EPIC CAPE HORN CRUISE TOUR REPORT 2023 Pre-cruise extension: 17th - 19th February Main Cruise: 19th February - 5th March Ceibas post-cruise extension: 5th - 8th March


white-winged coot
White-winged Coot

After last night’s overnight flight to Santiago, Chile we arrived this morning and checked I to the Holiday Inn Hotel based at the airport. It had been a long haul getting here but we’d made it and as this was purely an arrival day we of course went birding. Laguna Caren is only a 15 minute taxi ride away and we spent a pleasant couple of hours wandering along the shoreline. We didn’t expect too much as it was early afternoon and rather hot & windy but we ended up doing pretty well. An easy walk scanning the lagoon and surrounding bushes began with a pair of Diuca Finches flying into a nearby tree, with Picui Ground-Doves and West Peruvian Doves also being noted early on. A Variable Hawk patrolled a hillside, whilst a few Chilean Swallowsflew overhead. A pair of Striped Woodpeckers gave close views in some leafy small trees and a Chilean Elaenia appeared briefly, plus a few Neotropic Cormorants were noted flying over the water. The strong wind certainly didn’t help us but definitely kept the temperature bearable, and it really didn’t bother a Giant Hummingbird perched right on top of a dead tree. A large open field held a pair of Long-tailed Meadowlarks and up to 8 Southern Lapwings too. At a bend in the lagoon we scoped a few Great Grebes, with an adult and 3 large chicks being seen. As we scanned the far bank a White-winged Coot was spotted, followed by several Red-fronted Coots, some Yellow-billed Teal were present and further scanning revealed at least 4 Yellow-billed Pintails, a Cocoi Heron and a Snowy Egret. We kept on scanning and eventually a Plumbeous Rail was seen and on the walk back a pair of Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetails, so a pretty satisfactory couple of hours. With a few hours still spare before dinner a few of us headed into downtown Santiago and visited Sky Costanera, the tallest building in South America and gives superlative views across Santiago. It was a perfect end to our first day in amazing Chile and we celebrated with some local beer and mojitos!

Diademed Sandpiper-Plover
Diademed Sandpiper-Plover

What better way to start the day than with a female Torrent Duck giving close views along the Maipo River? Also here were a few Chilean Elaenias, several Chilean Mockingbirds, Austral Thrush and Tufted Tit-Tyrant. Our next stop along the Yeso Road was at stakeout for the endemic Crag Chilia where a pair showed well after a little wait, along with the endemic MoustachedTurca that flew in and scuttled away up the hillside, and a Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle flew low over our heads. We left here and drove higher up, stopping at a bend in the road where numerous flowering bushes were attracting several stunning White-sided Hillstars and we enjoyed very nice views as they fed on nectar right in front of us. Getting a good photo proved difficult but we contented ourselves with simply watching all of the action, and as if that wasn’t enough we had superb scope views of another Moustached Turca feeding on a lizard on the slope above us.

Another short drive higher up the road saw us scoping over 50 Andean Condors feeding on a carcass on a distant hillside. It was an unbelievable sighting and it was hard to leave here! Our next stop produced several Grey-hooded and Mourning Sierra-Finches, an extremely confiding Rufous-banded Miner and a group of distant Mountain Parakeets were scoped. Beyond the reservoir we searched for Diademed Sandpiper-Plover without joy, but did get a few Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, White-browed Ground-Tyrant, Plumbeous Sierra-Finch, many Greater Yellow-Finches, Dark-bellied and Buff-winged Cinclodes, Yellow-rumped Siskin, and a small group of Andean Goose. The next marsh gave us the Holy Grail of DSP, which we watched for ages and a flyby Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant.

It was around this time the final member of our group, David H, managed to catch up with us in a taxi and we revisited many of the previously seen species. Our final stop of the day also gave us our first Rufous-tailed Plantcutter and some exceptionally close Mountain Parakeets to round off a fine day in the Andes.

