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CHILE

Pre-tour extension 26–30 November 2022
Main tour 30 November– 20 December 2022

This comprehensive tour takes us from the driest desert on earth, the Atacama, over 4000km south through the stunning Altiplano and Patagonia to the windswept Tierra del Fuego. We will search for endemics from Chilean Woodstar to Chilean Tinamou, Moustached Turca and Crag Chilia; add in Diademed Sandpiper-plover, Andean and James’s Flamingos, Magellanic Woodpecker, numerous seabirds and Guanacos for an unforgettable experience.

Day 1 Overnight flight from London to Santiago.

Day 2 Arrival in Santiago and transfer to a hotel close to the airport for an overnight stay.

PRE-TOUR JUAN FERNÁNDEZ ARCHIPELAGO EXTENSION

Day 3 This morning we’ll board a two hours flight over the Pacific Ocean from Santiago to Robinson Crusoe. Once on the island we will take a 45-min boat trip to reach the town of Juan Bautista, located at the other side of the island. From the boat we’ll be able to observe the first seabirds, Black-browed Albatross, Kermadec Petrel, Northern Giant-petrel and Juan Fernandez Petrel. We’ll also pass by a Juan Fernandez Fur Seal colony. Not many years ago this endemic species of mammal nearly went extinct, because of hunting. Fortunately, the population numbers have since increased to no longer being a concern. The clarity of the water this far out into the Pacific is stunning, and is a real spectacle for watching schools of fish. Arriving in Juan Bautista we’ll head to our lodging for a nice and deserved seafood lunch. In the afternoon, we will tour the town and its surroundings. Three nights Robinson Crusoe Island.

Days 4–5 Early in the morning we will embark another boat and sail for the next 6 hours, heading to the North of the island into deeper waters. Using bait, we’ll sail for some 5 to 8 miles attracting seabirds. Particular effort will be focused on the rare and scarce Masatierra and Stejneger’s Petrels. The more common species in the area are Juan Fernández Petrel and Pink-footed Shearwater. After spending the morning in this boat trip, we’ll return to Cumberland Bay to have lunch in a local restaurant. Later we will walk the foothills of El Yunque hill where the fantastic Juan Fernández Tit-tyrant and the dazzling Juan Fernandez Firecrown are frequently found. We will spend the afternoon in the company of these stunning endemic birds and the exuberant vegetation of Juan Fernández National Park. With the purpose of finding more seabirds, on day 4 we’ll do two pelagic excursions. In the morning, we will head to the North of the island in search of more petrels; White-faced and Black-bellied Storm-petrels. After a delicious lunch and a brief break back in town, we will continue to our second pelagic, this time heading to Southeast to visit the Verdugo Islet. Here we will see a breeding colony of Kermadec Petrels. At the end of the day we will go back to our accommodation to relax and have a nice dinner.

Day 6 On the last day we can keep birding on our way back to the Robinson Crusoe’s airfield in the morning for our departure flight from the island at noon. We’ll arrive back in Santiago mid-afternoon and go to a hotel in the city to meet those participating in just the main tour.

MAIN TOUR

Day 3 Early in the morning we will fly from Santiago to the city of Arica, very close to the Peruvian border. This first portion of the far north of Chile is known as the “Big North”, containing the vast Atacama Desert and the high altitude Andean steppe, or Altiplano. Although located in the driest desert on earth, our birding will start here in Arica’s surroundings. Good birding is only possible here because of rivers and small water courses fed by the runoff from the High Andes, creating fertile valleys and well-cultivated flood plains that form rich oasis in this harsh environment. Our most important target species in this area will be the hummingbirds: Oasis Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail and the endemic, but critically endangered, Chilean Woodstar (world population estimated at 350 individuals). To look for this little stunner of an endemic we will drive south to the Camarones Valley where the largest remaining population of the Chilean Woodstar occurs. In this same valley participants will be able to see other highlight species like Pied-crested Tit-tyrant, Tamarugo Conebill and the newly-described-for-Chile Raimondi’s Yellow-finch. After lunch, we will return to Arica and bird along the coastline at the estuary of one of the most important rivers in the region, the Lluta River. The main target species here will be shorebirds: Killdeer, Snowy Plover, American and Blackish Oystercatchers, Surfbird, Willet and a good selection of gulls and terns.

