Friday, 5 February 2010

The 'High Andes' Await

Unfortunately, my diversionary project is rapidly loosing momentum and as I use this extra day, in part, to assess the situation I feel it's best you know when to give in. The idea was to shoot off to Easter Island for 3 days, so made some investigations on the net for today's flights. With only 'Business Class' available the price was a prohibitive $3,690. It was always going to be pricey, and I had made a mental threshold of 'a grand' sterling but even tomorrow the best I could drum up was $1,700. What may be the final straw was meeting a similar aged couple, from of all places Tallinn, Estonia, who coincidentally were flying to the island tomorrow. Toomas and Eha Vetevool went on to tell me how they had booked both flight ($650) and accommodation 6 months ago when, even then, all hotels were close to full. So, I'll have to leave it at that and start my journey to cross the Andes tomorrow instead! That in itself could produce a degree of discomfort as I know at these much higher altitudes not only are the lungs going to take a pounding, but the temperature, especially at night, is also going to fall dramatically. Good job then that I have the old faithful Antarctic jacket, which as a 'freebie' from that cruise, has turned out to be the best coat of that type I have ever owned. With large 'poacher' style pockets it is handy for reducing baggage weight (only cabin baggage for this kid) by stuffing them with the heavy stuff such as Field Guides and toiletries. It also doubles as a great pillow, blanket, groundsheet and on one occasion a tent. Since starting my solo travels, only once has a bag gone into the hold. Mostly inspired by one of my mentors, Captain Tony MacKinder, who always said "take twice the money, half the luggage", there was also another pointer I remember from many years ago. Walking through London in the days of B.O.A.C. Airline, I noted a huge hording with a shiny Comet flying through a blue sky. In bold letters it said 'Fly B.O.A.C. breakfast in London, dinner in New York', while some wag had written below it 'Baggage in Barbados'!

With an extra night booked here and no rush to get going, I was once again in the Parque National at 07-00. More of the same seemed the order of the day but the California Quails and Austral Blackbirds were a little more sympathetic to the Canon, resulting in some better images. I walked the 2 miles to the far control point, adding nothing to the list, then starting back found a flock of feeding Black-throated Siskins which are an addition to the Trip List. Later, there was a Spinetail / Canastero which still remains unidentified but with a pretty good description on the dictaphone I hope to clinch that before the day is out. Almost reaching the steps that lead down to the main gate, the air was suddenly filled with the alarm calls of small birds. Unfortunately, a fence was blocking the view, but considerately someone had erected a crash barrier next to it. Climbing onto this I was immediately greeted by the sight of a small Owl perch, some distance away, in a large tree. Observing it for a full 10 minutes, as it was continuously hassled by passerines, and getting some distant shots before it flew off, I could only think it would be either Rufous or Ferruginous Pygmy Owl both of which I have seen before. Via the Field Guide I discover that neither of these occur in Chile, so really as much a process of geographical elimination, it was singled out to be an Austral Pygmy Owl. In my book an Owl of any description, on any trip is a massive bonus, but a 'lifer' to boot - nice one. So, I headed back to the hotel, more for brunch than breakfast, insodoing bumping into the Estonian visitors on the way. It just made such a difference to meet someone from Ille's home town, and talk to them about places she and I have visited together.

Finally, another question for Senor Parrot. I note from the definitive Chile Bird List that Monk Parakeet doesn't even appear, while other 'introduced species' do. While I feel confident of the identification and know how quickly this Psit can colonise, it would be good to get confirmation.

Male California Quail, showing very well this morning.

Part of a family party of c9, with a further, seemingly detached, group of c5 skulking in the undergrowth.

It seemed most unusual to see a pair of Southern Lapwing perched on a factory roof.

Black-chinned Siskin, an addition to the 'Trip List'.

All other Siskins of the region, except for Black which is as the name suggests, have full black 'cowls'

Tufted Tit-Tyrant, in a poor photograph not showing 'tufts' as they do in real life.

If I'd had the privilege of naming this bird, I think it would be Lucifer's Tit-Tyrant. Although only a tiny thing, all seem to keep 'tufts' erect at all times and are, extremely mobile, little Devil's to see.

Austral Pygmy-Owl

A great addition to the 'World List' but according to some authorities, still a sub-species of Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl?

Eha & Toomas Vetevool from Tallinn, Estonia.

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