Friday, August 12, 2011


Almost five hundred years old, Valdivia is full of history of german settlers and spanish forts from the colonial era surrounding the city. It's located at the confluence of the Cruces and Calle-Calle rivers. Upstream of the city on the Cruces river is the Ramsar site Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary that once was full of thousands of Black-necked Swans, but was seriously damaged by an infamous pulp mill. Although this establishment is still functioning, the swan population has slowly begun to rebound and thankfully reed-dwelling species like the Many-coloured Rush-Tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird can still be easily seen.

Only 30 minutes from the city the hills still have areas of beautifully dense and shady temperate rainforest, like at privately owned Parque Oncol. Where everything is covered in moss and ferns! Here you'll hear many skulky Rhynocriptids like the Magellanic, Ochre-naped and Chucao Tapaculos, and if you are lucky you'll see the chubby Black-throated Huet-huets scrambling in the understory.

If you are a ocean lover, the coast is also only thirty minutes away from town. If you don't have a car you can also access the coastal towns on public buses.
In one day you can visit world class wetlands, megadiverse temperate rainforests and rocky coasts. Not bad. Soon I'll post about my local birding spots around Valdivia, with complete lists of what I've found.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Close encounters with a Short-eared Owl

Last week I was doing some field work close to the border of the eight and ninth region; mostly agricultural land other than some trees close to the houses and a small patch of Nothofagus obliqua with a creek. Nonetheless I was still able to see quite a few raptors like American Kestrel, Harris's Hawk, White-tailed Kite, and a beautiful male Cinereous Harrier.

Juvenile Harris's Hawk

My best luck was with the owls. The first few days the rain didn't help and I wasn't able to hear any owls. But the last two night my luck changed. One night I heard three Austral Pygmy-Owl from where I was sitting in a field and later a Barn Owl was kind enough to fly over me! But wait, it gets better. The last night the weathers wasn't cooperating too much and no pygmy-owls were answering. I was ready go home but I decided to try one more spot, even though I didn't really expect to find anything. So when I get to the spot I get out of the truck and before I get a chance to do anything I hear a loud squawk that I didn't recognize. Walking towards it for a few hundred meters I encountered a small tree that sounded like it was where the squawk was coming from. But my flashlight wasn't picking anything out in the foliage. To my huge surprise, as I circled the tree a Short-eared Owl was perched on a fence post only 4 meters away from me! My presence didn't seam to phase him so I was lucky enough to take some closeups. But my luck wasn't done yet. As I was grinning and snapping photos another short-eared flew over me, flapped its wings a couple times and left. What a great night!

Short-eared Owl

A special thanks to Daniela Castro for the photos of the trip

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Yerba Loca Nature Reserve

In the mountains just out of Santiago on the way to the ski slopes is Yerba Loca Nature Reserve, a beautiful reserve encompassing a long valley ascending through the mountains. It super close to Santiago and easy to get to even if you don't have a car. It took me only 30 minutes to get to the entrance on a bus and then a taxi. My visit only lasted 5 hours, but was able to see 26 species.
We chose the trail that goes to Condor Plateau. My first surprise was a Crag Chilia in a dry creekbed. Soon after a small flock of Gray-headed Sierra finches perched close by and were kind enough to let us take a few photos.
The resounding call of the Mustached Turca fills the valley with powerful descending notes giving the place a great vibe. Mixed flocks of Mourning Sierra-Finch, Band-tailed Sierra-Finch and Rufous-collared Sparrow scrambled about beside the path. Within the first hour of walking I already had seen three endemics: Chilean Mockingbird, Crag Chilia and Chilean Tinamou. Plus the scenery is quite spectacular. So all in all this site is great place to visit on a short trip to Santiago or if you don't have access to a car.

