Falkland Skua at the Gentoo Colony

I mentioned in a previous entry that the Gentoo Penguins in the centre of the colony seemed on average to have more chicks than on the periphery. No great surprise to anyone I suppose. One of the reasons for chick mortality is the presence of Falkland Skuas. There is usually a pair or two hanging around most colonies on the islands looking for the chance to grab an egg or a fat chick. The Skuas spend a great deal of time hovering over the penguins and on the whole, the birds in the middle give the better defence. No doubt the Skuas take their share but as I mentioned the colony looks to have enjoyed another good breeding year so the balance must be about right.

Falkland Skua, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Falkland Skua, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Falkland Skua, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Falkland Skua, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

On the walk back to the ship I managed a few more decent images of the local birdlife. Nice to see the Chiloe Wigeon with chicks at the end of East Cove and especially the Kelp Geese which were very near the ship with their three youngsters.

Chiloe Wigeon, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Kelp Goose, East Cove, 26 Dec 2014

Long-tailed Meadowlark, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Steve C

Birding Lanzarote: Arrecife

The wife and I took an early morning bus from Costa Teguise to Arrecife. The number 30 to be precise at a cost of 1 euro 30 cents, no returns available. The bus station is at the western side of town so we started a leisurely walk east along the prom and beach.
I quickly spotted Ringed plover and Whimbrel feeding in the rocky areas and could see a large group of gulls on the water near a jetty in the distance. After dodging stall holders and children preparing for the carnival we found the entrance to the jetty and followed a group of birders to an area overlooking the gulls. Sanderling, more Ringed Plover and a Little Egret were on the mud. As I approached I could hear a chap with a spanish accent talking to the group about the gulls and after a while we began chatting. His name was Gustavo Tereja but more about him in a future blog. One thing he did tell me was that Kentish Plovers bred in this area and that he had been colour ringing them for over three years.

Kentish Plover (colour-ringed), Arrecife, Lanzarote, 13th Feb 15

Kentish Plovers (both colour-ringed) Arrecife, Lanzarote, 13th

I found these birds after we had finished talking and the group of Swedish birders had moved on without him, he apologised to me and rushed after them. I now had time to scan the gulls. With only binoculars it was difficult but in amongst the hundreds of Yellow-legged Gulls were a few Lesser black-backed Gulls. Also here were Mediterranean and Black-headed Gull. Finally I was pleased to see at least three Audouin’s Gulls.

Audouin's Gull, Arrecife, Lanzarote, 13th Feb 2015

To find this area look west from the concrete jetty that leads out to the Castillo San Gabriel in the middle of Arrecife seafront. I know that hundreds of Audouin’s Guls can be found here at the right time of year and if regularly watched both American and European waders must turn up.
A must visit for any birder going to Lanzarote.
Mark C

Birding Lanzarote: Costa Teguise

I hadn’t gone to Lanzarote with the intention of going birding. Being in the RN I go away a lot so my weeks in the sun are centred around what the wife wants to do. That said I had packed my binoculars and my Canon 60D. We were based on the east coast at Costa Teguise. A rather quiet resort with a lovely esplanade. Very little beach but lots of rocks.
Our first walk along the prom and we had only gone a 100 yards when I spotted something in a rock pool, so my first Lanzarote bird was a Greenshank. Close to this was a Little Egret and also a Whimbrel preening.

Whimbrel, Costa Teguise, 15th February 2015

Over the week, the coast at Costa Tequise produced lots of Turnstones, 3 Ringed Plovers, 4 Whimbrel, 2 Little Egrets and just that single Greenshank. At sea apart from the ever present Yellow-legged Gulls we had a pair of Sandwich Terns.

