This was our second Epic Cape Horn Cruise, sailing from San Antonio, Chile and around Cape Horn up to Buenos Aires, Argentina. An amazingly different experience to any other birding tour as we are onboard a fully working cruise ship. With 6 full days at sea and 7 shore excursions we enjoyed fantastic views of numerous albatross, shearwaters, pterodromas, storm-petrels and more. And on land we saw such delights as Lesser Rhea, Magellanic Plover, Rufous-sided  Crake, Magellanic Woodpecker, Austral Parakeet, Black-throated Huet-Huet, and much more. 

white-winged coot
White-winged Coot

Day 0: Laguna Batuco - 16th Feb

This was purely an arrival day for the start of our pre-cruise extension. Nothing was planned for today but rest and relaxation..... So we decided to head to Laguna Batuco, about 22 kilometres north-west of Santiago, just to get our eyes in on some of the wonderful birds on offer here in Chile. It’s a fabulous wetland, with large lakes, smaller lagoons, some muddy edges and plenty of reeds. We notched up 38 species in just a few hours and enjoyed a decent selection of the more regular species to be found throughout this epic trip such as Red Shoveler, White-tufted and Great Grebes, all 3 coot species, Cocoi Heron, White-faced Ibis, a single Buff-winged Cinclodes was a little surprise, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail, Tufted Tit-tyrant, Chilean Swallow, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Yellow-winged Blackbird and Diuca Finch. But boy it was hot! We ended this arrival day with a nice dinner and some excellent beers!

Ext Day 1 - Farellones

Everyone was ready to rock & roll after an early breakfast and we were ready to get up into the Andes and start seeing some of the great birds on offer. We left the hotel at 7am and drove towards the Andes and in particular an area called the Farellones on a road which would eventually take us up to around 3000m. However, first thing this morning we birded the lower slopes seeing flocks of  Mourning Sierra-Finches and found a few smaller Band-tailed Sierra-Finches, as well as a few Grey-hooded Sierra-Finches mixed in with them. It was a little slow going in the slightly cool morning air as the sun hadn’t yet risen over the looming peaks above us, but it was a very enjoyable temperature and we picked up a few Chilean Mockingbirds, brief Fire-eyed Diucon, many Austral Blackbirds were around, several Black-winged Ground-Doves and Dark-bellied Cinclodes. The endemic Crag Chilia put in a close albeit brief appearance and we’d need better views tomorrow. Heading higher up we checked out some open alpine slopes and grassy flower-filled meadows where Rufous-banded Miner, Scale-throated Earthcreeper, and Buff-winged Cinclodes performed well. A close little grassy area was attracting a group of Black-chinned Siskins, and as we were watching them a Grey-flanked Cinclodes appeared and yet more Black-winged Ground-Doves. As we walked down the road a family of Lesser Horned Owls in a tree next to the road gave incredible views, whilst nearby Rufous-tailed Plantcutter was only seen by a couple of the group. Across the road a female White-sided Hillstar and a Giant Hummingbird were scoped before we headed to a nearby restaurant for a fabulous lunch.

lesser horned owl
Lesser Horned Owl
andean condor
Andean Condor

The afternoon was spent up at the ski resort at Valle Nevado and this is THE place to get incredible views of Andean Condors. They were literally everywhere, flying low overhead, perched on the roofs of the skiing hotels and I cannot remember a better experience with this species from anywhere else in South America. We also enjoyed White-browed and Rufous-naped Ground-Tyrants, Mountain Caracara, lots of Greater Yellow Finches, and a Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant.

We were back at our hotel by 6pm with plenty of time to relax and shower before dinner. It had been a wonderful, if rather warm day full of great birds. And we just ciouldn’t wait for our big day tomorrow!

diademed sandpiper-plover
Diademed Sandpiper-Plover

Ext Day 2 - Yeso Valley

Left the hotel at 6am and did the long drive up into the Yeso Valley. Recent reports of birders dipping DSP combined with roadworks and landslides had us worried, so we decided to head straight up to the end of the valley. Our only stop was at a certain site to get to see Crag Chilia much better than yesterday and sure enough a pair duly obliged. So we drove up and up to the hot springs, right at the end of the valley, seeing quite a few Grey-breasted Seedsnipe along the way, with one male in particular posing very nicely on a rock.  Once we reached our destination we spread out and searched the tiny streams criss-crossing the area for the enigmatic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, and after some searching Christine found it! What a star! And we were all treated to mind-blowing views of it feeding maybe 15 metres away from us,,,,,, Everyone was elated and we watched this absolute cracker for quite a long time.


Other birds up here included White-browed and Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrants, Striped Woodpecker lower down etc etc….

