Northern Chile and High Andes
by A. Bennett Hennessey
A great spot while visiting Bolivia, is the beautiful Lauca Park in bordering Chile. This park appears to be well protected with good numbers of typical High Andes species. The main road from La Paz to Arica, Chile travels through the centre of the park. Groups of the rare Lesser Rhea have been seen just at the border crossing, and this is the best spot near Bolivia to see the Diademied Sandpiper-Plover. Other birds around Arica, Putre and Lauca are White-throated Earthcreeper, Chilean Woodstar, Peruvian Sheartail, Slender-billed Finch, Peruvian Thick-knee, Golden-spotted Ground Dove, Bran-colored Flycatcher, 3 flamingoes, Puna Plover, White-tailed Shrike-tyrant, Blue and Yellow Tanager, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Golden-billed Saltator, Puna Tinamou, Ornate Tinamou, Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant, Peruvian Pygmy Owl, Tamarugo Conebill, Peruvian Diving-petrel, and Humboldt Penguin.
Logistics: Driving, one can take the highway from La Paz to Chile and Arica. This is a well used road with medium traffic levels for road side birdwatching. The border crossing is a bit tedious, requiring the Bolivian and Chilean paper work and Chile’s search for sausages. By bus, in theory one could get off just after crossing into Chile to camp (but beware of extreme cold at night). Another option is to take a bus to Arica, and from Arica rent a car to birdwatch up the road.
Another option would be to take a bus from La Paz to Putre. In the first large town entering Chile traveling to Arica, lives Barbara Knapton. Barbara, an American, has been living in Putre since 1993. She is a bird guide (but also conducts naturalist tours for plants) for small tours, like a day searching for birds around Lauca Parque (she has some Diademied Sandpiper-Plovers mapped out), to full tours covering a cross section of the northern Chile Andes with the main sections being sea, shore, transverse valleys, precordillera, and altiplano. Her tours can start in Arica, Iquique or Putre, 1 to 6 days. You can reach her through her web page www.birdingaltoandino.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Barbra also has a Bed & Breakfast in Putre, Casa Barbarita, with internet, and a naturalist library with many bird and plant books and extensive slide shows of birds.