Little Egret, Arrecife, 13th Feb 2015

Around the town the commonest bird was Collared Dove. Spanish Sparrows could be seen and heard calling, A few Linnets were encountered in the open areas but that’s about it.
Mark C

King Penguins at Bertha’s Beach Gentoo Colony

As we walked up towards the Gentoo’s we spotted a fine looking adult King Penguin on the edge of the colony. Nearby was a second bird which could be a younger adult female or an immature bird not far from adult plumage. As you can see from the images below this particular bird was receiving some unwanted attention from one of the local lambs. After a while the lamb gave up on the penguin allowing it to join the first bird and allow me the chance to take a few nice images. I have seen the odd King up here before, but it was the first time I had seen two together. The start of a Bertha’s Beach King Penguin colony perhaps?

King Penguin, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

King Penguin, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

King Penguin, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

 

King Penguin, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

King Penguins, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

King Penguins, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Steve C

Antarctic Birding: Cetacean Watching – Sei Whale

Having already seen all the bird species that inhabit Antarctic waters I was keen to improve my cetacean diagnostic skills during Work Periods two and three. Unfortunately, sightings weren’t as frequent as I had expected although there were several notable experiences. Sei Whale is a species I have found particularly tricky to identify correctly but I’m confident the two animals photographed below are Sei due to the dorsal fin shape and size. The first was observed in the Bransfield Strait and the second off the South Sandwich Islands. The round markings visible on the individual in the last image may have been caused by Cookie-cutter Sharks.

Sei Whale, Bransfield Strait – 30 Dec 14

Sei Whale, Bransfield Strait – 30 Dec 14

Sei Whale, Bransfield Strait – 30 Dec 14

Sei Whale, Bransfield Strait – 30 Dec 14

Cook Island, South Sandwich Islands – 6 Feb 15

Icebergs (2) Southern Ocean – 6 Feb 15

Sei Whale, Southern Ocean – 5 Dec 12

Sei Whale, Southern Ocean – 5 Dec 12

Good birding and cetacean watching,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Falkland Birding: Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins at Bertha’s Beac

Christmas Day passed in a bit of a self-inflicted hazy blur, so Boxing Day was the time to blow away the cobwebs (literally as the wind was classic Falkland) and have a stroll along the beach to see the Penguin colony.  As we approached the preferred beach landing area for the Gentoo’s, we could see at least 11 Magellanic penguins in the same area; several of which were immature birds. Plenty of Gentoo Penguins were returning from feeding at sea and after a brief preen on the beach they would walk the few hundred yards inland to the colony. We followed up to find many healthy looking young Gentoo’s. The majority of chicks looked well fed and many were laid down in the afternoon sun. Most pairs had at least one chick with quite a few having two. Especially so the birds towards the middle of the colony. Glad to report that it appears that the Bertha’s Beach Gentoo Colony has enjoyed another good breeding season.

Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Gentoo Penguin, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Gentoo Penguin, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Gentoo Penguins, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Gentoo Penguins, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Gentoo Penguins, Bertha's Beach, 26 Dec 2014

Steve C

Antarctic Birding: Blue colour-ringed Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua in the South Shetland Islands

After leaving two ringed Sub-Antarctic Skuas in the ship’s wake in Maxwell Bay I encountered yet another ringed individual off Nelson Island in the afternoon, while the ship conducted an inspection of a small private residence. This particular Sub-Antarctic Skua had a blue colour ring on its right leg in addition to a metal ring. Like the previous four ringed Sub-Antarctic Skuas it was a very confiding bird as it walked around the Quarter Deck in the sunshine. The life history of the bird provided by the Hiddensee Bird Ringing Centre in Germany confirmed that the individual was ringed nearby in Jan 12. Its age was unknown but it was able to fly making it at least three years old.

Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua, Edgell Bay, Nelson Island – 12 Jan 15

Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua, Edgell Bay, Nelson Island – 12 Jan 15

Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua, Edgell Bay, Nelson Island – 12 Jan 15

Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua, Edgell Bay, Nelson Island – 12 Jan 15

Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua, Edgell Bay, Nelson Island – 12 Jan 15

I was aware that Steve had recorded a blue colour-ringed bird during his first stint on board PRTR back in 2012. Therefore, after I had taken several record shots I went off to shake him in his cabin (at 1630!) in case he wanted to connect with the bird. Soon after he was reunited with the same bird he had first seen and photographed back in Dec 12.

Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua, South Shetland Islands – 5 Dec 12

Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua, South Shetland Islands – 5 Dec 12

In the evening, after a brief informal visit to the polish Arctowski Station back on King George Island, HMS PROTECTOR left the South Shetland Islands and commenced the passage north across Drake Passage to Punta Arenas. During Work Period 2 the ship had conducted a total of twenty-eight inspections comprised of stations, cruise ships, trawlers, yachts and a private refuge.

Arktowski Station (Polish), Admiralty Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Heading North for Christmas: Grey-headed Albatross and Humpback Whale

We left the Antarctic four days before Christmas and headed north to the Falklands. The usual suspect’s bird wise were encountered en route. As you’d expect good numbers of Cape Petrels and Southern Fulmars passed by the ship and just north of the South Shetlands we had two Humpback Whales putting on a show. A single grey-headed Albatross also put in an appearance. As we neared Falkland waters an obliging Southern Giant petrel accompanied the ship allowing a nice close up.

Steve C

Antarctic Birding: White-phased Southern Giant Petrel in Antarctic Sound

After an inspection of the Bernado O Higgins Station (Chilean with German lodger unit), located towards the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, PRTR transited Antarctic Sound bound for Mendel Station (Czech) on the other eastern side of the peninsula. After passing through Antarctic Sound the ship turned south and encountered significant pack ice. Unsurprisingly progress was extremely slow, and it soon became very obvious that there was no way the ship could reach and return from Mendel Station, before the ship needed to commence the passage across Drake Passage to Punta Arenas.

Erebus and Terror Gulf, Antarctica – 7 Jan 15

The alternative Plan B involved an inspection of Petrel Station (Argentinean) on Dundee Island to the north of Antarctic Sound instead. However, the ship first visited the regular cruise ship destination of Brown Bluff on the Tabarin Peninsula. Steve managed to get ashore there briefly and will no doubt document his exploits there in future entries. Unfortunately, I dipped on getting ashore. However, later in the day as PRTR approached Petrel Station I was able to finally capture decent photographs of the White-phase of Southern Giant Petrel. During my almost two years assigned to PRTR I have encountered several ‘White Nellys’. On each occasion I have been able to improve on my previous record shots as the images below show. Although the camera and lens have remained the same I now no longer insist on a low ISO. Instead I prefer to ensure a deeper depth of field and often focus manually. I have also changed the Image Quality setting from ‘JPEG Normal’ to ‘JPEG Large’ to provide a greater resolution. When I add new images of a species to the associated folder on my hard drive I often flick through the existing images. The general improvement in quality is all too clear to see.

White-phased Southern Giant Petrel, South Atlantic – 14 Mar13. (At least you can tell what it is)

White-phased Southern Giant Petrel, South Georgia – 25 Dec 13. (A better image)

White-phased Southern Giant Petrel, Antarctic Sound – 8 Jan 15. (Bulls eye. It’s just a shame the resolution of the Blog images have to be significantly reduced prior to uploading)

Interestingly the White-phase is only present in the Southern not Northern Giant Petrel.

Southern Giant Petrel, South Atlantic – 23 Dec 14

Northern Giant Petrel, South Atlantic – 1 Oct 14

View from Port Lockroy – Luigi Peak (?)

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Antarctic Birding: Colour-ringed Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua in the South Shetland Islands

HMS PROTECTOR arrived in Maxwell Bay, King George Island on the evening of Sunday 11 Jan 15 prior to a formal inspection of Artigas Station (Uruguayan) the following day.

Artigas (Uruguay) Station, Maxwell Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

Whilst the ship held station offshore Steve and I encountered two different metal-ringed sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skuas, one of which also had a white ring with the black letters VPO.  In the fading light I managed to take a few record shots to confirm the numbering on the metal rings.  Fortunately, the two birds remained onboard overnight, much to the disgust of the Buffer due to the poop the birds deposited on the Starboard Lifeboat, to enable me to get much better images the following day.

The first bird photographed below was ringed nearby in Jan 01 prior to fledging.

