South Atlantic Birding: Pale-faced Sheathbills, South American Terns and Brown-hooded Gulls

In-between photographing the Commerson’s Dolphins, I returned to the nearby rocks where the gulls and terns usually roost. I could see both species on rocks a little way off, but of more interest was a small party of Pale-faced Sheathbills much nearer on rocks just off the beach.

Pale-faced Sheathbill, Bertha's Beach, 25 Oct 2014

The Pale-faced Sheathbill is present around the Falkland shore-line throughout the year, although I don’t believe it breeds on the Islands. In summer it usually frequents Penguin and Shag colonies on the lookout for an easy meal, such as leftover krill or an unguarded egg. They will also take carrion and human leftovers. In winter the resident birds are joined by more southerly breeding birds that have moved north for the winter.

Like I mentioned earlier there was a number of South American Terns roosting on the rocks with a couple of Brown-hooded among them. South American Tern is a common summer resident, returning to breed in September, birds nest singly at sites such as Bertha’s Beach or colonially at freshwater ponds further inland.

South American Terns, Bertha's Beach, 25 Oct 2014

South American Terns and Brown-hooded Gull, Bertha's Beach, 25 Oct 2014

Brown-hooded Gull is the least common of the three Falkland gulls. This bird also breeds colonially on small islands in lakes or in lake-side rush beds. Often nesting in the same colonies as the South American Terns.

Brown-hooded Gulls, Bertha's Beach, 8 Oct 2014

Steve C

South Atlantic Birding: Commerson’s Dolphin in the Falkland Islands

Ok, I appreciate that a title with Birding in it, followed by Dolphin may seem a little odd, but there is so much more to birding around the Falklands than birds if that makes sense.

This particular afternoon in late October with the ship alongside, I walked down to Bertha’s Beach and instead of heading left towards the Penguins, I headed right towards Fox Point. This is the site of a memorial to Foxtrot 4, a landing craft from HMS Fearless lost with all hands in the 82 conflict. If you look through previous entries you will find a more detailed blog entry on the subject. However, it is also a reliable location for Brown-hooded Gull and South American Tern and they were the species I was hoping for. Whilst viewing the memorial I noticed a small number of Commerson’s Dolphins frolicking in the nearby surf.

Commerson's Dolphins, Bertha's Beach, 25 Oct 2014

Commerson's Dolphins, Bertha's Beach, 25 Oct 2014

Commerson’s Dolphin can be found around the southern tip of South America which includes the Falklands Population and also Kerguelen Island in the Southern Indian Ocean. It appears to be relatively common around the Falklands and we saw over twenty of them near Cape Dolphin the week before. The animal is pretty much unmistakeable within its range, especially so when they are seen surfing off local beaches. I see them do this very often and I am not sure whether they just do it for fun or more likely they are chasing food into the shallows.

Commerson's Dolphins, Bertha's Beach, 25 Oct 2014

Commerson's Dolphins, Bertha's Beach, 25 Oct 2014

Commerson's Dolphins, Bertha's Beach, 25 Oct 2014

Steve C

Falkland Island birding: Gentoo Penguin colony at Newhaven

Due to forecasted severe bad weather that would make it impossible to conduct Survey Operations HMS PROTECTOR went off task to seek shelter.  Consequently the ship was unexpectedly alongside at East Cove Military Port 23-26 Oct 14.  The unplanned return to ECMP enabled me to accompany a couple of those surveyors that had remained onboard on a day trip to the Boat Camp at Newhaven fifty miles away on the 24th.   Although windy the morning remained dry, and with the Survey Motor Boat out on the water surveying in the channel on our arrival I headed straight off to the nearby Gentoo Penguin colony just in case the weather changed.  I had a thoroughly enjoyable time and got up close and personal with several of the other regular coastal inhabitants of the Falkland Islands.

Falkland Steamerduck (pair), Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

Falkland Steamerduck (male), Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

Kelp Goose (pair), Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

Dolphin Gull, Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

A particular patch of foreshore appeared to be the Gentoo Penguins preferred landing point.  Several birds were present as there had been on my previous brief visit to Newhaven.  From the shoreline the penguins had a distance of couple of hundred yards to negotiate, across grassland grazed by sheep, to reach the nearest colony.  Those birds that were stood up moved away as I approached the colony that numbered approximately two hundred birds.  However, those that were laid down stayed put suggesting that they were incubating.  Never being one to disturb wildlife I kept my difference and just absorbed the spectacle and the pungent odour typical of a penguin colony.  A large bare area beside the existing colony suggested that either the colony had moved or was significantly smaller than it had been.

