Friday, September 3, 2010

Traversing Chile for Godwits

While our main study areas for catching and resighting godwits were the bays and estuaries around Castro, another part of the project involved traveling to sights all over the island of Chiloe and around Puerto Montt where godwits spend the winter. This was part of an effort to figure out where the godwits were, how many there were at these locations, as well as to try and find some more banded individuals, especially ones that Nate had banded in Alaska the summer before. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip since it involved seeing more of the countryside, and some other cool birds. Our mission was to survey locations north of Castro on the island of Chiloe, as well as sights on the mainland around Puerto Montt.

Before we began doing our godwit surveys, we had to have a little fun. Before leaving Chiloe, we went to the Puñihuil Penguinera, a famous penguin colony known for harboring both Magellanic (Spheniscus magellanicus) and Humboldt Penguins (S. humboldti).

Views of and around the Puñihuil Penguinera.

Magellanic (above) and Humboldt Penguins (below) in the penguin breeding colony off of Chiloe

One of the coolest "geese" in the world... the Kelp Goose (Chloephaga hybrida). Above, three young birds. Below, an adult female with a Humboldt Penguin staring on.

Some other cool sightings around the Puñihuil Penguinera included, but were not limited to: Red-legged Cormorants (Phalacrocorax gaimardi) (above); Marine Otter (Lontra felina) (second); Flightless Steamer Duck female and chicks (third); and Blackish Oystercatcher (Haematopodus ater) (below)

Before leaving the island of Chiloe, we saw some beautiful scenery on the island...

...and some awesome birds to boot...

Out of focus picture of a Thorn-tailed Rayadito, an awesome Furnariid that is a cross between a Brown Creeper and a chickadee in behavior

Black-necked Swans (Cygnus melancoryphus)

A pair of Ausral Pygmy Owls (Glaucidium nanum)

The ever present Chimango Caracara (Milvago chimango), the crow of Chile (above), and the Southern Caracara (Caracara plancus) (below)

A flock of several thousand Hudsonian Godwits

Black-faced Ibis (Theristicus melanopis), an ever present, and noisy addition to the Chilean avifauna

Slender-billed Parakeets (Enicognathus leptorhynchus), one of the most awesome birds around Chiloe

A cute family group of Flightless Steamer Ducks

Black-chinned Siskin (Spinus barbata)

Chilean Flamingos (Phoenicoptera chilensis)

Coscoroba Swan (Coscoroba coscoroba) - these birds, while superficially very similar to swans, but may not be closely related to swans

By far, the most stunning place for godwits was a place called Chamisa, which was a huge mudflat on the outskirts of Puerto Montt. This is a location that on a normal year holds roughly 6,000 godwits, and ~1,000 Whimbrels. This year, however was special, and Nate and I counted roughly 9,000 godwits! We are not entirely sure why this was, but it was incredible to see so many godwits in one place.

The extensive mudlfats at Chamisa, with many algae collectors.

A large flock of hundreds of Hudsonian Godwits

A large feeding flock of Hudsonian Godwits, Surfbirds, and gulls.

When we were done with our godwit surveys, we had one full day to ourselves. Never having been to South America, I wanted to see as many different habitats as possible, as well as a chance to see a Magellanic Woodpecker (Campephilus magellanicus). That meant getting up in elevation and into some good forest. We decided to go to Parque Nacional Puyehue, in the foothills of the Andes. We chose this particular site because it had easy access to high elevation habitats. Needless to say , it was an amazing place, with many cool birds, but no big woodpeckers.

A fast flowing mountain stream... that can only mean one thing...

...Torrent Ducks (Merganetta armata)!!!!

The inside of an old, volcano crater

Dark-faced Ground Tyrant (Muscisaxicola maclovianus), a bird more like a thrush or pipit than a flycatcher

Bar-winged Cinclodes (Cinclodes fuscus)

A view of the Andes from the top of a volcano

All in all, my trip to Chile was amazing, and I certainly learned a lot. I hope you've enjoyed my posts about my trip. It was an incredible opportunity, and awesome to see and study Hudsonian Godwits on their wintering grounds.


  1. Thanks for this post Shawn. It has been quite a few years since I visited Puerto Montt and I wish I would have visited some of the places you describe. Most of the time I headed for Osorno on my own futile hunt for Magellanic Woodpeckers. Great birds though. You brought back lots of memories of my time there.

  2. I love Puerto Montt and the surrounding areas of Chile! I took a tour down there by myself a few years ago and it was the best experience I have ever had. The highlight of the trip was seeing the penguins. Glad you were able to capture all the wildlife while you were down there. Also the Chilean people were the best at accommodating us.