Spectacled DuckPhotographer - Fabrice Schmitt
Chile is a long thin country thousands of mile long bordered to the East by the Pacific ocean and the cold Humboldt current and to the West by the towering Andean Mountain chain. This tour is 21 days of solid birding heaven taking us from the Peruvian border in the very far north of Chile and all the way down to the far southern shores of Tierra del Fuego.
We take in the Atacama Desert, the Pacific Ocean, extensive wetlands and forests. We see glaciers, lakes, volcanos and rivers along with whales and dolphins and a fabulous range of birds from giant Andean Condors to tiny Hummingbirds and from Albatrosses to Storm-Petrels.
The 3 week trip enables us to see a good number of genuine endemics…Moustached Turca, Crag Chilia, Chilean Seaside Cinclodes, Chilean Tinamou, Dusky-tailed Canastero etc…and then 60 or so more birds that can only be found in the southern cone of South America and which are easier to find here than in Argentina.
We look for the Diademed Sandpiper Plover and the Many Coloured Rush-tyrant, two of the smallest but most glorious of Chile´s list and then back up the scale to the 3 different species of Flamingo and the Burrowing Parrot, a Macaw in size and voice and colour but that can be found in giant flocks.
All this and without too heavy a schedule since the travel links are good and the pace allows time to enjoy the truly spectacular scenery as well as see the wildlife.
Day 1: Arrival to Santiago
Trip participants arrive in Santiago and overnight there in our comfortable and central hotel. If you arrive early in the day the Moneda Palace, the main square (Plaza de Armas), the Cathedral, the Fine Arts and Contemporary Art galleries and the Central Market are all within walking distance.
NB…Because trip participants are arriving at different times and from different places we are all booked into the same hotel for the night but we ask you to make your own dinner arrangements for that evening. (We will send suggested restaurant options to you in advance)
Day 2: Birding in the Arica ValleysEarly in the morning we fly from Santiago to Arica on the Peruvian border because today we will be birding in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions on earth, but through which flow several rivers.Although these are only small rivers carrying melt-water down from the Andes, their well-cultivated flood plains form a rich oasis in this harsh environment. Our most important target species today will be a trio of hummingbirds: the sturdy Oasis Hummingbird, the entertaining Peruvian Sheartail and the diminutive Chilean Woodstar (one of Chile's rarest and most threatened birds, whose world population is now believed to number no more than 2000). We spend the night in a comfortable hotel near to the ocean in Arica and dinner in a good nearby restaurant. B:L:D
Day 3: Pelagic Trip at morning and birding on the way to Putre
A full morning's pelagic trip out of Arica. We sail out in the early morning and enjoy 6 hours on the ocean in the Humboldt Current, which allows us to see sub-Antarctic seabirds and warm water Petrels.We hope to find Salvin's, Buller's, and Black-browed Albatross, Northern Giant-Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwater, Elliott´s Storm-Petrel, Chilean Skua, Swallow-tailed Gull and Peruvian Diving Petrel. Inshore species should include 3 species of Cormorants, Inca and South American Terns, Peruvian Boobies, Peruvian Pelican and Humboldt Penguin. After a tasty lunch at a fish restaurant by the beach we'll head off through the arable areas outside Arica and then up the mountain road to Putre with some birding stops on the way. B:L:D
We will have our best chance today for the rare Tamarugo Conebill and we shall also be searching for the impressive Peruvian Thick-knee, Pacific Dove, Croaking Ground-Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Burrowing Owl, Andean Swift, White-crested Elaenia (the form here is sometimes split as Peruvian Elaenia), Vermilion Flycatcher, the local race of Bran-coloured Flycatcher (a strong candidate for a future split), Cinereous Conebill, Chestnut-throated Seedeater, Blue-black Grassquit, Slender-billed Finch and Peruvian Meadowlark. We arrive at around 3,500 metres in the village of Putre, the gateway to our high Andes adventure and spend the night in a simple but comfortable hotel there with dinner in a local village restaurant. B:L:D
