Today I decided to do some quick and loose sketches of Chilean wildlife from my trip. Sketching in watercolour is great fun: it loosens up the wrists and allows you to create a quick impression of what it is your painting.
There were several amazing wildlife spots that we stumbled upon. Of course, if you know anything about South America, you’ll know its biodiversity is…well, diverse. And Chile is no exception. As you travel from North to South, the climate and even the season changes, so it’s no wonder there’s such variety. Who knew you could have guanacos, parrots and penguins all in one country?
The first sketch is from Punta Arenas (mentioned in my previous post). Upon arrival in this truly charming place, we had a re-fueling breakfast, having got perhaps only one hours’ sleep in 24, then decided to wander around the very chilly town. Punta Arenas surprisingly turned out to be the best place for souvenirs, and we came across a wonderful shop (I forgot the name) and found some really unique Southern items, not your usual kitsch souvenirs at all.
After that, it was time to watch England get mowed down by Croatia. I really thought, with the slimmest of hope, that football really was coming home. But no, instead the only thing coming home was me in 12 days time. It’s amazing that even on the wrong side of the world and the wrong hemisphere, you can still be calmed by the same creature comforts of a good meal and a beer.
Anyway, back to the sketch. We headed to the coast, and there it was! The gargantuan Pacific Ocean stretched out ahead of us in all its blue-grey glory. The beach looked as thought the weather had not been kind to it, but today the sea was calm. Off in the distance on a jetty, I got my first glimpse of wild seabirds in Chile. There were black cormorants resting with their heads curled under their wings, fat seagulls and…something that looked like a penguin? I hoped beyond hope, even though it wasn’t their breeding season so the resident penguins were far out to sea. Investigating when I got some, I discovered it was in fact an imperial cormorant.
I haven’t included guanacos in my sketches, even though I started painting one in the Torres del Paine. Too obvious. No, though the guanacos were amazing to see when they photo-bombed us on arrival at the park, or chased our car along the side of the road, it was the birds I was most fascinated in.
The second night of our stay in the park we left our cosy lodge to discover that the surrounding walkway and lawn had been taken over by all manner of birds. The quaintly named cowbird, which looks more like a fat crow than a cow, a strange rail type bird with a long curved bill, and countless sierra finches that were hopping around in the grass. What surprised me most was how little these birds were bothered by our presence. I’ve found such small birds in Malta and Europe to be extremely skittish and nervous, but these guys weren’t going anywhere. One little fellow, an austral thrush, was feeling particularly brave and sat on the fence chirping at us, not quite willing to give up his claim to the territory.
In my next post, I’ll introduce you to the city’s resident animals: its dogs.
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