Tuesday, December 18, 2012

At home at the end of the world

It is always a treat when things in one's life come full circle.  About 10 years ago I travelled out of the United States for the first time with a group of students from the UNCW Honors Scholars Program (now Honors College).  Dr. Kate Bruce and Dr. Mark Galizio took approximately 14 college students on a life-changing trip to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador; I was so fortunate to be one of the students on that trip.  I am sure my parents remember that phone call, all of these years later, of me saying excitedly, “Hi! I need a check so I can go to the Galapagos Islands. Now!” And perhaps they will recall their response of, “Who is this?” [Which continues to be their response when I call to ask for monetary donations to this day.]

It was in large part because of Kate, Mark, and that trip that I was bitten (or rather stricken) by the travel bug.  And as most of you know, I do love to travel...and am willing to go quite a distance to see the most beautiful places on Earth.  To that end, I have been sharing my adventures in Antarctica over the past two years with Kate and Mark every chance I get.  Both avid birders and world travelers, I have always felt that they just HAD to come to Antarctica.  Well, apparently I was just convincing enough—I am so excited that they will be travelling to the Antarctic aboard the Ioffe with me this year!  In fact, we will set sail later this afternoon!

Andean sparrow, all poofed up while preening
Yesterday I met up with Kate, Mark, and their daughter Annie for a birding adventure in the Tierra del Fuego National Park.  I had been to the park two years ago, on my first trip to the Antarctic and was really keen to return.  Most of this desire stemming from the fact that the Magellanic Woodpecker evaded me last time and I really wanted to see this bird!  I knew Kate and Mark would enjoy the hunt as well.  So with binoculars, cameras, and spotting scope in hand, we took off through the woods to track down this bird.  After checking off a fair number of common species in this area (and Mark threatening all Andean sparrows with extinction should they continue to trick us into thinking they were something cooler) we heard a single, loud KNOCK.  Any one who has ever hiked with a birder (my apologies to you as you likely thought you were actually going on a “hike”) knows that moment in which we stop, dead in our tracks, turning our heads just so to wait for that next sound to key in on where that bird might be.  This also involves “shushing” of the rest of the hiking party; after all, you might scare the bird.  And here we stood for a few minutes, waiting for any hint as to where this bird might be, for there was no mistaking this knock, it could only be from a very large woodpecker, THE woodpecker that has haunted my dreams. Eventually the bird moved and we followed its flight path ultimately getting a fantastic view of the Magellanic Woodpecker.  We watched it preening for about 10 minutes before it took off.  Fist bumps were passed around and we continued on, walking along various trails in the park to see as many species as we could.

Female Upland goose and goslings 
Male Upland Goose

It was so wonderful to be out birding with Kate, Mark, and Annie.  It felt like I was home, yet we were hiking at the end of the world.  For the first time in the 10 years that I have know them, I get to be the local expert and show them what I consider to be the most beautiful place in the world.  Full circle indeed.

It is now time to board the Ioffe and set sail for the Antarctic Peninsula.  I will post about our trip when I get to Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands on December 29!

Our bird list from Tierra del Fuego National Park:

South American Tern
Black Neck Swan
Rock Cormorant
Chilean Skua
Kelp Gull
Black-faced Ibis
Upland Goose
Flying Steamer Duck
Crested Duck
Chimango Caracara
Black Chested Buzzard Eagle
Magellanic Woodpecker (woo hoo!)
Sharp-tailed Rayadito
Chilean Swallow
Southern House Wren
Ground Tyrant
Dark-bellied Cincloides
Austral Negrito
White-crested Elaenia
Tufted Tit Tyrant
Hooded Siskin
Black-chinned Siskin (Female, yellow morph)
Patagonian Sierra Finch
Austral Thrush

1 comment:

  1. I would like to say that your wonderful account of coming full circle with Kate and Mark to hunt for the Megellanic Woodpecker in Tierra del Fuego National Park is JUST LIKE BEING THERE...BUT IT ISN'T!!!
    I'm STILL envious, but delighted to read all the accounts and resigned to travel vicariously. Bon voyage! --Bill