Argentina, Uruguay, Falkland Islands and Chile - January 2010

Published by Douglas Faulder (dfaulder AT

Participants: Douglas Faulder


From January 3, 2010 I went on a cruise with Norwegian Cruise Lines from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile. I knew that the birding would be good, and I wanted to fit as much birding as could be possible on a family vacation. We went to Buenos Aires 4 days early to enjoy the sites and do some serious birding on at least one day. I have posted photos at

December 30, 2009 – After a long flight from Edmonton via Toronto we arrived in Buenos Aires in very nice weather. At the airport I saw Southern Lapwings, the first bird for South America. Across from the hotel is a park with the Torre Inglesas( English Tower) in it. It is a clock tower made to thank the British for something a century ago, but the name was changed to the Torre Monumentale after the Falklands War. The park itself was dedicated to the Argentinian Air Force, and called the Plaza Fuerza Aera Argentina. I went over to this little park and found Rock Pigeons, Rufous-bellied Thrush, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Brown-chested Martin, Rufous Hornero, Picazuro Pigeon, Eared Dove, Great Kiskadee and Shiny Cowbird. Later in the evening at the hotel I saw a Black-crowned Night-Heron and an American Kestrel fly by

December 31, 2009 – Today I took a walk to the Riserva Ecologica Costanera Sur, a large nature reserve that developed out of an aborted seaside landfill project. It must be one of the best natural areas adjacent to a large city in the world. I walked from the northern entrance along the seaside road, and then across to the southern entrance. It is usually open until sunset but we were shooed out early as it was New Years Eve. Even in a couple of hours I saw loads of birds. The area has been totally dry the last 2 years but heavy rains in the last few weeks have started to fill up some wet areas again. On the road I saw Rock Pigeons, Picazuro Pigeons, Eared Doves, Monk Parakeets, Guira Cuckoos, Rufous Hornero, Gilded Sapphire and Glittering-bellied Emerald hummingbirds, Spectacled Tyrant, Great Kiskadee, White-rumped Swallows and Brown-chested Martins, House Wren, Rufous-bellied Thrush, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, European Starling, Black-and-rufous Warbling-Finch, Double-collared Seedeater, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Shiny Cowbirds, Hooded Siskins and House Sparrows. I saw Chimango Caracaras and Great Egrets fly over. Over the water I saw Kelp Gulls and Neotropic Cormorants flying. The wet swampy areas adjacent to the promenade were rich with birds: White-faced Whistling-Duck, Coscoroba Swan, Silver Teal, Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Rosy-billed Pochard, Southern Lapwings, Red-fronted Coot and Red-gartered Coot.

January 1, 2010 – In the afternoon I went over again to the Costanera Sur. Even though the reserve itself is closed for the holiday I was able to see a lot of birds in the wetlands adjacent to the public promenade. New birds today include Roadside Hawk (flyover), Southern Caracara( flyover), Campo Flicker, Wren-like Rushbird, Tropical Kingbird, Masked Yellowthroat, Yellow-winged Blackbird, Chestnut-capped Blackbird, and Bay-winged Cowbird. I got great looks at confiding Guira Cuckoos.

January 2, 2010 – Today I went out birding with a local guide, Alec Earnshaw. Check out his website at This was a fantastic day of birding with 128 species seen. I will post this trip report by itself.

January 3, 2010 – No serious birding today. Leaving Buenos Aires at about 6 PM we watched the skyline and the Costanera Sur move in to the distance. Only Kelp Gulls and Neotropic Cormorants were seen on the brown water of the Rio de la Plate.

January 4, 2010 – Into Montevideo, Uruguay this morning in threatening weather. I headed out to walk about the city after breakfast. The light rain soon turned into a torrential downpour, sending us back to the ship. After lunch things cleared up a bit so I ventured out in to the old city near the dock. Rather rundown looking and in need of a lot of infrastructure work. I walked straight south about 8 blocks until I hit the south shore of the point that the docks were on. Then I walked west along the shore to a breakwater, and a small playing field at the shore end of the breakwater. On this walk I saw House Sparrow, Rock Pigeon, Rufous Hornero, Chalk-browed Mockingbird, Kelp Gull, Brown-hooded Gull, Southern Lapwing, Snowy Egret, Neotropical Cormorant, Tropical Kingbird and Brown-chested Martin.

