Skua taxonomy is a wee bit confusing, but I think this is a Stercorarius antarcticus which I saw on King George Island on my trip to Antarctica a few years ago.
Skuas seem to have amazing cognitive abilities. Like crows and pigeons, they can recognize individual humans (doi: 10.1007/s10071-016-0970-9).
I saw this Larus dominicanus on my trip to Antarctica. The species is threatened by marine oil spills and suffers mortality from interactions with trawler warp cables (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22694329/0).
The taxonomy of Phalacrocorax atriceps is apparently very complicated. Much easier to say is that this one was quite happily settled between Adelié and Gentoo penguins, and getting on with breeding on Petermann Island in Antarctica.
It was a bit foggy in the Lemaire Channel. Navigating through this narrow piece of geography in between the Antarctic Peninsula and Booth Island, trying to evade the icebergs can’t have been easy, in the past or now.
The weather conditions successfully prevented big landscape pictures, but there was enough to discover close to the ship. Penguins tracks covered several of the ice floes.
The penguins themselves porpoised through the water. Or, when the fog lifted somewhat, we could see small colonies and the highways in between them. The ice floes were also good places to spot seals. This is a Weddell seal, I unfortunately missed the Leopard seal. Need to go again!
The ice itself was always worth a second look. Sometimes, it was possible to see the underwater-bit.
When we left the Channel, the weather cleared and we were also reminded that we were not completely bereft of other humans.
We had been cruising somewhere between the Antarctic Peninsula and Wiencke Island, when we hit ice. Its peculiar shape has led to its name, pancake ice. There was no continuous ice surface, just small floes and slush in between.
The ship had also been built to deal with exactly this kind of condition. Every now and then we could hear a loud, low-pitch bang – must have been biggisher pieces of ice.
So we spent time on deck, watching the ice, when someone pointed out a penguin swimming close to the ship. This was in itself quite rare, they tend to swim away. Then I took a picture of the penguin and won the bird jackpot of the trip. An Emperor, completely out of place. Their colonies are in other places on the continent. Birders pay tens of thousands of dollars to see them. I was the only one lucky enough to take a photo, and shared that on the Fram’s blog: http://mvfram.blogspot.com.ar/2014/12/a-busy-day-at-cuverville-and-almirante.html.
There was, however, a lot more to be seen, also some wildlife. Wilson’s Storm Petrels kept swooping by. On some bergs, penguins had settled down for a ride (look right). Blue ice could be seen more often. Further afield, big icebergs loomed, and sometimes you couldn’t really tell the difference between them and islands. Glaciers were everywhere. What I found, again, most fascinating were the sections of calm water, where the mountains and the ice mirrored in the sea. Can you find the ship in both photos?
Dear Reader, we’ve made it to 64°53′43″S 62°52′15″W, welcome in Antarctica proper, continental, at Brown Station (wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Station). The station is manned only during summer. Otherwise, it belongs to Gentoo penguins, Snowy Sheathbills, Kelp Gulls and Blue-eyed Shags.
And to tourists, who slide down the hill. The view of the surrounding glaciers is magnificent. I loved the calm water and the mirror images.
It’s always good to know where you are in the world.
Here, we also came a bit more into contact with Blue-eyed shags, which were breeding perched precariously on the cliff side.
As ever, if you don’t know what to do, go and fetch a pebble. And since I have now ‘ticked’ five continents, I can think about the missing ones – North America and Australia & Oceania!