King and Clapper Rail

Cuban Clapper Rail

Cuban Clapper Rail

For many Eastern North American birders the King and Clapper rails are similar, but usually not a huge identification issue as King is brighter and keeps to fresh water marshes, and Clapper duller and keeps to salt marshes. But leave the east and things become more complicated. There are bright colored large rails in fresh water marshes in the highlands of Mexico, often classified as Kings, but sometimes as Clappers. On the West Coast, such as in California Clappers are in salt marshes, but they are relatively small and bright colored, not as dull as birds from the east. Then in South America Clappers are small and dull, and restricted to mangroves. Neotropical Birds has a range map and info for the King and Clapper rails. Very recently James Maley and Robb Brumfield of Louisiana State University tackled this problem by looking at the genetic relationships of these birds. They found that they sorted out into various groups, and that the eastern Clapper Rails were the closest relatives of the King Rail; interestingly the California Clapper Rail is not as closely related to the eastern Clapper Rail, it is related to the rails in the highlands of Mexico! They make the proposal to divide the complex into five species, based on each being genetically related to each other, and morphologically identifiable. Voice was not analyzed in the group, but King and Clapper rails are not all that different from each other vocally. For more information on voice, head over to earbirding.com. So the five species suggested would be:

1) King Rail (Rallus elegans) of fresh water marshes of the East and Cuba.

2) Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans) of the East and Gulf Coast, Caribbean and Yucatan.The bird in the photo above is in the Caribbean subgroup of the Clapper Rail.

3) Mangrove Rail (Rallus longirostris) of mangroves of South America.

4) Mexican Rail (Rallus tenuirostris) of the highlands of Mexico, living in fresh water marshes.

5) Ridgway’s Rail (Rallus obsoletus) of California, Arizona, Baja and NW coast of Mexico. This is the one you can see in the San Francisco Bay Area. Note also that if this taxonomic change, this would become a federally endangered species, rather than endangered subspecies. I wonder if folks will warm up to the English name or if another will be proposed, we shall see.

This link from the original publication shows museum specimens of members of the groups, from left to right: Mexican Rail, Ridgway’s Rail, Mangrove Rail, Clapper Rail (Caribbean), Clapper Rail (US), King Rail.

Assuming the South American and North American committees of the AOU vote and accept this proposal, we could have several additional rail species to look for. But importantly, another reason to come to California – to see Ridgway’s Rail. Great place is Palo Alto Baylands on a high tide. – Alvaro.

 

 

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Pioneer Canyon – July 21, 2013. Albatross galore.

Black-footed Albatross AJ1This was the first trip of the fall season and it turned out amazingly well. Although we were hoping to find some warm water and have a chance for a petrel of some type, the water was cold and instead we had a very birdy trip. It was non-stop, there were birds almost everywhere we looked and went. At one time 97 Black-footed Albatross were around the boat, and eventually we encountered one or two Laysan Albatross. We will be conservative and say one, although the two sightings were a distance apart and one in each county we visited! Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel1 AJ Laysan Albatross AJ Scripp's Murrelet AJUnexpected was a Manx Shearwater on our way out, a species that seems to be diligently colonizing the Pacific Ocean from its Atlantic Ocean origins. Then there were the storm-petrels! You never know where they will be, and early in the season with little information to go on there is always trepidation on whether one is going to find a group, or any at all. Well, we found a whole bunch of Ashy Storm-Petrels, as well as a high (for California) number of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, and some very good views of the Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel which can be hit and miss. A few folks were able to get on Black Storm-Petrel, we are hoping that as the season progresses more of them will show up. Speaking of showing up, some guests are early to the party such as Buller’s Shearwater which appears to be arriving early this year. Will it be a banner year for this species? We shall see as the season progresses, and why don’t you come out and document this for yourself on one of our trips? Back in May we noted that our sighting of Scripp’s Murrelet was odd at this season, and given that there had been other odd sightings in central California we predicted that they may be around with us unseasonably throughout the summer. Well we found three on this trip, and they were in cold water, not where you usually find them. We pondered why they are here now and out of habitat? I expect we shall see many more later on in the season.  For a full summary of what we saw, please have a look at the2013 July 21 – Pioneer Canyon I prepared. And do e-mail me to book for future pelagic trips as they are filling up quickly right now.

 

 

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The Pincoya Storm Petrel dances out into reality!