Santiago covered in clouds
Crag Chilia

Gray-headed Sierra-Finch

- Chilean Tinamou
- California Quail
- Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle
- Harris's Hawk
- American Kestrel
- Eared Dove
- Green-backed Firecrown
- Striped Woodpecker
- Chilean Flicker
- Crag Chilia
- Buff-winged Cinclodes
- Gray-flanked Cinclodes
- Moustached Turca
- Tufted Tit-Tyrant
- Fire-eyed Diucon
- House Wren
- Austral Trush
- Chilean Mockingbird
- Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch
- Band-tailed Sierra-Finch
- Common Diuca-Finch
- Rufous-collared Sparrow
- Long-tailed Meadowlark
- Austral Blackbird

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Finally Patagonia

After many many years wanting to visit the extreme south of Chile, I finally had the time and the money to do it. Patagonia offers birders an assortment of birds only seen in the extreme south, plus some of the most amazing scenery of Chile. So it's a obligatory stop for any birder in Chile. I started my trip in Punta Arenas. This city is located right on the shores of the straits of magellan. It's a great spot to catch a few shorebirds and waterfowl, and if you wish for some more sea worthy birds you can take a ferry thats crosses the strait over to Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego.

I started by visiting the Tres Puentes Wetland on the northern entrance to town. It's a small protected wetland with a pond on either side of the road that dissects it. It's a small place, but a great spot to get the know the regulars down here, plus a couple special ones. The highlights of Tres Puentes are Chilean Flamingos, White-rumped Sandpiper, Magellanic Oystercatcher and Coscoroba Swan.
My visit only lasted 20 minutes, so the tally got up to only 18. But the wetland has recorded over 35 species. All of them listed on a wooden sign for those of you that decide to visit.

If you have visited this spot or birded in the Pta. Arenas area it you'd be great to hear about your experience.

The full list:
- Chilean Flamingo - Phoenicopterus chilensis
- Coscoroba Swan - Coscoroba coscoroba
- Upland Goose - Chloephaga picta
- Crested Duck - Merganetta armata
- Yellow-billed Pintail - Anas georgica
- Yellow-billed Teal - Anas flavirostris
- Chiloe Wigeon - Anas sibilatrix
- Red Shoveler - Anas platalea
- Red-gartered Coot - Fulica armillata
- Southern Lapwing - Vanellus chilensis
- Magellanic Oystercatcher - Haematopus leucopodus
- White-rumped Sandpiper - Calidris fuscicollis
- Baird's Sandpiper - Calidris biardii
- South American Snipe - Gallinago paraguaiae
- Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus
- Brown-headed Gull - Larus maculipennis
- Austral Negrito - Lessonia oreas
- Chilean Swallow - Tachycineta meyeni

Monday, August 30, 2010

Puerto Saavedra and Puaucho Beach

On saturday I went out to Puerto Saavedra on the coast of the ninth region (Region de la Araucania) to check out the wetlands and beaches in the area; and then check out the ducks at Lago Budi. I had 5 possible lifers to find on this outing. The birds to find were Black-headed Duck, White-cheeked Duck, Silver Teal, Snowy Plover, and Two-banded Plover. The three ducks were to be found on the lake and the two plovers on the beach of Puerto Saavedra.
My first stop was the river that ends at Puerto Saavedra to see if any of the ducks were present here as well. No luck there. Only a hand full of Chiloe Wigeons, Yellow-billed Pintails and two White-backed Stilts where chilling in a flooded field on the side of the road.

Next stop was the towns beach. Well I guess my references might have been wrong, because as I drive up the road the beach, there is no beach. Only waves crashing onto the retaining wall beyond the sidewalk. So I guess I must have been there at high tide. Should have checked out the tide tables before going... anyways.

Next stop was to Lake Budi, a tidal brackish lake located a few kilometers south of the town.
The directions I had were a bit confusing and wasn't able to get to the spots were the ducks were to be spotted. I was able to see Red-gartered Coots, White-winged Coots, Black-necked Swans, Spot-flanked Gallinules, and a White-faced Ibis.

At the end of the road was a flooded camping ground at Puaucho beach. In the mud I found 3 Two-banded Plovers, Dark-faced Ground-tyrants, Common Miners, and a Correndera Pipit.
The beach here is beatiful but very windy. Maybe not the best place to be camping. But all in all a really great place to find Common Miners and the Plovers.