January 5, 2010 – We were off the coast of Argentina at sunrise. I spend some time sea watching in the morning and see my first Black-browed Albatrosses, at least a dozen. I also spot 2 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Sooty Shearwaters, and about 5 other Shearwaters too far away to ID. Three new lifers to give me 118 lifers and 139 species for the trip so far.

January 6, 2010 – At sunrise today we were coming into Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Before we docked there were a lot of South American Terns and a few Cayenne Terns flying near the boat. The Cayenne Tern is now considered a subspecies of the Sandwich Tern. I also saw a King Cormorant, a subspecies of the Imperial Cormorant. We did an all day tour to a Penguin colony so we are on a bus fairly early. In town there were a lot of Turkey Vultures overhead, and Kelp Gulls also. On the way out of town I spotted a Chilean Flamingo at a small pond. The whole Peninsula Valdes is a protected area and it is a very dry area. We head to the Punta Norte area, first going to a ranch were we transfer to an old army truck for the drive to the penguin beach. On the way there we saw several Guanacos in the desert scrub, and I saw a couple of Burrowing Owls just outside of the ranch. At the beach we were treated to the fine sight of thousands of Magellanic Penguins with the blue ocean behind them. They have burrows everywhere, typically under the few bushes, to get some shade. Also present at the colony were Turkey Vultures, Chimango Caracaras, Kelp Gulls and Mourning Sierra-Finches. We then returned to the ranch for a nice lunch and then headed out to a Sea Lion colony which was quite worthwhile also. As well as the impressive Sea Lions there were Kelp Gulls, Southern Giant Petrels, American Oystercatchers, more Mourning Sierra-Finches and Armadillos. On the way back I spotted a couple Variable (Red-backed) Hawks perched on power poles along the highway. So seven lifers today and eleven new trip birds to make 125 and 150 for the trip, respectively.

January 7, 2010 – We are at sea today, between Argentina and the Falkland Islands. Somewhat rough seas, but good for more seabirds as I saw Wandering Albatrosses, Royal Albatrosses, Slender-billed Prions, Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, a White-chinned Petrel, more Sooty Shearwaters, two Long-tailed Jaegers, Black-browed Albatrosses and Southern Giant Petrels. The Southern Giant Petrels habitually follow the ship. The 6 new birds puts my life list up to 651, with 131 lifers and 156 species for the trip so far. A lot of whale blows seen in the middle and far distance, and one large whale rather close, perhaps a Southern Right Whale as there seemed to be callosities on the part that we could see.

January 8, 2010 – In the early morning we pulled into Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands. A large treeless island with some rather high hills. In the harbour there are Imperial and Magellan (Rock) Cormorants. I went on a tour with Lorenzo Nature Tours to see more penguins. We first traveled from Stanley on gravel roads for about an hour, past men removing mines in mine fields left over from the 1982 war. It will take decades to remove them all. There were four 4x4’s in our convoy. Then we went cross country for about another hour to the area with the penguins. This seems to be a new venture and the cross country tracks were not too bad, but could start to get more torn up with more traffic. We first went to a Gentoo Penguin colony, about 200 birds in a small area. Apparently they use a new patch in the same general area every year. They are a few hundred meters from the water. There were Turkey Vultures about the colony as well. On the drive we had seen more Turkey Vultures, as well as Southern Caracaras, Long-tailed Meadowlarks, and lots of Upland Geese. In quick views from the vehicle I also was able to identify Falkland (Austral) Thrushes, Dark-faced Ground-Tyrants and House Sparrows. From the Gentoo colony we went down to the shore where we saw the Gentoos frolicking in the surf, as well as Magellanic Penguins and some King Penguins. At the surf there were also 4 Magellanic Oystercatchers and more Kelp Gulls, and Dolphin Gulls as well. We had lunch at a trailer on the shore of a nearby pond where there were some Falkland Steamer-Ducks, one Crested Duck, many Kelp Gulls and Dolphin Gulls nesting on a small island, and an immature Black-crowned Night-Heron flew in. Small yellow birds with yellow tails were seen in various places, White-bridled(Canary-winged) Finches. As we left the pond after lunch we saw a few more birds and stopped to photograph some: two White-tufted Grebes, a Chiloe Wigeon, two White-rumped Sandpipers, and a Variable (Red-backed) Hawk sitting on a rock pile. Tendering back to the ship I saw more Falkland Steamer-Ducks. The ship left at about 6 PM and with plenty of daylight left we saw more Southern Giant Petrels and Black-browed Albatrosses on the ocean. A good day with 26 species of birds seen, 14 of them lifers to take me to 665 on the life list, and 145 lifers and 170 species on the trip so far.