Auk Cover Pincoya Storm Petrel

Cover of Jan 2013 Auk with image of our new storm-petrel

Several years ago on a birding tour, Ricardo Matus and I noticed some “Wilson’s” Storm-Petrels while crossing on the ferry to Chiloe Island. They looked odd! They were strikingly contrasting, with bright white upperwing bars, and seemingly extensive pale on the underwing – wear perhaps? As we watched, Ricardo mentions that they also had white bellies…really? Not possible, we must have just gotten a bad look, as is often the case when you see a bird from a boat. But then things got interesting! Very soon after an Irish and American group of birders see up close, and photograph these storm-petrels, and they are indeed different – it wasn’t a bad look after all. To read their early account of this discovery, noting also that Peter Harrison had seen these odd stormies in the 80s, click on the link from Scilly Pelagics, informally they become the “Puerto Montt Storm-Petrels” named for the largest city and port near the area in which they were seen.

Then things get serious! At that point Peter Harrison formed a team to go and capture these birds, measure them and collect as much data as possible from them. I get out to do the museum work in NY, measuring and clarifying how they relate in morphology to the other closely related species. Once we were convinced that we had enough data, we decided to publish and create name for the creature. Well, I am excited to announce that our multi-national team headed by Peter Harrison has just published the description of this new species of Storm-Petrel from Chile, the Pincoya Storm-Petrel (Oceanites pincoyae) in the latest issue of the Auk! To download a copy of the paper, click here on Pincoya Storm-Petrel Description, to obtain a pdf. This is the first brand new storm-petrel to be described in 90 years, not a cryptic species that was split, but something altogether new that had gone unnoticed!

What is a Pincoya? That link will take you to an artist’s rendition of the Pincoya. She is a major figure in Chilotan (Chiloe Island) mythology, and has been described in this way: “This goddess of extraordinary beauty personifies the spirit of ocean and shore. The abundance or scarcity of the marine harvest depends upon this lovely creature. Pincoya rises from the depths of the sea, half-naked, draped in kelp and dances on beaches or wave tops. When facing the open sea in her dance there will be an abundant harvest of seafood. However if she turns her face towards the land there will be a want of food.
If the scarcity is prolonged due to the absence of Pincoya it is possible to entice her back by magic ceremonies conducted by witches or magicians. Pincoya is so beautiful, sensual and attractive that she makes fish swim with their mouths open. Pincoya comes to the aid of shipwrecked islanders and at times fishermen come across her amongst the rocks combing her long red or blond hair.

And what is left? Plenty. The team has genetic material of the Pincoyae, and preliminary results are interesting to say the least. We also have to determine now where they breed and how many there are. This is a busy part of the sea, with much human influence, as it is a sound rather than open ocean where they choose to live. The next steps are to determine its status and begin the process of securing that the Pincoya can keep on dancing as she looks at the sea for ever!

With great excitement!!!!! Alvaro

 

 

 

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Trinidad and Tobago with the Idaho Bird Observatory

Scarlet Ibis - Trinidad

I just returned from co-guiding a fantastic trip with Jay Carlisle of the Idaho Bird Observatory. This was the second in our “series,” last year we went to Guatemala and this year we went to Trinidad & Tobago. I will post some photos and our trip checklist soon. In the meantime, please enjoy participant Mike McCullough’s gorgeous photos on his smugmug site:

Mike’s Photos

 

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Half Moon Bay Pelagic Slide Show (Sept 2, 2012).

Come and join me out of Half Moon Bay or Monterey to see the birds and wildlife of our California waters. Still two outings left Sept 15 and Oct 6 – Alvaro’s California pelagics.

<p>One of 7 (yes seven!!) Scripps's Murrelets found on our trip. We were able to find some warm water and that was key, for most of us it was our first time encountering this species in San Mateo County, and perhaps a county high number record! </p>

Scripps's Murrelet

One of 7 (yes seven!!) Scripps's Murrelets found on our trip. We were able to find some warm water and that was key, for most of us it was our first time encountering this species in San Mateo County, and perhaps a county high number record!

<p>This Scripps's Murrelet looks to have a handy little hook, they make excellent Christmas tree ornaments I am told. </p>

Scripps's Murrelet

This Scripps's Murrelet looks to have a handy little hook, they make excellent Christmas tree ornaments I am told.