Puaucho Beach

Common Miner

Two-banded Plover

I was hoping to find some Snowy Plovers or Rufous-chested Dotterels but the waves were pretty big and I was unsuccessful. But a Red-legged Cormorant was resting all by itself sheltered by a small dune right on the beach. It wasn't looking in very good shape but it eventually flew off.

Red-legged Cormorant

On the way back on the gravel road I found a Black-chinned Siskin fledgeling on the road with its parents. It was just learning to fly and wasn't quite getting the hang of it yet. Its tail feathers were just starting to grow out and the primaries and secondaries were just about ready.

Black-chinned Siskin

So the trip wasn't as successful as I would have liked it to be. The Two-banded Plover is a lifer, so I'm happy about that. And I guess I'll have to come back with better directions to find the 4 other lifers still on my list.

Check list:
  • White-tufted Grebe - Rollandia rolland
  • Pied-billed Grebe - Podilymbus podiceps
  • Red-legged Cormorant - Phalacrocorax gaimardi
  • Great Egret - Ardea alba
  • Snowy Egret - Egretta alba
  • Cocoi (White-necked) Heron - Ardea cocoi
  • Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
  • White-faced Ibis - Plegadis chihi
  • Black-faced Ibis - Theristicus melanopis
  • Black-necked Swan - Cygnus melancoryphus
  • Yellow-billed Pintail - Anas georgica
  • Yellow-billed Teal - Anas flavirostris
  • Chiloe Wigeon - Anas sibilatrix
  • Cinnamon Teal - Anas cyanoptera
  • Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus
  • Chimango Caracara - Milvago chimango
  • American Kestrel - Falco sparverius
  • Plumbeous Rail - Pardirallus sanguinolentus
  • Spot-flanked Gallinule - Gallinula melanops
  • White-winged Coot - Fulica leucoptera
  • Red-gartered Coot - Fulica armillata
  • Southern Lapwing - Vanellus chilensis
  • White-backed Stilt - Himantopus melanurus
  • Two-banded Plover - Charadrius falklandicus
  • American Oystercatcher - Haematopus palliatus
  • Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus
  • Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus
  • Brown-hooded Gull - Larus maculipennis
  • Eared Dove - Zenaida auriculata
  • Common Miner - Geositta cunicularia
  • Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant - Muscisaxicola macloviana
  • Austral Negrito - Lessonia oreas
  • Fire-eyed Diucon - Xolmis pyrope
  • Chilean Swallow - Tachycineta meyeni
  • Austral Thrush - Turdus falcklandii
  • Chilean Mockingbird - Mimus tenca
  • Correndera Pipit - Anthus correndera
  • Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola
  • Yellow-winged Blackbird - Agelaius thilius
  • Shiny Cowbird - Molothrus bonariensis
  • Long-tailed Meadowlark - Sturnella loyca
  • Rufous-collared Sparrow - Zonotrichia capensis
  • Black-chinned Siskin - Carduelis barbatus

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Out to the coast!

So yesterday afternoon my roommate Felipe had a friend visiting from Puerto Varas and we decided to all go out to the coast to check out the birds and beaches.
Our first stop was Pilolcura a really nice and secluded beach with a Red-legged Cormorant (Lile in spanish) colony. I counted a rough estimate of 450 individuals with about 30 Peruvian Pelicans scattered in between. The Liles are definitely my favorite cormorant of the 5 species seen in Chile. Quite stunning.

Not too much on the beach other than Kelp and Brown Headed Gulls. But up on the grass above the beach I was pleasantly surprised to see a dozen Rufous-chested Dotterel. They didn't seem to mind me watching them 6 meters away.

Beach count:
  • 450 Red-legged Cormorant -Phalacrocorax gaimardi
  • 30 Peruvian Pelicans - Pelecanus thagus
  • 16 Rufous-chested Dotterel - Charadrius modestus
  • 4 Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus
  • 60 Brown-headed Gull - Larus maculipennis
  • 50 Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus
  • 2 Gray-flanked Cinclodes - Cinclodes oustaleti
  • 3 Dark-bellied Cinclodes - Cinclodes patagonicus

Red-legged Cormorant colony

Felipe - German - Me

Next stop on the coast was a small beach called La Mision because of a group of monks that live close by. The sun was going down fast and the lighti
ng was perfect. Saw some American Oystercatchers and Whimbrels. Plus a Magellanic Tapaculo in the bushes calling his incessant patra-patra-patra-patra. There was one lonely plover running along the beach. I was really hoping for it to be a Snowy Plover but it turned out to just be a Collared Plover. Maybe next time.

