9 Feb 2024

Antarctic Expedition. Part 3. Tierra Del Fuego National Park.

Before I travelled to Argentina I'd contacted Marcelo de Cruz of Magellanic Nature Tours (see here ) for a guided tour around some of the best birding sites in the Tierra Del Fuego National Park . Marcelo is a great guy and has been guiding for many years and came highly recommended by several friends who'd used his services.

Marcelo was busy the first day I arrived in Ushuaia but he arranged to meet me at my hotel the day I was due to board the Plancius, drop my luggage off at 8 am at the collection point and get me back to the quay to board the Plancius at 4pm. 

What a great day. Snow overnight meant a lot of the birds had come down from the high tops to feed in the snowless lower pastures and I was soon ticking off new species so fast my brain couldn't keep up. Of course everyone who visits the area wants to see two of the specialities - Magellanic Woodpecker (the biggest woodpecker in the world), Andean Condor and Great Grebe. I was no exception and Marcelo knew where a pair of grebes were breeding.

Number 1 target on the list and what an impressive bird. The next target, the woodpecker, was a bit more elusive. Marcelo knew of a nest but the young had fledged so the resident pair were a bit more wide ranging. Their territories can be huge so it was just a case of walking and listening in different areas. There was still lots to see and Marcelo is knowledgeable in all forms of wildlife not just birds. When he knew I was interested to see as much as possible he took time to point out the various orchids and different tree species whilst we still continued wracking up an impressive list of birds including Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-crested Elaenia, Austral Parrot, White-throated Treerunner, Tufted-tit Tyrant,  Buff-winged and Grey-flanked Cinclodes.

White-throated Treerunner

White - crested Elaenia

Thorntailed Rayadito

Grey-flanked Cinclodes

Buff-winged Cinclodes

Tufted-tit Tyrant

Eventually I heard a soft tap, tap, tap coming from an area of dense woodland. Marcelo disappeared into the forest and quickly beckoned me over to look upwards where a female Magellanic Woodpecker was partially hidden against a tree trunk.

Marcelo wandered off and soon beckoned me over again where he'd found the male in a nearby tree. What a fantastic looking bird. We watched these magnificent woodpeckers for about 40 minutes before heading off in search of new species.

By now the weather had cleared and the sun was out over the nearby mountain ridges so we stopped for a lunch of  chicken, beef and cheese empanada's to scan the ridges for Andean Condor. Almost on cue two appeared and we had great scope views of thus huge raptor though Marcelo's' 'scope! We'd seen many Patagonian Sierra Finches throughout the morning and one joined us for lunch! 

Marcelo said he was waiting for a friend and I soon found out who he meant when a Crested Caracara flew in and helped itself to a piece of Marcelo's proffered empanada. So close I couldn't get the whole bird in the camera viewfinder.

Crested Caracara taken with mobile phone! 

We just had time to visit a few more areas for Flightless Steamer Duck and Black-necked Swan before heading back to Ushuaia for a bit of wader action before heading back to the quay and getting my first glimpse of the mv Plancius that was to be my home for the next 19 days.

Flightless Steamer Ducks

Black-necked Swan

A great day out in the National Park with great company.  Now I was ready to board my ship for the next phase of my trip.

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