Monday, 1 February 2010

Reserve National Humedal, Arica, Chile

I must say that in line with most other places, the lady on the desk and the Night Porter at my latest hotel have been so very helpful. Seeing my Field Guide, they suggested after Lauca, Humedal might be a good place to visit. On the Web-Site it is described as Reserve National Humedal and the accompanying photographs show boardwalks and small wooden bridges reflecting into cobalt blue waters, while in reality it is a run down coastal fringe topped up with junk and litter. Nevertheless, there are similarities with Burton Bradstock (a coastal site west of Weymouth, often good for birds for the none Dorsetite's among you) with several small lagoons protected by a shingle beach on one side, and sand dunes plus small stands of reed throughout its length. The other feature of Humedal is just about the whole area is covered by a thick plant growth that I can only describe as terrestrial 'Parrot Feathers', so similar is it to the aquatic growth. A main road runs a few hundred meters from the lagoons and beach, which appeared devoid of traffic when I arrived at 07-00 this morning, but later discovered it to be a 'dead end'. Between that and another road, forming a V and going back in the same direction, there is waste ground main use 'fly-tipping' where there are a few shrubs.

I had arranged for the Porter to get me a taxi, but would have to forgo breakfast due to the earliness of the hour, wanting to reach this site by dawn. I arrived in the foyer at 06-30 not only to find the taxi on 'stand-by' but also a breakfast awaiting (including coffee) perfect start. About 15Km from town, the fare was £3 which I didn't pay as the arrangement was for him to pick me up at noon, when the sun just becomes too much. He was happy, I was happy.

Andean Coot

Black-crowned Night Heron (adult)

It wasn't difficult to see many birds from where he put me down, but on a quick scan it was seen that all were familiar and already on the list. The open waters of the lagoons had their share of Andean Coot and a variety of Gulls, while in the margins the odd Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Snowy Egret and a Moorhen were feeding. Returning to the road, to seek higher ground when approaching any of the many small streams running to the sea, there were many Black-crowned Night Heron (adults and juveniles), American Oystercatcher and, maybe fair to say 'not before time', an American Golden Plover. Apart from Rufous-collared Sparrow, only 2 other passerines were seen and both are in the pending file awaiting identification.

Cinereous Conebill

Crossing the road onto the wasteland, it was easy to coax Cinerious Conebills from cover, but unfortunately a fine pair of Band-tailed Sierra-Finch, showing their bright yellow legs and bills evaded the Canon. Scanning across the area, a small bird of prey was seen perched on a round white stone, but at that distance too far to photograph or ID for that matter. Needing to get the sun behind me, I started to walk a wide arc when something else caught my eye. There in a clearing among the undergrowth stood a whole bevy of Peruvian Thick-knees, 9 to be precise. This was considered a huge bonus, and I still had my eye on the potential raptor, that might be American Kestrel. Despite having seen good numbers of them, I just love this little bird of prey so thought it well worth the chase, but the overall appearance was changing as I got nearer. Eventually, it sometimes takes a little time in these matters, it dawned on me that it was in fact a Burrowing Owl, another species that maybe should have been added to the Trip List long ago. Maybe the most common Owl in the Americas and certainly one of the easiest to see, being diurnal, at last it was going in the log. But there was more to come as I picked up on 2 more further on, and on close approach found a family party of seven.

Peruvian Thick-knee

Peruvian Thick-knees

Burrowing Owl

a long time coming, (look closely you'll see all 7)

but at this range well worth the wait.

The sun was high now, time rapidly approaching noon and still an hour walk back to the starting place. On the way back I found a pretty dowdy Peruvian Meadowlark, but managed this photo so no complaints, and one of the many Turkey Vultures at perch. Seems like this youngster wasa waiting for mum or dad to return with a dead dog or something. All in all this was a pretty good site, so tomorrow I may return and try for some Gulls in flight shots.

Peruvian Meadowlark, still thought by some to be a sub-species of Long-tailed Meadowlark.

Numero Uno juvenile Turkey Vulture

and a close up of and adult birds head, that should be full of groceries!

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