Day 4: Full day at Lauca National ParkThe Lauca National Park is a place of outstanding natural beauty. The towering snow-capped volcanos of Pomerape and Parinacota soar to over 6300 metres and reflect perfectly in the deep blue waters of Chungara and Cotocotani Lakes. This is our venue today and the highlight is Lake Chungara, one of the highest altitude lakes in the world with its hordes of birds including Silvery Grebe, Puna Teal and Giant Coot along with ducks and often Andean Gulls. On our way up to the lakes we will search the high altitude bogs for the stunning and difficult to find Diademed Sandpiper Plover. Other birds today are Puna Rhea, Andean Flicker, White-winged Cinclodes, Black Siskin, Puna Tinamou, Puna Ibis, Andean Goose, Mountain Caracara, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Andean Avocet, Andean Gull, Puna Miner, Puna and White-fronted Ground-Tyrants, Andean Negrito, the White-winged Diuca-Finch and White-throated Sierra-Finch. We'll also be looking for Flamingos and with luck we'll be able to approach within range to identify three species here: Chilean, Andean and Puna. At the end of an excellent and adventurous day´s birding we return to our hotel in Putre and stroll out to another local restaurant for dinner. B:L:D
Day 5: Birding morning at Putre and back to AricaWe'll spend the morning around the village and we'll be looking for Bare-faced Ground-Dove, White-throated Earthcreeper, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, Canyon and Dark-winged Canastero, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Cream-winged and White-winged Cinclodes, Streaked Tit-Spinetail, D'Orbigny's and White-browed Chat-Tyrants, Chiguanco Thrush, Black-throated Flower-piercer, Golden-billed Saltator, Black-hooded and Ash-breasted Sierra-Finches along with Greenish Yellow-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater and also maybe Ornate Tinamou and Spot-winged Pigeon. We will then drive slowly down the winding mountain road back to Arica looking for any birds we may have missed on the way up. We then return to our hotel and spend the night in our comfortable Arica hotel with dinner at a restaurant near the ocean. B:L:D
Day 6: Birding around Arica, fly to SantiagoThis morning we´ll be birding along the coastline and at the estuary of the Lluta River. Our main target will be the shorebirds and we hope for Killdeer, Snowy Plover, American and Blackish Oystercatchers, Surfbirds, Willet and a selection of Gulls and Terns. After lunch we return to the airport and fly to Santiago where we check into our comfortable city center hotel and spend the evening and the night there with dinner at a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. B:L:D
Day 7: Birding above Santiago at Farellones and Valle NevadoWe take a morning drive into the Andes to Farellones to look for Crag Chilia, Dusky Tapaculo, Greater Yellowfinch, Rufous-banded and Creamy-rumped Miners and White-sided Hillstar amongst other Andean birds. Massive Andean Condors should be soaring around above and sometimes below us with hopes of Variable Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle and Mountain Caracara. We'll also be birding lower elevations looking for 4 endemics, Chilean Tinamou, Moustached Turca and White-throated Tapaculo and Dusky-tailed Canastero. This is great day with fantastic scenery. We should be back in Santiago in time to enjoy a relaxing evening there with dinner at a different local restaurant and with a little more time than usual for the excellent local wines! B:L:D
Day 8: Full day on the coast (Maipo Estuary, Cartagena, Laguna El Peral, and Algarrobo)Today we set off very early and head for the coast. We should see a wide variety of species here including Black-necked and Coscoroba Swans, 3 species of Coot, Spot-flanked Gallinule, the rare Black-headed Duck, Plumbeous Rail, Lake Duck, Great Grebe, Many-colored Rush-tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird and other ducks and grebes and the endemic Seaside Cinclodes. At the Maipo estuary we will be looking for a variety of Gulls, for Black Skimmers and a number of Terns, including the rare Snowy-Crowned Tern with the hope of the beautiful White-tailed Kite and a good number of other shore and marsh birds. The marshes hopefully give us the chance to see the recently described Ticking Doradito and the noisy little endemic Dusky Tapaculo. Leaving the estuary we drive gradually north up the coast, stopping for lunch and at various birding sites along the shore ending up in Chile´s number one port, the historic city of Valparaiso, where we spend the night and have our dinner in a nearby restaurant. B:L:D
Day 9: Pelagic from Valparaiso and coastal birdingEarly in the morning we sail out of the port on our second Humboldt Current pelagic where we go some 12 miles out into the ocean. We have the chance to see several species of Albatross including Salvin's, Black-browed, Buller's, Northern and Southern Royal and Chatham Island. Tubenoses are a main feature of this Pelagic and we'll hope for Southern Fulmar, Masatierra and Westland Petrels, Peruvian Diving-Petrels as well as the more numerous White-chinned and Northern Giant Petrels. Wilson's Storm-Petrels (local sub-species) "foot-patter" close to the boat and we often see large numbers of Red Phalaropes. Other species include Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, Kelp Gull and South American Tern. After the pelagic and a good lunch in a fish restaurant in the harbor we continue birding along the coast to look for any of the species we might have missed the day before and return to our hotel in Valparaiso again dining in a restaurant near to the hotel. B:L:D