<p>We have been seeing Ashy Storm-Petrels regularly on our trips, and sometimes quite close allowing for good studies. They are all dark, but show a slightly more grayish rump. They are shorter winged and narrower winged than the Black Storm-Petrel. Ashy has a bat like flight, very different to that of the Black Storm-Petrel. </p>

Ashy Storm-Petrel

We have been seeing Ashy Storm-Petrels regularly on our trips, and sometimes quite close allowing for good studies. They are all dark, but show a slightly more grayish rump. They are shorter winged and narrower winged than the Black Storm-Petrel. Ashy has a bat like flight, very different to that of the Black Storm-Petrel.

<p>The Black Storm-Petrel, a Mexican breeder, is larger and darker than the Ashy. It also has a broader wing (particularly at the wrist) and a longer inner wing; when they flap they remind one of a nighthawk, quite unlike the more bat-like Ashy Storm-Petrel. The uderwings on the black are uniformly dark, while Ashy has a pale flash on the underwing. </p>

Black Storm-Petrel

The Black Storm-Petrel, a Mexican breeder, is larger and darker than the Ashy. It also has a broader wing (particularly at the wrist) and a longer inner wing; when they flap they remind one of a nighthawk, quite unlike the more bat-like Ashy Storm-Petrel. The uderwings on the black are uniformly dark, while Ashy has a pale flash on the underwing.

<p>Here two Ashy Storm-Petrles show the upperwing pattern with paler &quot;ulnar&quot; bar above, and a slightly grayish rump. From below they have a pale flash down the midwing. </p>

Ashy Storm-Petrels

Here two Ashy Storm-Petrles show the upperwing pattern with paler "ulnar" bar above, and a slightly grayish rump. From below they have a pale flash down the midwing.

<p>This photo lets you see how unique the shape of the Black Storm-Petrel is with long inner wings, and oddly broad yet long wings. The body looks small for the size of the wings!</p>

Black Storm-Petrel

This photo lets you see how unique the shape of the Black Storm-Petrel is with long inner wings, and oddly broad yet long wings. The body looks small for the size of the wings!

<p>I like this photo as the waves suggest a big sea, it wasn't actually the case. I just caught a Black-footed Albatross on the best wave set of the day! </p>

Black-footed Albatross in the waves

I like this photo as the waves suggest a big sea, it wasn't actually the case. I just caught a Black-footed Albatross on the best wave set of the day!

<p>A molting ad rather bedraggled dark morph Northern Fulmar looks puny near a Black-footed Albatross. There is great diversity out there, what a joy it is to be able to visit the birds of the California Current! </p>

Northern Fulmar with albatross

A molting ad rather bedraggled dark morph Northern Fulmar looks puny near a Black-footed Albatross. There is great diversity out there, what a joy it is to be able to visit the birds of the California Current!

<p>The Laysan Albatross is quite a bit rarer than the Black-footed in central California, yet we have had amazingly good luck with it off Half Moon Bay! It is essentially a 50% chance. This individual is an adult due to the colorful bill and the grey wash on the face. </p>

Laysan Albatross adult

The Laysan Albatross is quite a bit rarer than the Black-footed in central California, yet we have had amazingly good luck with it off Half Moon Bay! It is essentially a 50% chance. This individual is an adult due to the colorful bill and the grey wash on the face.

<p>The Buller's Shearwater nests in New Zealand, and it is certainly the prettiest of our shearwaters. The dark cap contrasts strongly with the white underparts, and even on this swimming bird you can see the complex pattern of grey and black upperparts. </p>

Buller's Shearwater

The Buller's Shearwater nests in New Zealand, and it is certainly the prettiest of our shearwaters. The dark cap contrasts strongly with the white underparts, and even on this swimming bird you can see the complex pattern of grey and black upperparts.

<p>This is a very fresh looking, so recently molted, Pink-footed Shearwater. They breed in Chile, and will be back on breeding islands by October - November. When fresh the secondaries and inner primaries can look more grayish than the coverts, and in some lights the pattern may suggest a Buller's Shearwater. </p>

Pink-footed Shearwater

This is a very fresh looking, so recently molted, Pink-footed Shearwater. They breed in Chile, and will be back on breeding islands by October - November. When fresh the secondaries and inner primaries can look more grayish than the coverts, and in some lights the pattern may suggest a Buller's Shearwater.

<p>The Sooty breeds in New Zealand and Chile, although a generalist in food habits, it is more likely to rely on small bait fish (anchovies for example) than the previous two shearwaters. This one has just finished replacing its feathers and has a curious greyish tone to the wings that disappear as they wear. </p>

Sooty Shearwater

The Sooty breeds in New Zealand and Chile, although a generalist in food habits, it is more likely to rely on small bait fish (anchovies for example) than the previous two shearwaters. This one has just finished replacing its feathers and has a curious greyish tone to the wings that disappear as they wear.

