Wandering Cort #3 - Tierra del Fuego National Park and Ushuaia

The Los Nires Hotel included a typical European breakfast buffet with eggs, bacon, fruit, pastries, and cereal.  Lynn and I met for breakfast at 7:30 because our bird guide was scheduled for 8AM.  We made sandwiches from ingredients on the buffet for our lunch in the field.  Tierra del Fuego National Park has a nice café with a variety of sandwiches.  Marcelo got what he called a hamburger.  It looked similar to an American hamburger with two buns and a beef patty, but it also had a slice of ham.  The Argentineans must have taken the name, ham-burger, literally.

Lynn & I went birding today with local guide, Marcelo.  Spent the day in Tierra del Fuego National Park. Saw 38 species of birds.  Steve was jetlagged and does not care about birds, so he slept in.

Started birding from Hotel Los Nires.  Drove 12 miles to TDF NP.  Scenery not impressive.  Would not travel to the end of the earth to see this park. 

Every bird was a life bird, so birding was spectacular. Had 10 new species on my own before breakfast.  It was difficult to identify them because there are complete families of birds here that I do not recognize.  I did get one right that I was proud of.  I saw a bright red bird that looked like a Meadowlark.  Turned out it was a Long Tailed Meadowlark.

My highlight was Magellanic Woodpeckers.  We found a male, then a female, and another male flew in.  They are huge birds.  The male had a striking red head and spectacular red crest.  The female had a small red patch and a curly top notch like a quail.

This trip was the first big test of my right knee, since I tore my MCL back in June.  I just finished my last physical therapy session a week before the trip.  Up to this point, I had only hiked on easy terrain and skipped all of the early season skiing.

My knee survived treacherous trails in the park.  Roots everywhere reaching out to trip me.  Slippery rocks, muddy trails, downed logs, and steep terrain.  I never slipped or felt any knee pain.  Actually the toughest part for my knee was getting in and out of our guide's tiny vehicle.

Marcelo was an excellent bird guide.  He knew right where to look for the target species.  He brought along a bird song player and a scope, just like the bird guides in the US.  Being in the correct location and playing the sounds proved critical to finding the incredible Magellanic Woodpecker and the rare Tufted Tit Tyrant.  We birded from roads or well established trails most of the time.  However, twice Marcelo veered off the trail to a secret location to find birds.  The first time we walked up a gully and found a Magellanic Owl (Great Horned Owl).  The second cross country hike brought us to beautiful wooden bird blind.  The blind overlooked a lake, with unusual birds floating a few feet away.  Marcelo had a key and let us in.

Several of the species looked familiar.  When I asked Marcelo what they were, invariably there name would be the common name that I was familiar with, plus a regional identifier in front, such as Austral, Magellanic, Southern, or Patagonian.  Examples were Magellanic Great Horned Owl, Southern Crested Caracara, and Austral Blackbird. 

I saw some people rafting and kayaking a river in the park with a commercial tour group.  It looked like an interesting way to explore the park, although the temps were just above freezing, so drysuits would be mandatory.

After cleaning up from birding, Lynn took Steve & me to her favorite restaurant in the world, Kaupe.  It is perched high on a hill with spectacular views of the city, bay, and mountains beyond.  The food was excellent.  For dessert they claimed to have the best Crème Brule in the world.  I do not like custards and puddings, so I did not touch the stuff.  My wife, Tonya, is a Crème Brule connoisseur, so she should have been here to provide her professional opinion.