Day 10: Coastal birding and Lampa wetlandsAfter a final hunt along the coast we set off back to Santiago with our main target bird being the rare Great Shrike-tyrant and we take a trip to the Lampa wetlands to the northwest of the city. Here we will be looking for the secretive South American Painted Snipe along with a host of waterfowl species that we may have missed on the coast and especially Rosy-billed Pochard, Black-headed Duck and occasionally Wilson´s Phalarope along with Cinereous Harrier and Burrowing Owl. We then drop back into Santiago where we spend the night in our central hotel and continue our Santiago restaurant tour!! B:L:D
Day 11: El Yeso and the AndesToday we make an early start to miss the rush hour traffic and head south and east from the city driving up the very scenic Maipo valley and out on the mine road to the Yeso dam and beyond. The bog here at 2500 meters is a favorite site of what is, arguably Chile´s number one bird target the rare and very unusual Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. We'll bird the lower reaches of the valley looking for the endemic and very beautiful Crag Chilia and the fast running Moustached Turca. We will see a variety of Sierra-Finches and Furnarids here; the latter includes Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Rufous-banded Miner, Creamy-rumped Miner, Scale-throated Earthcreeper. Ground-Tyrants are everywhere including Rufous-naped, White-browed, Ochre-naped, Cinereous and Spot-billed. Our best views of Andean Condor will probably be here in this valley and Torrent Ducks are regular on the streams. One of the hummers we'll be looking for up here is the White-sided Hillstar and we have a chance for both Black-billed and Great Shrike-Tyrants as well as Grey-breasted Seedsnipe. After what is often voted the most scenically spectacular day in our expedition we return to Santiago where we spend the night and dine. B:L:D
Day 12: Santiago to Talca, Colbún lake and VilchesWe make an early start and drive southwards on the motorway to Talca then head east to Colbún lake where our main targets are the large, spectacularly colorful and very noisy macaw like Burrowing Parrot and the chance on the Lake or the Rio Claro to find the rare and beautiful Spectacled Duck. Hopefully we will also find a good number of other interesting duck and grebe species and an opportunity to see the Spectacled Tyrant and the Andean Gull. We then make the short trip north to spend the rest of day and all of the following day in the Altos de Lircay National Park. This is old Nothofagus forest with spectacular tree and plant life and interesting geological rarities along with a host of forest bird species. At dusk we will look for the hard to see Rufous-legged Owl before spending the night in our quiet and comfortable forest lodge at Vilches, just outside the park boundary dining in and enjoying some good local dishes. B:L:D
Day 13: Full day at Altos de Lircay National ParkWe will have a full day to explore the extensive forest of this National Park that sits in the Andean foothills. In particular we will be listening for the nasal scolding of Chile's least known Tapaculo, the Chestnut-throated Huet-huet, perhaps the least often found Chilean virtual endemic on most tours. We will also be looking for more Nothofagus forest specialties such as the Austral Parakeet (the world's most southerly parrot species), the plump Chucao Tapaculo with its explosive voice, Magellanic Tapaculo and Patagonian Sierra-Finch. This will be our first opportunity to see the truly spectacular Magellanic Woodpecker, which is quite common here and there´s an outside chance of the rare and difficult to find Chilean Hawk. After a hard day´s labor in the forest we return to our Vilches lodge and again dine in the excellent restaurant there. B:L:D
Day 14: Cerro Ñielol and TemucoEarly in the morning we will travel to Temuco making selected stops along the way including Santa Elena lagoon, south of Chillan, where we can look for the Ticking Doradito along with the lake specialties.We will spend the end of the afternoon birding at Cerro Ñielol where the possibilities include Black-throated Huet-huet, Rufous-tailed Hawk, Des Mur's Wiretail, Chucao Tapaculo, the near endemic Slender-billed Parakeet and Ochre-flanked Tapaculo. We spend the night in Temuco and walk out to a good local restaurant for our well-deserved dinner. B:L:D
Day 15: Conguillío National ParkWe set off in the morning to the very beautiful Conguillío National Park. In this fantastic higher altitude Nothofagus and Araucaria forest with excellent mountain views we'll look for the recently split Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper, the Flying Steamer-duck, along with Magellanic Tapaculo, Austral Parakeet, Striped Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, White-throated Treerunner and other forest species. After a full days birding we drive to Temuco airport for the short evening flight to Santiago where we check into our comfortable airport hotel and dine there. B:L:D
