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30 December 2001 - 5 January 2002

By Magill Weber

USHUAIA, and the Beagle Channel

Recommended Field Guides:

Birds of the Beagle Channel and Cape Horn by E. Couve & C. Vidal

Field Guide to Birds and Mammals of Coastal Patagonia by G. Harris

In Town Ushuaia (12/30/01): House Sparrow, Passer domesticus; Black Chinned Siskin, Carduelis barbata; Chilean Swallow, Tachycineta meyeni; and Chimago Caracara, Milvago chimango.

We stayed at Hostel del Bosque, a comfortable hotel near the main shopping district and a few blocks from the ocean. We took two boat trips arranged the day of the excursion, at the adjacent city docks. It appears that booking these trips the day before, or the day of is common, and preferable, because schedules depend on the weather.

Beagle Channel Aboard Tres Marias (12/31/01)

This excursion was the favorite of the entire trip. The vessel 'Tres Marias' is small and looks a bit old. We noted several people that signed up for the trip, but chose to receive their money back after seeing the vessel. However, this trip is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. We were able to walk on one of the off-shore islands "H" Island, and observe a nesting Rock Cormorant colony from a few feet away. The Captain was quite knowledgeable about the ecology and birds of the island, and caught & cooked a fresh King Crab for us to eat on the boat.

Black-browed Albatross, Diomedea melanophris
Neotropic Cormorant, Phalacrocrax brasilianus (only 1 individual)
Rock Cormorant, Phalacrocrax magellanicus (most abundant)
King Cormorant, Phalacrocrax albiventer (few mixed in with Rocks in colonies)
Upland Goose, Chloephaga picta (one pair with goslings)
Kelp Goose, Chloephaga hybrida (many)
Crested Duck, Chleophaga specularioides
Flightless Steamer Duck, Tachyeres pteneres
Megellanic Oystercatcher, Haematopus leucopodus
Chilean Skua, Catharacta chilensis (numerous)
Dolphin Gull, Larus scoresbii (abundant only around Sea Lion colonies)
Kelp Gull, Larus dominicanus
Brown-hooded Gull, Larus maculipennis (2 individuals)
South American Tern, Sterna hiruninacea
Bar-Winged Cinclodes, Cinclodes fuscus (H Island)
Gray-flanked Cinclodes, Cinclodes oustaleti (H Island)
Correndera Pipit, Anthus correndera (abundant on H Island)
* Antarctic Tern * Sterna vittata ('Tres Marias' did not stop long at the tern colony. I managed to photograph some non-breeding individuals roosting at the periphery of a large South American Tern colony, most likely 2-3rd year birds, and was pleasantly surprised to ID this species in one of my photos once I was back home. Other species may have been present, but I did not have the time for accurate ID given the conditions of a rocking boat, and thousands of angry terns).

Beagle Channel & Penguin Colony Aboard Beta (1/1/02)

This large, brand new vessel, replete with snack bar, heated indoor cabin, and reclining seats had the look and feel of an airplane. Great looks at Brown-Browed Albatross, and Magellanic Penguins were the highlights. This trip did not really add any new species, but a day trip like this is the only way to see penguins if you are staying in Ushuaia and not going on to Antarctica or the Valdez Peninsula.

Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Magellanic Penguin, Spheniscus magellanicus
+ almost all pelagic and coastal species seen previous day

Tierra del Fuego National Park (½/02)

We visited the park on yet another organized day tour, but found the face a bit too abrupt to really observe many birds closely.