Day 4 This day’s schedule starts with an enjoyable six-hour pelagic trip. Sailing into the Humboldt Current will allow visitors to spot many sub-Antarctic species of seabirds and warm water petrels. During our navigation it is possible to see Black-Browed, Buller’s and Salvin’s Albatrosses, Northern Giant-petrel, White-Chinned and Westland Petrels, Sooty Shearwater, Elliott´s and Markham’s Storm-petrels, Peruvian Diving-petrel, Humboldt Penguin, Chilean Skua and Swallow-tailed Gull. More coastal species may include Red-Legged and Guanay Cormorants, the splendid Inca Tern, Peruvian Boobies and Peruvian Pelican. A tasty lunch at a restaurant on the beach will be waiting for the group after the pelagic trip. We will then head to the farmland areas outside Arica and on to the town of Putre where we will be searching for some specialties like the Peruvian Thick-knee, West Peruvian Dove, Croaking Ground-dove, Groove-billed Ani, Burrowing Owl, Andean Swift, Peruvian Elaenia (the northern form of White-crested 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, Peruvian Meadowlark and much more. During the afternoon, after an intensive birding day, we will arrive in the beautiful town of Putre, at 3,500m the gateway for next day’s adventures in higher elevation Andean ecosystems.

Day 5 In the heart of the Altiplano of the ‘Big North’ and about 50 kilometers away from Putre we’ll reach the Lauca National Park, a place of outstanding natural beauty. It was declared part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) in 1981. The massive snow-capped volcanoes, Pomerape and Parinacota, soar to over 6,300m and are a perfect backdrop reflecting in the deep blue water of Chungara and Cotacotani Lakes, both, important attractions of the park. The highlight of this excursion is the dazzling Chungara Lake, the highest altitude lake in the world. Some of the high altitude specialist birds present in this habitat include Andean Grebe (the local form of Silvery Grebe), Puna Teal, Giant Coot and Andean Gulls along with many more broadly distributed species of ducks. While driving up to the lakes we will search in the high altitude bogs for the stunning and difficult-to-find Diademed Sandpiper-plover. Other target birds for this area are: Puna Rhea, Andean Flicker, White-winged Cinclodes, Black Siskin, Puna Tinamou, Puna Ibis, Andean Goose, Mountain Caracara, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Andean Avocet, Puna Miner, Puna and White-fronted Ground-tyrants, Andean Negrito, White-winged Diuca-finch and White-throated Sierra-finch. The lakes in the park are also the home to large groups of flamingos, and with some luck we will be able to spot all three species: Chilean, Andean and Puna (James’s). After a day of soaking in the wide-open vistas and fascinating high-altitude birds we’ll return our lodge in Putre.

Day 6 We’ll spend the morning around the small Andean village 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 Flowerpiercer, Golden-billed Saltator, Black-hooded and Ash-breasted Sierra-finches, Greenish Yellow-finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, and Spot-winged Pigeon. In amongst the alfalfa fields on the outskirts of the village we’ll also look for the secretive, but vocal, Ornate Tinamou. Around midday we’ll drive slowly down the windy mountain road back to Arica looking for any birds we may have missed on the way up to Putre. Night in Arica.

Day 7 This morning we’ll have one more chance to look for anything we’ve missed around Arica, visiting the Lluta Estuary or a hummingbird sanctuary. We’ll board a midday flight back to Santiago where we will spend the next two nights.