Metal-ringed Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua, Maxwell Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

Metal-ringed Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua, Maxwell Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

The second bird photographed is probably the same age being able to fly when it was ringed in Jan 01 also nearby.  The two birds were presumably a pair because they both took offence and chased off any other Skua that flew towards the ship.

Colour-ringed Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua, Maxwell Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

Colour-ringed Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua, Maxwell Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

Colour-ringed Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua, Maxwell Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

The two Skuas left the ship as it departed Maxwell Bay after recovery of the inspection team bound for the next inspection.

Admiralty Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

Admiralty Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

Admiralty Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

Multi-national Stations, Admiralty Bay, King George Island – 12 Jan 15

 

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Antarctic Birding: Two ringed Sub-Antarctic (Brown) Skua in the South Shetland Islands

Steve and I flew back to rejoin HMS PROTECTOR alongside in the Falkland islands from RAF BRIZE NORTON on 10 Dec 14. After a watch handover the ship sailed for a brief period of operations around the Antarctic Peninsula before returning alongside East Cove Military Port in the Falkland Islands for the festive period. The ship again departed for the Antarctic Peninsula on 28 Dec 14 with a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) inspection team onboard. PRTR’s tasking was to inspect various stations and any vessels encountered to ensure compliance with regulations. It was a period in which HMS PROTECTOR lived up to its name as the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship.

For Steve it was only his second visit to Antarctica. Consequently, Steve will cover the majority of our exploits during Ice Patrol 2 of the 2014/15 season, as he has already started to, and I’ll chip in every now and then. During his first time on board (four months in 2012) he ticked off three (Antarctic Petrel, Adelie Penguin and Snow Petrel) of his four Antarctic target species. Unsurprisingly the forth (Emperor Penguin) was now very much top of his list.

Ferraz Station, Martel Bay, King George Island – 30 Nov 13

Glacier, Martel Bay, King George Island – 9 Jan 15

On Friday 9 Jan 15 PRTR entered Martel Inlet of King George Island in the South Shetland Islands to conduct a formal inspection of Ferraz Station (Brazilian). As per normal I strolled aft across the main deck to the Combined Tech Office to start work to be informed of a very large brown bird perched on the Quarter Deck. A brief glance confirmed the species identity as a sub-Antarctic (Brown/Great) Skua Catharacta antarctica. I returned with my camera to photograph what is a real brute of a bird. It wasn’t phased by my presence and as I snapped away I failed to notice the metal ring on its right leg.

Metal-ringed Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua 1, Martel Bay – 9 Jan 15

Metal-ringed Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua 1, Martel Bay – 9 Jan 15

Fortunately, it and a second metal-ringed bird remained on board throughout the time PRTR held station off Ferraz Station enabling me to confirm the number on both rings.

Metal-ringed Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua 1, Martel Bay – 9 Jan 15

Metal-ringed Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua 1, Martel Bay – 9 Jan 15

Metal-ringed Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua 2, Martel Bay – 9 Jan 15

Metal-ringed Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua 2, Martel Bay – 9 Jan 15

I have subsequently received the life histories of the two individuals from the Hiddensee Bird Ringing Centre. Both birds were ringed as adults in Nov 2004 making them at least eleven years old.

After a successful inspection PRTR departed King George Island and headed for Half Moon Island (IBA), located in the McFarlane Strait between the much larger Livingstone and Greenwich Islands, where the ship was to formally inspect Camara Station (Argentine) the following day. On passage the ship encountered a Chinese Krill Trawler. It was the second Krill Trawler to be inspected, and the first a few days before, was the first time the Royal Navy had inspected a fishing vessel in Antarctic waters.

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Antarctic Birding; Leopard Seal in the Gerlache Straits

We left Port Lockroy 5 days before Christmas. Happy Birthday Trish’ mentioning Port Lockroy again is just an excuse to show a few more images from a great place.