Patagonian Mockingbird, Mimus patagonicus
Patagonian Yellowfinch, Scialis olivascens
Patagonian Sierra Finch, Phrygilus patagonicus
Rufous Collared Sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis
Correndera Pipit, Anthus correndera
Austral Thrush, Turdus Falcklandii (abundant)
Grass Wren, Cistothorus platenisis
House Wren, Troglodytes aedon (abundant)
Black Chinned Siskin, Carduelis barbata (abundant)
Southern Lapwing, Vanellus chilensis
Blue & White Swallow, Pygochelidon cyanoleuca
Chilean Swallow, Tachycineta meyeni
Austral Negrito, Lessonia rufa
Ochre-Naped Ground Tyrant, Muscisaxicola flavinucha
Fire Eyed Diucon, Xolmis pyrope
Tufted Tit Tyrant, Anairetes parulus
White Crested Elaenia, Elaenia albiceps
White Throated Treerunner, Pygarrhichas albogularis
Thorn Tailed Rayadito, Aphrastura spinicauda
Blackish Cinclodes, Cinclodes antarcticus
Cinereous Harrier, Circus cinereus
White Throated Caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis
Great Grebe, Podiceps major (Great looks at a nesting pair adding sticks to a huge floating nest)
Upland Goose, Chloephaga picta (numerous)
Ashy Headed Goose, Chloephaga poliocephala (only one pair observed)
Spectacled Duck, Anas specularis (supposedly scarce in the park, we found 2 pair with ducklings at "Lago del Castores")
Yellow Billed (Brown) Pintail, Anas georgica
Speckled Teal, Anas flavirostris

Glaciers National Park, near El Calafate, Santa Cruz Province (1/3/02)

We stayed at Hotel Bahia Redondo, a comfortable moderately priced hotel on the edge of town. Our most enjoyable meal of the trip was in El Calafate at 'Mi Cocina', an Italian restaurant on the main street.

Perito Merino Glacier (1/4/02)

We took a trip to walk on the glacier, and were not concentrating on birds. The overlook platforms next to the glacier provided great up close looks at some crumb-scavenging Rufous Collared Sparrows and Patagonian Sierra Finches. The road leading up to the glacier provided ample opportunity to study the many raptors of the region. Birds for the day included:

Bi-Colored Hawk, Accipiter bicolor
Red Backed Hawk, Buteo polyosoma
Black Chested Buzzard Eagle, Geranoaetus melanoleucus
Striated Caracara, Phalcoboenus australis
Crested Caracara, Polyborus plancus
Andean Condor, Vultur gryphus
Patagonian Sierra Finch, Phrygilus patagonicus
Rufous Collared Sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis

Fitzroy Range and Santa Cruz Province (1/5/02)

We took a day long Land Rover excursion with Mir Outfitters to the areas surrounding El Calafate in the Santa Cruz Province. The entire excursion was on private lands, and this appears to be the only way to gain access to any of these areas. This trip is also HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. We started off at Lago Rico, and toured the surrounding wetlands of the lake bed (January brings low water levels, and the lake recedes considerably). We then moved to the steppe/higher desert to view condors, and stopped for a fabulous lunch. Our guide grilled a fabulous lunch of steak sandwiches from a picnic area overlooking another part of the lake with glacier views. Birds included:

Buff Necked Ibis, Theristicus caudatus (spectacular!)
Chilean Flamingo, Phoenicopterus chilensis (10 individuals)
Long Tailed Meadowlark, Sturnella loyca
Mourning Sierra Finch, Phrygilus fruticeti
Chilean Flicker, Colaptes pitius (large family group all on a huge dead tree)
Austral Blackbird, Curaeus curaeus
White Tufted Grebe, Rollandia rolland
Ruddy Headed Goose, Chloephaga rubidiceps
Red Shoveler, Anas platalea
Patagonian Sierra Finch, Phrygilus patagonicus
Rufous Collared Sparrow, Zonotrichia capensis
Correndera Pipit, Anthus correndera
House Wren, Troglodytes aedon
Southern Lapwing, Vanellus chilensis, (numerous)
Austral Negrito, Lessonia rufa
White Crested Elaenia, Elaenia albiceps
White Throated Caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis
Upland Goose, Chloephaga picta (numerous)
Ashy Headed Goose, Chloephaga poliocephala (several)
Yellow Billed (Brown) Pintail, Anas georgica
Speckled Teal, Anas flavirostris (numerous on the lake)

Magill Weber

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