Sunday, January 14, 2007

Miami to Santiago Chile

I managed to get a window seat at the last minute and even better, I wound up in the two seat row with no other passenger so I had the row to myself. It didn’t really matter that much though. A 6’1” frame with some weight on it trying to sleep in two spaces designed for people much smaller just doesn’t work - no matter how much you contort yourself to try to avoid the metal ridge between the seats while the person in front of you has laid his seat back as far as it will go. I had pillows and blankets and a neck pillow and a jacket all strategically placed to no avail. I wasn’t able to sleep one bit.
I arrived in summer at 0700 this morning and it is taking me a bit to adjust from -14 degree weather and white, to 80 degrees and green with flowers. Immigration and customs were uneventful and I was able to practice my Spanish a bit with a very nice taxi driver on the way to the hotel. Once a year just doesn’t help me get more fluent but at least I can have a bit of a conversation. The first bird for Chile this morning was a white heron or egret but I couldn’t get a better ID when looking down on the birds out the window of the plane while landing. Upon landing and during our taxi to the get to the gate, my first identifiable bird was a Chimango Caracara, the ubiquitous bird of prey that probably fills a niche here similar to one the American Crow fills in North America. At least it was an actual Chilean bird, not the Rock Pigeon the I observed next. On the drive to the hotel I observed many more Rock Pigeons as well as a number of Southern Lapwings in the fields near the airport.
Upon checking in, I was able to play one of the three bears a bit and found someone had been sleeping in my room. A quick trip to the desk and I was able to get a clean room. After a quick unpack of essentials, I melted into the bed and was out for the next five hours.
After waking up I was able to find a few Eared Doves and Austral Thrushes flying around the grounds of the hotel.

This evening I took a walk at a nearby park and amidst a large number of Chileanos enjoying a wonderful Sunday afternoon. I found a number of birds including a Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, a Plain-mantled Tit Spinetail (that one is always hard to tell your non-birding friends that you are looking at - it sounds like one of those goofy made up bird names), Chilean Swallow, Chilean Mockingbird, Common Diuca-finch (feeding a pair of fledgling Shiny Cowbirds), Monk Parakeets, Rufus-collared Sparrows, and a pair of Southern Lapwings. Here is a photo of the plantcutter. They are interesting birds with a song that sounds like a fishing reel on a good run. They are an herbivore and one of the smallest herbivore birds in the world. They have teeth-like structures on their bill and tongue to mascerate the leaves they eat and break down the cell walls prior to entering the digestive system.

5 comments:

Montana OAE said...

I'm glad that you got a window seat, however, I generally like aisle seats. And even being shorter, I don't get much sleep on planes either. Plus there's so much going on - like trying to sleep at a hospital (only worse of course). Did you get another phrase book? What were the first words you said in Spanish?

John Carlson said...

I can't remember the first words of Spanish I uttered this trip. Probably "Vino tino por favor" on the plane!

Susan Hult said...

Ewww, gross about the slept-in bed.

What a fantastic picture of the bird!

rosy-finch said...

Have you ever seen White-winged Diuca-finch? I'm reviewing a paper about them nesting at 5200 m in Peru on the glacier ice of the Quelccaya Ice Cap

rosy-finch said...

Have you ever seen White-winged Diuca-finch? I'm reviewing a paper about them nesting at 5200 m in Peru on glacier ice of the Quelccaya Ice Cap.