Southern Beech


Nothofagus obliqua is the predominant tree here – like oaks or maples. It is called the southern beech but is not in the beech family. It’s leaves resemble a beech leaf hence the name. In spanish, the young trees are called coiyhue and the mature are called pellin (pay – yeen). A mature tree can reach up to 50 meters or 175 feet tall with a diameter of 2 meters or 6.5 feet. The wood is very hard and a reddish color and is used in construction. These deciduous trees have alternate leaves and separate male and female flowers. The flowers are inconspicuous and covered by green bracts.

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The owls in my woods

Just recently I noticed a new sound coming from the nighttime woods.

a persistent took, took, took

After doing some research, I discovered that it is the mating call of the austral pygmy owl, Glaucidium nanum, or chuncho in spanish. He only calls in August thru October and I wasn’t living here last year at the time so I thought he was a new inhabitant of the woods. I identified his call through a neat site called xeno-canto. Here is the link so you can hear his call. Click on the play arrow just to the left of the scientific name and you can listen the audio file.

He is small, only 17-21 cm or 6.5-8 inches. He has a large head with yellow eyes and is very shy and hard to spot. This picture by John Spooner was borrowed from Wikipedia and was taken at Torres del Paine National Park in the far south of Chile.Austral Pygmy-owl (Glaucidium nanum).jpg

He feeds on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects and is primarily nocturnal. He nests in holes in trees or earthen banks. The female lays 3-5 white eggs in the spring. Their range is from the Atacama desert in the north all the way to the far south Magellanic region of Chile. They live in forests and farmland.

The next inhabitant is the Rufous- legged Owl, Strix rufipes, or Concon in Spanish. Rufous means brown because of his cinnamon brown legs. His muffled croaking hoots can be quite alarming at night. We were terrified in our tents last summer wondering what was making this horrifying sound. Here is the xeno-canto link.

Here is a video from YouTube of a captive owl at a sanctuary.

This owl lives in forests only from Santiago south to Tierra del Fuego. He likes the closed canopies of the Nothofagus forests which are common in my area. He is nocturnal. He has a large round head with dark eyes, a bulky body, and short tail. He is a medium large owl from 13-15 in. or 34-38 cm.

This picture taken by Julian Tysoe and was borrowed from Wikipedia. He looks kind of sad. I am going to assume he was injured and is in a bird sanctuary 🙂

Rufous-legged owl.jpg

I love these old drawings. What is most notable about this picture is the large flat face and the round facial disks around the eyes. And look at those talons for catching small animals. They nest in October laying a small clutch of 2-3 eggs usually in tree holes. 

Wow! I am so excited to update my list of owls in my woods as I have heard the Magellanic Horned Owl from the depths of the woods behind my house. Smaller than the Great Horned Owl it is found from Peru south to Tierra del Fuego. It lives in the woods for roosting and nesting but needs open areas for hunting.

This awesome photo was borrowed with permission from

Cool edible fungus!


This is an edible ascomycete ( Cyttaria espinosae) or sac fungi native to south central Chile. It is a specific parasite on the Nothofagus obliqua tree otherwise known as a southern beech or Pellin/Coiyhue.(that will be another post)  The sac has the wide open cells so the wind can easily catch and spread the spores. It is consumed mainly by the Mapuche people here and they call it “lihuene” or “quidene”.  I fried some up with eggs for breakfast and found the taste not unpleasant. When harvesting it grows on the branch tips and when it ripens it falls to the ground and must be harvested quickly before it decomposes.


Chilean Swallows

One of my favorite birds! I have fond memories of swallows from childhood. Watching them nest in my grandparents barn and  their antics diving and wheeling through the air catching insects. This chilean cousin of the ones I knew growing up in Connecticut is just as entertaining.

These pictures are taken from with permission.

In Chile, these birds are migratory leaving the Los Lagos region in May and returning in September. I guess they head north to warmer climates in Brazil. They build nests of straw, feathers, and wool for warmth. Both parents incubate and feed the young. They are highly aerial acrobats foraging insects on the wing. It takes a lot of gnats to feed all those youngins’.

And they love to play! I have seen swallows take a little white feather and drop it in mid air and fly around and catch it often playing this game by themselves or with others. They have long pointed wings and are very streamlined. Chilean swallows have a white rump above the tail for easier identification.