Day 8 Central Chile is classified as one of the four Mediterranean Ecoregions of the world, characterized by rainy and cold winters and very hot and dry summers. The isolation imposed by the high Andes mountains to the east, the Atacama Desert to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west have produced high endemism rates in both flora and fauna, deserving of a place on the list of 25 Global Biodiversity Hotspots. On our first full day in the Santiago area we will be exploring the Mediterranean scrub of the foothills and alpine areas of the Andes Mountains, doing various stops at different altitudes. We’ll be looking for high altitude specialists like Greater Yellow finch, Creamy-rumped Miner and White-sided Hillstar among other special Andean birds. At our picnic spot, we usually have Andean Condor soaring above, and Rufous-banded Miner, Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch and Greater Yellow-finch at close distances looking for some leftover crumbs from our lunch. We’ll also be on the lookout for Variable Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle and Mountain Caracara. In the foothills we’ll be looking for 6 endemics: Chilean Tinamou, Moustached Turca, White-throated and Dusky Tapaculos, Crag Chilia and Dusky-tailed Canastero. Today will be a great introduction to the birds of Central Chile, from common widespread species to local specialties. Climbing to higher elevations that are easily accessible from Santiago also offers stunning mountain landscapes.

Day 9 Leaving early from Santiago we will head towards the coastal city of San Antonio. Just south of the city we will visit a recently created reserve on the Maipo river estuary. This reserve protects one of the most important wetlands in central Chile, where we’ll be able to enjoy large groups of shorebirds, gulls, Black Skimmers, terns and pelicans. The reedbeds at the reserve entrance are a great place to see the stunning, but skulking, Many-coloured Rush-tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird, as well as Yellow-winged Blackbird and Sedge Wren. After scanning the masses of migrant shorebirds on the mudflats in search of potential rarities we will pay some more attention to the passerines and look for the rare Ticking Doradito (a recent split from the Warbling Doradito), Spectacled Tyrant, Correndera Pipit and the Chilean endemics Dusky Tapaculo and Dusky-tailed Canastero. Driving north along the coast we will have lunch at a seaside restaurant on the rocky shoreline. This location is also a great spot to find another Chilean endemic, the Seaside Cinclodes. In the afternoon we will visit more protected wetlands, looking for Spot-flanked Gallinule, three coot species, Black-necked and Coscoroba Swan, Plumbeous Rail, Black-headed Duck and maybe even the secretive Stripe-backed Bittern. Additionally, we will stop near a Peruvian Pelican colony where a few Humboldt Penguins are also breeding. Night in Valparaiso.

Day 10 We’ll leave the port just before sunrise and navigate around 20 km out towards the Humboldt Current; the round trip usually lasts roughly six hours. Chile has more than 4,000 kilometers of coastline and is considered as one of the best places in the world to do pelagic trips. The huge amount of nutrients brought by the current helps marine avifauna and exceptional trips have produced around species of seabirds with over half a dozen species of albatrosses, multiple species of petrels, shearwaters, terns, diving-petrels, cormorants, gulls and terns. Albatrosses are definitely the star of the show with likely species including Black-browed, Buller’s, Northern and Southern Royal and Salvin’s with Chatham seen more infrequently. Other noteworthy tubenoses we can see are Masatierra, Juan Fernandez, White-chinned and Westland Petrels, Peruvian Diving-petrel, Northern Giant-petrel and Wilson’s Storm-petrel (local chilensis subspecies called Fuegian). To round off the seabird lists we can also find Red Phalaropes, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, Kelp Gull and South American Tern. After our pelagic trip and a delicious lunch, we will continue birdwatching along the coast. This time north of Valparaiso to look for the scarce and elusive Stripe-backed Bittern and any other species we might have missed the day before. We will then return to Santiago for a further two-night stay.

Day 11 The Yeso Valley is well known for being one of the most accessible places to see the sought-after Diademed Sandpiper-plover. This beautiful and enigmatic mountain shorebird breeds in the high elevation bogs of the valley and will be our main target for the day. Members of Albatross Birding are proud to have led a research project on the species for many years, and thus are very knowledgeable of their habits and have a great track record for finding it. In addition to the Sandpiper-plover there are many other interesting species we will be stopping to look for on our way to higher elevations. Among them are the endemics Crag Chilia and Moustached Turca; Torrent Ducks in fast-moving rivers, and many Andean specialties like White-sided Hillstar, Andean Goose, Scale-throated Earthcreeper, Black-fronted and White-browed Ground-tyrants, Greater Yellow-finch, Yellow-rumped Siskin, Andean Condors and Mountain Caracara. Reaching higher elevations we will also be able to see some more rare and localized species like Creamy-rumped Miner and Grey-breasted Seedsnipe. The scenery here is simply superb and some of the most spectacular in Central Chile. High mountains, turquoise lakes, hanging glaciers and white-water rivers combine to make a magnificent spectacle. We’ll return to Santiago during the afternoon.

