I have always had a hankering to visit Chile with its majestic mountains, deserts, distinctive fauna and flora captured in the longest and thinnest country in South America. To indulge my life long interest in birds and nature in the raw I signed up for this inaugural pioneering holiday, wife included, of course.
My interest in bird watching has never reached “twitcher” proportions nor do I classify myself as a “birder” with running lists of birds seen with when and where. I’m a “casual observer”; if they are there when I’m there then it would be rude not to at least acknowledge their presence by observing them and trying to identify what type of bird they are.
We arrived, after a long haul flight, in Santiago and were met by our Chilean guide Claudio Vidal, our Rambler’s guide Barry Trevis and his wife Lyn, and our fellow travellers. Our first stop was at a quaint, eccentric hotel resembling something from a Walt Disney film production and that was where it first appeared, the LBJ. It was brown, fast moving, beautifully vocal and elusively fleeting. Some saw it and described it to Claudio; he twitched and then put a name to it. That was a funny reaction, I thought. Why the twitch? Once we all had been assigned our rooms and had lunch off we went to see what we could see. Condors graced the skies, Sierra-finches festooned the bushes, meadowlark, austral thrushes and blackbirds picked amongst the sward, tufted tit-tyrants – “TTTs”, austral negritos and doves were all identified.
The LBJ appeared again the next day with a slightly different song and in a different habitat and setting. The question was asked and the answer given by our local guide, Claudio, with a slight resigned air, declaring it to be that LBJ again. Time and again in the following days I made the same call convinced that this time it was a new bird for the group to be told by Claudio “Nope it’s the LBJ” as he smiled and looked at me quizzically.
A change of approach was needed and so I took to photographing the new bird first, magnifying the image on the camera display masking my frustration as each time it appeared in full view; that damn omnipresent LBJ. So beware those of you who would like to venture to Chile in the very capable hands of Claudio Vidal that the elusive, multitalented passerine that will vex you the most is the…
Rufus Collared Sparrow