<p>The long and thin bill of the Sooty is clear here, but also is the strong hook at the tip. If you eat slippery stuff like fish and squid, you better be able to grip on it tightly! </p>

Sooty Shearwater swimming

The long and thin bill of the Sooty is clear here, but also is the strong hook at the tip. If you eat slippery stuff like fish and squid, you better be able to grip on it tightly!

<p>Sabine's Gulls breed in the high Arctic and migrate offshore to offshore waters in Chile and Peru. They have a unique pattern of grey back, white triangle on wings, and then a black triangle on the outer part of the wing. The yellow-tipped dark bill is unique. </p>

Sabine's Gull adult

Sabine's Gulls breed in the high Arctic and migrate offshore to offshore waters in Chile and Peru. They have a unique pattern of grey back, white triangle on wings, and then a black triangle on the outer part of the wing. The yellow-tipped dark bill is unique.

<p>When Common Terns migrate south (to Ecuador - Peru - Chile) in the West, they do it well offshore. Out east, this is not the case and the terns are common on beaches and even the interior. Common Terns are very difficult to separate from the Arctic Tern, but they are longer billed, longer necked and adults have a dark wedge on the upperwing, and broader dark trailing edge on the underwing. </p>

Common Tern adult

When Common Terns migrate south (to Ecuador - Peru - Chile) in the West, they do it well offshore. Out east, this is not the case and the terns are common on beaches and even the interior. Common Terns are very difficult to separate from the Arctic Tern, but they are longer billed, longer necked and adults have a dark wedge on the upperwing, and broader dark trailing edge on the underwing.

<p>Often on pelagic trips many of the jaegers are immature and very difficult to identify. This is a fully adult, breeding plumaged, Parasitic Jaeger. It has a mid-length sharp tail streamers, a broad dark cap (more restricted on the Long-tailed Jaeger), and entirely uniform upperwings, a feature it shares with the Pomarine, but not Long-tailed. </p>

Parasitic Jaeger

Often on pelagic trips many of the jaegers are immature and very difficult to identify. This is a fully adult, breeding plumaged, Parasitic Jaeger. It has a mid-length sharp tail streamers, a broad dark cap (more restricted on the Long-tailed Jaeger), and entirely uniform upperwings, a feature it shares with the Pomarine, but not Long-tailed.

<p>This adult Pomarine Jaeger is showing pretty good spoon shaped tail streamers, a feature unique to the Pomarine Jaeger. Also the dark cap extends well below the eye, to the chin. Unusual on this individual is that it lacks a breast band, it may be a male. </p>

Pomarine Jaeger adult

This adult Pomarine Jaeger is showing pretty good spoon shaped tail streamers, a feature unique to the Pomarine Jaeger. Also the dark cap extends well below the eye, to the chin. Unusual on this individual is that it lacks a breast band, it may be a male.

<p>The Cassin's Auklet is a small alcid, about the size of a Nerf Football when it flies. It is uniformly greyish with a pale belly and when seen up close it has a white spot above the eyes. </p>

Cassin's Auklet in flight

The Cassin's Auklet is a small alcid, about the size of a Nerf Football when it flies. It is uniformly greyish with a pale belly and when seen up close it has a white spot above the eyes.

<p>The Tufted Puffin is super fancy in breeding, and more subdued in winter. This individual is actually a subadult, when fully adult the orange bills have three ridge lines that trisect the bill. When flying Tufted Puffin is entirely blackish below, and shows no white anywhere except near the face. </p>

Tufted Puffin in flight

The Tufted Puffin is super fancy in breeding, and more subdued in winter. This individual is actually a subadult, when fully adult the orange bills have three ridge lines that trisect the bill. When flying Tufted Puffin is entirely blackish below, and shows no white anywhere except near the face.

<p>Back at the harbor, the birding continues! This is a black bird that appears to carry a carrot - a look unique to the Black Oystercatcher. Note that it is changing the main feathers of the wing. </p>

Black Oystercatcher in flight

Back at the harbor, the birding continues! This is a black bird that appears to carry a carrot - a look unique to the Black Oystercatcher. Note that it is changing the main feathers of the wing.

<p>This is the Black Oystercatcher perched - still looks like it is carrying a carrot. </p>

Black Oystercatcher

This is the Black Oystercatcher perched - still looks like it is carrying a carrot.

