Patagonian Chile Travel Diary - p 4 of 4

16 January 2008
Our last full day in the field.  We drive to Puerto Natales, which is located along Fiordo Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Fjord).  Its shores teem with colorful waterfowl and shorebirds.
    My favorites are Black-necked Swans, who glide over the wind-churned water in pairs or loose groups.  Their deep red caruncle, found on both males and females, is a perfect complement to black and white plumage. 










Every day we've seen Southern Lapwings, found throughout Chile, Argentina, and southern Brazil.  The equivalent of our Killdeer in behavior and ecological niche, they are as quarrelsome as the ibises.  Maybe it's the constant windstorm that puts them in a bad mood.











Like Chilean cuisine, the ducks here are nothing to write home about.  But the Southern Wigeon (most birds here have either Southern or Austral before their name) is quite common and photogenic enough, at least in sun.









In late afternoon, we find a pair of swans with young chicks.  As we stop for photos, they become alarmed and swim further out.  The chicks scramble up Mama's wings and ride on her back, snug and warm.   After a while Mama rises up and opens her wings, dumping her offspring back into the water.  But they clearly prefer to be on Mama.  Is she giving them a swan lecture about self-reliance?  Eventually she relents and once again they climb onto her back as the family moves to safety.
    Patagonia has enough wildlife and scenery to keep any nature photographer busy.  But we never made it to the Falklands, so this trip will always be remembered as a glass half-empty.  Sometimes in our travel, there is no room for error.


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