Friday, December 1, 2017

Humedal Tres Puentes

A short walk, or an even shorter cab ride from where I am staying lies the humble urban wetland of Punta Arenas, Humedal Tres Puentes. Boasting an impressive array of species, I was quick to pay the wetland a visit on my arrival, and have since gone back for more. At first glance, the area appears tired and worn, fringed by ugly metal fencing, garbage littering the edge, and cars whizzing by disrupting any idea of peace and quiet. But on closer inspection, one starts to spot the numerous Upland Geese, some with chicks in tow, the hundreds of ducks poking about, and snipes displaying far up in the sky. Their whirring sounds rise above the sound of car engines as air rushes through their feathers signaling that they deem themselves masters of their domain.

This part of Chile does not have an abundance of songbirds, but the non-passerines (big birds) certainly fill the void. The sheldgeese are particularly striking. When one thinks of birding Chile, they come to mind. The common one, the Upland Goose, displays stark sexual dimorphism. The male, black and white catches the eye, but the female is equally as stunning. Among the flocks of Upland Geese, the odd Ashy-headed and Ruddy-headed Goose can be observed. The latter is endangered in Chile, and I was lucky enough to spot up to four individuals one day. In their shadows, Chiloe Wigeon, Crested Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail and Yellow Billed Teal dabble away. The odd Red Shoveler, and numerous White-tufted Grebes vie for attention, while Flying Steamer Ducks steam across the open water, their silly looking chicks diving away. Not to be ignored, coots stake their presence at Tres Puentes. Chile has a surprising diversity of coots, and while they are at the bottom of the list in terms of my favorite birds (you've seen one, you've seen them all), I did take time to enjoy the many nesting Red-gartered Coots, black downy young bobbing behind, and the odd White-winged Coot.

 Upland Goose

Upland Geese

Crested Duck

Red-gartered Coot

While viewing some of these bird through a fence can be a pain, it did provide nice perching places for Correndera Pipits, Chimango Caracara, and even allowed me a close approach to a Short-eared Owl! The abundance of large, ground-nesting birds can be attributed in large part to the fence. The fencing is set in place to prevent disturbance of nesting birds, an effort by the local ornithological/environmental group to keep out stray dogs and people.

Correndera Pipit

Short-eared Owl taken through my binoculars.

Each time I go, I see new things, though they number fewer and fewer each time. However, it provides me with a great location to practice my nascent photography skills. Rather, my nascent digiscoping skills. I recently bought a case for my cellphone that has an adapter that fits the eye-piece of my scope. By slipping it on, I can take photos with my phone through my scope. While unwieldy, and not the best, I am able to capture the odd bird.

I have already become attached to the place where Black-faced Ibis snack on invertebrates with their long curved bills, and Magellanic Oysterctachers, with their colourful bills and wide-eyes, prance around in the grass. Chilean Swallows, with their white rumps, remain active even in the hollowing wind and the occasional blowing snow. Their North American cousin, the Barn Swallow, seems almost as much at ease, though if they wanted snow, they could have stayed in Canada instead of migrating all the way to southern Chile.

 Magellanic Oystercatchers
Chilean Swallow

 Barn Swallow

Black-faced Ibis

I usually try and add a bit of humor to my posts, but I think my digiscoping is killing my wit. You can now just look at pictures instead of having to read my rambling words. At least I know a few of my friends will welcome the change!

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