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Luke Seitz on the second part of his and Fabrice Schmitt's tour, Chile: Tierra del Fuego to the Atacama desert

November 28: Luke Seitz on the second part of his and Fabrice Schmitt's tour, Chile: Tierra del Fuego to the Atacama desert

After adjusting to stable dry land once again, we continued our Chilean adventure by driving high into the Andes – quite a change of scenery from the Humboldt Current! Here, with beautiful snow-capped peaks towering above us and shrubby slopes extending below, we enjoyed the oversized feet of Moustached Turcas running around in plain view…

Moustached Turca, the real Big Foot

 …and higher up, a simply astonishing show with at least a dozen Andean Condors soaring at eye-level and perching on various hotel rooftops!

Part of our group being monitored by an Andean Condor

Our time in Central Chile was nearly over, but not without a search for the much-desired Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. The bogs in the Yeso Valley high above Santiago provide perfect habitat for this special shorebird, and it didn’t take us long to find an incubating male that we enjoyed at close range. Surely one of the highlight birds of the trip, with a spectacular backdrop to boot…

Diademed Sandpiper-Plover

Magnificent Andes scenery

A flight north over the Atacama Desert brought us to Arica, ready for a new suite of birds in very different habitat. The drive from Arica to Putre through dry, lifeless desert was interesting more for geology than birds, but perhaps most incredible was the speed at which our bus traveled uphill – I could have made it to Putre faster by handstand-walking with my eyes closed. Upon arrival, however, we settled in to a surprisingly comfy hotel surrounded by flocks of Mourning Sierra-Finches, skulky White-throated Earthcreepers and Canyon Canasteros, and stealthy Ornate Tinamous running through the nearby fields. The following days of high-elevation birding held a great number of highlights, including a trio of Puna Tinamou, over a dozen Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, great views of three species of flamingo (Andean, Chilean, and James’s), well-named Giant Coots, Andean Avocets…the list goes on and on.

Giant Coot

All too soon it was time to head back to the coast, but not without a final day of birding before the end of our tour. The critically endangered Chilean Woodstar was seen very well on our morning in the Camarones valley – who knows how much longer we’ll be able to find this species? We then visited the Lluta Estuary on our final afternoon, where we were treated to a breathtaking spectacle of 12,000+ Elegant Terns (a sizeable percentage of the world population!) and gobs of Gray Gulls, Franklin’s Gulls, and various migrant shorebirds. What a way to finish a great tour!

Gray Gull

Posted: November 28, 2018