Thursday, November 29, 2007

Birds of Montana

A while back I mentioned that I had some exciting news concerning Montana birds and a project I am working on. I can now let you know that the project is a book on the Birds of Montana. Jeff Marks, senior author of the project, invited Paul Hendricks, Dan Casey and myself to co-author this work he has been trying to get underway for a while. We are currently seeking funds to help support research and writing time, pay for illustrations and travel to museums and libraries, and defray printing costs to reduce the retail price of the book. All royalties from book sales will go to Montana Audubon.
In addition to soliciting foundations, businesses, and government agencies, we are requesting support from individuals who have an interest in birds and conservation in Montana. One way individuals can participate is through sponsorship of species accounts. Individuals can sponsor one or more accounts, with the sponsor's name appearing at the end of each account and in the acknowledgments (see Barn Owl and Mountain Plover accounts). The donation amount for sponsoring an account ranges from $100-300, depending on the conservation status of the species. The rate for agencies and corporations is $1,000 per species independent of conservation priority. Donations are fully tax deductible.
I am really excited to be part of this project and I am looking forward to letting you know more about it as it grows.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales

Chimango Caracara

After a couple of days in Santiago we flew to Punta Arenas in southern Chile. We arrived on a typically windy afternoon and met our local guide, Maritza and our driver Sergio. After claiming our luggage we boarded our little bus and headed north to Puerto Natales. There were many spring ponds along the road with lots of waterfowl including Yellow-billed Pintails, Chiloe Wigeon, and Speckled Teal. There were also more ponds with Chilean Flamingos than I had observed before. It is always a bit of a strange sight to see flamingos in a pond that could easily be somewhere between Miles City and Jordan in eastern Montana.
Chilean Flamingo

Male Upland Goose

There were many Lesser Rheas along the road, with Chimango and Southern Caracaras and an occasional Long-tailed Meadowlark. Upland Geese were omnipresent and many flocks of Black-faced (I prefer Buff-necked) Ibis were scattered along the way.

Southern Caracara

Southern Lapwing

We arrived at Puerto Natales just about dark and had a great meal with the usual great Chilean wine at our hotel.

Black-faced Ibis

Capercaillie vs. Golden Eagle

Check out this video. It features two Capercaillie fully engrossed in a confrontation when a Golden Eagle intrudes.
I was able to get this link to work earlier but I am now having problems. Keep trying if you are having problems too - it is worth it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Santiago, Chile

My travels began in Santiago early on November 3rd. I arrived a day before the guests spent the day recovering from the full day worth of airplanes and airports, and then did a bit of birding in a park near the Hyatt where I was staying. The Hyatt is a very nice place and I generally feel very out of place when I arrive from the plains of eastern Montana into the upper strata of class conscious Chilean society. Some of my feelings are probably also brought on by being by myself and the initial shock of speaking Spanish again after a year or so.

Santiago looking east from my room. The park I bird in is located in the lower left corner of the photo.

Inside the Hyatt looking up.

The grounds of the Santiago Hyatt.

So I go birding in the park. This park is located just to the east of the hotel and is a good introduction to a number of central Chilean birds.

Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail
Rufous-collared Sparrow
Rufous-tailed Plantcutter - This species, which I wrote about earlier this year, appears to be very common the past couple of years. I remember when I first started birding in Chile, about 15 years ago, I had a hard time finding this species.
Tufted Tit-Tyrant

Chilean Mockingbird
Common Diuca-Finch
Monk Parakeet

Sad Antarctic News

I recieved news this morning that the Explorer, the little red ship that was instrumental in the begining of Antarctic tourism, has sunk in the South Shetland Islands. I spent a little time onboard this ship one of the times it visited Palmer Station many years ago. Many of my friends spent a lot of time on this ship. It was built in 1969 by Lars Erik Lindblad specifically for expediton cruising and was the first passenger vessel to venture south of the Antarctic Circle. There was a lot of history in that ship and to hear of her demise is sad news indeed. Apparently many of the passengers were rescued by the Endeavour, the ship I just got off of, but were then transfered to a larger passenger vessel in the area. More news here and here.

Added at 1152: Roger Tory Peterson was a good friend of Lars Erik and was a frequent lecturer on the Explorer. In his book Penguins, Peterson commented that the Explorer "although it has all the comforts of a small luxury liner... it is really a floating seminarwhere the passengers attend daily lectures on seabirds, whatle, seals, marine biology, icebergs, and Antarctic exploration." He also credits the Explorer for the important role it played in our knowledge of the distribution of birdlife in the Southern Ocean.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Home Again, Home Again...

Some of you may have guessed from the occasional photos posted here during my sabbatical and for those of you with blogs, an increase in traffic from Chile and wherever the connection onboard the ship shows up (probably not Antarctica), that I was on another venture south. I spent another great three weeks in Torres Del Paine National Park in southern Chile and then in Antarctic waters along the Antarctic peninsula. More stories and photos to follow soon when I get adjusted to the shortened daylight and life at home.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Photo Blog II

Southern Fulmar
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross
Pintado or Cape Petrel

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Photo Blog 1

Austral Parakeet
Austral Thrush
Mourning Sierra-Finch
Torres Del Paine at sunrise

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Hello all,
Prairie Ice will be on sabatical for the next couple of weeks. Lots to do and I thought I should let you know what is going on. See you soon.