A superb day with little wind, clear blue skies and moderate temperature. I started the day going to Perito Moreno Glacier, mainly for the glacier but also to for some good birding with a chance of a Magellanic Woodpecker. No Woodpecker today but along the approach road to the glacier the stand out bird was an Austral Pygmy Owl sat on top of an old pine tree. My luck with Owls is normally awful so I was pleased to turn this around today. The glacier was fantastic and I was lucky enough to witness a large 'wedge' of ice break off and thump the water below, creating a huge racket as it hit. At midday I hit the road north to El Chalten (getting amazing views of my first Andean Condors) bumping into a lovely flock of 19 Tawny-throated Dotterel, a much wanted bird for me. The drive north was very nice in the Patagonian wilderness. Now heading towards El Chalten, the peak of Mt Fitz Roy was obvious as it towered above everything else. Roughly 5km before the town I turned off and head for the shore of the lake below. I found the site I was after, a small reedbed by the lake that recently held a couple of Austral Rail. I played the recording and straight away an Austral Rail replied........game on!! After an hour I had heard the bird a few more times but still no sighting so I played a different approach and took off my shoes and socks and waded up to the reeds to get a better view in. A different call was played and the Rail was seen walking towards me. It then stopped in the open for maybe three seconds to allow a brilliant view until it crept away and was gone. Despite not the best field craft, I was over the moon to see this notoriously difficult and extremely rare bird so close. Pressure now off as the Estancia I'm staying at in a few days is the most reliable site, but with Steve failing to see one there last week, my confidence of seeing this bird had sunk. If things couldn't get any better, a Skunk was seen running across the road shortly after.
I arrived in El Chalten and found my accommodation (Nunataks b&b) and birded a couple of woodlands nearby, but with the sun behind the tallest peaks, the area was quiet.
Once dark, I headed to the nearby waterfall and heard a Rufous-legged Owl, and although distant and not viewable one bit, its good to know exactly where they are to try again tonight.
Highlights today are as follows:
Tawny-throated Dotterel - 19
Austral Pygmy Owl - 1
Grey-bellied Shrike-Tyrant - 1
Not as many species today, but the Austral Rail compensated this.
Austral Pygmy Owl
Andean Condor - nice to complete the set after seeing Californian in January
Perito Moreno Glacier
the road to El Chalten with Mt. Fitz Roy on the right hand side