<p>In minutes you can see all three species of cormorants on the breakwalls at Pillar Point Harbor. On left is the largest and bulkiest, the Double-crested Cormorant. Apart from size check out the orange throat and spot before the eye. In the middle is a young Brandt's Cormorant, similar in size to the Double-crested but slightly slimmer particularly on the bill, and lacking the orange throat. Instead it shows a buffy throat area. Finally on the right is the very small headed, and long-billed Pelagic Cormorant. This species can appear snake like due to the small head and long neck. The tail is also proportionately long on the Pelagic. </p>

cormorant-comparison

In minutes you can see all three species of cormorants on the breakwalls at Pillar Point Harbor. On left is the largest and bulkiest, the Double-crested Cormorant. Apart from size check out the orange throat and spot before the eye. In the middle is a young Brandt's Cormorant, similar in size to the Double-crested but slightly slimmer particularly on the bill, and lacking the orange throat. Instead it shows a buffy throat area. Finally on the right is the very small headed, and long-billed Pelagic Cormorant. This species can appear snake like due to the small head and long neck. The tail is also proportionately long on the Pelagic.

<p>Common in the harbor, but their numbers decrease dramatically in winter when they head down south to breed. </p>

Brown Pelican

Common in the harbor, but their numbers decrease dramatically in winter when they head down south to breed.

<p>Another Mexican winter breeder is the Heermann's Gull, this one not yet an adult. </p>

Heermann's Gull

Another Mexican winter breeder is the Heermann's Gull, this one not yet an adult.

<p>Also largely a Mexican breeder is the Elegant Tern, a mid sized tern with a long and droopy orange bill and shaggy crest. On most birds you can see a salmon wash to the underparts, but it is very difficult to capture this on camera. </p>

Elegant Terns

Also largely a Mexican breeder is the Elegant Tern, a mid sized tern with a long and droopy orange bill and shaggy crest. On most birds you can see a salmon wash to the underparts, but it is very difficult to capture this on camera.

<p>I end this slide show with a very elegant pose from an Elegant Tern. One of the things I like about seabirds is their shapes, their &quot;lines&quot;, and how graceful they can appear as they fly over our ocean. </p>

Elegant Tern

I end this slide show with a very elegant pose from an Elegant Tern. One of the things I like about seabirds is their shapes, their "lines", and how graceful they can appear as they fly over our ocean.

 

 

 

Enjoy the Seabirds!

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Hitting the high seas of San Francisco?

Yellow-billed Loon in Half Moon Bay!

Yellow-billed Loon found at the start of our Aug 11, 2012 pelagic trip! Photo by Martijn Verdoes

Full list here: 2012 August 11 SF pelagic observations

Yes, most do not associate San Francisco and the high seas but that county has a huge amount of marine real estate that is not visited all that often. Our pelagic out of Pillar Point Harbor (Half Moon Bay) started in San Mateo County but was aiming towards Pioneer Canyon and the deep waters of “The City.” We did well. Inside the harbor there were three pairs of gorgeous Pigeon Guillemots, probably nesting there beside migrant Surfbird and Black Turnstone. Just outside of the break wall we found a pair of gorgeous breeding plumaged Marbled Murrelets which stayed for a little bit before flying off. Then we struck gold – a Yellow-billed Loon found with a Common Loon. First to utter the name Yellow-billed Loon was SF teen birder Logan Kahle. Thanks Logan for making us look twice!

