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New England Seabirds

 Wilson's Storm-petrel Dave Jones

Trip Reports

Chapter 1 Intro

Chapter 2 Drake Passage

Chapter 3 South Georgia

Chapter 4  Falklands

A. So Georgia Bird List

B.  Costs, Leaders


 

Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands

January 15 - February 2, 1999

Trip Report by Emmalee Tarry

Chapter 4 Scotia Sea to the Falkland Islands

 

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Wandering Albatross

Wandering Albatross

Chapter 4 Scotia Sea to the Falkland Islands

January 29 - 30 Scotia Sea In Route to the Falkland Islands

The next two days were some of the best pelagic birding of the trip as we sailed west along the Antarctic Convergence toward the Falkland Islands. Several Wandering Albatross, Black-browed Albatross were with us constantly. Greater Shearwaters and Soft-plumaged Petrels made frequent appearaces. There were also,Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Sooty Shearwaters and one final Gray-headed Albatross. There was one Albatross with an orange bill, black to the front of the wings and no black on the tail which meets the description of a Royal Albatross. The bird did not follow the boat, but flew close and then headed away. One of the Explorer's naturalists pronounced it 96% sure Royal. Royal Albatross do not follow boats. I will count this as Royal Albatross. Wandering and Royal Albatross show a white back

Black-browed Albatross Adult Wandering with Blue Paint Wandering Albatross

Left a Black-browed Albatross makes a close pass by the boat.. To the right a juvenile Wandering Albatross. The center bird, a mature Wandering Albatross with a blue paint strip on the breast, followed the boat for some time. On return, I made an inquiry on the internet and learned that the BAS (British Antarctica Survey) on Bird Island in South Georgia mark birds after they have been ringed and measured so as to not have to disturb the bird again. As we approached the Falklands we had Gray-backed Storm-Petrel, the chocolate brown morph of the Southern Giant Petrel and Hourglass Dolphin


We watched a documentary video on the Falklands war and another on The decline of female Wandering Albatross due to long line fishing. According to this film, female Wandering Albatross when they disburse to feed go north towards South Africa where they become entangled in fishing lines 100 km long. The males tend to go south to feed and escape the boats. I do hope we don't lose this remarkable bird.

January 31 - Falkland Islands Sea Lion Island, Bleaker Island

The Falklands are low, grassy islands with a few rock outcroppings. Our first zodiac landing was on Sea Lion Island. There is a nice lodge here and one member of the tour disembarked to spend several days.

On the beach we became acquainted with the Blackish Cincloides a small ovenbird that works the seaweed on the beach. It is not afraid of people and will walk right under your feet. We also saw House Wren, Black-throated Finch, Flightless Steamer Duck, Upland Goose, Kelp Goose, Dolphin Gull, Brown Skua, Common Snipe and Ruddy-necked Goose. The lodge has an enclosed sun porch where they offered free cookies and sold postcards. You had to take your shoes off to enter the lodge to use the restrooms. Our visit here was much too short and I wished I had stayed another day at least.


In the afternoon we made a zodiac stop on Bleaker Island. Here we made a long walk 2.5 miles across a pasture to see a colony of Rock Hopper Penguins. It was well worth the long walk to see the funny little birds make tremendous leaps from one rock to another. There were also Magellanic Penguins. On the walk we saw Turkey Vulture, Two-banded Plover and a sand piper tentatively identified as a White-rumped Sandpiper. On the left a Rock-hopper Penguin and to the right a Magellanic Penguin by his burrow.

Rock-hopped Penguis


Rockhopper Penguin

Magellanic Penguis


Magellanic Penguin

February 1 Stanley in the Falkland Islands to Santiago Chile

This very long day began with our last breakfast aboard the Little Red Ship. We packed up and disembarked the ship about 8 AM. Buses took us to a small hotel in Stanley for the morning. We passed plastic greenhouses where they grow vegetables hydroponically. It was raining, but warm. The bus then took us to the museum in Stanley which has exhibits of antiques and some displays related to the 1982 war when Argentina invaded the Falklands only to be driven out by the British. We walked back to the hotel.

Houses in the Falklands all have greenhouses or sunrooms attached. One house had three. In the middle of summer there were very nice flowers in all the yards. Only one house had a vegetable garden. There is a monument to those who died in the 1982 war. Cars are small and have 4 wheel drive. We did not see many people on the streets, but all greeted us with a friendly "Good Morning."

It was high tide in the harbor so we didn't see many birds. Dolphin Gull, Rock Shag, Turkey Vulture, House Sparrow, Striated Heron, Southern Giant Petrel, Upland Goose, Falkland Steamer Duck.

About 10 AM we boarded the buses for the long ride (35miles) across the island to the Mount Pleasant Airfield. There was an excellent tour guide on the bus whose narration I have summarized here.

The only product of the Falklands is wool from sheep grazed on the native grasses. They average one sheep per five acres. Recently the market for wool has dropped drastically and it is no longer profitable. (Polar Fleece is my best guess.) They also produce mutton for consumption by Falkland Islanders. Because they do not have a proper slaughter house they cannot sell milk or mutton to the British Garrison or to the visiting tour ships.

They have plans to build an abattoir just outside Stanley for this purpose. Their problem is that there is not enough labor to build anything in a reasonable amount of time. Rather than import labor from outside, they will just build it very slowly. Maybe that is why we didn't see many people in Stanley, they are all employed.

Stanley has a population of about 1000. The economy of the Falklands depends upon the income the government receives from the fishing rights to the surrounding waters. The government then uses the income to subsidize electricity, provide community services such as the fine high school and recreational center. Our guide, however shuns electricity in his own home and uses peat which he cuts from a bog and dries himself as his only fuel. The bus driver uses electricity. Tourism is also an important source of revenue. Most tourists are like us, disembarking from cruise ships.

Just outside of Stanley, the road passes through the mine fields laid by the Argentines during the 1982 war. The guide explained that there is plenty of land in the Falklands and the government cannot afford to clear the mine fields. They have simply marked them with fencing and signs. Unfortunately every now and then a domestic animal wanders into the mine field and explodes one. On one occasion sharp shooters had to destroy an animal that was wounded, but still alive. The mines are made of plastic about the size of a ladies compact and contain only a small metal spring. Toward the end of the conflict the Argentines flew over in helicopters scattering mines out the window . It was very sobering look at land that now and forever cannot be used by any living thing.

We also observed a strange and unexplained ( according to the guide) geologic formation. On both sides of the road there were rivers of loose stones. The Falklands are not volcanic and have no glaciers. The Falklands actually broke off from Africa near Natal and drifted east to the present location. We past a cliff that was heavily defended by the Argentines but eventually captured by the British during the war. So what was that war all about? Oil?, Fishing Rights?? Sheep???

As to be expected, the Lan Chile flight was late arriving and there were no seat assignments when they did arrive. The airport ran out of sandwiches twice. In Santiago we had to claim our baggage, go through customs and stand in line to get in an elevator to ride up one floor to the Lan Chile ticket counter where we stood in line again for seat assignments. We survived and landed in Miami about 6:30 AM the next morning.

1. Introduction  |  2. Drake Passage - Antarctic Peninsula  |  3.  Scotia Sea to So. Georgia  | 4  Falkland  Islands

|Appendix A So. Georgia Bird List | Appendix B Costs, leadersTop of Page