TIERRA DEL FUEGO - Land of Fire & Ice
The setting for the southernmost city in the Western Hemisphere, Ushuaia, is beautiful lakes, forests, mountains and the swift, frigid waters of the Beagle Channel. Isla Grande, the island shared by Chile and Argentina, hosts Ushuaia, and Tierra del Fuego is not part of the continuous South American continent. For this reason and even more so the climate due to its position at 55º S, the bird and mammal diversity is low. At the same time, much of what is there is rare and local. The dense forests are made up of only six tree species, including three Nothofagus species. Look for the rare Bicolored Hawk, White-throated Caracara, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-throated Treerunner, Black-chinned Siskin and three very scarce species: White-bellied Seedsnipe, Gray-flanked Cinclodes and Yellow-bridled Finch.
A day on a boat in the Beagle Channel may be more productive in producing mammals. While the land is relatively mammal poor, the sea here is rich. It is unrealistic to think we'll see most of the marine mammals that occur here, but we will certainly see several. Look for the Long-finned Pilot Whale, Risso's, Peale's, and Hourglass Dolphins, Southern Right Whale, Spotted, and Burmeister's porpoises, Southern Bottle-nosed Whale, Hector's Beaked Whale, Strap-toothed Mesoplodon, Goose-beaked, Sperm, Minke, Sei, Fin and Humpback Whales. We'll also keep our eyes out for a number of penguins, which stray up to here from Antarctica from time to time.
Look for King and Gentoo Penguins and possibly other species along with the regular Magellenic Penguins. Other coastal and ocean birds we expect are Black-browed Albatross, the local Magellenic Diving-Petrel, Southern Giant-Petrel, King and Rock Cormorants, Blue-eyed Shag, Kelp Goose, Chilean Skua, and the rare Striated Caracara.
We recommend 4 days in the Tierra del Fuego region, but those with a greater interest in marine mammals may want an extra day on the channel.