Gentoo Penguin landing point, Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

The landscape to the Gentoo Penguin colony, Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

Gentoo Penguin colony, Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

Gentoo Penguin colony, Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

Gentoo Penguin, Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

The car ferry ‘Concordia Bay’ arrived back from West Falkland as I made my return to the tents of the Boat Camp.  The ferry route was the reason behind the inshore survey of the channel leading out into Falkland Sound by the Survey Motor Boat.

Concordia Bay car ferry (with the SMB alongside), Newhaven – 24 Oct 14

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

South Atlantic Birding: Southern Royal Albatross around the Falkland Islands

Southern Royal Albatross is a non-breeding visitor to the waters around the Falkland Is. The bird breeds to the south of New Zealand on Campbell Island, which holds the majority of the population with smaller numbers on Enderby Island in the Auckland group.

Around the Falklands it is more frequently seen over the continental shelf than the Wandering Albatross which breeds relatively nearby at South Georgia. I first visited the Falklands as a birder (although not a very good one) back in 2001 on HMS Edinburgh, before the advent of digital photography and I am sure that I probably saw a number of Southern Royal Albatrosses that I mis-identified as Wanderers. I only got fully to grips with the species in 2011when I was down here on HMS York with the trusty Canon in hand. Now myself and Tony call distant birds before looking down at the back of the camera, and I’m glad to report we nearly always get it right!!! Hope I am not setting myself up for a fall.

Southern Royal Albatross, Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

Southern Royal Albatross, Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

Southern Royal Albatross, (showing the black cutting edge to the bill), Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

The Southern Royal Albatross feeds mainly on cephalopods with some fish, and is regularly attracted to fishing boats and the wakes of transiting ships. On the 21st of October we had at least three birds accompanying the ship along with a similar number of wanderers. As always it is difficult to tell if these are the same birds throughout the day, or whether different birds come and go over the hours. The image below showing the three birds together was particularly nice to capture. Judging by the upper wings of Southern Royals seen so far this trip it would appear that the majority of the birds we encounter are of a similar age. That is, they are immature birds showing the first signs of upper wing whitening on the leading edge as well as the pale patch in the middle just starting to appear. Whereas with Wandering Albatrosses; we come across quite dark young birds, right through the spectrum to the very white winged older adults. We will continue to monitor albatrosses  seen and hopefully give a further update.

Southern Royal Albatross, Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

Southern Royal Albatross, Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

Southern Royal Albatrosses, Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

Southern Royal Albatross, Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

Steve C

South Atlantic Birding: Cape Petrels Feeding in the Wake

One bird that is pretty much ever present at the ship’s stern when in the Southern Ocean is the Cape Petrel. The bird is a common non-breeding visitor to the Falkland Islands and as summer progresses the numbers will dwindle as birds disperse southwards. Although a few non-breeding birds will generally stay around. They are very quick to drop on any item of food in the ship’s wake whether it is something the props have churned up; such as krill or the ever popular Friday fish remains which we periodically drop over the back end. Once the first Petrel has dropped to the surface to grab a morsel, it is only a matter of seconds before it is joined by the rest of the flock. The birds then squabble and screech at each other as they plunge dive after a meal.

Cape Petrels, South Atlantic, 21 Oct 2014

Cape Petrels, South Atlantic, 21 Oct 2014

Cape Petrels, South Atlantic, 21 Oct 2014

Cape Petrel, South Atlantic, 21 Oct 2014

Cape Petrel, South Atlantic, 21 Oct 2014

This squabbling Cape Petrel s soon attracts the attention of the bigger boys, and invariably the next bird to arrive will be a Giant Petrel. Soon followed by a Black-browed Albatross; naturally the Cape Petrels scatter as they pile in.  Giant Petrels and Black-browed Albatrosses are pretty evenly matched when feeding, but both give way when one of the giant albatrosses drops in. In the last image below, a Wandering Albatross has taken charge. (Although with respect to Friday fish, there is generally little left by the time the giant albatrosses arrive on the scene).

