The Birds of Chile

On my second day in South America, I was lucky enough to join a birding tour with Santiago’s finest bird guide. Thanks to some very lucky last-minute logistical magic and the fantastic response time of Fred Homer of Albatross Birding Tours, I got to spend a day searching for Chilean endemic species in the mountains above Santiago. Along with two other birders from the UK and Australia, I was picked up an hour before sunrise by Fernando Diaz – Chilean bird guide extraordinaire. Fernando is among the foremost birders in Chile, and his passion is evident in his work!
The day’s itinerary saw us work our way up the Andes from Santiago to Valle Nevado at 3000m (~10,000ft). Nearly every bird I saw was new to me (a ‘lifer’ in bird lingo). At Valle Nevado we came nearly beak-to-face with a lazy congregation of Andean Condors. With a ten foot wingspan and a life expectancy of fifty or more years, these are quite the impressive animals!

 

Sunrise/Moonset above Santiago
  
Thems some big ‘ol mountains! It’s fall here, but glaciers are still hanging on
  
Itty bitty road in the Yerba Loca park
  
Definitely not in Kansas anymore!
  
The hotels and snow poles are the only signs that it actually snows here
  
Simply otherworldly
  
Valle Nevado looks like a fortress from below. The switchbacks to the top are about one US lane in width…yee-haw!
  
Three gargoyle-esque condors lounge on the roof of this hotel.
  
Big birds! Fernando’s scope made for a highly effective zoom lens!
  
Grab you Jeep and have a Miller – America is America, right…?
 
You know it’s a big bird when an iPhone can get it in focus

  

Rockhaus(?)

  

Fernando at work

  

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