Tuesday 11 February 2020

The Sandpiper-Plover: Shorebirding in the High Andes.

Starting backwards on reporting on my 16 day trip  Southern Ocean cruise, here are some snaps from the end of the adventure. 

With somewhat vague directions embedded on  Richard Crossley's cell phone we were not exactly sure  where to look for the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover after we left Santiago, Chile. We drove up and up and up into the clear blue dawn sky, on roads sometimes carved into steep mountainsides where avalanche warnings were prevalent. There were lots of interesting birds in the arid scrub. Wish I could find the Guide to Birds of Chile  that Holly Hogan lent me to look them up, as the  memory of some of the birds are getting vague, but most I photographed for identification later. The road eventually ran out and you are forced to look for the hint of a track across vast gravel flats and a meandering river which was just passable with a car.

Yah - it took some time and effort on foot at 12,000+ ft elevation without finding our target. Time was not on our side. We had to give up.  On the drive out of the valley we looked back on where we had just been and realize there was a green patch in the arid landscape that we had not noticed.  That had to be the location. We turned around for one last shot. But there were no sandpiper-plovers in this last green spot either. We were out of time and options. With airports on out minds we turned the car around but saw a van load of birders with their scopes out looking at something in the drainage stream from the hot springs. It was a Wings Inc birding tour. They were on a Diademed Sandpiper-Plover at the very spot we had driven through in the car!! Our limited knowledge of the species told us to expect this bizarre species in the green oasis caused by springs pouring out of the mountain sides. Ah -such are the bonuses of local help.

The habitat. Lush green patches of green are an oasis among the vast gray arid scenes of the Chilean Andes.  This what the Diademed Sandpiper-Plover nests in. 

The first view. At first we though there was just one bird but in fact it was a family group of two adults and two chicks.

The ugly duckling of shorebird chicks, this precious chick ensures the continuation of the species.

Among shorebird clan, the Diademed Sandpiper- Plover is a unique bird.

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