Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ushuaia - Woodpecker Search

I was also able to spend a bit of time in Ushuaia away from the water. Before we headed south we went to a small park on the west side of the downtown area and found a large group of Black-chinned Siskins and some Rufous-collared Sparrows. The siskins were working over the dandelion seadheads.

I found one good spot with some dead stalks that proved to be a good perch for both species.

When I returned to Ushuaia from my first trip south, I had high hopes of getting out to Tierra Del Fuego National Park to get some walking in and look for the (for me) elusive Magellanic Woodpecker. Elise and I were finally able to get out of town a bit later in the morning than I had hoped via one of the numerous bus transport companies that go back and forth to the park. The place that was recommended to me to go for the best chance of finding woodpeckers was the trail along Lago Roca so that was where we headed. It turned out to be a very nice trail through a wonderful old Nothofagus (Southern Beech) forest.

Scattered throughout the forest were these ascocarp of the fungi Cyttaria darwinii.
I found the following text on this fungus here:
During the last 165 million years, South America was connected to the southern super continent known as Gondwanaland. As Gondwanaland began to break up, South America and Australia were bridged by Antarctica, providing a path for the dispersal of many organisms. Among these organisms were fungi in the genus Cyttaria, the "traveling fungi", and their host, Nothofagus, the Southern Hemisphere Beech. This round tree gall fungus has coevolved with its host into two distinct phylogenetic clades, or groupings, since their biogeographic isolation by the separation of the southern continents. Today, Cyttaria gunnii and Cyttaria septentrionalis are endemic to parts of Australasia, while other species within the same genus, such as Cyttaria darwinii, are only found in South America. Cyttaria has also traveled to England, but only with the help of Charles Darwin during his exploration of South America! --R. Holbert

It was great get out and walk without sinking up to my knees in snow and smell vegetation rather than processed krill. Walking through the forest was also quite a treat for me. I don't get to do that often anymore since the forests of eastern Montana aren't really much to walk through. The beech trees were talking to one another as the wind moved them around. There were many Ent voices as we moved slowly through the moss draped trees. We didn't see a lot of bird species because we were mostly walking through mature forest but what we did find was certainly not anything I get to see everyday and it was great.

White=throated Tree Runners were quite common at the Lago Roca campground along with the Patagonian Sierra Finches.

and Thorn-tailed Rayaditos.

Other bird species we found were Chimango Caracaras, Upland Geese, Austral Thrushes, White-crested Elaenias, and Southern House Wrens.

We found a couple of beautiful orchids as well.

The White Dog Orchid Codonorchis lessonii

And the Yellow Ground Orchid Gavilea lutea

We also found lots of sign for the fabled Magellanic Woodpecker. In the photo above you can see Elise examining a feeding cavity where the bird was extracting grubs from the old beech tree.
And then finally there it was.

Not really. This was as close as I got again. Woodpecker sign and a woodpecker sign.
After walking up the trail and back Elise and I caught our appointed bus back to Ushuaia without seeing a Magellanic Woodpecker. Of course, at one point on the trail we met another couple and they inquired what we were looking for. I told them that we were looking for the Magellanic Woodpecker to which they replied "You should be at the Lago Verde campground where we are staying - they wake us up each morning with their knocking on the trees."
And when I got back I found this trip report from Pete Morris at BirdQuest from earlier in November where they saw woodpeckers near Ushuaia before and after their Antarctic trip.

One of these days I will hopefully have the time to spend a couple of days in this wonderful area, not only to look for the woodpecker but also just to get out and see some of the gorgeous landscape and the creatures that inhabit this amazing portion of the world. One of my freinds from Glasgow, Woody Baxter, and a couple of his friends from Western Montana were in Patagonia this December as well. They were planning on driving and hiking throughout the area and I am curious to see how their trip turned out.

This is the last photo I had on my camera from Ushuaia before I headed back to winter. When I got home and drove to work the next day the thermometer told me it was twenty below zero. Oh to be back in balmy Antarctica!


Max said...

Great photos of birds and plants. A few years ago, we saw many of those birds in Los Alerces National Park, in addition to a Magellanic Woodpecker in a large beech grove. I hope your future searches are successful!

Beverly said...

Wow, your photographs are breathtaking! I appreciate your nuggests of info on such things as the tree gall fungus; I always learn something here. I didn't even know there WAS a Black-chinned Siskin or a Tree Runner, much less a White-throated one! They look something like our Nuthatches...I'll have to see if they're related.

Happy New Year, John...to you and yours!!!

Web Hosting Delhi said...

beautiful yellow flower and yellow bird.

Anonymous said...

You were very unlucky (or unseasonable ?) not to spot one. I caught three in fewer hours, though the snaps were shite.