This Eudyptes chrysocome was breeding on West Point Island in the Falkland Islands in 2014. Seeing the colony was fantastic – a great mix of Rockhopper Penguins and Black-browed Albatrosses.
Rockhopper taxonomy is tricky. Some scientist distinguish between three species while others see three subspecies. However, all of them are in decline.
Souther Rockhoppers are classified as vulnerable on the Red List. The main threat is the climate crisis because the penguins need cold waters and the oceans are heating up. On top of that, oil pollution and hydrocarbon is a threat (https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22735250/132664584#threats).
These Calonectris borealis were sailing alongside the freighter I was travelling on, somewhere off the Canary Islands. Threats to the species are mammals which have been introduced to their breeding islands, artificial lights which cause fledglings to steer off course and fishing because the birds end up as bycatch on long-lines.
Thank you to the people on birdforum.net who helped with the ID.
Wonderful! We had such calm seas and sunshine, it didn’t feel like the notorious Drake at all. The weather forecast, however, was not that brilliant, which is why we didn’t sail by Cape Horn. There is a poem by the Chilean writer Sara Vial (link to the Spanish original: http://www.caphorniers.cl/images/placa1.jpg). Here is the English translation by Princeton University (http://libweb5.princeton.edu/visual_materials/maps/websites/pacific/magellan-strait/cape-horn.html):
I am the albatross that waits for you
at the end of the world.
I am the forgotten souls of dead mariners
who passed Cape Horn
from all the oceans of the earth.
But they did not die
in the furious waves.
Today they sail on my wings
in the last crack
of Antarctic winds.
The German translation as on wikipedia (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kap_Hoorn#Literatur):
Ich bin der Albatros, der am Ende der Welt auf dich wartet.
Ich bin die vergessene Seele der toten Seeleute,
die zum Kap Hoorn segelten, von allen Meeren der Erde.
Aber sie sind nicht gestorben im Toben der Wellen,
denn jetzt fliegen sie auf meinen Schwingen für alle Zeit in die Ewigkeit,
wo am tiefsten Abgrund der antarktische Sturm heult.
We not only saw several species of albatrosses during the two-day trip, but also Cape Petrels, from below, sideways and above.
Giant Petrels came alongside, too. I might develop after all into a decent bird photographer, given time and practice with the right targets, somewhere south …
After leaving Carcass Island, Fram headed towards East Island overnight. For the map, please see here. She docked in Port Stanley, and we went on a bird watching excursion. A pleasingly small group of half a dozen passengers plus Expedition Team member John (his website is great) and two local guides, we set off in a minibus and were driven to the easternmost point of the island.Brian, one of the local guides. He was full of fascinating stories and a fountain of bird knowledge. View from Cape Pembroke towards Port Stanley. The area saw a lot of fighting during 1982. These Upland Geese are swimming in an old bomb crater. We saw plenty of bird life, so those pictures here are just some examples. This juvenile Rufous-chested Dotterel seemed completely unperturbed by the humans. The adult one was a bit more wary. I was fascinated by the Magellanic Snipe. They are extremely well camouflaged. If you look closely at the beak of this Turkey Vulture, you can make out a big opening. They hunt by using their sense of smell. I took this photo with a 250mm lens, so you can imagine how close the bird came! We also spotted some of the local plant life. The outstanding discovery was these two orchids. The top one is a Gaudichaud’s Orchid, the bottom one a Dog Orchid (no idea where that name comes from). All in all, a fabulous excursion. If you want to see more, you can go to my husband’s blog: http://chinese-poems.com/blog.
The beach and the bay invited with their picturesque scenery, but we had not come here for the landscape or to have a swim.
We had come here because of them – Gentoo Penguins. Some of them really live up the hills.
And others, in the company of Upland Geese, Kelp Geese and Magellanic Penguins, prefer the beach.
When a group of Magellanic Penguins really wants to go ahead, you better run. Even if you are a Gentoo Penguin.
Then, you can give yourself a good old scratch. In perfect balance.
Or you hop into the water and porpoise a bit.
On our way back from the colony at Devil’s Nose (see last post) the Sun came out and lit up the quite colourful landscape. The gorse was beautiful and home to some small singing birds.
I went for the bigger ones, however. This is also due to the fact that I was using a 200mm lens, while my husband used the 400mm one.
There were Caracaras on the ground.
And there were Turkey Vultures up in the air.
Families of Kelp Geese were looking for food on land, and we saw also flocks of Upland Geese swimming in the water.
Close to the water were also Oystercatchers, and in the water yet another highlight – Peale’s Dolphins.
The place is a popular with Magellanic Penguins. They dig burrows in the ground and use them for breeding.
It was an amazing first landing, and it exceeded all my expectations.
courtesy of Hurtigruten
We did three landings on the Falkland Islands: West Point, Carcass and Stanley.
I learned at ‘Fram University’ that the islands are geologically part of the Table Mountain Supergroup. Argentinian? British? Nonsense – they are African!
The very first impression was somewhat bleak, but we soon spotted a handful of porpoising Magellanic penguins close to the ship. Hurray to our first penguins!
Since the 200-odd passengers were divided into 8 boatgroups, we had to wait a little bit until our #3 was called.
We made it happily onto the shore near the island’s only settlement. There was an option of homemade cookies and tea, but whereas my hobbit stomach under normal circumstances would never decline such an offer, I wanted to see the cliff and the colony! And off we wandered, towards Devil’s Nose.
I was wondering a bit why those people there were stopping and their cameras clicking away … so I approached and found myself in a state of shock. Being eye-to-eye with a black-browed albatross with a wingspan of more than 2 meters makes you feel humble. And there were hundreds of them! And hundreds or possibly thousands of rockhopper penguins! I was utterly gobsmacked. All of them courtshipping, mating or brooding. And how did those little penguins get up this steep cliff? Well, they hop, and they can hop their own body height in one go. I am going to say a lot more about penguins in later posts. For now I was captivated by the albatrosses – seeing them has been a childhood dream.