Southern Giant Petrel seeing off the Cape Petrels, South Atlantic, 21 Oct 2014

Black-browed Albatross piling into the Cape Petrels, Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

Wandering Albatross, Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

 

Steve C

Falkand Island birding: Imperial Shag colony at Praltos Island, Newhaven

HMS PROTECTOR conducted Deployed Directed Continuation Training (DDCT) with a team of Flag Officer Sea Training staff onboard from 12th to the 16th Oct 14.  Consequently, opportunities for ‘birding’ were severely restricted as the Ship’s Company reacted to numerous training serials to ensure the ship continued to be operated safely and was prepared for any eventuality that might arise during the 2014/15 ice season.  During DDCT the pipe ‘Attention on the upper deck’ was made as PRTR sailed pass the wreck of the Type 21 Frigate HMS ARDENT that was lost during the 1982 Falkland Conflict.  The frigate targeted by several waves of argentine aircraft suffered multiple hits from bombs and canon whilst operating in Falkland Sound on 21 May 82.  The ship sank the following day in Grantham Sound.  The ARDENT’s foremast was no longer visible.

HMS PROTECTOR at DP off Newhaven – 19 Oct 14

After successfully completing DDCT a significant defect on the Survey Motor Boat (SMB) threatened to jeopardise the planned Inshore Survey Operations of the Car Ferry route between East and West Falkland that operates from Newhaven.  However, despite the 19th of October being a Reverse Saturday Routine (morning off) Steve and I continued our investigation into the cause of the defect.  Fortunately, we managed to rectify the defect literally just hours before the planned launch of the SMB for a ten day Boat Camp whilst PRTR conducted Operations elsewhere in the Falkland Islands.  At 1400 I clambered down the pilot ladder to board the SMB in order to provide engineering cover whilst all the systems were tested afloat.  The unexpected boat trial provided me with the opportunity to get a distant view of the Imperial Shag colony on nearby Praltos Island and to get ashore briefly at Newhaven.

Imperial Shag colony, Praltos Island – 19 Oct 14

Gentoo Penguins, Newhaven – 19 Oct 14

I was surprised by the complete absence of any buildings at Newhaven.  There were just several chacons beside the new jetty.

New Car Ferry ramp, Newhaven – 19 Oct 14

Survey Motor Boat alongside the new jetty, Newhaven – 19 Oct 14

After successful propulsion and sensor trials the SMB set off to drop a sonar reflector that would be used to calibrate the sonar before the commencement of the survey.  Consequently, we rendezvoused with the diving team tasked with confirming the correct orientation of the sonar target on the seabed.

Diving team in support – 19 Oct 14

Turkey Vulture, Newhaven – 19 Oct 14

Concordia Bay car ferry – 19 Oct 14

Other species spotted included Kelp Gull, Southern Giant Petrel, Kelp Goose, Southern Caracara, Falkland Steamerduck, Blackish Oystercatcher and Rock Shag.  However, the most numerous species was the Imperial Shag.

Rock Shag, Newhaven – 19 Oct 14

Imperial Shag, Newhaven – 19 Oct 14

Several days later I got another unexpected opportunity to visit the Boat Camp at Newhaven.  On my second visit I had sufficient time to visit the nearby Gentoo Penguin colony and enjoy the other local birdlife typical of Falkland Island coastal waters at much closer quarters.

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

South Atlantic Birding: Black-browed Albatross in the Falkland Islands

I fully appreciate that more regular readers of this blog will have seen past entries on the Black-browed Albatross, (and are probably fed up of them). But how can you come to the Falkland Islands and not do an entry (or several) on this superb species. This entry and probably the next half a dozen or so will all be based on sightings in the latter half of October, whilst the ship was in the waters around the Falkland Islands. However instead of just rambling, I will take some snippets from Hadoram Shirihai’s excellent book; A Complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife.

Anyway back to this entry; the Black-browed Albatross is a common species in the Southern Ocean, breeding on South Georgia, Crozet, and Kerguelen among others. Not forgetting the Falkland Islands which holds 80% of the global population.

Black-browed Albatross, Falkland Islands, 20 Oct 2014

Black-browed Albatross, Falkland Islands, 21 Oct 2014

Black-browed Albatross, Falkland Islands, 20 Oct 2014

I am pretty certain that the Falklands population stands at around the 500 thousand mark and there has been a small but steady increase in recent years (4% per annum), which is great news after dramatic declines during the 90’s and 00’s. I will try and get an update on breeding numbers and update the blog accordingly.

