Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Guided birding in Ushuaia National Park

I met my guide at 6:45am, we were both ready earlier than the scheduled start, which was 7am.  I can recommend Gaston Bretti, he knows where to go and what to find as well as how to find it.  Helen had set me the task of photographing both Magellanic Woodpecker and Austral Parakeet before I left home, I passed on these objectives to Gaston.

We drove straight to the National Park, a short distance outside town (I got the impression from afar that you need to get the train to the park, it turns out there's a mini-train on a narrow-gauge track that runs a bit into the park, at the entrance, personally I think you will get much more from going into the park, however you achieve it).

On the way we saw Crested Caracara:

Southern Lapwing:

Gaston had our driver take us to a number of pleasant spots including a couple of coves off the Beagle Channel:

We saw Flightless and Flying Steamer Ducks, a couple of Cinclodes species and then a close-by Austral Thrush:

The common bird of prey is the Chimanga Caracara:

In addition to the Kelp Goose on the previous day, today was the turn of the Upland Goose, another dimorphic (i.e. males and females have distinct plumage) goose species:

Another beautiful cove, this one at the end of the Trans-American Highway and therefore visited by birders and road users in equal numbers:

We saw Patagonian Sierra-Finch here:

and a bonus as far as I was concerned, Andean Condor:

I kept seeing Rufous-collared Sparrows around:

In search of the target species, we set off to walk alongside a small lake, adding Great Grebe and Black-necked Swan and then into some forest at the rear of a campsite.  We quickly saw Black-headed Ibis:

A relatively common forest bird is the Thorn-tailed Rayadito:

That is a splendid tail:

Throughout the forest you see these little orange balls attached to trees or on the ground, it turns out they are a fungus that grows, sets seed and then drops to the forest floor, adding food outside of the relatively generic tree population:

One little bird really catches the eye, a Tufted Tit-Tyrant:

Finally after over an our of walking in the forest, in the rain (with no coat, seeing as we were to be given special parkas on the ship I hadn't packed a coat to limit the weight of my luggage) we found a Magellanic Woodpecker:

Soon a female flew-in to join the male:

They are now the largest woodpeckers (since the extinction of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker) in the Americas and a real delight to behold!

From the forest we headed out to another cove, seeing Chilean Negrito on a park property's lawn:

We'd pretty much given up on the Austral Parakeet when one flew in front of the minibus.  We stopped.  Gaston pointed out a couple of birds and smiled.  It soon became clear we were in fact in the midst of a flock of 20-30 of the birds, that look to have been at a salt lick judging by the mud on the bill of this one:

They were keen to scrape the mud off before heading off wherever they intended.

Both of these pictures are worth a closer look (click) as they are very high resolution close-ups of the species, I was chuffed to bits!  Mission accomplished for Helen too, which was a relief :)

I was dropped off a little after 1pm, having seen a total of 40 new species and spent six and a quarter hours on my five hour trip.  Again I recommend a guided trip with Gaston, I was a very happy customer.

Back in Ushuaia I was at a loose-end as the hotel had offered to charge me $60 for a 2-hour late check-out so the shower would wait, as indeed would packing-up my photography kit.  Instead I grabbed a salad.

Out in the harbour the first sight of home for the next 21 days, the M/S Expedition (M/S is the abbreviated Mother Ship).  She looked both big and small.

As the time for embarkation approached (semi-farcical boarding via a bus to be driven fifty yards up a pier - done in the name of health and safety yet obviously a tax) I decided to amble along the shoreline again, seeing this time a juvenile Dolphin Gull:

Another adult:

King Cormorant in waters holding the reflection of the ship:

Kelp Gull awing:

And in the distance the Beagle Channel called...

We boarded the ship around 4pm and by 5pm were seated in the Discovery Lounge for our safety briefings and some initial familiarisation.  Once this was all done the boat got underway and we set sail into the Beagle Channel, headed for the Falkland Islands.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Wonderful, I recently traveled through patagonia and Antarctica. Finding and learning all the names of the smaller birds has been a nightmare for a me (beginning birder.)

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