Farellones – Santiago de Chile
This is a continuation of Birding Argentina – Planning Stage
Since we could get cheaper air tickets going through Santiago de Chile we started at this location to pick up some specialties that can be picked up rather easily.
We arrived Santiago the 31st of march at 4:00 am and by 5:30 am we were leaving the airport in our compact rental car with Farellones in our mind and on our GPS. Farellones is a very popular ski area just east of Santiago and also a very hot birding place. As we started climbing this mountain side we realized that daybreak was a bit latter than what I had in mind so there was no hurry to take this windy road away from the city. By 7:30 am we made our first stop with just enough light to take photos and picked up our first three new birds for the trip, Chilean Mockingbird, Austral Blackbird, and Long-tailed Meadowlark.
We continued driving the zig-zag road slowly looking for birds and breathing the cool refreshing mountain air. On our next stop we saw a bird scratching the ground and after getting out of the car we were looking at the personable Moustached-Tourca. What a bird! Scratching the ground like a chicken with the tail up in the air!
After more refreshing air, and when we settled from the Tourca excitement we continued to climb and to our surprise we had not come across one single car and it was 8:30 am. We picked a wide turn on the road to rest for a little while since we had been traveling all night. I closed my eyes for 5 minutes and that was enough for me. While Paola was sound to sleep I went outside to look for more birds. The sun had not burned through the clouds but there was enough light coming through to keep shooting.
The rocky sides and dry vegetation was a great hiding place for some bird that I could not get a good look until finally it popped out of the ground into a rock. I fired some quick shots before it went away, after reviewing the photos I realized that I had just photographed another endemic, the Craig Chilia. I woke Paola but we could not find it any more, the bird moved back to the ground where we could not see it. Soon another bird came is sight, this time was a new Cinclodes, the Gray-flanked-Cinclodes. These photo are not good but here they are anyway:
Gray-flanked Cinclodes Craig Chilia
So we continued up the road while the sun started to shine which make many small birds active and quickly we picked up new ones like: Band-tailed-Sierra-Finch, Common-Diuca-Finch, Mourning-Sierra-Finch, Plain-mantled-Tit-Spinetail, and another strange one, the Fire-eyed-Diucon:
Common Diuca-Finch Fire-eyed Diucon
Finally we went past the Yerba Loca (National Park) entrance and then to the first road split which goes to Sierra Nevada Valley, to the right and to Farellones town to the left. We went to Farellones town looking for breakfast and found two places that offered food. This tiny village was very quiet and we enjoyed some local bread with scrambled eggs and coffee while birds like Varialble Hawks, Southern Lapwings, Austral Thrush, House Sparrows flew nearby.
From here we drove up some more; by now we were at 2500 masl. and the ground had less vegetation and more rocks. We could see the towers and wires for the chair lifts in many places. We started finding new birds like Mountain Caracara, and Buff-winged Cinclodes.
From here we drove back down to take the road to Sierra Nevada Valley. This road also proved to be very good for birds. We started by getting some good photos of Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch, Black-chinned-Siskin, and my first look and photo of the Scale-throated Earthcreper.
Black-chinned-Siskin Gray-hooded Sierra-Finch
Now we drove some more up this road higher and higher until we reached a remote village with a couple of apartment buildings and hotels, this was Valle Nevado. The welcome comity was a group of nine Andean Condors, mostly juveniles, that flew nearby circling the valleys and mountains in search of food. As we approached the last hotel we found more condors sitting on top of the roofs! At first I thought they were Black Vultures but nooooo, they were Condors on the roof tops.
Andean Condors on the Roof
At this high altitude of 3021 masl. we picked up a couple of new birds, the Rufous Banded Miner, and the Greater-Yellowfinch.
Rufous-banded Miner Greater Yellow-Finch
By now it was past noon time and we had to start our slow descent to drive to our next hotspot the Campana National Park, were we would spend the night and bird the next morning.
To be continued… Birdwatching Santiago de Chile Part-2