What a way to start the New Year! This morning we pulled into the North West islands of the Falkland group and got ashore to wander amidst the fantastic avifauna of the Falklands set amidst rolling green hill and intense aqua blue water that is crystal clear and inviting despite being just a tad to cool for a swim. The first stop was a pretty spectacular location – Saunders Island. Here we see Gentoo Penguins with well-grown chicks nesting on grass with Striated Caracaras and Turkey Vultures prowling around looking for a free meal. Kind of strange seeing the penguins on a green backdrop after a month of seeing them on the clean white blanket of Antarctic snow … well clean except for the deposits of pink guano. After a while looking at the Gentoos we were then free to roam around the shore amidst the Magellanic Penguin burrows towards the cliffs where the Rockhopper Penguins have staked their territory just next door the Black-browed Albatross nests. The Falklands is the largest and most important breeding site for both these species, with the albatross in particular representing 80% of the global population. Just stunning to watch these majestic animals glide in and then greet their mate and chick with delicate mutual preening displays and calls. And that was just the morning! In the evening we landed at Carcass Island and managed to stretch our legs while walking through the tussock grass to the local homestead where we were plied with home cooked cake and tea in the best English tradition. All up we saw 28 species of birds including two endemic species, the Cobb’s Wren and the Falkland Steamer Duck which are both found no where else on the Earth and former are becoming hard to find even here due to the introduced rats, cats and mice that make an easy meal of these incredibly trusting creatures. My favourite bird for the day is the Tussock Bird, which is happy to sit on your toes and twitter at you … no wonder the cats have a liking for them! And talking of twittering… after the silence of the Antarctic it is pretty special to hear the song of birds flitting around the trees on New Years. Very sweet music to greet 2011.
AnimalsAdelie Penguin Antarctic Fur Seal Arctic fox Black Browed Albatross Cape Petrel Chimpanzee Chinstrap Penguin Cod Crabeater Seal Eider Duck Elephant Seal Gannet Gentoo Penguin Giant Petrel Green Monkey Guillemot Harbour Seal hippopotamus Humpback Whale King Penguin Kittiwake Krill Leopard Seal Light Manteled Sootie Albatross Loggerhead turtle Long-finned Pilot Whale Magellanic Penguin Minke Whale Northern Fulmar Orca Peale’s dolphins Polar bear Pteropod Puffin Razorbill Reindeer Rockhopper Penguin Short-beaked common dolphin Skua Striated Caracara Turkey Vulture Tussock Bird Wandering Albatross Weddell Seal Wilsons Storm Petrel