The bird’s diet consists of fish and krill, with some cephalopods and jelly fish. Mostly taken by surface seizing and pursuit diving. It is a regular scavenger at fishing boats, not to mention the back of Protector if it can get to the Friday fish before the Cape Petrels.

Black-browed Albatross, Falkland Islands, 20 Oct 2014

Black-browed Albatross, Falkland Islands, 20 Oct 2014

Black-browed Albatross, Falkland Islands, 20 Oct 2014

Steve C

South Atlantic Birding: Giant Petrels

Both species of Giant Petrel are relatively common in the South Atlantic. Southern are always more numerous than Northern around the Falkland Islands, whereas the breeding populations on South Georgia are pretty much two to one in favour of the Northern with around eighteen thousand pairs.

A fact I did not know, (until I re-read Robin Woods book, ‘Guide to Birds of the Falkland Islands’, published in 1988) was that it was only in 1966 that it was recognised that there were two distinct species of giant petrel, (Bourne and Warham).

The day after we left South Georgia we had a dozen Northern Giant Petrels in the ships wake. The birds as usual, were picking up scraps churned up by the props as well as enjoying the odd titbit dropped over the back end by Tony and me.

Northern Giant Petrel, South Atlantic, 30 Sep 2014

Northern Giant Petrel, South Atlantic, 30 Sep 2o14

A few days later and nearer to the Falklands it was no surprise that Southern Giant Petrels had taken over with approximately 20 birds accompanying the ship. They were in luck as I had plenty of left over Friday lunch-time fish in the Jacobs cracker box. Needless to say as I dropped chunks into the wake they came in to feed.

Southern Giant Petrel, South Atlantic, 3 Oct 2014

Southern Giant Petrel, South Atlantic, 3 Oct 2014

Southern Giant Petrel, South Atlantic, 3 Oct 2014

Southern Giant Petrels, South Atlantic, 3 Oct 2014

Steve C

South Atlantic Birding: Cape Petrels

Cape Petrels; sometimes known as Pintado Petrel or Cape Pigeon are unmistakeable birds within the Southern Ocean. They are a pretty much constant presence in the ships wake whilst sailing in the South Atlantic. Due to the distinctive chequer-board patterning on the upper wing they are also a bird which most of the ships company ask about. (Hoopoes in the Gulf, Cape Petrels in the South Atlantic). The 28th of September was still rather choppy but the sun was shining allowing a few decent images of the birds. I can guarantee there will be more entries on these enigmatic birds.

Cape Petrel, South Atlantic, 28 Sep 2014

Cape Petrel, South Atlantic, 28 Sep 2014

Cape Petrel, South Atlantic, 28 Sep 2014

Cape Petrel, South Atlantic, 28 Sep 2014

The image of the Blue Petrel below demonstrates the Swell in the South Atlantic. Bear in mind, I am taking the image from 20 foot above the waterline of the ship, yet I am looking up at the Petrel skimming the wave tops!

Blue Petrel, South Atlantic, 28 Sep 2014

Steve C

South Atlantic Birding: South Georgia, albatrosses and icebergs

The last days of September saw HMS Protector pay a brief visit into Grytviken; South Georgia. Always a magical place to visit but at this time of the year, spring still seems a little way away with deep snow lying all around the shoreline as well as the mountains. That said as we sailed into Cumberland Bay in the early morning the weather was quite nice. The sun was shining and the temperature was hovering around zero.  The forecast however, was not so promising and by the time we sailed into the evening we had gale force winds and sleet storms. Birds were relatively thin on the ground and I suspect many of the breeding seabirds are still out at sea. On the way in we did have several Northern Giant petrels along with a couple of Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses. Once inside the bay we did have the expected South Georgia Shags and Around a dozen Antarctic Terns.

Northern Giant Petrel, South Georgia, 29 Sep 2014

Grytviken, 29 Sep 2014

South Georgia Church, 29 Sep 2014

The following day we came across some impressive slabs of ice. One particular iceberg; which was quite obviously once part of the ice shelf, measured around 600 metres by 100 by 50, and that was above the water, so a good deal of fresh water was steadily making its way north east. As it was we were near the edge of the usual ice berg limit, so we put out a warning to other shipping in the area that a large berg was on the move. Certainly not something you would want to bump into! Fortunately as we passed by, a Wandering Albatross shortly followed by a Black-browed conveniently flew past the slab allowing a few images with the ice as a back drop.

