Birding and Total Eclipse Chile 2020
During this trip, we’ll visit all the main habitats of central Chile in search of its avian bounty, including 8 Chilean endemics. We’ll travel from the highlands above Santiago, to the temperate Nothofagus forests of southern Chile, birding in interior and coastal wetlands along the way. We have included a fantastic pelagic trip into the Humboldt Current, where we’ll be able to see multiple species of Albatross and other tubenoses. The scenery we’ll enjoy during this trip is spectacular, accommodation is comfortable, the food is tasty and the world-famous Chilean wine a real treat. The climate on this trip ranges from warm and dry around the Santiago area to cooler temperate further South.
We’ll focus on finding the Chilean endemics and near-endemics during the first week of the trip, but the star of the show will no doubt be the eclipse. It’s forecasted to be a midday event, so we’ll make sure to make it an unforgettable experience, enjoying a nice lunch accompanied by Chilean wine in the midst of a typical southern Chilean setting – lush Nothofagus forest and snow-capped volcanoes on the horizon.
This birding trip can be combined with a 6 day extension to Patagonia that focuses on regional specialties and includes two days of Puma searching. Some of the targets are the Magellanic Plover, King Penguin, White-bridled Finch, and Austral Rail.
Main tour: 6th Dec – 15th Dec 2020
Extension: 16th – 21st Dec 2020 (click here)
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Birding
Day 1 – 6th Dec: Arrival in Santiago
Day 2 – 7th Dec: Highlands above Santiago
Day 3 – 8th Dec: Birding the Pacific coast
Day 4 – 9th Dec: Pelagic trip off Valparaíso
Day 5 – 10th Dec: The Yeso Valley
Day 6 – 11th Dec: Colbún Lake & Vilches
Day 7 – 12th Dec: Altos de Lircay National Reserve
Day 8 – 13th Dec: Cerro Ñielol Natural Monument
Day 9 – 14th Dec: Eclipse
Day 10 – 15th Dec: Return to Santiago
- This tour runs from 6 to 10 participants with one tour leader. Over more than 10 participants would be consider an additional tour guide.
- Post-Tour: 16th Dec – 21st Dec 2020 Birding and Puma in Patagonia.
DAY 1 - 6th DEC: SANTIAGO
Most international flights to Santiago are overnight flights. As they arrive in the early morning participants will be able to rest and relax the first day in a hotel close to the airport. During the afternoon their guide will meet them at the hotel in order to go over the itinerary and answer any questions.
DAY 2 - 7th DEC: HIGHLANDS ABOVE SANTIAGO
Central Chile is classified as one of only four Mediterranean Regions in the world, due to its rainy and cold winters and hot and dry summers. Given its isolation by the Andes Mountains to the east, the Atacama desert to the north and temperate forests to the south, this area has high rates of endemism, and has been classified as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity Hot Spots and a global conservation priority.
The first morning we’ll drive up into the Andes to look for high altitude specialists like Greater Yellow-Finch, Rufous-banded and Creamy-rumped Miners and White-Sided Hillstar, among other Andean specialties. We’ll also be looking for Variable Hawk, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and Mountain Caracara. But the star of the show can be encountered at higher elevations, where the massive Andean Condors can be seen soaring above and sometimes even below us. At mid-elevation, in scrubby habitat, we’ll be looking for 6 endemics: Chilean Tinamou, Moustached Turca, White-Throated and Dusky Tapaculos, Crag Chilia, and Dusky-Tailed Canastero.
This will be a great day of birding, with fantastic mountain scenery and spectacular landscapes. In the afternoon we’ll return to our hotel in Santiago.
DAY 3 - 8th DEC: THE PACIFIC COAST
Today we’ll start very early and head west towards the Pacific coast. After only a one and a half hour trip, participants will be at some of the most interesting lowland wetlands central Chile has to offer. Among them, the Maipo river estuary, Cartagena and El Peral lagoons are the best spots to observe coastal and waterfowl species.
These coastal wetlands are some of the most diverse hotspots in the country and offer wide variety of species. Just to mention a few of them, we’ll likely encounter Black-necked and Coscoroba Swans, three species of Coots, Spot-Flanked Gallinule, Plumbeous Rail, Lake Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Chiloe Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, Great Grebe, Silvery Grebe, White-tufted Grebe, Many-colored Rush-Tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird, among many others. At the Maipo estuary we’ll be looking for various Gulls, Terns, including the rare Snowy-Crowned Tern, and large flocks of Black Skimmers. These wetlands are also a frequent haunt of the White-tailed Kite. Within the scrub habitat along the reed beds participants will get a chance to see Ticking Doradito and the noisy little endemic Dusky Tapaculo. Leaving the estuary we’ll gradually drive north along the coast, stopping for lunch at a restaurant on the rocky coastline, which happens to be a great place to look for the endemic Seaside Cinclodes. On our way north towards Valparaiso we’ll stop at a few more interesting sites, including a special spot for the scarce and elusive Stripe-backed Bittern. Night in Valparaíso.
