Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Torres del Paine. Guanacos, Flamingos and Rheas.

Darwin's Rhea (Rhea pennata)

When we were in Atacama, admiring all the wildlife we had seen one day, a fellow tourist told us that we would have far better wildlife viewing opportunities in Patagonia.  Not only would there be more diversity but we could also get up closer.  So, for as much as I enjoyed seeing the animals in Atacama, I was really looking forward to seeing what Patagonia held for us.

We really enjoyed our trip out to the King Penguin preserve on Tierra del Fuego and even watching the Imperial cormorants roosting atop the old piers in Punta Arenas was an enjoyable experience.  But today's encounters, albeit it too short, with Chilean wildlife was the best experience so far.

It started on our way out of Torres del Paine National Park when we passed by two small herds of guanacos grazing.   The first herd was grazing so close to the road that Alex had to slow down as he approached them.  We all got out for a closer look at these lovely animals.







Leaving the guanacos behind, we made our way to Laguna Amarga which is were you actually get to see the three granite pillars that are the park is named after.  

Laguna Amarga and to the right of Monte Almirante Nieto are the three gray colored, granite pillars called Torres del Paine.

Yes, it was good to finally see the pillars but for me, the flamingos were more impressive :-)


These are Chilean flamingos (Phoenicopterus chilensis).  They have at least two distinctive features that make them very easy to identify.  The first are their gray legs with reddish pink knees and the second is that their beak is two toned - pinkish white on the top and black on the bottom.  To me, they are incredibly beautiful....far more so than the flamingos we saw in Atacama.

Although I was able to get fairly close to the birds, they were pretty skittish and quickly moved away so I had to approach them very slowly.




A few Flying Steamer ducks (Tachyeres patachonicus) were roosting on the ground, near the water's edge.  The birds are so named because they are the only species of steamer ducks that fly.


Just outside the boundaries of the park, we encountered animals we had not seen on this trip - a flock of Darwin's rheas (


Darwin's rheas live in areas of open scrub in the grasslands of Patagonia and on the Andean plateau (the Altiplano) in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.  Indeed they look like smaller versions of ostriches.




As we were watching the rheas, someone pointed out a bird standing by the fence.  I quickly snapped a photo as it was darting off.  Sadly my photo of a Crested caracara (Polybrus plancus) is a bit blurry.  It's a very unusual looking bird.  Too bad it was the only one.


On our way back, we stopped at a general store of sorts.  It was an opportunity for folks to get something to eat or drink as well as pick up souvenirs.  I was interested in neither and after a few minutes of being inside, decided I'd rather be outdoors. Walking outside, I noticed the sign indicating the Chilean border.  Gustavo pointed out that past the border crossing is Argentina.  I didn't realize just how close we were to Argentina.


It was very late in the afternoon by the time Alex and Gustavo dropped us back off at our apartment. On the ride back to town, I had checked my email and there was a message from denomades.com informing me of a change in our boat cruise itinerary for tomorrow.  Instead of us having to meet down at the wharf, we would be picked up by car.  Also, I had paid for a grilled Patagonian lamb lunch option but that was no longer being offered so I was refunded that portion of money.  It looked like we were doing the boat cruise but with a different outfit.  I guess we would find out.

Shortly after we arrived back at our apartment, there was a knock on the door.  It was Andrea.  She had brought over a man, representing the local tour company that organized our boat cruise.  He had the updated paperwork for me and before leaving us, reiterated that we would be picked up by car tomorrow morning and that we would not be having our lamb lunch which I had actually been looking forward to.  Oh well.  Bro and I will bring along some food as I don't want a repeat of today where we expected to be able to buy lunch but were not able to.

Bro's busy making dinner and I'm feeling a bit guilty about not helping out so I'm going to end this post and get to work.  


Goodnight from Puerto Natales!