The island of Chiloe, in the south of the country, is an extraordinary place, with a highly-diverse forest, great variety of birds, and a mellow, friendly atmosphere. It was our favorite place; I'd gladly go back there for more seafood, hiking, birdwatching, and exploring.
Chaura was one of dozens of native forest species there. It's a Gaultheria, so it's closely related to wintergreen (procumbens) and salal (shallon). I got fascinated by the beautiful galls on many of the chaura bushes, so here's my page about them.
For some photos of Chiloe (and the other parts of our trip) go to the following URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46117111@N05/sets/72157623005731457
One of the pleasures of going somewhere altogether new is seeing so many new birds. Even "ordinary" birds–the ones that everyone there is numbly familiar with, the ones analogous to crows or robins or mallards here–have an exotic appeal. Six days of enforced beach leisure, surrounded by all these "new" birds gave me plenty of opportunity to observe their habits and sketch them. Of the birds on this page, Franklin's gulls, neotropic cormorants, American oystercatchers, and whimbrels make their way to latitudes where I've seen them. The rest were brand-new to me…
And I'll put in a plug here for Jaramillo's terrific book Birds of Chile. Great illustrations, well-written, easy to use.
Here are a couple of plants we found on a walk. Because they grew in close proximity to roads and buildings, I assumed they must be introduced. But after researching them a bit, I'm now thinking they might be more native than I had thought. There are many native Alstroemerias in Chile (although apparently most are winter-blooming), and the legume shrub looks like it could be in the Prosopis genus, which is native… in any case, I was intrigued by that odd, bright red flag on the seed. Cheryl wondered if it was a bird-attractor.
We just returned from a 3-week trip to Chile, so I'll post the results here over the next couple of days. The first is a page from Playa Blanca, a little resort beach south of La Serena. It was a lovely spot, great for lazing around, exploring desert and coast, and sketching. Our condo unit was just above the boulder beach in the foreground here, so we were soothed by the roar of the surf day and night. At dawn, whimbrels and oystercatchers piped their calls into the wind.