DAY 4 - 9th DEC: PELAGIC TRIP OFF VALPARAÍSO
Early in the morning we’ll leave the port and go roughly 20 km (12 miles) out into the Pacific ocean. On this trip we usually encounter several species of Albatrosses. Among the most frequent are Salvin’s, Black-browed, Buller’s, Northern and Southern Royal and Chatham. In addition to the magnificent Albatrosses, many species of tubenoses are frequently seen. We’ll hope to spot Masatierra, Juan Fernandez, White-chinned and Westland Petrels, Peruvian Diving-Petrel, Northern Giant-Petrels, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (the local Fuegian subspecies), as well as Red Phalaropes, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, Kelp Gull and South American Tern. After our pelagic trip and a delicious lunch, we’ll continue birdwatching along the coast, this time heading north of Valparaiso and on our way back to Santiago, and stopping to look for any species we might have missed the day before. Night in Santiago
DAY 5 - 10th DEC: THE YESO VALLEY
Today we head up the Maipo river valley, into the Andes. In order to avoid the morning rush hour traffic we’ll leave the hotel very early. We’ll be heading southeast out of Santiago up into this very scenic valley from where we’ll take the road to El Yeso Reservoir, nestled amidst a superb mountainous landscape, 2.500 m above sea level (8.202 ft). During the drive, participants can enjoy the landscape as we make strategic stops to look for endemic bird species: the beautiful and scarce Crag Chilia and the fast running Moustached Turca. We’ll also be paying attention for flowering Mistletoes that the high elevation hummer, White-sided Hillstar, frequents.
Above the reservoir we’ll reach an area with high altitude bogs – home to one of Chile’s must-see birds, the rare and charismatic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover. Here we’ll also encounter a variety of Sierra-Finches and Furnarids; including Grey-flanked and Buff-winged Cinclodes, Rufous-banded Miner, Creamy-rumped Miner and Scale-throated Earthcreeper. A variety of Ground-Tyrants can also be seen in the area, including White-browed, Ochre-naped, Black-fronted, Cinereous and Spot-billed. The fast-moving rivers in this area are also home to families of Torrent Ducks. We also will have a chance to spot Black-billed Shrike-Tyrants and Grey-breasted Seedsnipes. During the afternoon we’ll return to our hotel in Santiago.
DAY 6 - 11th DEC: COLBÚN LAKE & VILCHES
Today we’ll start driving south on our way to Talca and on towards Colbún Lake. Still in the Mediterranean Region our main targets will be the large, spectacularly colorful and very noisy Burrowing Parakeet and the beautiful Spectacled Duck. We’ll also scan the lake for a number of other interesting ducks and grebe species and a chance to see Spectacled Tyrant and Andean Gull. We’ll then make a short trip north of the lake and spend the rest of the afternoon and the next day in the magnificent Altos de Lircay National Reserve. At dusk we’ll look for the elusive Rufous-Legged Owl and spend the night in a quiet and comfortable forest lodge in Vilches, just outside the reserve.
DAY 7 - 12th DEC: ALTOS DE LIRCAY NATIONAL RESERVE
Located at the southern limit of the Mediterranean Region, this park is in the ecotone (transition area between two biomes) between the Temperate Rainforest and the Mediterranean Region. Here we see a mix of the bird communities characteristic of the more scrubby and dry Mediterranean habitat and the lush temperate Nothofagus forests. In Altos de Lircay, we’ll encounter our first forest specialists. While walking along forest trails participants will be amazed by the spectacular mature Nothofagus trees, as well as ferns, mosses and forest bird species that are unique to the southern cone of South America. Additionally, in this area we’ll also find interesting geological rarities.
We’ll spend a full day in Altos de Lircay exploring the extensive forest. We’ll be carefully listening for the nasal scolding of Chile’s least known Tapaculo, the Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet. We’ll also be looking for more Nothofagus forest’s specialties such as Austral Parakeet (the world’s most southerly distributed parrot species), Chucao Tapaculo with its explosive voice, Magellanic Tapaculo and the colorful Patagonian Sierra-Finch. This will be our first opportunity for seeing the truly spectacular Magellanic Woodpecker, and there is a chance to spot the rare and difficult-to-find Chilean and White-Throated Hawks. In the afternoon we’ll return to our accommodation at Hostería de Vilches.
DAY 8 - 13th DEC: CERRO ÑIELOL NATURAL MONUMENT
After breakfast we’ll travel south towards Temuco, the capital of the Araucanía Region. At this latitude the Mediterranean habitat will have disappeared completely and been replaced by the Temperate Rainforest. After a nice lunch we’ll visit the Cerro Ñielol Natural Monument that protects an excellent patch of bamboo thicket and rainforest inside the city limits. Here we’ll look for Black-throated Huet-Huet, the uncommon Rufous-tailed Hawk, Des Mur’s Wiretail, Chucao Tapaculo, the near endemic Slender-billed Parakeet and Ochre-Flanked Tapaculo. Night in Temuco.
DAY 9 - 14th DEC: ECLIPSE
For the main event of this trip we have a picked a special spot next to a river south of Temuco, in order to be directly under the central path of the eclipse. Here we’ll enjoy the spectacle of totality in a relaxed environment and lovely green surroundings. The event will commence at 11:41 AM when the moon starts to gradually shade the sun. At 13:03 totality will occur, when the sun is complete eclipsed by the moon. A team will be preparing us a delicious barbeque while we enjoy the eclipse, ready for us to enjoy a late lunch. During the afternoon we’ll enjoy the countryside looking for grassland and forest species. Night in Temuco.
DAY 10 - 15th DEC: RETURN TO SANTIAGO
Today we’ll spend the morning looking for any species we may have missed up until this point. We’ll plan to enjoy a nice lunch, marking the end of the main tour, and share our highlights of the last 10 days. After lunch we’ll head to the airport for our flight back to Santiago. For those joining us on the extension to Patagonia, we’ll be staying at a hotel near the airport in preparation for our departure to Patagonia the next day.