Wandering Albatross and Ice Berg, South Atlantic, 30 Sep 2014

Black-browed Albatross, South Atlantic, 30 Sep 2014

Black-browed Albatross, South Atlantic, 30 Sep 2014

Steve C

South Atlantic Birding: Fairy Prion and HMS IRON DUKE (old ships) in South Georgia

A stormy South Atlantic Ocean – 27 Oct 14

During a lunchtime birding session in the relatively sheltered port aft corner of the upper deck on 28 Sep 14 Steve and I photographed the regular Cape Petrels and Blue Petrels as they flew passed the stern.

Cape Petrel, South Atlantic Ocean – 28 Sep 14

Blue Petrel, South Atlantic Ocean – 27 Sep 14

It was as I followed what I thought was just another Blue Petrel through the camera lens that I realised I was in fact looking at a Prion.  That in itself was a noteworthy sighting because no Prions had been observed for a few days.  However, as I took shelter from the wind to have a look at the images I realised that I had in fact seen a Fairy Prion.  It was my second Fairy Prion of the passage the first being spotted on the 23rd.  Had the focstle been inbounds I would have finally captured a decent record photograph of the species.

Fairy Prion, South Atlantic Ocean – 28 Sep 14

Fairy Prion, South Atlantic Ocean – 28 Sep 14

Fairy Prion, South Atlantic Ocean – 28 Sep 14

The next day PRTR finally reached a chilly South Georgia.  Unfortunately, the at times painfully slow passage across the South Atlantic from Cape Town meant that the visit was compressed to just a few hours.  My old ship HMS IRON DUKE was already at anchor in Cumberland Bay as PRTR entered King Edward Cove and held station off the derelict Grytviken whaling station.  Although there was no opportunity to get ashore it was pure luxury to once again be onboard a stable platform that wasn’t pitching heavily in a large swell – if only for a few hours.

HMS IRON DUKE, Cumberland Bay, South Georgia – 29 Oct 14

Grytviken, South Georgia – 29 Oct 14

Grytviken, South Georgia – 29 Oct 14

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

South Atlantic Birding: Blue Petrels and Kerguelen Petrels

Since the ship sailed from South Africa we had been running into heavy seas and gale force winds. The 23rd of September being one of the roughest days I have witnessed in 34 years in the Navy.  The ship sailed headlong into a sea state 9 accompanied by 80 mph gusts, riding up and down 50 foot waves. No holiday Mr Steele, stick with wheels.  I did take some super slow-motion video of the conditions which I will try and put on the blog when I am next home.  The 27th was less wild but we still had a sea state 6 and 50mph gusts. Blue Petrels were out enjoying the conditions as were Kerguelen Petrels. We had approximately 400 Blue Petrels zip by the ship, possibly on their way to South Georgia which holds around 70,000 breeding pairs. They were skimming the wave tops and provided a great viewing spectacle.

Blue Petrel, South Atlantic, 27 Sep 2014

Blue Petrel, South Atlantic, 27 Sep 2014

Blue Petrel, South Atlantic, 27 Sep 2014

As I mentioned in a previous entry Kerguelen Petrels are easy to identify by their fast flying high arcing flight. In these conditions they were in their element and like the Blue Petrels were zipping around the ship, although never coming as close. Numbers were in the region of about 100 birds. Other birds out and about were small numbers of Southern Fulmars as well as the odd Northern Giant Petrel, more on them later. Tony also picked up the first Fairy Prion of the season. The only surprise was the lack of albatrosses; as had been the case over the last five days in the rough conditions. Today we only had four Black-brows and a distant Grey-headed.

Kerguelen Petrel, South Atlantic, 27 Sep 2014

Kerguelen Petrel, South Atlantic, 27 Sep 2014

Prob Northern Giant Petrel 1 , South Atlantic, 27 Sep 2014

Southern Fulmar, South Atlantic, 27 Sep 2014

Steve C

South Atlantic Birding: Shy Albatross, Grey Petrel and White-faced Petrel

After Watch Rotation Leave I rejoined HMS PROTECTOR on 8 Sep14 alongside Cape Town, South Africa. The ship was alongside for a Tech Stop and as an engineer it was a very busy time, particularly as the Royal Navy is currently hemorrhaging engineers. However, Steve and I were still able to get out occasionally for a spot of ‘birding’. My first outing was to the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens. Both Steve and I were then able to enjoy a day out together with a local birder that took us more than ninety kilometers from the city. A significant defect kept the ship alongside for an extra 48 hours to enable time for the required stores to be delivered. The delay provided an impromptu afternoon off for the Engineering Department, to the unfounded disgust of the other departments, and enabled Steve and I to visit Table Mountain. Over a month after PRTR sailed for the Falkland Islands I still have photographs to process of the numerous ‘lifers’ I connected with. However, rather than keep jumping back and forth between South Africa and the present we’ll post our South Africa entries during our next Watch Rotation Leave.

