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ULTIMATE CHILE

Wednesday 7th January - Friday 30th January 2009

Mark Pearman

This was the first time in many years that Birdquest offered a tip-to tip Chile experience, and although the far south was an optional extension, everyone took it while the majority also visited the magical Juan Fernandez archipelago on a pre-tour extension. Once again we managed to see all of the Chilean endemics, all eight amazing Chilean tapaculos and such highly sought-after species as Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, Magellanic Plover, Austral Rail, Chilean Woodstar, White-bridled Finch and our first Black Rails. Our two main pelagic trips into the Humboldt current from central and northern Chile, four ferry crossings and another pelagic from the Juan Fernandez produced no fewer than nineteen species of tubenoses, which makes this tour an easy option for seeing many deep-sea pelagic species in half-day boat trips without enduring a Southern Ocean overhaul trip. We also had several surprises at sea including Blue-footed Booby, Swallow-tailed Gull, Sabine’s Gull and Sooty Tern. In all we recorded 292 species, and enjoyed magnificent scenery from high altitude Puna lakes and snow-capped volcanoes, the Atacama desert through Patagonian forest to Patagonian and Fuegian steppe, and the magnificent Torres del Paine national park. Hotels, meals and wines were excellent throughout and the Chileans offered great hospitality. Clearly Chile is the prefect destination for newcomers to South America, yet it also fills some sorely needed gaps for the veteran Neotropical birder in addition to its attractive set of endemics and superb scenery.