  • 6 Neotropic Cormorants - Phalacrocorax brasilianus
  • 3 American Oystercatchers - Haematopus leucopodus
  • 1 Collared Plover - Charadrius collaris
  • 2 Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus
  • 1 Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus
  • 1 Dark-bellied Cinclodes - Cinclodes patagonicus
  • 1 Gray-flanked Cinclodes - Cinclodes oustaleti
  • 1 Magellanic Tapaculo - Scytalopus magellanicus
  • 1 Rufous-collared Sparrow - Zonotrichia capensis

La Mision

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Conguillio National Park

Conguillio National Park, in my opinion is, the best park and birding hotspot in the lake district of Chile. It's located just 150km east of Temuco following a beautiful country road that crosses through pasture lands with scattered trees and eventually enters a thick native old growth forest with old lava flows cutting through the Nothofagus dombeyi and Araucaria araucana mixed forest (Monkey puzzle tree is what many people know it as in north america).

This park is unique in the lake district because it has five key features:
  • First, it offers various ecosystems for birders: dense vegetation wetlands, a large lake and many smaller ones, ancient forests, highland meadows, huge expanses of volcanic rock. There might be a couple more that I don't remember at the moment.
  • It has great camping sites with hot showers and newish bathrooms. Most sites have plenty of bushes, trees and bamboo to keep the place pretty private from neighboring sites.
  • It even has a store with a limited variety of supplies. But all in all, that can really save the day when you wanna stay a couple more days or you forgot something at home.
  • Over half a dozen well maintained trails. Most of them have breath taking views of Volcan Llaima, the Sierra Nevada, the lakes, waterfalls or ancient forests. They range from .5 km to 25 or so km.
Ashy-headed goose

Yellow-bridled finch

Volcan Llaima

  • 78 species that I've seen. And another half a dozen that that could be seen (hopefully next summer I can find a couple more). I haven't recorded that many species for any other location in the region.
Other parks like N.P. Vicente Perez Rosales or Puyehue further south can't say the same. They might have 2 or maybe even 3 of these features if they are lucky. But Conguillio is by far the best in the region.

Enough of boring stuff about the park, now lets talk about the birdies.
So as I mentioned before, I've recorded 78 species here which is a pretty respectable amount.
To make the most out of a trip here I would recommend a 3 to 4 day trip. A 2 day trip would still be worth it but to really enjoy, take time for good photos, and see all the birds available I would say that 4 day trip would be ideal.
For those of you that are most interested in endemics and cuasiendemics (also seen in Argentina) there is a variety of species that would make you wanna come, like Slender-billed parakeet, Chucao tapaculo (they have the most awesome and unforgettable call of any chilean bird), Ochre-flanked tapaculo, and Chilean mockingbird.
Plus you can also see up close and repeatedly the Magellanic Woodpecker.
If any of you ever plan on coming to Chile and have time for birding you should definitely consider arranging a trip to Parque Nacional Conguillio in your schedule. I guaranty that you'll not regret it.

