<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Falkland Islands


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Falkland Islands


New Island

[From the 'Ultimate Antartica logbook by Jo van Os] At 0530 a wake-up call summoned us for breakfast at 0600 followed by an early landing on New Island in the West Falkland Islands. The day started out foggy and dull but brightened into a blue-sky day with swiftly moving clouds. Our landing was on a small sandy beach. We then walked up a steep slope to a track that led us past Magellanic penguins and their burrows, grazing upland geese, and several small birds feeding on the ground. Dark-faced ground tyrants posed briefly on old fence posts, Falkland thrushes bustled in the grasses and ferns. Turkey vultures and striated caracaras flew over our heads, inspecting our presence for any potential food our walking might stir up.

The black-browed albatross colony could be first smelled and then heard long before the many hundreds of birds were seen. The albatrosses were preening and incubating their one white egg. Intermixed were rockhopper penguins warming their two eggs and a smattering of imperial shags—all variously exhibiting the behavior of birds at the beginning of their breeding season. No chicks had hatched, but there was plenty of bonding behavior, and defense of nest territories from neighbors and aerial predators like caracaras, skuas and gulls. Some were still actively mating, while others turned eggs as shags with beaks full of nest material flew into the colony. The nesting cliffs, hundreds of feet above the sea, are both steep and impressive angular shelves with birds nesting on the top levels. Rockhoppers climb these cliffs on a daily basis—they surf in on the swells and then climb to the safety of the upper levels in amongst the other seabirds. Up the hill from this noisy, smelly mix of birds there was a busy gentoo penguin colony, again with birds on eggs, their attendant predators, and each pile of stone nest site defended just outside pecking distance from the neighbors.

We returned to the beach where Monika, fortunately, had been busy repositioning some of our bags as the tide rose. Last Zodiac was at 1200 and during lunch we sailed for three hours through the “Woolly Gut” between West Point Island and West Falkland to Carcass Island.





Carcass Island

After leaving New Island, we sailed for three hours through the “Woolly Gut” between West Point Island and West Falkland to Carcass Island.

Carcass Island is named after a ship, HMS Carcass, which surveyed the island in 1766. Our landing was on a shallow sandy beach among rocky reefs with a large mix of birds to photograph. So much to see and shoot—so hard to choose what to look at next! Sitting still and waiting for wildlife to come to you was rewarded by tussock birds (blackish cinclodes) inspecting our boots, and the squadron of striated caracaras flying past and positioning themselves strategically for a quick grab at anything and everything interesting! Kelp geese, two types of oystercatchers, the rather beautiful Patagonian crested ducks, and the ubiquitous upland geese rewarded us with a multitude of memorable images.

Many were tempted by the sumptuous array of cakes along with coffee and tea offered by our hosts, Rob and Lorraine McGill. We were invited inside their home to talk with them about the bucolic (and isolated) life they lead on this remote outpost.





Saunders Island

Our landing the next morning was on the Neck of Saunders Island, which lies only about 10 miles northeast of Carcass Island. It is one of the most northwestern islands of the Falkland Island archipelago. The island is owned by David Pole-Evans and his family who farm it with the local Corriedale-cross sheep, a Merino type famed for its good fleece and ability to cope with the poor grazing afforded by the Falkland grasses. The Neck is a narrow stretch of coast, technically a tombolo, composed of two opposing beaches of white sand joining the upland areas of Saunders Island. There is a small hut above the beach, fabricated out of a shipping container with extensions, which is popular for holiday “lets” (that’s rentals in Americanese). By the time the first Zodiacs were landing on the southwest beach of The Neck, the rain was making things quite unpleasant. most participants headed over the rise to the broad sandy beach where thundering waves could be heard in the distance. Needless to say, the few king penguins and the five brown woolly chicks proved a hit with some photographers. [Including me, as I failed to relaize we would be encountering hundreds of thousands of king penguins in days to come.] Everyone was getting soaked in the rain and started drifting back to the landing site. [The humidity caused my 7D camera to lock-up, despite it being sheltered from direct rain in a cover. Subsequent warming with a hair dryer and a few days in our warm cabin subsequently effected a complete cure]. Eventually the decision to abort the landing was made and we returned to the ship for lunch. With little evidence of a change in the conditions, the ship hauled anchor and we headed westward in a wide arc to avoid reefs and then eastward bound for South Georgia.




 







updated 12/26/2013

IanParker
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University of California,
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