Nelson Contardo

Birding Guide

Nelson was born in Santiago, but lived part of his childgood in the Maule region, where he built a strong connection with nature, like his grandfather had. He decided to study Adventure Tourism with the aim of traveling. Birdwatching had motivated him to travel along the country to look for new birds, visiting almost all the regions and ecosystem that Chile has to offer.

He has been working since 2010 in environmental education, advising and managing eco-tourism parks, mostly in central Chile. In addition, Nelson has been guiding school trips, as well as tourists, photographers, naturalists, and birders.

His passion for hiking in the Andes has led him to spend a lot of time birding, while he does expeditions in remote areas. Over the years, he has gained significant experience in the field, looking for rarities around Santiago and Valparaiso.

Nelson is a reviewer for e-Bird Chile and is an active member of the NGO Red de Observadores de Aves y Vida Silvestre de Chile (ROC), in which he has participated in numerous research projects. He also collaborates on the Neotropical Waterbird Census since 2014 within the O’Higgins region, coastal Valparaiso region and Santiago wetlands twice a year.

In 2018-19 he had the opportunity to study abroad in Canada, allowing him to experience another culture, share and learn from Canadian birders. He was very grateful for and motivated with this birding experience, by being challenged to identify warblers and visiting bird banding observatories.

Find out more about the guide

When did your interest in birds and wildlife begin? I started in 2009/2010 with Alvaro Jaramillo’s Birds of Chile and the help of my biologist professors when I was studying an adventure tourism degree. When I started working in tourism I was able to improve my identification skills, aiding me to better show our natural heritage and promote conservation. With the help of a camera I captures images and videos of birds that I later used in my talks. Why did you decide to work as a birding and wildlife guide? This was one of my main goals after finishing my degee in adventure toursim, motivated by the idea of being able to travel, see and show Chile’s wonders. It’s a unique job, with the chance to be surprised in every tour, no matter how many times you visit the same locations. A job where you never stop learning. What do you enjoy the most of guiding a tour? Sharing with people that are looking to visit new places and the fun challenge of creating the best possible experience. For each lifer or incredible landscape experienced during a tour, it leaves with us a shared joy. What tour would you recommend for a visit to Chile? Without a doubt, All of Chile. It’s a country of so many contrasting landscapes. Most visitors leave wanting to discover more of the country. Some of the day trips people enjoy the most are the Yeso Valley, the Pacific Coast and pelagics. Which is your favorite species? And why? It has always been the Moustached Turca, one of our endemics of central Chile. A fat-looking bird, with long legs, log eyelashes, short wings and very agile on the ground. Running between rocks and bushes, it’s funny to watch it do so with its tail upright. Its call is striking and is curious when hearing its neighbors call. Are you involved in any research or conservation projects? Since I heard of the Red de Observadores de Aves y Vida Silvestre de Chile (ROC), I have volunteered on many of their projects, motivated to learn, spend time with friends, and of course, go birding, contributing to research and conservation. I’ve been involved in the following projects: Migratory Shorebird Project; Neotropical Waterbirds Surveys; the shorebird protection network (monitoring American Oystercatcher and Snowy Plover); Storm-petrels of the central Andes Project; South American Painted Snipe Project; Screaming Cowbird Project; among others. You can find out more about these projects at www.redobservadores.cl What do you do when you are not guiding? For some years now my life revolves around birds. When I’m not guiding I’m likely to be twitching a vagrant, camping, climbing a mountain or visiting some place with interesting birding. I also like to take potos and record vocalizations that I upload to the Macaulay Library. What dish or drink would your recommend visitors to try? Mote con Huesillo is one of the Chile’s most typical drinks/desserts. Why did you love pelagic so much? Pelagics are one of the most demanding trips, in terms of physical and mental strength. But it is well rewarded with species you don’t get to see everyday. The sea is a box of surprises, where every second of attention counts. Be i tan Albatross or a small Storm-Petrel dancing on the wáter, seeing them fills your heards and will difficultly be forgotten. Why did you decide to study adventure tourism? After school I could not imagine working in an office. My other options where to study foresty or biology. I chose adventure tourism, because it allowed me to travel, meet new people and go birding. What do you enjoy the most about outdoor living? I really enjoy disconnecting from the city. Nature takes me outside my confort zone and makes me value what I have more. In 2015 I went on a 3-day journey to the Sierra de Ramon, during winter and over 10,000 feet. In spite of the hardship and weariness, the Experience and reaching the Summit remain one my happies memories. ¿Wine or beer? Can it be both?