Moustached Turca
Moustached Turca

This morning we left the hotel at 6.30am and headed around an hour to the start of the winding road up to approx. 3,000m to the ski resort at the top. We had a pair of Moustached Turcas on the road in front of us giving mind-blowing views, even when we all piled out of the minibus and started clicking away with cameras… Wow! Just up around the corner several Black-chinned Siskins were hanging around roadside telegraph wires, prompting another quick vehicle exit. There was also a close and I mean close, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, we scoped a Great Shrike-Tyrant, had another Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, saw many Grey-hooded Sierra-Finches, more Rufous-banded Miners, and our first Band-tailed Sierra-Finches. Not too far away we had a nice hour or so walking along a dirt track where we found a pair of Scaly-throated Earthcreepers, a close Cordilleran Canastero and eventually we tracked down 2 pairs of Sharp-billed Canasteros.

Leaving here we drove up to the ski resort right at the top of the road where we enjoyed nice close views of several Andean Condors flying overhead. There was also Aplomado Falcon, several Mountain Caracaras and a pair of Spot-billed Ground-Tyrants. Dan explored up the hill and found Creamy-rumped Miner but despite everyone searching for this species we had to give it up and go for lunch.

Dropping lower down for lunch we were all amazed when a White-throated Hawk flew in and landed in a large tree next to us! Wow again! A few Plain-mantled Tit-Tyrants were in nearby trees as well. Driving much lower we found our first Austral Blackbirds along the roadside, and a Chilean Tinamou was seen briefly. We then spent the last couple of hours trying in vain to find a White-throated Tapaculo before returning to the hotel for 6.15pm.

inca tern
Inca Tern

PRE-CRUISE EXTENSION Day 3  TO THE COAST & CRUISE DAY 1    We left Santiago early doors and headed to the coast some 90 minutes away to a shoreline called Renaca, which is north of Valparaiso. Our main target of Chilean Seaside Cinclodes fell almost immediately and nice views were had of a couple pairs along the rocky coastline. But there was so much activity it was hard to know where to look first, with Peruvian Pelicans, Peruvian Booby, several Inca Terns, a flock of Surfbirds, a few Blackish and many more American Oystercatchers, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Neotropic Cormorant, a few Red-legged Cormorants and masses of Kelp Gulls. Just around the corner Inca Terns were almost within touching distance and brought the wow factor to proceedings, a flock of Franklin’s Gullswere seen on the beach and finally a group of Grey Gulls were found just before boarding the minibus.

Moving on to Estero Mantagua we searched for Stripe-backed Bittern in vain but had Many-coloured Rush-Tyrant, Wren-like Rushbird, Red-fronted and Red-gartered Coots, Spectacled Tyrant, a superb Spot-flanked Gallinule, Magellanic Snipe, many West Peruvian Doves, Fire-eyed Diucon and a pair of displaying Green-backed Firecrowns. Some familiar shorebirds were present with both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and a flock of Baird’s Sandpipers. We finished off with brief looks at Dusky Tapaculo and Austral Negrito before having to leave.

Our final spot was Quirilluca where we nailed the endemic Dusky-tailed Canastero quickly and had views of Green-backed Firecrown, Tufted Tit-Tyrant, another Moustached Turca, Chilean Mockingbird, Long-tailed Meadowlark and Picui Ground-Doves, but failed to find White-throated Tapaculo.

