Showing posts with label Birding Argentina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birding Argentina. Show all posts

6 July 2018

"Atlantic Odyssey 2018" - Part 2 Exploring South Georgia

South Georgia

King Penguin - Aptenodytes patagonicus

We arrived at South Georgia after four full days at sea. 

This 170km-long island of spectacular mountains and bays was named and claimed for King George III by Captain James Cook when he landed in 1775.

Captain Cook was soon followed by whaling and sealing ships, and the early 19th century was a bad period for South Georgia wildlife, with both fur seals and penguins easily caught. It is estimated that by 1825 over 1.2 million Antarctic Fur Seals had been killed for their skins.

By the early 20th century the number of King Penguins had been reduced to only a few hundred individuals. Fortunately, the penguin population has recovered somewhat, and there are now 60,000 pairs of King Penguins near Salisbury Plain, where we landed on the morning of April 2nd, 2018.

King Penguins - Aptenodytes patagonicus

King Penguins - Aptenodytes patagonicus

A breezy four degrees Centigrade....

The conservation regulations dictate that visitors should not approach the penguins to within 10 metres, but if visitors stay still, the fearless penguins will walk right up to them. 

Jemi took the 360 camera (seen here on a stick) ashore.

Curious penguins

There were parading penguins all across the plain.

King Penguins - Aptenodytes patagonicus

King Penguins - Aptenodytes patagonicus

King Penguin - Aptenodytes patagonicus

King Penguin - Aptenodytes patagonicus

In the afternoon, we had a landing and a Zodiac Cruise around Prion Island, where Wandering and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses breed, as well as Gentoo Penguins.

Prion Island, South Georgia

South Georgia Pipit - Anthus antarcticus

South Georgia Pintail - Anas (g) georgica

There were good numbers of South Georgia Pipits, too - a sign that a rat-eradication programme is having an effect.

The biggest King Penguin spectacle (120,000 pairs) is at St. Andrews Bay on South Georgia, and on April 3rd we arrived at dawn in clear weather. 

St Andrews Bay, South Georgia

More of the same ?  No, again the penguin spectacle was completely absorbing... 

King Penguins - Aptenodytes patagonicus
 
King Penguins - Aptenodytes patagonicus

King Penguins - Aptenodytes patagonicus

Elephant Seals - Mirounga leonina


The afternoon was spent at the former whaling station of Grytviken. Apart from the ruins, there is a museum, Post Office and Gift Shop.





Between 1904 and 1965 over 175,000 whales were “processed” at Grytviken.   The whaling business ceased only when there were no longer enough whales in the area to be caught profitably.  

Now, half a century later, the whale and seal populations are recovering slowly, but their populations are still a fraction of the numbers that existed around South Georgia before before humans arrived.

View from the graveyard, Grytviken

Wreck of a Whaling ship, Grytviken

Grytviken is also the starting and finishing point of Sir Ernest Shackleton's most famous expedition to Antarctica in 1914-16. He also died there in 1921. 

On a third and last morning at South Georgia we had high winds but clear skies. 


Plancius sailed slowly up Drygalski Fjord. (named after Professor Erich Von Drygalski, of the 1903-5 German Antarctic Expedition).

Chinstraps at Coopers Bay

Giant Petrel melee, Drygalski Fjord

South Georgia Shag, Drygalski Fjord

Terminal Glacier, Drygalski Fjord

South Georgia Diving-Petrel - Pelecanoides georgicus

Added 18 Aug 2018 from a comment by Johannes Fischer: - "That diving petrel is a Common Diving Petrel of the exsul subspecies. This subspecies can show the tramlines and the paler ear coverts, but the distribution of blue on the lower mandible as well as the bill shape gives this species away. Cheers!"


Clear but windy conditions were enjoyed all day, and a late afternoon Zodiac Cruise gave us plenty of photo opportunities.  

Macaroni Penguin - Eudyptes chysolophus

Antarctic Fur Seals - Arctocephalus gazella

South Georgia Pipit - Anthus antarcticus

Phil and Glenn


Antarctic Fur Seal - Arctocephalus gazella


Brief views were had of a Leopard Seal, in wait, perhaps for returning Chinstraps...

Leopard Seal
Chinstrap Penguins, Coopers Bay

South Georgia had a final surprise, in the shape of a Southern Right Whale that we stopped to look at as dusk was falling.

Southern Right Whale

Southern Right Whale


So that was South Georgia.  We started in the west and ended near the east of the island, then began our journey northeast, towards Gough Island, five days away. 

(I realise this is the most "broad brush" of impressions; - Steve Smith has done a more detailed account on his blog here.)


23 June 2018

Ushuaia, southern Argentina

23rd to 28th March 2018

Having booked the “Atlantic Odyssey 2018” voyage we returned to Ushuaia again.


Hotel Tolkeyen, where we stayed

Chilean Skuas - Stercorarius chilensis



One of the faster catamarans


"El Che" seafront office



We had opted for a slower, smaller boat;- “El Che” - with a view to photographing Magellanic Diving-Petrels, but saw none.  Instead there were plenty of other things to admire. 


Imperial Shag - Phalacrocorax atriceps

Imperial Shag - Phalacrocorax atriceps

South American Terns - Sterna hirundinacea

South American Tern - Sterna hirundinacea
South American Sea Lion

Humpback Whale fluke - too close !

Tour boat near Les Eclaireurs lighthouse

South American Sea Lion

Magellanic Penguin (juv) - Spheniscus magellanicus

Southern Giant-Petrel - Macronectes giganteus
Chilean Skua - Stercorarius chilensis

Black-browed Albatross - Thalassarche melanophris

Southern Fulmar - Fulmarus glacialoides

Blackish Cinclodes - Cinclodes antarcticus

We had a couple of hours at Ushuaia’s rubbish dump east of town, where White-throated Caracaras topped our list of sought-after birds. This is an easy trip by taxi or hired car. 



White-throated Caracara - Phalcoboenus albogularis

Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle - Geranoaetus melanoleucus

Southern Caracara - Caracara plancus

Our excursion to Garibaldi Pass for White-bellied Seedsnipe was unsuccessful, despite Steve Smith’s thorough directions. 


Seedsnipe habitat....
An afternoon in Tierra Del Fuego National Park was memorable for clear weather and stunning scenery, as well as some good birds.

Tierra Del Fuego National Park

View across Beagle channel from the NP

Flightless Steamer Ducks - Tachyeres pteneres

Grey-flanked Cinclodes - Cinclodes oustaleti


Magellanic Woodpecker - Campephilus magellanicus

Magellanic Woodpecker - Campephilus magellanicus




A well-spent few days to get over our jet lag, and to ready ourselves for boarding the ship.