Museum, Port Lockroy

Gentoo Penguin, Port Lockroy, 20 Dec 2014

Gentoo Penguin, Port Lockroy, 20 Dec 2014

Gentoo Penguin, Port Lockroy, 20 Dec 2014

As we headed through the Gerlache Straits; another popular location for the cruisers, I spotted a seal on an ice berg ahead of the ship. We got nearer and nearer and the seal showed no interest. At the last minute the seal lifted its head and looked in our direction and I was overjoyed to see the reptilian like head of my first Leopard Seal. I have had to lighten the image slightly as the seal was quite dark, but I was well pleased to manage a shot, (although as it was so close, I could not capture the whole animal). Leopard seals are solitary animals but apparently not too uncommon. They frequent areas near large penguin colonies where the birds form a proportion of their diet. They also take fish and krill as well as preying on other seals; particularly young Crab-eaters.

Leopard Seal, Port Lockroy, 20 Dec 2014

Antarctic Shag, Gerlache Straits, 20 Dec 2014

Gerlache Straits

 

Steve C

Birding Hampshire – Fareham Creek

Today I decided to go out birding, so headed for Fareham Creek in hope of waders. It probably would have helped if I had checked the tides, as when I got there, the tide was fully in. Not deterred I soldiered on and could see Goldeneye, Wigeon and Teal on the water. All the waders I could see were roosting on the few small islands or man-made rafts. Most of them were Oystercatchers and Redshanks but I did see two Greenshank amongst them. Other than that the walk was pretty quiet. Near the end though I found a Redshank feeding in a small pond on the edge of a field and managed to get a few decent shots.

Redshank, Fareham Creek, 24th Jan 2015

Redshank, Fareham Creek, 24th Jan 2015

Mark C

Antarctic Birding: Port Lockroy Birds

After completing the transit of the Neumayer Channel we paid a visit to the ladies of the ‘Penguin Post Office’ at Port Lockroy. Most of the ship’s company managed to get ashore for an hour or so on the ship’s boats and glad to say I was on one of them. I placed many images of the museum on the blog when I last visited in December 2012 so I won’t do too many this time.

Neumayer Channel

Neumayer Channel

Neumayer Channel

Nissen Hut

Nissen Hut

Needless to say there were as expected plenty of Gentoo Penguins in the area with a supporting cast of Pale-faced Sheathbills and Antarctic Shags.

Gentoo Penguin, Port Lockroy, 20 Dec 2014

Gentoo Penguin, Port Lockroy, 20 Dec 2014

Antarctic Shags, Port Lockroy, 20 Dec 2014

Pale-faced Sheathbills, Port Lockroy, 20 Dec 2014

 

Steve C

Antarctic Birding: Penguins and Ice

Protector crossed a relatively calm Drake’s Passage; passed through the Antarctic Convergence and entered 60 degrees south on the 18th December. The Antarctic Convergence is the circumpolar region found between 50 and 60 degrees south. Where the warmer more saline waters to the north, mix with the colder, denser and less saline waters moving north from the Antarctic. Certainly the birds encountered south of the Convergence are the more Antarctic species. Black-bellied Storm Petrels are generally found further north than Wilson’s and around the South Shetlands which we sailed past you commonly see both. Southern Fulmars and Cape Petrels are both common breeding birds on the Antarctic Peninsula where Protector does a lot of her work.

Black-bellied Storm Petrel, Antarctica, 18 Dec 2014

Cape Petrel and Southern Fulmar, Antarctica, 18 Dec 2014

Southern Fulmars, Schollaert Channel, 19 Dec 2014

As you would expect Penguins are also commonly seen. The three common species of the peninsula area are Gentoo, Chinstrap and Adelie, and it won’t come as any surprise that these will feature heavily in coming entries. Lastly is the Antarctic scenery. Again no surprises that it is absolutely stunning. Especially around the peninsula, and to respect my wife’s wishes, I will include a couple of scenery/general interest shots in most entries. The two shots below were taken in the Neumayer Channel which is a regular haunt of the cruise ships.

Chinstrap Penguins, Antarctica, 18 Dec 2014

Gentoo Penguins, Schollaert Channel, 19 Dec 2014

Neumayer Channel

Neumayer Channel

Steve