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Tag Archives: Rockhopper Penguin
Beyond shag rocks
The past few days we have had a whirlwind of exploration with fantastic sailing along the north coast of the Falkland Islands accompanied by countless Commerson dolphins and a myriad of sea birds. We visited immense colonies of black browed albatross at west point island, watched the rockhoppers hop over the rocky cliffs and trekked through the rolling hills of the islands watching the diverse birdlife flutter though the tussock grass.
It’s always easy to forget how amazing the Falkland Islands is when en route to South Georgia (probably the most amazing place on earth), but when you arrive on the sandy beaches populated by throngs of Gentoo and magelanic penguins it is easy to spend hours in awe of this far flung land.
Now the Falkland’s lie in our wake, we have past the isolated rocky outcrop of shag rocks with its resident shags and seals, and the jagged snow-clad cliffs of South Georgia will greet me tomorrow when I wake. This thought provides excitement enough to fuel my dreams tonight … and the good news … then I awake the dream of spectacular wildlife and picture book scenery will be a reality!
We are currently at anchor off the north-west coast of the Falkland Islands. Peale’s dolphins accompanied us as we approached the islands and now we are swingling gently at anchor surrounded by the rolling green hills of the islands with albatross and the occasional seal swimming about. It is always easy to forget the beauty of the Falklands as we head towards South Georgia with its excess of wildlife, but once you arrive you are quickly reminded of the fact that 80% of the worlds black browed albatross nest here and that the white sandy beaches of Carcass and Saunders islands offer a unique and unforgettable experience all of their own. Tomorrow we will be walking among mixed colonies of albatross, rock-hopper penguins and shags and taking advantage of the home grown hospitality of the islanders. A great way to start a fantastic journey, and a huge itinerary ahead of us …can’t wait!
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.