Overview of Our Birds and Wines of Chile and Argentina Trip

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Karen and I were participants on a Field Guides organized birding trip titled, “Birds and Wines of Chile and Argentina”.  In this first post about the trip I will provide an overview of where we went and the activities we participated in.  I’ll begin by saying this was unlike any birding trip I’ve ever been on!

We left the U.S. on February 2, 2024 and arrived in Santiago, Chile after an overnight flight.  After 14 days we departed Santiago for our overnight flight back to the U.S. on February 16th.  Our first three days we birded around the Santiago area, going up into the Andes Mountains to search for some rare birds.  We then drove over the Andes Mountains to Argentina, where we birded for the next eight days.  To save travel time, on Day 11 of our trip we flew from Mendoza, AR to Santiago, CL and drove to the Pacific Coast town of Vina del Mar.  We birded along the coast two more days before heading home.  To give you an idea of where we were, the map below shows Chile (along the west coast) and Argentina with my home state Illinois superimposed on it – the blue circle encloses the area we birded in.  As you can see, even though we were there for two weeks, we covered a relatively small portion of these two large countries.


Our Field Guides guide was Marcello Padua, a Brazilian native who has led this and several other “bird and wine” trips many times.  Not only was Marcello an expert birder, he was also a wine and food connoisseur.


Let’s start with our primary focus of the trip, birds.  During our two weeks there we saw 205 species of birds, of which 160 were lifers.  I came home with 4,539 pictures from the trip (I probably deleted another 500 from my camera as we were driving around).  Speaking broadly, the birds we saw there were not colorful.  In fact there were a lot of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) that tended to blend together as I tried to ID them.  We were introduced to many new families of birds that were LBJs, including Miners, Canasteros, and Cinclodes.  The reason many of the birds we saw were not very colorful was due to the terrain and habitats we visited; we were not in the tropics but in more arid/temperate regions.  The Andes Mountains contain mostly jagged brownish rocks.  The Mendoza plateau we birded while in Argentina reminded me of the arid scrublands of Texas – again a dull brownish color.  Colorful birds would not be able to blend in easily there, while LBJs did blend in.  That’s not to say we didn’t see some beautiful birds – we did and I’ll be sharing pics of them in future posts.

As I said in the beginning, this trip was unlike any I’ve taken in the past.  My first international birding trip was to Thailand and it was (almost) grueling: up before dawn, bird all day with a picnic lunch in a park, bird until after dusk, have dinner, and perhaps go out looking for owls in the evening.  This trip was more leisurely: breakfast after sunrise, bird for 3-5 hours, stop at a high-end winery with restaurant for lunch and enjoy a 2-3 hour meal, bird or travel some in the afternoon, and then have a very nice dinner around 8 PM.  Not every day was like that but the majority of our days included an excellent meal paired with 3-5 wines.  I know some birders would have been driven crazy by the pace, as they would prefer to bird from dawn to dusk.  Don’t sign up for this trip if that’s you!  On the other hand if you enjoy seeing birds, eating great-tasting meals and trying a variety of exceptional local wines, this trip is for you!  I’ll share more in the future, but for now here are a couple pics from our wining and dining experiences.

Here’s the group with our guide Marcello at the top left, Karen and I are nearest the camera; it was taken at the Santa Rita Winery in Chile.  As you can see there were already two wine glasses at each place setting.  More came with each course of the meal.


Here was my dessert, which was a thin sugar cookie wrapped in a spiral, topped with vanilla ice cream, and sitting on a bed of caramel sauce.  Paired with a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.  Mmmmmm.


At the end of our lunch we piled up all the wine glasses in front of Marcello and fellow passenger Joe (who was a great guy).  I think Marcello was expecting another glass of wine (no, he did not do any driving).


So that’s an introduction to our Birds and Wines of Chile and Argentina trip – more to come!


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