A Travellerspoint blog

Day 20: A Mixed Bag

Torres del Paine National Park

semi-overcast 60 °F

Gotta keep this brief. The positives? I saw an incredible glacier today. The negatives? None of my electronic devices (including camera) are charging reliably here. The positives? I got two life birds today! The negatives? I can only include back-of-the-camera photos of the birds here because my dwindling camera battery is at an extreme premium. The positives? A generous Portuguese woman (who miraculously also happens to be a birder) took pity on me and let me borrow her camera adapter for the night.

So, today before my family was to take a boat across Lago Grey to see the glacier, we had to hike through a beautiful ecosystem called a Magellanic Forest, and there I found my life bird STRIPED WOODPECKER! Awesome!
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Additionally, I had three chances to find my target bird for the day: Torrent Duck. My first two chances would be on the hike to and from the boat ride where the trail crosses over the Gray River on an extremely rickety and unstable footbridge. Chances seemed dismal since on the first pass over the bridge, it swung violently every time someone else stepped on the bridge, making scanning up and down the river close to impossible. Dang! Seems like I would have to hire an $80 guide to hike me into the woods to find it later...ugh

All of this aside, the boat trip to the glacier was INCREDIBLE. None of us have ever been blessed with such incredible views today, and this is something I will remember the rest of my life!!!!! The environment here is SO awesome — words & photos can’t even describe.
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Then, miraculously, on the hike back to the car, as soon as I stepped onto that same bridge, a beautiful male TORRENT DUCK swam into view...not even five feet away?!?! Amazing!!!! This was possibly my #1 target species for this national park and it gave incredible, incredible close views AND it saved me five hours & $80, allowing me a delicious afternoon nap.
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I will make one extra post after the trip (once I have fully charged my camera) including my favorite bird photos from this week since the remainder of my daily posts this week will probably consist of iPhone photos and back-of-the-camera snapshots of any lifers I may get.

Bird-of-the-day to the Torrent Duck and runner-up to the Striped Woodpecker. Some quality Patagonian species, regardless of tricky circumstances!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1105 Species (2 life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 13:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Day 19: Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine

Patagonia

overcast 64 °F

Last night, my mom, Pearl, and I began our first night as a unit of three, spent in Punta Arenas so we could drive to Torres del Paine National Park today.

Our flight yesterday included a one-stop in the Lakes District of Chile, which looks beautiful.
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And I picked up a PICUI GROUND-DOVE from the plane (you’ll have to just trust me on this one, lol!):
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On the way into town last night and out of town today, we made quick stops at the Punta Arenas Wetlands to see what was there and especially to see if any rare Ruddy-headed Geese were mixed in with the Upland Geese — both species have been known to nest at the location in the past. My photos from this location are from both yesterday & today since both were extremely quick stops (due to impatient family members). Here is a photo of a typical scene here: many birds, especially BLACK-NECKED SWANS & CHILOE WIGEONS which are featured in this photo.
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BLACKISH OYSTERCATCHER:
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BROWN-HOODED & KELP GULLS:
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COSCOROBA:
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BLACK-NECKED SWAN:
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CHILOE WIGEONS with a female RED SHOVELER and a SILVER TEAL:
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LESSER YELLOWLEGS:
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UPLAND GEESE. I picked through many of these geese on both visits but failed to find any Ruddy-headed.
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The difference between the species is illustrated here on a board at the wetlands — the rarer Rudy-headed have distinctive white eye-crescents, which I did not see on any of the geese, unfortunately.
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The striking male AUSTRAL NEGRITO:
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Well, no geese but still a good number of birds seen. Then, this morning, it was a three-hour drive through the Patagonian steppe on the Ruta del fin del mondo, the “Road to the end of the world!”
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Later on, we stopped at a salina (brackish pond) where we had seen CHILEAN FLAMINGOES with our guide Jürgen last time, and they were even closer this time! What brilliant colors!
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There was plenty of other birdlife there also, including RED SHOVELERS:
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SILVERY GREBES:
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BUFF-NECKED IBIS:
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WILSON’S PHALAROPES:
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WHITE-RUMPED & BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS:
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LESSER RHEA “kindergarten:” so many juveniles!
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TWO-BANDED PLOVER with BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS:
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Then, Pearl and I spotted a few ANDEAN CONDORS sailing over the road so of course we had to stop!
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In fact, the drive today was full of unplanned birding stops, such as one for these CINEROUS HARRIERS:
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AUSTRAL BLACKBIRD:
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Juvenile AUSTRAL THRUSH, similar in appearance to a juvenile a American Robin:
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LONG-TAILED MEADOWLARK:
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CHIMANGO CARACARA:
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Then, it was time to stop in the town of Puerto Natales for shopping and gas for the car. During the stops, I did find this BLACK-CHNNED SISKIN:
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And the town is located on a beautiful waterfront.
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That has many KING CORMORANTS!
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And a single NEOTROPIC (known around here as “Olivaceous”):
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BLACK-CHESTED BUZZARD-EAGLE:
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FIRE-EYED DIUCON:
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After over six hours, we had made it to the renowned Torres del Paine National Park! Unbelievable!
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Then, I had my mom stop the car because I had spotted my first life bird of the day: a beautiful RUFOUS-TAILED PLANTCUTTER!
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My second life bird of the day flew by two quickly for photos: CHILEAN FLICKER! Hopefully I will capture an image of this bird later.
Anyway, the views here never, ever disappoint!
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My mom pointed out a SOUTHERN CRESTED CARACARA and I was able to lie on the parking lot and grab an image of it in front of Lago Torres!
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WHITE-CRESTED ELAENIA:
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I saw two Sierra-Finch species today, first the beautiful GRAY-HOODED:
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And the equally-stunning PATAGONIAN:
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DARK-BELLIED CINCLODES — but what is that in the background?
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PLUMBEOUS RAIL! Nice. Hopefully I see it’s rarer cousin here, the AUSTRAL.
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A full day of birding Patagonia was rounded off by following a group of “gauchos” with horses, cattle, and herding dogs. Cool!
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Bird-of-the-day to my life-bird Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, with runner-up to the Chilean Flicker. STAY TUNED: tomorrow, we take a boat across Lago Gray to the Gray Glacier! My goal species for the day is Torrent Duck, an extremely specialized and beautiful waterfowl species of fast-moving streams in this part of the world.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1103 Species (2 life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 14:40 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Day 18: A duck is a bird is a goose is a petrel