Day 12 Today we’ll start driving south on our way to Talca and on towards Colbún Lake. Still in drier Mediterranean habitat our main targets will be the spectacularly colourful and very noisy Burrowing Parakeet, and the beautiful Spectacled Duck. Upon arriving at the lake we will scan for a number of other interesting ducks and grebe species and a chance to see Spectacled Tyrant and Andean Gull. We’ll then make a short trip north of the lake and spend the rest of the afternoon and the next day in the magnificent Altos de Lircay National Reserve. At dusk we’ll look for the elusive Rufous-Legged Owl and spend the next two nights in a quiet and comfortable forest lodge in Vilches, just outside the reserve.

Day 13 Located at the southern limit of the Mediterranean Region, this park is in the ecotone between the Temperate Rainforest and the Mediterranean Ecoregion. Here we’ll see a mix of the bird communities characteristic of the more scrubby and dry Mediterranean habitat and the lush temperate Nothofagus forests. In Altos de Lircay, we’ll encounter our first forest specialists. While walking along forest trails participants will be amazed by the spectacular mature Nothofagus trees, as well as ferns, mosses and forest bird species that are unique to the southern cone of South America. Additionally, in this area we’ll also find interesting geological rarities. We’ll spend a full day in Altos de Lircay exploring the extensive forest. We’ll be carefully listening for the nasal scolding of Chile’s least known tapaculo, the Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet. We’ll also be looking for more Nothofagus forest’s specialties such as Austral Parakeet (the world’s most southerly distributed parrot species), Chucao Tapaculo with its explosive voice, Magellanic Tapaculo and the colourful Patagonian Sierra-finch. This will be our first opportunity for seeing the truly spectacular Magellanic Woodpecker, and there is a chance to spot the rare and difficult-to-find Chilean and White-Throated Hawks. In the late afternoon we’ll return to our accommodation.

Day 14 After breakfast at our hostería we’ll head south towards Temuco, the capital city of the Araucanía Region. On our way we’ll stop by some agricultural areas to look for Screaming Cowbird, Hellmayr’s Pipit and Chilean Tinamou. By the time we reach Temuco the Mediterranean habitat will have been left behind completely and been replaced by lush Temperate Rainforest. Once in Temuco participants will visit the Cerro Ñielol Natural Monument, where we can find dense rainforest understory species, such as Black-throated Huet-Huet, Des Mur’s Wiretail, Chucao Tapaculo, Ochre-Flanked Tapaculo, and the near endemic Slender-billed Parakeet. The forests in the area are also a good spot to spot the uncommon Rufous-Tailed Hawk. Night in Temuco.

Day 15 In the morning we will head to higher altitude mixed Nothofagus and Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle Trees) forests surrounded by stunning mountainous landscapes. Here we will look for the newly split Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper, Magellanic Tapaculo, Austral Parakeet, Striped Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, White-throated Treerunner and other forest species. Today will be equals parts enjoyment of fantastic forest birds as of the magical forests. The silhouettes of Araucarias on the hillside and the snow-capped volcanoes on the horizon give a feeling of being in the midst of a truly prehistoric forest. After a full day of birding we will drive to Temuco’s airport for the short evening flight back to Santiago.

Day 16 This morning we’ll have an early flight to the city of Punta Arenas in the very far south of Chile, on the Straits of Magellan. We’ll have a nice lunch in Punta Arenas and then head south birding along the coast, looking for Flying and Flightless Steamer-Ducks, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Imperial Cormorant, Upland Goose, Chilean Skua and the splendid Dolphin Gull. The tiny Austral Negrito is sure to be found as well. In the afternoon, we’ll drive to the Estancia San Juan, where the endangered Ruddy-headed Goose breeds. Along the coast we’ll also be looking for Kelp Goose, to complete the five Chilean geese collection, and head back towards Punta Arenas.