Day 16: Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas - Birding around Punta ArenasIt´s up early to catch the first flight of the day down the very far south of Chile and we land at the most southerly city, Punta Arenas. We´ll be birding on the coast near the city, looking for Flying and Flightless Steamer-Duck, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Imperial Shag, Upland Goose, Two-banded Plover, Chilean Skua along with the splendid Dolphin Gull. The tiny Austral Negrito is sure to be found as well.In the afternoon, we will drive to the Estancia San Juan where the very rare Ruddy-headed Goose breeds before heading back to our hotel in Punta Arenas where we will spend the night and dine at a nearby shoreline restaurant. B:L:D
Day 17: Tierra del Fuego. Crossing the Magellan StraightWe'll take the early morning ferry crossing to Porvenir which is the main town in the North West sector of the of the mythical island at the end of the world - Tierra del Fuego. This is more a short ( 2 and a half hour) pelagic voyage than a simple car ferry journey ! We should see scores of Southern Giant Petrel, Magellanic Diving Petrel, Chilean Skua, Black-browed Albatross and more along with the chance of Peale´s dolphins. We spend the afternoon birding in Tierra del Fuego including Laguna Verde and Laguna Santa Maria. Common and rarer birds for the next couple of days will be Ashy-headed and Upland Goose, Two-banded Plover, Magellanic Plover, Chilean Skua, Short-billed Miner, Rufous-chested and Tawny-throated Dotterels, Lesser Rhea, Flightless Steamer-Duck, Black-necked Swan, Crested Duck and Kelp Goose. We spend the night in a scenic and comfortable hotel in Porvenir and dine out in a good local restaurant. B:L:D
Day 18: King Penguin Colony- Birding in the SteppesAfter breakfast we´ll drive to Bahia Inútil, to see a colony of magnificent King Penguins, about 120 km from Porvenir. In the afternoon we´ll be birding the steppes and the low hills of Tierra del Fuego looking for White-bridled Finch, Rufous-chested Dotterel, Chocolate-vented Tyrant and Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant before returning to spend the evening and night in Porvenir dining out again in a different restaurant. B:L:D
Day 19: Drive from Porvenir to Puerto NatalesAfter breakfast we bird our way North East to our ferry crossing back to the mainland at Punta Delgada. This is a shorter ferry crossing with the chance of Commerson´s Dolphin and we'll look for Magellanic Diving-Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel and White-chinned Petrel plus other seabirds. Back on the mainland we make a stop at Buque Quemado for the chance of a great variety of waterfowl including Silver Teal, Rosy-billed Pochard, Chiloe Wigeon, White-cheeked Pintail, Coscoroba Swan and a variety of shorebirds including South American Snipe. We then set out on the route to Puerto Natales and we'll look for Austral Canastero, Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Common Miner and Patagonian Yellow-Finch. We spend the night in a charming local hotel in the lakeside town of Puerto Natales dining out in a nearby restaurant. B:L:D
Day 20: Torres del Paine and Sierra BagualesEarly in the morning we set of for the scenic highlight of the entire expedition the " Eighth Wonder of the World " the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. While the park is most famous for it´s astonishing scenery it is rich in bird and mammal life. We'll be looking for Dark-faced Ground-tyrant, Cinnamon-bellied Ground-tyrant, White-throated Caracara, Yellow-bridled Finch and Patagonian Mockingbird. We will be birding in the eastern side of the park and its lakes looking for waterfowl, and on reed fringed pools looking for the recently re-discovered Austral Rail. Cinereous Harriers are fairly common. Guanaco, Patagonian Skunk and Gray Fox are some mammals we may see. This is the best spot in Chile for Puma but daytime sightings are extremely rare. Leaving the National Park we take the road to Sierra Baguales looking for Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Patagonian and Greater Yellow Finch, the pretty Yellow-bridled Finch and a variety of Ground-Tyrants. As well as White-throated Caracara and the very rare Gray-bellied Shrike-tyrant we would hope for good views of Andean Condor before heading back to spend the night in Puerto Natales and walk out for dinner to a nearby restaurant where we will hopefully be able to sample the famous Patagonian specialty Cordero al Palo…only for the carnivores in the group!! B:L:D
Day 21: Drive from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas airportSadly this is the last day of our expedition and we bird our way back to the airport at Punta Arenas where we take our flight to Santiago and connecting international flights. (Or join the Falklands Islands Extension Tour from Punta Arenas. B:
CAN BE COMBINED WITH A WEEK ON THE FALKLAND ISLANDS