San Antonio, Chile

overcast 69 °F

“Henry, there’s a duck sitting in the harbor out there!” I bounded out of bed and immediately snapped this photo, not of a duck of course, but of my life bird PERUVIAN PELICAN!
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I laughed and informed my dad that pelicans are four times larger than ducks, and he laughed in turn, saying “A duck is a bird is a goose is a petrel,” prompting a belly-laugh from all of us and of course, an appropriate title for today’s post. Ninety minutes later, we had left the HMS Coral Princess for the last time, but not before I picked up more birds from the harbor, including my life bird PERUVIAN BOOBY! Awesome!
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BROWN-HOODED GULLS:
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KELP GULLS:
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This cormorant flew over from the west, too quick to identify.
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But it prompted me to scan toward the west and I quickly found more boobies sitting with my life bird RED-LEGGED CORMORANTS. The cormorants’ easily-identifiable characteristic is the white patch on the sides of their throats.
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Then, it was time to bid farewell to the Coral Princess and begin our day of transit back down to Punta Arenas.
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We said goodbye to dad at the cruise terminal and hopped a cab for the 90-minute ride to the Santiago Airport. Our cab driver thought of the drive more like an amusement park ride than a taxi service, whipping around corners ferociously and even exiting the highway, pulling an (illegal) U-turn and entering again in order to avoid a toll. All in good fun! Now we are waiting in the Santiago airport for a one-stop flight on LATAM Airlines (which my Dad told us was “duct tape air,” lol) down to Punta Arenas.

Bird-of-the-day to the Peruvian Booby with runners-up to the Pelican & Cormorant. Stay tuned: tomorrow we drive from Punta Arenas to the incredible Torres del Paine National Park.

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1102 Species (3 life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 08:06 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Day 17: Last day on the Coral Princess

South Pacific Ocean

sunny 60 °F

The day had to come: the final day of the Coral Princess’ legendary trans-oceanic voyage from Buenos Aires to San Antonio (Santiago, Chile) via Antarctica.