Heading out towards the shelf we picked up Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets in pretty good numbers, a nice group of roosting Steller’s Sea Lions and then the first of many Ashy Storm-Petrels. The shearwaters started with Sooty as is typical, and there were some Pink-footed close to shore and more farther out, the first Buller’s Shearwaters were around as well. Numbers of Buller’s will climb as the season progresses, and when they peak is a good time to look for the relatively rare Flesh-footed Shearwater, so if you are looking for that one there is time yet this season. A highlight was a quick but close look of a Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel that came to look at the boat! Getting close to the shelf we found the first Black-footed Albatross and then we were made our destination – offshore in San Francisco! Our aim was to try and get to warm water over the Pioneer Canyon a deep water canyon that leads to an underwater mountain known as the Pioneer Seamount. We did not find warm water, but we definitely found warm-er water, although no strong edge between the cool and the warm, maybe next time. While we were out there Black-footed Albatross were around much of the time, along with Sabine’s Gull, Cassin’s Auklet, and a superb show of foraging Humpback Whales! They were diving in synchronized fashion, big ones, little ones, maybe 10 of them in total and you know its a good whale show when you can smell their breath and we did! Another highlight was in the deep water seeing a Leach’s Storm-Petrel a dang good one in San Francisco as they tend to stay waaaayyy out deep. This was a pale rumped classic Leach’s, not likely a “fancy” one from farther south. We had fantastic looks at full spooned Pomarine Jaegers, South Polar Skuas, Arctic Tern, Common Tern (an offshore bird in California), and eventually Laysan Albatross! We feel there were two of them actually as the first was boat shy, and the second was a boat friendly as you will see in the photos below. By this point we were heading back, with one Laysan in SF and one in SM counties, same as for the South Polar Skuas which we determined were two different birds based on photos. A final addition was a Tufted Puffin on the way back to port, icing on the pelagic cake. There were many Pacific White-sided Dolphins, a few Northern Right Whale Dolphins and a boat load of happy humans!! Another super boat trip out of Half Moon Bay. Our next is on Sat Aug 25 – click here for more details.

Sabine's Gull juvenile

Black-footed Albatross

Humpback Whale fluke

Sabine's Gull adult

Pomarine Jaeger adult

Common Tern

Skua and pink foot

South Polar Skua - the SF bird.

Laysan Albatross

Laysan and Black-footed albatrosses

 

 

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Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

I am looking forward to my first visit to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival this November! I have a daily walk, and workshops on local bird identification and “taxonomy for dummies.” I hope to see some of you there. For details of my schedule, visit the RGVB page: http://www.rgvbf.org/speaker/alvaro-jaramillo/

 

 

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Birds and Wine – Easter Island

The Birds and Wine Tour of 2012 was an amazing success, and a first. It was the first birding and wine tour in South America, and we did well, on birding, wine and food. I invite you to have a look at the trip, along with the Easter Island trip you can combine with.

The trip results for 2012 and itineraries for the March 2013 Chile-Argentina Birds & Wine, and the Easter Island Trip are available – see below.

Birds and Wine results: Chile – Argentina 2012 trip results

Tour details, itinerary and registration here.

Easter Island tour results: Easter Island 2012 trip results

Easter Island tour details, itinerary and registration here.

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Storm Petrel Name

chilensis Wilson's Storm-Petrel

A chilensis or "Fuegian" Storm Petrel, currently a subspecies of the Wilson's shows its classic pale underwing patch.

The taxonomy of the Wilson’s Storm-Petrel is in flux. Some have suggested that the Chilean – Patagonian breeding form (the Fuegian Storm-Petrel) should be separated as a good species even! Before considering that, the nomenclature had to be clarified as it was a mess. To some this may seem like arcane and silly, but in the context of taxonomy what name should be applied to a population is important stuff, and you can’t have a messy grey area where that is involved. In any case, I helped Ricardo Palma and New Zealand team to write a short note clarifying the name for the Fuegian Storm-Petrel (Oceanites oceanicus chilensis), which you can download from the link below. I admit that this is not riveting reading to some, but a useful clarification that will become more important if those considering that this is a good species are correct!

Oceanites Palma et al. 2012

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Chile and Argentina – Birds & Wine 2012 photos

 

Join me in 2013 – Birding and Wine – Chile and Argentina.

<p>Symbolic of the Andes is the Andean Condor. This tour is unique in so many ways, but one is that we cross the Andes and visit east and west slopes of the most rugged section of these amazing mountains. </p>

Andean Condor Chile-1

Symbolic of the Andes is the Andean Condor. This tour is unique in so many ways, but one is that we cross the Andes and visit east and west slopes of the most rugged section of these amazing mountains.

<p>The focus of the tour is birds, but you also get a &quot;minor&quot; in wine study. There is lots to learn, lots to experience and tons of goodies for your taste buds! </p>

Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza Argentina-1

The focus of the tour is birds, but you also get a "minor" in wine study. There is lots to learn, lots to experience and tons of goodies for your taste buds!

<p>Some iconic birds of the south are possible on this tour like this Magellanic Woodpecker female. </p>

Magellanic Woodpecker AJ

Some iconic birds of the south are possible on this tour like this Magellanic Woodpecker female.

<p>On the 2012 trip we enjoyed an amazing flock of frolicking Burrowing Parrots (I guess officially they are Parakeets now). These are of the bloxami subspecies endemic to Chile which show the whitish breast band. </p>

Burrowing Parrot

On the 2012 trip we enjoyed an amazing flock of frolicking Burrowing Parrots (I guess officially they are Parakeets now). These are of the bloxami subspecies endemic to Chile which show the whitish breast band.

