Chile, February 24-26 2007

Published by Mike Nelson (madbirder AT

Participants: Mike Nelson


This is a short trip report for the three days I tacked onto a wine trip to Chile in February of 2007. I used Jean Paul de la Harpe form as my guide. He is really good and knew all the birds by voice and where to go. We stopped in some out of the way places and some spots you might not know to look and found some great species and several endemics. He is also a great photographer and took some fantastic photos of the birds we saw. I highly recommend him if you have a chance to get to Chile, its worth it just for the endemics. He organized everything and we stopped in some great restaurants.


Feb 24th. South of Santiago at Leyva, El Yali, Maipo Estuary, El Paral

Feb 25th. La Campana, Fundo Aguas Claras, Marbella Beach Penguin Colony, Ventana Factory pools

Feb 26th. Mountain road up to ski resort at 3000mt, Lampa marsh near Santiago

Feb 23rd

I arrived in Santiago after visiting some wineries and Jean Paul met me for dinner to discuss what the plan was for the next three days. We ate at a local restaurant and I had some traditonal Congrio soup which was great.

Feb 24th

Jean Paul met me at the hotel at 7:30 and we drove out of the city and headed south. Along the road we saw the usual suspects like Southern Lapwing, Chimango Caracara, Eared Dove, Picui Ground Dove, Austral Blackbirds and a White-tailed Kite. Once we arrived at Leyva we pulled up on the side of the road and scanned the lake which was loaded with birds. Black-necked swans and Coscoroba stood out in thier white feathers while a Spot-flanked Gallinule swam up a small stream near by. Chiloe Wigeon, Yellow-billed Pintail, Speckled Teal and Red Shoveler represented a fair amount of ducks. There were several White-backed Stilts, Greater Yellowlegs and Southern Lapwings representing the waders and a pair of Austral Negriots hawked for insects on the ground with Long-tailed Meadowlarks.

From here we drove to El Yali along dirt roads through dry countryside. We stopped next to a heavily brushed bank next to the road and Jean Paul did some playback. After a few minutes of Dusky Canastero we had some Dusky-tailed Canasteros responding and with some playback of thier calls they came in real close and we got some views of them as they flitted through the brush. We were really fortunate to have an adult Giant Hummingbird hawking for insects along the dirt road where we stopped and it perched right overhead. A massive hummer living up to its name. There was an adult and a young with it that was learning the ropes. We watched for a bit before driving on to the lake.

We stopped and climbed up a short berm and before us stood the lake just floating with coots and swans. In a small pond behind us down the hill several Coscoroba were honking thier onomatapiac name. They took flight shortly after that and flew right overhead presenting a great shot for Jean Paul. Out on the lake there were Black-necked Swans, White-tufted Grebe, Silvery Grebe, White-winged Coot, Red-fronted Coot and Red-gartered Coot but the profusion of coots was the real marvel. There must have been hundreds of them just floating about. We also saw Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Yellow-winged Blackbirds and overhead a large kettle of Black Vulture, Turkey Vultures and Harris' Hawks. There were also several Chilean Swallows darting about. We got another look at a Giant Hummingbird perching close by.

On the way back down the road we scared up several Common Diuca Finches which seemed to be everywhere as we drove through the countryside. We drove back through the dusty roads till we hit pavement and headed for the coast at the Maipo River estuary. Here we pulled in at the beach and walked through the sand along the beach seeing Grey Gull, Franklins Gull and Kelp Gull. There ware also several Whimbrels along the surf and out over the water we saw Sooty Shearwater, South American Tern, Peruvian Booby and Peruvian Pelican. We walked over the dunes to the estuary and came across a massive colony of Black Skimmers gulls, cormorants, Pelicans and terns. On the calmer side in the fresh water were hundreds of birds and the largest concentration of Whimbrels I've ever seen over 100. In the tall grasses behind the beach we tried for Warbling Doradito with no luck and headed back to the beach to a rocky area where we found Surfbirds and Ruddy Turnstones lurking in the rocks.

We stopped for lunch in Santo Domingo for some excellent fish and drove north to El Peral a small lake surrounded by reeds. We checked in at the post and hit the boardwalk leading out into the reeds. We spotted some Austral Negrito on the low grass before the reeds. As we approached the reed wall we spotted Many-colored Rush-Tyrants up close with thier many colors. Tiny bird but amazing to see. We also saw Wren-like Rushbird jumping around in the reeds. Out in the water there were many coots and grebes and egrets. Further down the boardwalk we stopped in a heavily reeded area for Plumbeous Rail which responded quickly to some playback and came in close. We also saw another at the end of the path. From here we headed back to Santiago for the night.