Of course, I took advantage of the final day at-sea scanning for pelagic birds with the Irish birders, and although there were some slow times, we did pick up a number of species. We noticed an abundance of FRANKLIN’S GULLS this morning:
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As well as another species from the “Laridae” family, an ARCTIC TERN! In addition to being a life bird for me, this was a fun species to observe particularly due to their lengthy migration — they breed above the Arctic Circle and migrate down to the south Atlantic, Pacific, & Southern Oceans for the winter. Now that’s a long trip!
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A few seals were seen periodically from the ship this morning.
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And then, another life bird came in the form of RED PHALAROPE, a pelagic species I have been hoping to come across for a long time! (in Ireland & across Europe, these are, perhaps more-appropriately, referred to as “Grey Phalaropes”)
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A nice WESTLAND PETREL showed with its characteristic dark bill tip:
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PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS proliferated throughout the day:
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And it was nice to observe this NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL as we have mainly seen Southern during our voyage. The Northern is differentiated by its red bill tip.
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This was definitely one of the better days at sea for viewing members of the Laridae family. Here is one of a few KELP GULLS seen today:
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We had a few SOUTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS throughout the day:
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As well as NORTHERN — note the completely black wings (the seemingly white leading edges to the wings are simply due to the harsh light which was present all day)
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WHITE-CHINNED PETREL, the Westland’s more-common cousin, but it lacks the black tip to the bill.
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We had a few distant SALVIN’S ALBATROSS throughout the day:
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And at about mid-afternoon, a smaller Pteledroma petrel species flew by, and due to its shorter overall build, relative lack of head markings, and extremely pale tail, we had my life bird DE FILIPPI’S PETREL, completing the trifecta of petrel species we were hoping to see in the Pacific: Juan Fernandez, Stejneger’s, & De Filippi’s.
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Today marked the 15th consecutive day we have seen a BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS! Not a bad species for a “trash bird.”
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My home boys for the last 16 days — you guys are great, thanks for putting up with me! Left to right: Jim, Dermot (finally spelled correctly — sorry! hahahah), Joe, Aidan, Billy, & Tom
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Then, later this evening as I was writing my life bird MASKED BOOBY flew by the window! Too cool!
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One manner of ranking seabirding is counting the total number of tubenose (petrel, shearwater, storm-petrel, albatross, etc) species seen. I ended up with 38 species this trip, including 28 life birds. I only missed 3 species in this group that at least one of the Irish birders saw, so for me there were relatively few “dirty birds” — an all-too-common result of seabirding. Here is the list:

  • indicates life bird

Wandering Albatross
Antipodean Albatross*
Southern Royal Albatross
Northern Royal Albatross*
Gray-headed Albatross *
Salvin's Albatross
Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross *
Sooty Albatross *
Light-mantled Albatross *
Black-browed Albatross *
Buller's Albatross
Northern Giant Petrel
Southern Giant Petrel*
Blue Petrel*
Slender-billed Prion *
Antarctic Prion*
Southern Fulmar*
Cape Petrel
Juan Fernandez Petrel*
De Filippi’s Petrel*
Stejneger’s Petrel*
White-chinned Petrel
Spectacled Petrel*
Atlantic Petrel*
Soft-plumaged Petrel *
Cape Verde Petrel *
Westland Petrel
Buller’s Shearwater*
Sooty Shearwater
Pink-footed Shearwater*
Great Shearwater*
Gray Petrel *
Snow Petrel*
White-bellied Storm-Petrel*
Black-bellied Storm-Petrel*
Wilsons Storm-Petrel*
Magellanic Diving-Petrel*
Common Diving-Petrel

Birds seen by others that I missed:

Kermadic Petrel (ugh!)
Manx Shearwater
Gray-backed Storm-Petrel

Bird-of-the-day to the De Filippi’s Petrel, with runner-up to the Masked Booby. Tomorrow, off to Patagonia!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1099 Species (4 life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 14:49 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Day 16: The Lifers Continue!

South Pacific Ocean

semi-overcast 52 °F

My penultimate at-sea day aboard HMS Coral Princess consisted mainly of birding with the Irish and finding a wealth of Pacific Ocean seabirds! My first lifer of the day came almost immediately in the form of this beautifully-patterned BULLER’S SHEARWATER, of which we ended up seeing many today:
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This beautiful NORTHERN ROYAL ALBATROSS was also eye candy for us:
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And an immature SOUTHERN ROYAL, told by the white speckling on its wings:
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PINK-FOOTED SHEARWATERS also showed periodically throughout the day:
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WHITE-CHINNED PETREL — as you can see, there was a fair amount of pelagic avian diversity today.
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JUAN FERNANDEZ PETREL was my second life bird today! Look at those long wings:
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SOOTY SHEARWATERS were present, but in smaller numbers today:
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This distant SALVIN’S ALBATROSS was a great new find for the trip:
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And my third life bird of the day was an extremely fast-moving (therefore hard-to-photograph) STEJNEGER’S PETREL, a significantly shorter-winged bird than the Juan Fernandez Petrel, which is also in the “Pteredroma” genus.
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Extremely-distant GRAY-HEADED ALBATROSS:
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And better looks at BULLER’S ALBATROSS than yesterday:
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It was also nice to get a good look at a WESTLAND PETREL: this species is similar to the look-alike White-chinned Petrel, but differentiated by the black tip to its beak.
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Bird-of-the-day to the Buller’s Shearwater with runner-up to the Juan Fernandez Petrel. Stay tuned for the last day of pelagic birding from the ship, tomorrow!

It’s been such a great trip — I haven’t yet gone a day without a life bird!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1096 Species (3 life birds today)

  • you may have noticed that my life list has been fluctuating recently; this is due to a major overhaul I have had of my list, including confirming a first-seen location for every species. Due to human error, I had a few accidental double-mentions of species & misidentifications from birds back in like 2012/2013, so the list has not necessarily gone up in a logical manner everyday, but that will end now because I completed fact-checking the updated list today!

Posted by skwclar 17:50 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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