January 9, 2010 – Today we were at sea sailing from the Falklands over to Tierra del Fuego. Spent a bit of time sea watching and had great views of Cape Petrels soaring off of the stern of the ship. Got two other lifers when I saw a Light-mantled Albatross and a Brown Skua (Falkland subspecies), and there were also more Black-browed Albatrosses, Southern Giant Petrels and Slender-billed Prions about. Numbers now all up by three to give 668 life list, 148 lifers and 173 total species on the trip so far.

January 10, 2010 - This morning we sailed into Ushuaia, and first took a catamaran ride back eastwards down the Beagle Channel to some small islands with Magellan and Imperial Cormorants, and Sea Lions.  On the way I also saw 3 Blackish Oystercatchers and 3 Black-faced Ibises.  Kelp Geese were seen on shore and on the islands.  Also seen in the water were Magellanic Penguins, and Chilean Skuas were common as well as Kelp Gulls.  Some Flightless Steamer-Ducks, a few Dolphin Gulls and a White-rumped Sandpiper were seen at the islands.  After the islands we headed west down the Beagle Channel to Tierra del Fuego National Park, landing at Lapataia Bay.  There we got on a bus and looking out the window I saw the distinctive silhouette of a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle soaring overhead.  We drove over to Lago Roca, first stopping at a campsite viewpoint where I heard some birds calling, and I pished out three Thorn-tailed Rayaditos.  The we went to the Park Info centre were I saw some Patagonian Sierra-Finches, Austral Thrush, Southern Lapwings and Rufous-collared Sparrow.  Then we bussed back to Ushuaia and sailed west out the Beagle Channel, from Argentina into Chilean waters.  More Kelp Gulls, Chilean Skuas, Imperial Cormorants and Magellanic Penguins. Beautiful scenery with mountains and glaciers, and sunset late at 10 PM. At the first glacier (Hollandische) I saw a large bird soaring very high a far away.  I hoped to make it an Andean Condor but it was too distant to make a positive ID, and it could have been a Turkey Vulture. With 8 new lifers the day ends with a 676 life list, and 156 lifers and 181 species for the trip so far

January 11, 2010 - Today we are anchored at Punta Arenas, Chile.  I went on a boat ride to the Isla Magdalena Penguin Reserve.  The ride was about 110 minutes each way, and on the way there were hundreds of Kelp Gulls and South American Terns flying south as we were sailing north.  I also saw Southern Giant Petrels, Magellanic Penguins, Imperial Cormorants, and Chilean Skuas.  At Isla Magdalena there were thousands of Magellanic Penguins, and Kelp Gulls nesting as well.  On the island were Chilean Skuas, 2 Dark-bellied Cinclodes (the only lifer), Upland Geese, Black-faced Ibises, Imperial Cormorants(many) and a few Rock Cormorants. Everything goes up by one today from yesterday (677, 176, 182). In retrospect some birding around town may have added more new species, but the penguin colony was quite photogenic.