All that remained was a 2 hour drive to the port of San Antonio to catch our cruise ship Sapphire Princess and the real start of our Cape Horn Cruise adventure! Upon arrival, check-in was a breeze ( we needn’t have bothered with QR Codes or Green Lane authorisation on the App!) and we were onboard by 4.15pm and had time to mooch around the ship and everyone could explore a little bit. The buffet was enticing to everyone and that was when Lynzi showed us a photo of a pale grey petrel sat on one of the decks that she and David T had found. We all rushed to see it and spent a good while figuring out that it was in fact a rare Masatierra Petrel. Wow! Unfortunately, our departure was delayed an hour and was pretty frustrating but in the meantime we saw an Inca Tern, Guanay Cormorant and some Peruvian Pelicans, with distant Elegant Terns fishing way out and David T even saw Humboldt Penguin in the harbour. Eventually our cruise ship was being pulled out of its mooring by a couple of tugboats and we were heading out into open water, passing many South American Terns along the way, plus Franklin’s Gulls and a few SouthAmerican Sealions. Once we’d left the sheltered port, the first of 5 Arctic Skuas appeared, along with a few Peruvian Boobies. And then everything went quiet and we wondered if that was it for the day. However, all of a sudden a Pink-footed Shearwaterappeared, and then another, followed by a couple of Sooty Shearwaters, more pinkfeet, and then a smaller shearwater with faster wingbeats – unbelievably it was a Manx Shearwater (in the Pacific Ocean!). it was only the second time I’d seen one in this part of the world! And then it all kicked off with a flurry of more shearwaters, and then the shout of “ALBATROSS” went up and our first couple of Black-browed Albatrosses were seen. As if this wasn’t enough, a Buller’s Albatross flew by and shortly after a very close Chatham Albatross was spotted sat on the sea really close to the ship. As we neared it, the bird flew away a short distance and settled on the water once again allowing a few record shots. More shearwaters of both species appeared, and then our first of several Fuegian (Wilson’s) Storm-Petrels appeared, and Keith even managed a view of a Peruvian Diving-Petrel. Events only came to an end when the light faded too much but we still managed a few close Sooty Shearwaters before close of play. What a day! And what was pleasing to everyone was that the views we were getting of these seabirds were very, very good. We had scopes set up and could scan the horizon but many of the birds seemed to want to pass close in front of the hull. Amazing! So this was our first evening onboard a cruise ship and we had dinner in the large buffet area, where an amazing variety of different dishes was available. A few of us retired to one of the numerous bars a little later to toast the day’s successful sightings but I think no-one was too late in bed as tomorrow promised to be epic!

Stejneger's Petrel
Stejneger's Petrel

This proved to be an absolute epic day as we sailed south towards Puerto Montt. Take a look at the list and numbers of each species seen. I have only noted species seen less than halfway to the horizon but when I scoped into the distance the sea was alive with birds all through the morning and you can multiply the numbers given by 5x, 10, 20x for a truer picture of total numbers. Highlights were White-bellied Storm-Petrel, a single White-faced Storm-Petrel, and seeing 7 species of Albatross. 

Standing on deck, scopes out, coffee in hand, watching all of these seabirds.......... things don't get any better than that!


Here's a list of species seen today:

42 Fuegian Storm Petrel

4 White-bellied Storm Petrel

1 White-faced Storm Petrel

4 Wandering (Snowy) Albatross

33 Southern Royal Albatross

5 Northern Royal Albatross

83 Black-browed Albatross

19 Salvin’s Albatross

3 Grey-headed Albatross

6 Buller’s Albatross

2 Juan Fernandez Petrel

Masatierra (DeFilippi’s) Petrel

17 Stejneger’s Petrel

19 White-chinned Petrel

11 Westland Petrel

1400 Sooty Shearwater

300 Pink-footed Shearwater

1 Manx Shearwater

2000+ Grey Phalarope

4 Northern Giant Petrel


Chucao Tapaculo

We woke up to calm waters in the sheltered fjord-like scenery as we were moored off Puerto Montt. Leaving the ship in a tender was a relatively easy affair and we were ashore by 8.15pm. We met our local guide Raphael and headed to the private forest of Las Cumbres, seeing several Black-faced Ibis, Southern Crested Caracara and Southern Lapwings along the way. Once we were parked up, a pair of Chilean Pigeons flew over and one landed in a bare tree nearby, giving nice scope views and a flock of Grassland Yellow-Finches fed on the track in front of us as we walked across a field into the forest. We followed a narrow trail inside this amazing forest and had great views of a couple endemic Chucao Tapaculo’s. The first one walked along a moss-covered log lying on the forest floor but the second individual fed around the base of a tree for several minutes, allowing awesome views. A few of us also had an endemic Black-throated Huet-Huet as well in the same area but it didn’t hang around very long. The lack of recent rain and dry conditions did not help our chances of seeing either of the other two endemic tapaculos, although we did hear Ochre-flanked Tapaculo later on today. Anyway, our walk through the forest also produced a mixed flock of Thorn-tailed Rayadito and White-throated Treerunners, plus a close Green-backed Firecrown. Leaving here we headed over to Lahuen Nadi National Park and another forested trail where some of us saw the endemic Des Mur’s Wiretail and we then drove to another site to try and get better views of the wiretail and also saw a Tufted Tit-Tyrant. A meandering drive across the countryside in search of flickers produced a pair of Slender-billed Parakeets to round off our first land-based shore excursion of the cruise. Once back aboard the Sapphire Princess we were out on deck enjoying our first Imperial Cormorants, as well as Brown-hooded Gulls and South American Terns.