Cape Town, South Africa – 16 Sep 14. (I will definitely be back)

PRTR sailed in a much improved material state on 17 Sep 14. Initially the conditions were calm but on the second day the sea state began to increase and continued to over subsequent days. Consequently, the upper deck was often placed out of bounds. Fortunately though, Steve and I were granted permission to proceed out onto the Main Deck together in all but the worst of the weather, as the ship endured persistent stormy weather for the remainder of the passage to South Georgia.

Cape Town and the westward passage across the South Atlantic Ocean to South Georgia was to be my last opportunity to enjoy ‘pastures new’ during my extended time onboard PRTR. For the westward passage to South Georgia I had two target species having already seen Cape Gull, Hartlaub’s Gull and Cape Gannet whilst in Cape Town. They were Shy Albatross and White-headed Petrel; however, I had the good fortune to connect with a third. Shy Albatross was almost guaranteed and sure enough Steve and I spotted a total of approximately 100 as PRTR headed west during the first day out of Cape Town. However, none were seen the following or on subsequent days.

Shy Albatross, South Atlantic Ocean – 17 Sep 14

Shy Albatross, South Atlantic Ocean – 17 Sep 14

Two days later I connected with a single White-faced Petrel. It was a species that was occasionally seen for the following three days as PRTR altered course and took a more southerly route westward to avoid the worst of the forecasted stormy weather. Unfortunately, the views were always a little distant and often obscured by fog in the heavy swell.

White-headed Petrel, South Atlantic Ocean – 22 Sep 14

The third species, although not really unexpected after a little homework, was Grey Petrel. It was the first bird I spotted in an afternoon birding session from 01-deck after stepping out of the back of the accommodation tower. Regrettably, Steve was still getting changed in his cabin but we both connected with a second bird later in the day.

Grey Petrel, South Atlantic Ocean – 21 Sep 14

On the 23rd I spotted my favorite species of the South Atlantic and Southern Ocean – Antarctic Petrel. We encountered several birds over the next three days with a particularly memorable spectacle of four birds flying around the ship on the 25th.

Antarctic Petrel, South Atlantic Ocean – 25 Oct 14

The picture below shows the sea conditions encountered on the 27 Oct 14. There were a few occasions when I regretted the Officer Of the Watch granting Steve and I permission to leave the warmth and comfort of the accommodation tower.

A stormy South Atlantic Ocean – 27 Oct 14

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

South Atlantic Birding: Common Diving Petrels and Kerguelen Petrels

The 26th of September was a very overcast and dull day, but one which turned up a decent range of species. Common Diving Petrel was by far the most common species with over 80 birds seen during the lunch and early evening sessions. Diving Petrels are not hard to identify as such, but separating Common form Georgian is a real headache. Hopefully I will get to see more of the latter in the coming months. If I manage some shots I will try and knock up an id feature on the two. That said I have read quite a bit on the two and studied a lot of images in the various guides and there are quite a few differences on identifying features between the guides. I guess it’s all part of the fun.

Common Diving Petrel, South Atlanticm, 26 Sep 2014

Common Diving Petrel, South Atlanticm, 26 Sep 2014

We also came across several Kerguelen Petrels, another species that I had only seen the once before back in 2012. The species has a very distinctive fast high arcing flight that can be spotted at great distance. The dark features of the bird were not to be seen at their best in the overcast conditions, but hopefully I’ll see some more when the sun is shining. Other birds seen were small numbers of Cape Petrels, Southern Fulmars, Blue Petrels and the first Chinstrap Penguins of the trip

Kerguelen Petrel, South Atlantic, 26 Sep 2014

Kerguelen Petrel, South Atlantic, 26 Sep 2014

Cape Petrels, South Atlantic, 26 Sep 2014

Southern Fulmar, South Atlantic, 26 Sep 2014

Steve C