January 12, 2010 - We are at sea all day today, traveling along the Pacific coast of Chile.  Not very birdy today.  Only Black-browed Albatrosses, some in large flocks, and some Imperial Cormorants and Southern Giant Petrels.

January 13, 2010 - At sea again today but windier and somewhat rougher which made for good birding.  There were Sooty Shearwaters in large numbers, many Black-browed Albatrosses, and Wandering and Royal Albatrosses.  I got one photo of an Albatross on the water with a Wilson's Storm-Petrel flying right in front of it.

January 14, 2010 - Today we are anchored at Puerto Chacabuco, a small fishing town that suffered from an tsunami several years ago.  We walked through the town and saw little but a Rufous-collared Sparrow, some Black-chinned Siskins and 2 Southern Lapwings in a muddy field.  We decided to get over to Puerto Aisen, 14 km away.  We took a local bus, with I think 15 of us packed in every nook it felt like.  We walked around the town a bit and Chilean Swallows were everywhere.  I left my company for awhile and birded along the Aisen River.  Good birding with Patagonian Sierra-Finches, Austral Thrushes, a Fire-eyed Diucon, a House Wren, a Tufted Tit-Tyrant, a couple White-crested Elaenias, a Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, and a Neotropical Cormorant.  Driving back to Chacabuco I saw many Black-faced Ibises.  Leaving Puerto Chacabuco and sailing in the fiords I see Imperial Cormorant, Black-browed Albatross, Sooty Shearwaters, Pink-footed Shearwaters and a Westland Petrel. The 8 new lifers puts my life list to 685, and the species for the trip at 190 with 165 lifers.

January 15, 2010 - We are anchored at Puerto Montt, a somewhat larger Chilean port than we have seen so far, in the shadow of two snow-capped volcanoes.  It is a little cloudy in the morning but quite warm and sunny by the late afternoon.  In the water as we are pulling in there were Brown-hooded Gulls and Franklin's Gulls.  We went on a horse ride this morning.  We are driven to a ranch on the south end of town. We get going and have a nice two hour ride that took us up through the hills for some nice views, then ended up at the beach.  At the ranch and on the ride I see Black-faced Ibises, Long-tailed Meadowlarks, some Shiny Cowbirds, Chimango Caracaras, a House Wren, a Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, a White-crested Elaenia, House Sparrows and a Green-backed Firecrown.  On the beach there were some Brown-hooded Gulls and an Elegant Tern. After the ride we split up and I walked along the beach from the edge of town.  Lots of Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures on a concrete grain elevator and on the beach.  Also on the beach were lots of Brown-hooded and Kelp Gulls, 3 Whimbrels, a Peruvian Pelican, a Southern Lapwing,  some American Oystercatchers, and Imperial Cormorants.  Back in the town proper I see a Rufous-collared Sparrow and a Dark-bellied Cinclodes. The three new lifers puts my life list to 688, with 168 lifers for the trip, and the six new trip species today puts the trip total at 196.

January 16, 2010 - Today we were at sea but it is not very birdy.  I saw some Pink-footed Shearwaters, Black-browed Albatrosses and a Royal Albatross.  I got a close look at a Sperm Whale.

January 17, 2010 - Last day of the cruise and we awoke at 6 AM docked in Valparaiso.  In the harbour are Kelp Gulls, Brown-hooded Gulls, South American Terns and Peruvian Pelicans.  We took a tour around Valparaiso and I saw Rufous-collared Sparrows, Monk Parakeets, Southern Lapwings and Austral Thrushes.  We headed inland to Santiago and a Great Egret and a Snowy Egret were seen from the bus, as well as more Lapwings and some Turkey Vultures.  We stopped at a place called El Molino for lunch and a nice folkloric dance show. Around this rural site are several Chimango Caracaras, an Eared Dove, Chilean Swallows and an American Kestrel. We toured through Santiago ending up at the airport at around 5 PM.  At the airport I saw Chimango Caracaras and Chilean Swallows for the last birds of the trip. No new lifers or trip species yesterday and today leaves me at a life list of 688, with 168 lifers for the trip, and the species trip total at 196.