilean Marathon and we got caught up in the action delaying our arrival considerably. We were fortunate to make the island at all as it was half a km from the finish line and we needed to negotiate several police roadblocks (some more amenable than others). We eventually made it by convincing the police we were international photographers covering the marathon – all holding our lenses out of the rear windows in order to look convincing! At the next check point Hector, our driver, only slowed momentarily in order to confidently say ‘Photographia’ as the surprised Police Office waved us by. We made our way slowly past the stream of tired runners until finally reaching our destination. On the rock we found at least 25 Inca Terns, with their magnificent white facial plumes forming a long waxed moustache and contrasting with their grey plumage. Two Turnstones were disturbed from the rocks as we got closer to the action. A single Humboldt Penguin, two Peruvian Boobies, a dozen Peruvian Pelican and a number of Kelp Gulls were nesting here. Two Red-legged Cormorant and nine Guanay Cormorant provided variety to the more common Neotropic Cormorants on the rocks. We watched and photographed the terns for some time before moving along the seafront. At an unscheduled stop here for toilets we used the time to scan the ocean – eleven Gray Gull were hanging around offshore, looking like all grey Slender-billed Gulls, 2 Black Skimmer flew by and 3 Peruvian Boobies fed in the Bay. A distant flock of Franklins Gulls attracted a couple of passing Shearwater, but they remained too distant for positive id.
|Black Skimmer and Franklins Gulls take flight|
We had hoped to visit a woodland and a dry hillside, but had used up more time than expected watching the Penguins, the Terns and being delayed by the Marathon runners. We just had time for a short stop at a riverside reed bed. A Black-crowned Night Heron was accidentally flushed, 50 Black Skimmers and 25 Franklins Gulls were resting on the mud and four smart Many-coloured Rush Tyrants showed well in the narrow reed bed, making a fitting finale before we raced back to the Hotel and then the airport.