Day 17 We’ll take the early morning two-hour ferry crossing to Porvenir, which is the main town in the Chilean side of the mythical island at the end of the world, Tierra del Fuego. We should see scores of Southern Giant-petrel, Magellanic Diving-petrel, Chilean Skua, Black-browed Albatross and Peale’s Dolphins. We’ll spend the morning birding around Laguna Verde and Laguna Santa Maria. The bird species we‘ll be looking for in the next couple of days will be Ashy-headed and Upland Geese, Two-banded Plover, Magellanic Plover, Chilean Skua, Short-billed Miner, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Flightless Steamer-duck and Crested Duck. After lunch we’ll drive to Bahia Inútil to visit a colony of magnificent King Penguins. This colony is the most northerly colony of this species and the only one outside Antarctic waters. On our way to our accommodation in Cerro Sombrero we’ll be looking for Rufous-chested Dotterel, Chocolate-vented Tyrant and Cinnamon-bellied Ground-tyrant that breed in the Patagonian steppe. Night in Cerro Sombrero.

Day 18 After breakfast we’ll continue birding the Patagonian Steppe on our way to the northern tip of Tierra del Fuego and hop on a short ferry back to the continental mainland. This is a shorter 20-minute ferry crossing with good chances of seeing Commerson’s Dolphin, Magellanic Diving-petrel, Wilson’s Storm-petrel and White-chinned Petrel. Back on the mainland, we will make a stop at a wetland in the steppe, Buque Quemado. This is a good location for seeing a variety of waterfowl including Silver Teal, Rosy-billed Pochard, Chiloe Wigeon, White-cheeked Pintail, Coscoroba Swan, and variety of shorebirds. In this area we’ll also try our luck at finding the elusive Patagonian Tinamou. We’ll continue our trip towards Puerto Natales making our way across the vast steppe looking for Darwin’s Rhea, Austral Canastero, Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Common Miner, Patagonian Yellow-finch and the stunning White-bridled Finch. Two nights in Puerto Natales.

Day 19 This morning we’ll be heading north towards the most anticipated location of the trip, the incomparable and breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park. Of the entire trip, this will most likely be the most unforgettable scenic highlight. While the park is most famous for its astonishing scenery, it’s also rich in birds and mammals. Throughout the day Guanaco, Patagonian Hog Nosed Skunk and Grey Fox are among the mammals we are likely to encounter during our stay in this area. We’ll be birding in the eastern side of the park and its lakes looking for waterfowl and on reed-fringed pools looking for the re-discovered Austral Rail. In the scrubby steppe we’ll be looking for Cinnamon-bellied and Dark-faced Ground-tyrants and Patagonian Mockingbird whilst Cinereous Harriers are also fairly common. This is the best location in Chile for Puma although daytime sightings are rare. After an early lunch we’ll leave the Park and drive to the scenic mountainous valley of Sierra Baguales. Here we’ll be looking for Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Patagonian Mockingbird, and the gorgeous Yellow-bridled Finch. On our drive up the valley the rocky cliffs surrounding us are a great place to watch Andean Condors soaring above us. The valleys in this area are also a breeding area for White-throated Caracara and the very rare Grey-bellied Shrike-tyrant which we will look for before we return to Puerto Natales.

Day 20 Sadly this is the last day of our trip. After a relaxed breakfast we’ll make our way back to the airport in Punta Arenas where we’ll take our flight back to Santiago and connecting overnight international flight back to London.

Day 21 Arrival in London.

General Information At this time of year the weather can be highly variable, from warm to hot in the north to cold and windy in the Patagonian and on the coasts in the south, with rain possible. The tour pace is moderate with generally easy walking but days at high elevation can be tiring. There are some health requirements which should be referred to your GP. Visas are not required for EU citizens.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 10 with 3 leaders.

Diademed Sandpiper-plover

Diademed Sandpiper-plover

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