<p>It's a team effort, Ricardo Matus a fantastic guy, and superb birder from Patagonia joins us as second guide. Jorge Osses, our long time driver pictured here is always a crowd favorite. Jorge is a gem! </p>

Jorge our driver

It's a team effort, Ricardo Matus a fantastic guy, and superb birder from Patagonia joins us as second guide. Jorge Osses, our long time driver pictured here is always a crowd favorite. Jorge is a gem!

<p>Oh my, all this for me? Villa Montes, Colchagua, Chile. </p>

Reserva Montes

Oh my, all this for me? Villa Montes, Colchagua, Chile.

<p>Carmenere, the signature grape of Chile. Malbec is Argentina's homologue. </p>

Grapes Chile

Carmenere, the signature grape of Chile. Malbec is Argentina's homologue.

<p>The wineries are varied in their age, style, and methodology used in wine making. This is Casa Silva, in the Colchagua Valley of Chile, one of the older and more elegant of the wineries. </p>

Elegant Vina Casa Silva Chile

The wineries are varied in their age, style, and methodology used in wine making. This is Casa Silva, in the Colchagua Valley of Chile, one of the older and more elegant of the wineries.

<p>Because of the latitude we visit, this trip has the possibility of a large number of Chilean and Argentine endemics! This is the Chilean specialty, the Dusky Tapaculo. </p>

Dusky Tapaculo endemic to Chile

Because of the latitude we visit, this trip has the possibility of a large number of Chilean and Argentine endemics! This is the Chilean specialty, the Dusky Tapaculo.

<p>Yes, you do not have to go to Antarctica to see penguins! These are Humboldt Penguins, one of the northernmost of all members of this family. </p>

Humboldt Penguins Cachagua Chile

Yes, you do not have to go to Antarctica to see penguins! These are Humboldt Penguins, one of the northernmost of all members of this family.

<p>Curiously the Black Skimmers in Chile have dark underwings, narrow trailing edges to wings and little white on the tail. This clarifies that they are of the subspecies cinarescens. What is amazing is that these breed in the Amazon, and in the non-breeding season they venture to Peru and Chile - where they cross the Andes is anyone's guess. No one has seen them do it! </p>

Amazon Black Skimmer Chile

Curiously the Black Skimmers in Chile have dark underwings, narrow trailing edges to wings and little white on the tail. This clarifies that they are of the subspecies cinarescens. What is amazing is that these breed in the Amazon, and in the non-breeding season they venture to Peru and Chile - where they cross the Andes is anyone's guess. No one has seen them do it!

<p>Gulls can be pretty, you just have to see an adult. </p>

Kelp Gull Chile

Gulls can be pretty, you just have to see an adult.

<p>One of the various species of albatross possible on the Chilean pelagic. This is a Salvin's Albatross, a species which breeds in New Zealand islands. </p>

Salvin's Albatross Chile

One of the various species of albatross possible on the Chilean pelagic. This is a Salvin's Albatross, a species which breeds in New Zealand islands.

<p>The &quot;Juan&quot; is an endemic breeder to Chile, it only breeds on Isla Selkirk or &quot;Masafuera&quot; island in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago. This time of year is a great time to find this species, we saw several in 2012. </p>

Juan Fernandez Petrel

The "Juan" is an endemic breeder to Chile, it only breeds on Isla Selkirk or "Masafuera" island in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago. This time of year is a great time to find this species, we saw several in 2012.

<p>Concha y Toro is one of the world's largest wineries! It's most commonly known wine is the Casillero del Diablo or &quot;Cellar of the Devil.&quot; We actually went to the cellar of the devil and heard the story of why it is called that. Want to find out? Well, then you will just have to head down there and hear it from the devil himself. </p>

Cellar of the Devil - Concha y Toro winery-1

Concha y Toro is one of the world's largest wineries! It's most commonly known wine is the Casillero del Diablo or "Cellar of the Devil." We actually went to the cellar of the devil and heard the story of why it is called that. Want to find out? Well, then you will just have to head down there and hear it from the devil himself.

<p>Aconcagua! The highest mountain in the Americas. It is an absolutely massive piece of rock. </p>

Aconcagua tallest mountain in the Americas-1

Aconcagua! The highest mountain in the Americas. It is an absolutely massive piece of rock.

