The birds and wine of Chile and Argentina trip proceeded to move from the carmenere, cabernet and merlots (red wines) of inland Chile to coastal wineries specializing in sauvignon blanc and chardonnay (white wines). The birds were more familiar, including shorebirds such as willets, whimbrels and semipalmated plovers. However, the birds that caught our attention were new terns (snowy-crowned and South American) as well as different gulls (brown-hooded and gray gull) and masses of ducks, including Chiloe wigeon, yellow-billed pintail, silver teal and red shovelers. Not being a big white wine lover, I was glad to turn inland again and bid Chile goodbye and head to the east to Argentina.
The drive into Argentina was amazing. We motored higher and higher on a series of switch backs, known as caracols, to the top of the Chilean Andes. We were stunned by the view and I found myself taking a zillion photos of mountain tops and passes. On the Argentinian side, we stopped to gawk at Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Americas. Birding took second fiddle to landscapes until we came off the mountains and into the dry valleys peppered with wineries on all sides. We had arrived in the land of malbecs. Not only did we taste fabulous malbecs but we also discovered torrontes, which is a special Argentine wine. Oh yes, and the birds were definitely different and included a handsome white-fronted woodpecker, white monjitas (a type of flycatcher), Monte yellow-finch and the pretty little red-tailed comet hummingbird to name a few.
We were sad to leave Argentina when we headed towards the Andes for the trip back to Santiago, Chile, and our flight home. The trip over had been quite easy. However, the trip back was not to be. As our bus approached the toll/weigh-in station we saw a line of over 50 trucks on either side of the toll station. The road was completely blocked. We stopped and tried to determine what was going on. We took pictures and generally wandered around. Finally our guide found out about the cause of our delay. It seems that the Argentine government had decided, in a very arbitrary way, to double the truckers’ toll on the road between the town of Mendoza in Argentina and the border of Chile, and the truckers were objecting. We were stuck in our bus. Cars started going off the road and driving along the dirt shoulder to avoid the blockade. This infuriated the truckers, some of whom took wooden pallets and tires and started a fire to prevent the car traffic from diverting off the main blocked road. Near the end of the two hours that we had been sitting in our bus, a group of military men arrived. Shortly thereafter the roads opened up and we were off at long last.
Adventure traveling, whether it is for birds, botany, hiking, biking or whatever, is great fun. It is important to be flexible and go with the flow. We will remember the birds and wine of Argentina and Chile trip for four reasons: super birds, fine wine, superb food, (especially in Argentina), and the trucker’s strike.
Chris Carroll mentioned that he had a leucistic downy woodpecker at his feeders near Edgartown Great Pond all winter. This is yet another example of Vineyard leucistic species. Other partial albinos have included American robin, black-capped chickadee, blue jay and song sparrows. There probably have been others that I have forgotten, but the frequency of these leucistic birds may be the result of inbreeding on the Island, an interesting puzzle for someone to research.
The bird of the week was a rose-breasted grosbeak that Scott Stephens spotted on the Woodland Trail to Pilot Hill Farm on April 12.
Tim Johnson had fun photographing at Felix Neck on April 7. He had a nice photo of the Felix Neck pair of ospreys in the fog, and a tufted titmouse and black-capped chickadee at the feeders.
Chipping sparrows have arrived. Lanny McDowell spotted his first of the season at his Tashmoo home on April 7. Matt Pelikan heard a “chippy,” as we call this sparrow, near the Tashmoo overlook on April 11, and Flip and I watched a chipping sparrow being chased by a visiting white-throated sparrow at the Quenames feeder on April 13.
Pine warblers are showing up in several places on-Island. Matt Pelikan heard both pine and yellow-rumped warblers singing near the Wakeman Center off Lambert’s Cove on April 9.
Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens heard pine warblers, eastern bluebirds and brown creepers tuning up at the Phillips Preserve on April 12.
Tony Rezendes spotted two pine warblers in his West Tisbury yard on April 13, and Happy Spongberg had both pine warblers and white-throated sparrows in her Chilmark yard on the same day.
Liz Baldwin found her first of the season piping plover at Little Beach on April 9. The next day, Tom Hodgson photographed a very weary hermit thrush that had probably just arrived on-Island after a trip north.
On April 10, I spotted my first of the summer great egret in the Lobsterville marsh. I discovered that the pair of osprey were back on the Lobsterville pole, a belted kingfisher was hunting in the Herring Run at Aquinnah and tree swallows were flying over the West Tisbury Mill Pond.
On April 11, Kim Leonardo found that the great egret was still in the Lobsterville marsh. At the other end of the Island on April 12, Nat Woodruff spotted a great egret in the Sengekontacket marsh at the Bend in the Road, while Rob Culbert spotted a great egret in the big marsh at Felix Neck. Jeff Bernier found the same species at the end of Herring Creek at Katama Bay. Rob also heard an eastern phoebe singing near the Felix Neck duck pond.
Happy Spongberg believes she heard a Baltimore oriole near the West Tisbury dump on April 12. The same day Flip Harrington and I watched our first greater yellowlegs of the season hunting along Big Sandy on Tisbury Great Pond and we counted three tree swallows over the Chilmark Community Center later in the day. Jeff Bernier photographed a trio of common grackles at Katama on April 12.
Sioux Eagle has her hummingbird feeder up and filled. It seems that a couple of ruby-throated hummingbirds were spotted in Massachusetts on April 13, one in the southwestern section of the state and the other in the extreme northeast on the New Hampshire border. Maybe they will arrive on-Island after this spell of southerly blows.
Please report your bird sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.