Feb. 25th

Jean Paul and I drove North today to La Campana national park. Here are some of the oldest palm trees on earth set amongst dry scrub land and rolling hills with Mt. Campana in the background. We checked in at the gate and drove in for a while till we got into a slightly hilly area. We stopped and as we got out we could hear birdlife all around us including a Fox barking. We tried first for Moustached Turca and within minutes had one close by in a small tree calling away. Crippling looks from five feet away. We heard several more in the distance. There was also a White-throated Tapaculo calling in the distance which responded to playback but would never come out. We moved up the hill a bit and saw Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail and heard a Dusky Tapaculo close by and with some tape back came in close. It bobbed around in some undergrowth then came out right next to us and climbed a leafless bush. It got to within about 3 feet of us out in the open. Talk about Crippling views, no bins neccessary. Shortly after that we heard the White-throated Tapaculo again in the gully below us and with a bit of playback it popped up for a few seconds and we got some unobstructed views of this notoriusly difficlut tapaculo. Ont eh way back to the car we spotted a Dusky-tailed Canastero out in the open for a better look than the previous day which was nice.

Back at the car we hear and saw Striped Woodpecker and Chilean Flicker and a Fire-eyed Diucon flew past. Over near the parking lot for the camp ground Jean Paul immitated an Austral Pygmy Owl trying for some White-crested Elaenias and got one to respond up the hill. Shortly after scanning the trees we found it calling. We great looks at the Austral Pygmy Owl being mobbed by some birds. It flew overhead and into a close tree for better looks and we almost tripped over a Moustached Turca as it scampered around.

We drove further into the park to look for Thorn-tailed Rayadito which Jean Paul found with some ease and a bit of playback to get them close. There were several in a group of Tufted Tit-tyrants and over head we had several Harris' Hawks screaming at each other from the palms. We also got the endemic Chilean Mockigbird on a cactus with red flowers that it spreads the seeds for. Only thing is that the red flowers are parasitic. The only birds that tend to alight on the cactus is the mocking bird and they spread the seeds all over the cactus. This is a really beautiful park filled with life if you know where to look.

From La Campana we headed to the coast near Marbella beach and the penguin colony but stopped on the way at a place called Fundas Aguas Claras for some more cryptic birding fun. We drove down a dusty road till Jean Paul said this is the place. We climbed out and in seconds had a White-throated Treerunner above us in a large oak acting very Sitta like. Really cool to see this so close. We tried for Des Murs' Wiretail close by but it gave us the run around staying well hidden so we move up the road and tried another brushy area. After some playback we had about given up when on came bounding through the brushy clutter. Tiny bird but the tail gave it away. Wren like in actions and difficult to get bins on but a killer LBJ.

Near the coast we stopped for some amazing empanadas and then hit the beach. It was really rocky here and we could see the massive dirt hill that rose out of the ocean that was the bird colony. We chose a spot on the wall and sat across from the colony and watched Humbolt Penguins, Neotropic Cormorants, Blackish Oystercatchers, Peruvian Pelicans and Kelp Gulls sitting on the rocks. We also had a huge shoal of fish near the surface behind the massive rock that was attracting Peruvian Booby, Guanay Cormorant, Peruvian Pelicans and Sooty Shearwaters. In the rocks below us there was a Bar-winged Cinclodes which we thought was a seaside for a second but the full eye stipe said different. With this on our minds we headed along the coast path amongst the rocks and after a bit found the darker Chilean Seaside Cinclodes among the rocks looking for food. We also had nice close views of some Blackish Oystercatchers on some rocks right across from us. Satisfied with the views we headed back passing several more Cinclodes. Back at the beach we looked for some Plovers but only Sanderlings were the order of the day.

On the way out we stopped in a small neghbor hood and found several Rufous-tailed Plantcutters on the wires to finish off the day.

We did stop at the Ventana Factory pools where we had great views of Cinnamon Teal, Chiloe Wigeon, Snowy Egret, Red-fronted Coot, Red Shoveler, Lake Duck, Black-headed Duck, Harris' Hawk, Kelp Gull and Black-crowned Night Heron

Feb 26th

This was our last day and we started out heading towards the mountains. Outside Santiago we hit the mountain road with its 41 turns till it got to the ski center below El Plomo. I think Jean Paul was a rally driver in his past life as he took to the turns with some gusto and before I knew it we were 1000 meters up and parked. We hopped out and tried some play back for Chilia with no luck and for Tinamou with no luck. We did get a nice male White-sided Hillstar on some parasitic red flowers that were growing out of the side of a cactus. With no luck on other birds we headed up the mountains again and after a while stopped at some rocky outcrops to look for Chilia again but with no luck. Frustrated we moved up the mountains again and tried at another big rock face. After about 10 minutes with some playback a Crag Chilia came into view on the far bank. It flew across into a brush pile just below us and came up the pile to within 10 feet of us and then flew of up the bank behind us. A great looking bird. Behind us several Mourning Sierra-Finch landed to add to the species list before we headed up into the atmosphre, but not before a short break at a spot that Jean Paul knew for Magellanic Horned Owl which he found in a pine after a few seconds. It was really close and easy to see. A fantastic bird.