<p>White-browed Ground-Tyrant, a flycatcher that is more comfortable on the ground than sallying up in the air for bugs. </p>

White-browed Ground-Tyrant Santiago Andes

White-browed Ground-Tyrant, a flycatcher that is more comfortable on the ground than sallying up in the air for bugs.

<p>The Argentine sector we visit is mainly desert, but with a rich and surprising avifauna. But part of the fun is how pretty the colors of the mountains and valleys are, it is like Utah or Northern Arizona at times. </p>

Uspallata Mendoza Argentina-1

The Argentine sector we visit is mainly desert, but with a rich and surprising avifauna. But part of the fun is how pretty the colors of the mountains and valleys are, it is like Utah or Northern Arizona at times.

<p>Santa Cruz, Chile. </p>

Vina Santa Cruz chile

Santa Cruz, Chile.

<p>Pamela was our knowledgeable Mendocina wine expert. It was a great change of pace to have the wine days mixed in with the birding, really a nice balance and in the end we felt that we saw more of the place, the culture, and understood each country better than if it had been a 100% birding trip. I look forward to our next version in 2013. </p>

Pamela our wine guide in Mendoza-1

Pamela was our knowledgeable Mendocina wine expert. It was a great change of pace to have the wine days mixed in with the birding, really a nice balance and in the end we felt that we saw more of the place, the culture, and understood each country better than if it had been a 100% birding trip. I look forward to our next version in 2013.

<p>One of the top wineries in Mendoza, Vina Cobos. </p>

Vina Cobos Mendoza Argentina-1

One of the top wineries in Mendoza, Vina Cobos.

<p>Red or white was asked many times on this trip, but not while birding. This time we had a choice of White Monjita or the red of Vermilion Flycatcher. </p>

White Monjita San Juan Argentina-1

Red or white was asked many times on this trip, but not while birding. This time we had a choice of White Monjita or the red of Vermilion Flycatcher.

<p>This is the really old stuff! Luckily most of its survived the quake of a few years ago. Casa Silva, Chile. </p>

Vina Casa Silva

This is the really old stuff! Luckily most of its survived the quake of a few years ago. Casa Silva, Chile.

<p>Fun!!! This is what it is all about. Chatting with friends, doing a little birding and some great food and vino to top it off. Life is good. </p>

Tasting at Casa Silva Chile

Fun!!! This is what it is all about. Chatting with friends, doing a little birding and some great food and vino to top it off. Life is good.

<p>Ricardo Matus at the aroma room of Belasco de Baquedano in Mendoza. </p>

Ricardo in Mendoza-1

Ricardo Matus at the aroma room of Belasco de Baquedano in Mendoza.

<p>Organic and tasty wine - Vina Matetic near the coast south of the Casablanca Valley. </p>

Vina Matetic Chile

Organic and tasty wine - Vina Matetic near the coast south of the Casablanca Valley.

<p>One of the many flycatchers of this tyrant rich trip, the Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant. Part flycatcher, part chickadee, part kinglet! </p>

Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant Mendoza Argentina-1

One of the many flycatchers of this tyrant rich trip, the Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant. Part flycatcher, part chickadee, part kinglet!

<p>The colorful hills and fresh snow on the mountains of Potrerillos, Argentina. </p>

Potrerillos Mendoza Argentina-1

The colorful hills and fresh snow on the mountains of Potrerillos, Argentina.

<p>We birded in the footsteps of Charles Darwin! Wow, can you believe that. </p>

Charles Darwin was here Mendoza Argentina-1

We birded in the footsteps of Charles Darwin! Wow, can you believe that.

<p>Ellen shows us that it is not all birds and wine, there is the food aspect too. This is not a cheese sandwich type of trip, we do it right! This is absolutely the best steak you will have in your life. </p>

Ellen with world's best steak-1

Ellen shows us that it is not all birds and wine, there is the food aspect too. This is not a cheese sandwich type of trip, we do it right! This is absolutely the best steak you will have in your life.

<p>The female Andean Condor who greeted us back into Chile towards the end of the tour. She was a beauty! </p>

Andean Condor close up-1

The female Andean Condor who greeted us back into Chile towards the end of the tour. She was a beauty!

<p>I hope to see you in March 2013. alvarosadventures.com and click on the tours tab!!!</p>

Alvaro at Montes

I hope to see you in March 2013. alvarosadventures.com and click on the tours tab!!!

 

 

 

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