Ext Day 3 - Heading to the coast

We left Santiago at 7am and headed to the coast some 90 minutes away to Reñaca, a coastal area just north of Valparaiso. It’s a great site with loads of activity and birds toing and froing everywhere. The rocky shoreline held Neotropic Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-heron, American and Blackish Oystercatchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Surfbirds, Hudsonian Whimbrel and the endemic Seaside Cinclodes. A huge rock held our first Red-legged Cormorant, whilst out to sea there were Peruvian Pelicans, Peruvian Booby, many Inca Terns, kelp Gulls, several franklin’s Gulls flying along, a single Grey Gull. The colony of Inca Terns are amazingly close here and held our attention for quite some time before we left, stopping at a restroom and seeing Chilean Skua,  and headed to Quebrada de Cordova where we tried for White-throated Tapaculo in vain. Seeing Rufous-tailed Plantcutter was great, as only a couple of the group had it the other day. We also saw Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Fire-eyed Diucon, Long-tailed Meadowlark, and a surprisingly confiding Dusky-tailed Canastero.

rufous-tailed plantcutter
Rufous-tailed Plantcutter
inca tern
Inca Tern

Cruise Day 1

We then headed to a wetland but the traffic was too bad so decided to get to the port early. Once we were through the formalities and reached our cabins we were saddened to hear that our departure form port was delayed for up to 5 hours. So we set up scopes from the aft and consoled our selves with 5 Arctic Skuas, single Pomarine Skua,  200+ Inca Terns feeding offshore, with Snowy-crowned, Elegant and South American Terns, lots of Peruvian Boobies, scoped over 80 Red-legged Cormorants on the quay, 4 Guanay Cormorants and a close Marine Otter.

Cruise Day 2 - All Day at Sea

Our first full day at sea was very interesting and the first couple of hours from sunrise at 7.15am were very busy with our first Black-browed Albatrosses seen even before the sun had risen! We grappled with the all dark petrels until the light got better and it was apparent that they were all White-chinned Petrel. Wilson’s (Fuegian) Storm-Petrels began appearing in dribs and drabs and then Pink-footed Shearwaters began moving in numbers and we saw well over 400 throughout the day, mingled with a few Sooty Shearwaters during the day. Our next albatross was a Salvin’s, and throughout the day we saw around 15, with plenty of sightings of Northern Royal Albatross which looked absolutely huge as they flew over a very calm sea. At least 3 Buller’s Albatrosses appeared today as well, and it's a relatively small and compact mollymawk showing a thickish leading edge on the underwing.

Salvin's Albatross
Salvin's Albatross
northern royal albatross
Northern Royal Albatross

We had several periods of little activity interspersed with periods of more activity when Grey Phalaropes, Arctic Skuas, Chilean Skuas, the odd Magellanic Penguin, 16+ Northern Giant Petrels, and incredibly 6 decent views of Peruvian Diving Petrel. It took until mid-afternoon before the first Pterodroma appeared, a cracking Stejneger’s Petrel and we had 29 of these superb birds, a single possible Masatiera and 2 Juan Fernandez Petrels. The last few hours of daylight saw a big increase in numbers of birds and in glorious sunshine the few of us left on deck enjoyed great views of many of the previously mentioned species. Non-avian highlights today were Sei and Sperm Whales, South American Fur Seals, and South American Sealions.

Cruise Day 3 - Puerto Montt

thorn-tailed rayadito
Thorn-tailed Rayadito
Antipodean Albatross
Antipodean Albatross

Cruise Day 4 - At Sea

A truly memorable day at sea with 7 species of albatross. Seeing up to 4 Antipodean Albatross was really special, as was 11 Snowy Albatross, 3 Buller's Albatross, numerous Southern & Northern Royal Albatross, 43 Salvin's Albatross and 700+ Black-browed Albatross..... Wow!

Cruise Day 5 - Puerto Montt

thorn-tailed rayadito
Thorn-tailed Rayadito
Amalia Glacier
Amalia Glacier

Cruise Day 5 - Amalia Glacier

Cruise Day 6 - Punta Arenas

Magellanic Plover
Magellanic Plover
spectacled duck
Spectacled Duck

Cruise Day 7 - Ushuaia

Cruise Day 8 - Cape Horn

grey-headed albatross
Grey-headed Albatross
king penguin
A few King Penguins at Volunteer Point

Cruise Day 9 - Falkland Islands

Cruise Day 10 - At Sea

soft-plumaged petrel
Soft-plumaged Petrel
Flying Steamer Duck
Flying Steamer-Duck and Elephant Seal

Cruise Day 11 - Puerto Madryn

Cruise Day 12 - At Sea

Atlantic yellow-nosed Albatross
Atlantic yellow-nosed Albatross
Rufous-sided Crake
Rufous-sided Crake

Cruise Day 13 - Montevideo

Cruise Day 14 - Buenos Aires

Hooded Siskin
Hooded Siskin
ringed teal
Ringed Teal

Ceibas Ext Day 1

Ceibas Ext Day 2

Lark-like brushrunner
Lark-like Brushrunner
Curve-billed Reedhaunter
Curve-billed Reedhaunter

Ceibas Ext Day 3