We crested the road onto a plateau of short grass and low brush with amazing vistas of snowy peaks and paramotype scrub and typical Andes blue sky. On one of the phone poles we saw a Variable Hawk being scolded by an Aplomado Falcon that was sitting on the wire. Jean Paul got some nice pictures of it before it flew off. We watched it for a while as it drited down the valley then rose up to a distant rock and landed right next to another Aplomado Falcon. We quickly scurred down the road and turned up a dusty track till we were within 50 feet of the rock as two falcons looked down on us. Jean Paul tried to creep close to get some pictures but one look at a person and they were off but not before Jean Paul got some nice flight photos.

We headed back to the road and the grassy plains in search of more birds. We parked and crossed the road onto the grassy/brushy plateau where a small creek flowed through. There were hundreds of little frogs in the water and out on the rocks were Cinereous Ground-tyrants and White-browed Ground-tyrants. We tried for Sharp-billed Canastero and one came close into a bush about 20 feet from us and scurried around below it. I got a look at a long rufous tail as it dissapeared into thick cover but thats as close as we got. Rufous-banded Miners were on every rock it seemed like and we did find a couple of Scale-throated Earthcreepers higher up along with some Blue and white Swallows. Black-chinned Siskins, Yellow-rumped Siskins and Grey-hooded Sierra-finch were everywhere but as we moved up higher into the mountains things got scarce. We arrived at the ski resort and some fantastic looks at El Plomo and some Greater Yellowfinches while we scanned the skies. As we overlooked a huge valley two massive Andean Condors drifted by at eye level with a third passing a thousand feet below white wings exposed. We also had two more Aplomado falcons and a Peregrine Falcon fly past over head. There were plenty of Variable Hawks up here too.

We drove back down the valley for a while till we found a spot for lunch overlooking a valley but didn't see too many birds but did find 3 Viscachas among the rocks below us. As we were eating we heard some screaming over head and rose up to scan the skies finding 3 Mountain Caracara darting about the sky. After lunch we headed backdown the twitsty road heading for Santiago.

On the far side of Santiago near the airport is a marshy area called Lampa. We got out and could see several ducks and coots on a deeply watered part and followed the road till we found a spot to cross and headed into the marsh. Soon enough we were ankle deep in water which became really deep in some parts. We startled up some Magellanic Snipe and some Correndera Pipits which Jean Paul said was a good sign for our target bird. We continued to trapse through the mud till we got to some reeds. As we climbed through two South Amercian Painted Snipe flushed and we got brief looks at them before the ducked into cover again. As we headed out we come out a bit far apart which worked for me as Jean Paul spooked up two more that headed right for me and past in good bins view where I could see all the detail and the curved bill. Fantastic. Four Painted Snipes made the wet feet worth it. Jean Paul tried in another spot for Spectacled Tyrant but it was hot now and there was nothing about so we packed it in. Jean Paul dropped me at the airport and I headed home. It was a fantastic three days with some awsome birds and some killer endemics. I highly recommed Chile and Jean Paul for some great birding.

Species Lists

Humbolt Penguin
White-tufted Grebe
Great Grebe
Silvery Grebe
Guanay Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant
Sooty Shearwater
Black-necked Swan
Yellow-billed Pintail
Speckeled Teal
Cinnamon Teal
Chiloe Wigeon
Lake Duck
Black-headed Duck
Andean Condor
Harris Hawk
Variable Hawk
White-tailed Kite
Chimango Caracara
Mountain Caracara
Aplomado Falcon
Perigrine Falcon
Plubeous Rail
Spot-flanked Gallinule
White wineged Coot
Red-gartered Coot
Red-fronted Coot
White-backed Stilt
Southern Lapwing
Collared Plover
American Oystercatcher
Blackish Oystercatcher
Magellaic Snipe
South American Painted snipe
Grey Gull
Franklins Gull
Kelp Gull
South American Tern
Magellanic Horned Owl
Austral Pygmy Owl
Burrowing Owl (in one of the vineyards)
White-sided Hillstar
Green-backed Firecrown
Giant Hummingbird
Chilean Flicker
Striped Woodpecker
Rufous-banded Miner
Scale-throated Earthcreeper
Crag Chilia
White-throated Treerunner
Chilean Seaside Cinclodes
Dark-bellied Cinclodes
Grey-flanked Cinclodes
Bar-winged Cinclodes
Wren-like Rushbird
Des Murs' Wiretail
Thorntailed Rayadito
Sharp-billed Canastero
Dusky-tailed Canasero
Moustached Turca
White-throated Tapaculo
White-browed Ground-tyrant
Cinereous Ground-tyrant
Black-fronted Ground-tyrant
Austral Negrito
Fire-eyed Diucon
Many-colored Rush-tyrant
Tufted Tit-tyrant
Great Shrike-tyrant
Chilean Swallow
Rufous-tailed Plant-cutter
Correndera Pipit
Greater Yellow-finch
Yellow-winged Blackbird
Austral Blackbird
Long-tailed Meadowlark
Grey-hooded Sierra-finch
Mourning Sierra-finch
Band-tailed Sierra-finch
Common Diuca Finch
Yellow-rumped Siskin
Balck-chinned Siskin