As we sailed along the scenic channel towards the Gulf of Corcovoda we saw a few Humboldt Penguins and eventually we saw our main target – 9 Pincoya Storm-Petrels. This species is only found in this small area of Chile and we were extremely fortunate to see them.

We also had:

13 Westland/White-chinned Petrels

98 Pink-footed Shearwaters

70 Black-browed Albatross

2 Chilean Skua

1 Pomarine Skua

Antipodean Wandering Albatross
Antipodean Wandering Albatross

Spent the day at sea sailing south and turned up an amazing tally of seabirds today. The recent rough weather elsewhere must have pushed a few different species our way as you will see…

But what is really brilliant are the views you get from the ship and also that we could use our scopes as well. In between all of the activity, we took it in turns to go indoors to get a coffee and food, snacks, and more food, lunch, more coffee...... You ge the picture! And it was a long day of seawatching from sunset at 07:40 to sunset at 8pm,  but what a day!



Here's today's list:

1000+ Sooty Shearwater 

18 Pink-footed Shearwater

1 Manx Shearwater

8 Westland Petrel

34 White-chinned Petrel

64 Westland/White-chinned Petrels

260 Fuegian Storm-Petrel

1 Grey-backed Storm-Petrel…..!!!!!

4 White-faced Storm-Petrel

30 Southern Giant Petrel

6 Northern Giant Petrel

70 Giant Petrel sp.

27 Stejneger’s Petrel

1 Juan Fernandez Petrel

2 Gould’s Petrel…!!!!!

8 Chilean Skua

2 Common Diving-Petrel

22 Snowy Wandering Albatross 

2 Antipodean Wandering Albatross 

17 Salvin’s Albatross 

147 Black-browed Albatross 

2 Grey-headed Albatross 

6 Southern Royal Albatross 

2 Northern Royal Albatross 

6 Imperial Shag

It was certainly an epic day.

White-headed Petrel
White-headed Petrel - 1st for Chile

We woke this morning in another scenic wonderland at the Amalia Glacier, surrounding by mountains covered in forest. It was light just after 7.15am and we were out on deck in the cool early morning air. The ship remained at the glacier for 90 minutes before heading back out towards the open ocean. It took until 2pm to reach the Pacific Ocean but along the way we found 5 Flightless Steamer-Ducks, 4 Magellanic Penguins, 15 Magellanic Diving-Petrels, 250 Fuegian Storm-Petrels (with one on deck) and 4 Chilean Skuas.

We had only been in the ocean for a few minutes before we found an absolutely awesome White-headed Petrel that gave a couple of passes in front of the ship. This has been confirmed as the first record for Chile! Wow! The rest of our journey until we finished was in a really rough sea which produced our first Slender-billed Prions right in front of the ship. Numerous Fuegian Storm-Petrels were passing, there was a single Snowy Wandering Albatross and Southern Royal Albatross, 102 Black-browed Albatross, lots of Sooty Shearwaters, many Southern Giant Petrels, over 30 White-chinned Petrels and 7 Grey Phalaropes.

Tawny-throated Dotterel
Tawny-throated Dotterel


American Three-toed Woodpecker
American Three-toed Woodpecker


Glacier National Park
Stunning scenery in Glacier NP

CRUISE Day 8   XX   

Dusky Grouse
Dusky Grouse

CRUISE Day 9   XX  

Northern Saw-whet Owl
Northern Saw-whet Owl

CRUISE Day 10   XX

Cassia Crossbill
Cassia Crossbill

CRUISE Day 11   XX

Grey Vireo

CRUISE Day 12   XX   

Grey Vireo

CRUISE Day 13   XX


Grey Vireo

CRUISE Day 14   XX


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Grey Vireo



Grey Vireo






LaLogan Pass