Nature Notes

January 31, 2016

December 18, 2014

June 19, 2012

August 30, 2008

Birding Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina

Filed under: Argentina,Birds — Tags: , , — Harold Stiver @ 7:00 am
White-throated Caracara

White-throated Caracara

The flight from Buenos Aries to Ushuaia in Tierra Del Fuego parallels the Andes to the east. First, a simple snowy white line on the horizon, but gradually, hour after hour, becoming larger in my vision. Huge spires and crags can be seen until, at cloudy covered Ushuaia, we begin to descend, peaks jutting up through the clouds, until we break through. The city is below us as we come into land, stretched out along the Beagle Channel, and we drop into that bowl, huge mountains all around us.

As I drove out of the airport, a Chilean Skua wheeled lazily off the water, up in front of my car. This was going to be a good place to be.

Ushuaia is the most southerly city in the world and bills itself as The End of the World.It is an incredible mishmash of buildings centered around the harbor and backed by those impressive mountain peaks.The city proper has some good places for birds. The harbor front will have a few of the strangely beautiful Dolphin Gull mixed in with a great number of Kelp Gulls.You can find both South Polar and Chilean Skua present, and a mix of Terns feed in the waters, the majority South American Terns. Both the Flightless and Flying Steamerducks frequent the harbor, as well as other Duck species such as the Crested. You may also see that worldwide resident, the Black-crowned Nite-Heron, fishing for a meal. As a special treat, an Antarctic Giant Petrel may glide past, most in the dark juvenile plumage.

Behind the city, is the Martial Glacier which can be reached by ski lift or a 3 Km. hike if you are inclined.The main targets here are the White-bellied Seedsnipe and the Yellow Bridled Finch.

The airport is close to the city and the road to it runs along the sea, and it is always worth checking. Cormorants fish offshore and you should find Blackish Oystercatcher, and perhaps a Magellanic as well. Continuing past the cutoff to the airport towards the National Park, brings you to the rubbish dump. Besides the expected Kelp and Dolphin Gulls, you will find Chimango Caracara, Southern Caracara, and possibly White-throated Caracara. Additionally, I found Southern Lapwing, Black-faced Ibis, and an unexpected Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant.

A few kilometers farther brings you to the Tierra Del Fuego National Park, worth exploring both for its wildlife and scenic beauty. At the campgrounds, Magellanic Woodpecker resides along with Patagonian Sierra-Finch, White-throated Treerunner, and the wonderful little Thorn-tailed Rayadito.

The skies should be watched for Andean Condor. Spectacled Duck, Speckled Teal, and Chiloe Wigeon can be seen in the waters in front of the main campgrounds and Upland, Ashy-headed, and Kelp Geese are widespread. Ruddy-headed are much less common. After a heavy summer blizzard went through, the sides of the road were filled with hundreds of Black-fronted Ground-Tyrants almost in a feeding frenzy, and joined by Gray-flanked and Dark-bellied Cinclodes as well as the elegant Austral Thrushes. In the more open areas, Fire-eyed Diucon may be seen on the top of a bush with the smaller Austral Negrito on the ground below. Here, as in many other habitats, the Rufous-collared Sparrow will be seen and heard.

Heading away from Ushuaia in the other direction, you pass through some impressive scenery, until you reach Giribaldi Pass and descend to the plains below. Your course is mostly open grasslands for the next 200 km. of drive to Rio Grande. On the way, you are likely to see Guanaco, a Llama-like mammal, as well as Austral Parakeet. At Rio Grande the tidal banks held a great many Two-banded Plover, as well as flocks of White-rumped Sandpiper.On the way back, a Rufous-chested Dotterel was an unexpected surprise by the side of the road. Before returning to Ushuaia, I detoured to Harberton Station, where the seaside grasslands held South American Snipe and Long-tailed Meadowlark.

From the central wharf in Ushuaia, you can take tour boats that make various trips down the Beagle Channel. I took the 3 hour trip to Bridges Island on the Yams, the 5 hour trip around various channel islands and lighthouse on the Barrucada, and the 8 hour trip to the Magellanic Penguin colony on the Rambo Sur.Each of them was interesting in different ways and I would recommend any of them. You can visit the Imperial and Rock Shag colonies, as well as the Southern Sea Lions. Black-browed Albatross and Antarctic Giant Petrel are likely, as well as both Common and Magellanic Diving-Petrels. I was thrilled to see a dozen Snowy Sheathbill at the Southern Sea Lion colony near the lighthouse. Although it was early in the season at the Penguin colony, the males had arrived and were establishing territories. It was a nice surprise to find a dozen Gentoo Penguins among them.

While in Ushuaia, I stayed at the Malinas Hostal and was very happy with it. The price was $35 US per night (November,2003).

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