Tuesday, 11 October 2022


I'm always trying different angles for new tours and this time have come up with something rather unique as we sail on a fully working cruise ship from Santiago, Chile around Cape Horn to Buenos Aires, Argentina.......... This gives us the advantage of utilising a luxury liner to navigate these southern oceans and the stability to use our scopes on deck to view the multitudes of albatrosses, skuas, shearwaters, petrels, prions and other seabirds that inhabit these bird-rich waters. 

Our home for 2 weeks - Sapphire Princess

Ok so it's not a dedicated expedition ship and this tour isn't for everyone but there are many plus points. I think if you do have a tendency for sea sickness and have been put off from doing some of those pelagics in the southern oceans until now, then the stability this ship provides could well be the answer. With a fully working cruise ship you also have numerous benefits of food and drink 24/7, swimming pool, cinema, casino, numerous bars & restaurants, and all this adds up to a very comfortable experience. 

Seabirds are a major feature with Black-browed Albatross,  Salvin's Albatross, Northern Royal Albatross, Antipodean (Wandering) Albatross, Snowy Wandering Albatross (photo above), Chatham Albatross (rare), Grey-headed Albatross,  Westland and White-chinned Petrels,  De Filippi's and Juan-Fernandez Petrels, Stejneger's Petrel,  Pincoya Storm-Petrel, Black-bellied Storm-Petrel, Southern Giant Petrel, Magellanic Diving-Petrel, Common Diving-Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Pink-footed Shearwater, the rare Subantarctic (Little) Shearwater, Chilean Skua, Slender-billed Prion, Southern Fulmar, Cape Petrel, and we can always hope for something mega such as Kerguelen Petrel, Cook's or Mottled Petrel, or even a Spectacled or Parkinson's Petrel.

In addition we have 7 shore excursions where we have made our own arrangements to try and find as many special birds as possible. The first stop at Puerto Montt will see us speeding off to Alerce Andino National Park for species such as Chilean Hawk, Green-backed Firecrown, Chilean (White-crested) Elaenia, the skulking Black-throated Huet-huet, Des Mur's Wiretail, Ochre-flanked, Chucao and Ochre-flanked Tapaculos, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-throated Treerunner and Patagonian Sierra-Finch.

The 2nd excursion is at Punta Arenas where we will be looking for Silver Teal, Red-gartered and White-winged Coots, Red Shoveler, Flying Steamer-Duck, Upland, Ashy-headed and hopefully the scarce Ruddy-headed Goose, Imperial and Rock Cormorants, South American Tern, South American Snipe, Lesser Rhea, Cinereous Harrier, Magellanic Oystercatcher & Correndera Pipit. One of the main targets of today’s outing is the odd-looking Magellanic Plover, and there’s also chances of Tawny-throated and Rufous-chested Dotterels, Two-banded Plover and Least Seedsnipe. Interesting passerines also occur here and we will look for specialties such as Common Miner, Austral Canastero, Austral Negrito, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Chocolate-vented Tyrant and the stunning Black-throated Finch. 

The 3rd excursion is at Ushuaia and we will head into Tierra Del Fuego National Park for the stunning Magellanic Woodpecker amidst some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable. There's also Kelp and Ashy-headed Goose, Great Grebe, Dolphin Gull, South American Tern, White-throated, Southern Crested and Chimango Caracara, Austral Pygmy-Owl, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, White-throated Treerunner, Black-chinned Siskin and Patagonian Sierra-Finch.

The 4th excursion is Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands where a dash across the moorland to Volunteer Point where up to 2,000 King Penguins (photo above) breed and this will surely provide one of the most memorable highlights of the tour. There is also a colony of Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins here to keep us entertained along with Imperial Cormorant, Snowy Sheathbill, Falkland Steamer-Duck, Two-banded Plover, Rufous-chested Dotterel, Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant, and hopefully White-bridled Finch.

The 5th excursion is at Puerto Madryn where we will be birding amidst the wild steppe landscape looking for Lesser Rhea, Elegant Crested-Tinamou (photo above), Common Miner, the endemic Patagonian Canastero, Lesser Shrike-Tyrant, Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail ,White-throated Cachalote, the endemic Rusty-backed Monjita, Patagonian Mockingbird and Short-billed Pipit can be found. We will also make a visit to a Southern Sea Lion colony which harbours our best chances of seeing a Snowy Sheathbill, whilst there are also Southern Elephant Seals along the shore, along with Imperial and Rock Cormorants, Blackish Oystercatcher, Cayenne Tern and others. 

The 6th shore excursion is at Montevideo will see us visiting several interesting wetlands for species such as Black-necked & Coscoroba Swans, Brazilian and Silver Teals, Chiloe Wigeon, Giant Wood-Rail, Plumbeous Rail, Rufous-sided Crake, Spot-flanked Gallinule, Red-gartered, Red-fronted and White-winged Coots, various shorebirds, Yellow-billed and Snowy-crowned Terns, Dark-billed Cuckoo, White and White-spotted Woodpeckers, Glittering-bellied Emerald, White-throated and Gilded Hummingbirds, Wren-like Rushbird, Sulphur-throated, Spix’s and Stripe- crowned Spinetails, Rufous-capped Antshrike, Sooty Tyrannulet, Bran colored Flycatcher, Spectacled Tyrant, Austral Negrito, Gray and White Monjita, White-rumped Swallow, Black-and-Rufous Warbling-Finch, Long-tailed Reed-Finch, Grassland Yellow-Finch, Great Pampa-Finch, Dark-throated and Rufous-rumped Seedeaters, Brown-and-Yellow Marshbird and Chalk-browed Mockingbird.

And the 7th and final excursion will be at the famous reserve of Costanera Sur in Buenos Aires which could give us some great species to round things off nicely. 

And there's a pre-tour extension in Chile and a post tour extension in Argentina, which will add to the interesting species mix.

For the full tour info and prices see: Cape Horn Cruise

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