Tuesday, March 6, 2018

South America, Day 1 - 17 Feb 2018

San Antonio, Chile – 17 Feb 2018

Robin and I began our 2+ week trip to western South America with a flight from Detroit to Atlanta, and then Atlanta to Santiago, Chile, arriving Saturday morning (17 Feb). After long lines getting through customs and baggage claim we found the Norwegian Cruise Line reps waiting for us, and leading us to a bus for the port city of  San Antonio, Chile.

The first bird seen was a Rock Pigeon. It was soon joined by several more Rock Pigeons on the lawn just outside of baggage claim. But, among them was a smaller Picui Ground-DoveAnd, just beyond them, was a dark thrush that had a yellow bill and yellow legs: an Austral Thrush.

We boarded our bus for a 2-hour drive to San Antonio, and I took the opportunity to do some bus-birding. The semi-arid region was relatively bird-free, especially at noon time, but I did see a pair of Southern Lapwings on a golf course, and a  light-colored, short-tailed hawk soaring that had the shape similar to  a Black Vulture: a Black-chested BuzzardEagle. A pair of suspected Harris’ Hawks perched on a pasture fence were more-likely red-backed Variable Hawks, as were several actual Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures.

The countryside was rugged, and dry.

As we approached the coast the clear skies gave way to clouds and mist. Overhead the first of numerous Kelp Gulls were seen. More frustrating were the numerous caracaras that were seen flying in the distance, but couldn’t be identified. This one is a suspected juvenile Chimango Caracara, which has slender wings and thinner window panels on the wrists than the several other possible caracaras in this region.

juvenile Chimango (?) Caracara
Our bus broke down along the way, so we had to sit on the side of the road waiting for another bus to come and deliver us the final 10 km to port. But, we would reach the port city of San Antonio in the Valparaiso Region and make our way to the Norwegian Sun. By the time we got on board it would be almost 2:30 pm.

Once onboard I had time to pull the camera out and photograph the numerous Kelp Gulls in all plumage aspects flying and roosting all over the port. Juveniles, 1st-, 2nd-, and 3rd-cycle were present and made for a quick study while we waited to pull out of port.

From the back of the ship I could also make out several Brown-headed Gulls, flocks of rosy-chested Franklin’s Gulls, and three more Southern Lapwings.

Brown-hooded Gull

Franklin's and Kelp Gulls

Franklin's Gulls

Franklin's Gull

Several Peruvian Boobies made appearances in the port, but kept their distance from the camera.

Small flocks of Peruvian Pelicans also made fly-by photography fun.
These birds are larger than our Brown Pelicans and have white on their backs and wings that help distinguish the two species.

Neotropic Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorants were also seen, and were later followed by Guanay Cormorants that flew past the ship as it headed out into the open waters past port.

Guanay Cormorant

I would later spot numerous more Peruvian Boobies flying at a distant, and then spend the rest of the evening searching for albatrosses, shearwaters and petrels. I got lucky and found a Salvin’s Albatross with its gray head, white forehead and rump, and mostly white underwing coverts.

Several tiny Common Diving-Petrels were spotted. They looked like tiny little balls with wings as they buzzed over the waves. A couple of presumed Sooty Shearwaters were seen, as well, but too far away to photograph.

Tomorrow we arrive in Coquimbo, Chile and take a petroglyph and vineyard tour, so hopefully I’ll get some better chances at adding some new birds to the trip list.

Addendum: Its past bedtime and pitch dark outside except for the occasional white-cap. However, I’m seeing white seabirds flashing into view just 100’ off the balcony as they pass in front of the few ship’s lights. No idea what they could be.

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