So I know the most important thing, and what most people would be interested in is the bird list. So here it goes:
  • California Quail - Callipepla californica
  • White-tufted Grebe - Rollandia rolland
  • Great Grebe - Podiceps major
  • Neotropic Cormorant - Phalacrocorax brasilianus
  • Great Egret - Ardea alba
  • Snowy Egret - Egretta thula
  • Black-capped Night-Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
  • Black-faced Ibis - Theristicus melanopis
  • Ashy-headed Goose - Chloephaga poliocephala
  • Flying Steamer-Duck - Tachyeres pteneres
  • Spectacled Duck - Speculanas specularis
  • Yellow-billed Duck - Anas georgica
  • Speckled Teal - Anas flavirostris
  • Chiloe Wigeon - Anas siblilatrix
  • Red Shoveler - Anas platalea
  • Rosy-billed Pochard - Netta peposaca
  • Andean Duck - Oxyura ferruginea
  • Lake Duck - Oxyura vittata
  • Andean Condor - Vultur gryphus
  • Chilean Hawk - Accipiter chilensis
  • Harris's Hawk - Parabuteo unicinctus
  • Variable Hawk - Buteo polyosoma
  • White-throated Caracara - Phalcoboenus albogularis
  • Southern Caracara - Caracara plancus
  • Chimango Caracara - Milvago chimango
  • American Kestrel - Falco sparverius
  • Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
  • White-winged Coot - Fulica leucoptera
  • Red-gartered Coot - Fulica armillata
  • Red-fronted Coot - Fulica rufifrons
  • Southern Lapwing - Vanellus chilensis
  • Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus
  • Baird's Sandpiper - Calidris biardii
  • South American Snipe - Gallinago paraguaiae magellanica
  • Kelp Gull - Larus dominicanus
  • Chilean Pigeon - Patagioenas araucana
  • Eared Dove - Zenaida auriculata
  • Picui Ground-Dove - Columbina cruziana
  • Austral Parakeet - Enicognathus ferrugineus
  • Slender-billed Parakeet - Enicognathus leptorhynchus
  • Rufous-legged Owl - Strix rufipes
  • Austral Pygmy-Owl - Glaucidium nanum
  • Band-winged Nightjar - Caprimulgus longirostris
  • White-sided Hillstar - Oreotrochilus leucopleurus
  • Green-backed Firecrown - Sephanoides sephanoides
  • Magellanic Woodpecker - Campephilus magellanicus
  • Chilean Flicker - Colaptes pitius
  • Striped Woodpecker - Picoides lignarius
  • Rufous-banded Miner? - Geositta rufipennis
  • Dark-bellied Cinclodes - Cinclodes patagonicus
  • Buff-winged Cinclodes - Cinclodes fuscus
  • Gray-flanked Cinclodes - Cinclodes austaleti
  • White-thoated Treerunner - Pygarrhichas albogularis
  • Thorn-tailed Rayadito - Aphrastura spinicauda
  • Plain-mantled Spinetail - Leptasthenura aegithaloides
  • Black-throated Huet-huet - Pteroptochos tarnii
  • Chucao Tapaculo - Scelorchilus rubecula
  • Magellanic Tapaculo - Scytalopus magellanicus
  • Ochre-flanked Tapaculo - Eugralla paradoxa
  • White-browed Ground-Tyrant - Muscisaxicola albilora
  • Spot-billed Ground-Tyrant - Muscisaxicola maculirostris
  • Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant - Muscisaxicola macloviana
  • Austral Negrito - Lossenia oreas
  • Fire-eyed Diucon - Xolmis pyrope
  • White-crested Elaenia - Elaenia albiceps
  • Tufted Tit-Tyrant - Anairetes parulus
  • Chilean Swallow - Tachycineta meyeni
  • Blue-and-white Swallow - Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
  • Southern House Wren - Troglodytes musculus
  • Austral Thrush - Turdus falcklandii
  • Chilean Mockingbird - Mimus tenca
  • Grassland Yellow-Finch - Sicalis luteola
  • Austral Blackbird - Curaeus curaeus
  • Long-tailed Meadowlark - Sturnella loyca
  • Patagonian Sierra-Finch - Phrygilus patagonicus
  • Plumbeous Sierra-Finch - Phrygilus unicolor
  • Common Diuca-Finch - Diuca diuca
  • Yellow-bridled Finch - Melanodera melanodera
  • Rufous-collared Sparrow - Zonotrichia capensis
  • Black-chinned Siskin - Carduelis barbatus

And for some reason the Patagonian Tyrant isn't on my list, but I'm sure I've seen and heard it up there. I'm certain the Des Murs' Wiretail can be found up there as well. There is plenty of Wiretail habitat at the park. I'll have to listen most closely next time.

If anybody has been to this park and seen birds that aren't on my list, how about you leave be a comment telling what you saw and where in the park.

So does it sound like a place you'd like to visit next time you are in Chile?