Blue Whale, Humpback Whale and Grey Phalaropes near Puerto Montt, Chile.

We duly dropped the two Chilean pilots off at Puerto Montt on Sunday morning. We sailed back into the Pacific later that afternoon. On the way out of the calmer inshore waters we passed good numbers of Red-legged and South American Imperial Shags as the congregated in a large flock along with around 700 Kelp Gulls a few miles offshore. Several skeins of Peruvian Pelicans flew past but the weather was bleak, squally showers blown around by strengthening winds made photography a little difficult.

Red-legged Shag, Puerto Montt, SE Pacific, 13 Apr 2014

Red-legged Shag, Puerto Montt, SE Pacific, 13 Apr 2014

As we reached more open waters we encountered some decent seabirds. Black-browed Albatrosses started to re-appear as did several Salvin’s. Around 13 Subantarctic Little Shearwaters were a first for Tony as was Pink-footed Shearwater. Several of the latter were seen but none came overly close to the ship.

Salvin's Albatross, Puerto Montt, SE Pacific, 13 Apr 2014

Subantarctic Little Shearwater, Puerto Montt, SE Pacific, 13 Apr 2014

Pink-footed Shearwater, Puerto Montt, SE Pacific, 13 Apr 2014

We then had the fantastic sight of breaching Humpback Whales. At least three animals were involved and they were gaining quite a height. The image below taken at quite a distance does not do the animal justice. We then had the bigger thrill of our first Blue Whale. Unfortunately we did not manage any snaps but we are both reasonably confident about the id. We could see several blows and eventually in the rather choppy seas we saw the bluish/grey back a huge whale break the surface; a memorable sighting. A 20 strong flock of Grey Phalarope provided the last highlight of the afternoon as they headed out to sea.

Humpback Whale, Puerto Montt, SE Pacific, 13 Apr 2014

Grey Phalarope, Puerto Montt, SE Pacific, 13 Apr 2014

Steve C

Mixed Singer WillowChiff at Botley Wood

Last week I joined Trevor Codlin at Botley Wood for a morning of bird ringing. We were hoping for migrants but we were also on the lookout for Nightingales. Trevor has been carrying out an ongoing colour ringing study so we needed to find singing males to gauge territory size and the amount of birds present.
We put up three nets and soon had a few common birds such as Great Tit, Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit. As we carried out net rounds Trevor heard a strange phyllosc song, He soon realised that this was the bird that Dan Houghton had reported early in the spring. For me the bird did not sound like a pure Iberian Chiffchaff but definitely included both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff within its song. Our bird may have been an Iberian Chiff or an “imitator”. It seems that these birds can be “Song switchers” or “Mixed Singers”. Here is a definition that I found on the net.

“It seems likely that consistent ‘song switching’ most-frequently involves simple song copying rather than indicating a hybrid between the two species. One species may imitate the song of the other when a close congener is seen as a potential territorial competitor. Conversely, consistent ‘mixed song’, involving a much more complex mix of individual notes from two species, seems to me less easy to explain from ‘imitation’ and may perhaps be a stronger indication of hybrid origin. Occasionally, though, both ‘song switching’ and ‘mixed singing’ are encountered from a single individual, so there is no clear-cut divide”

We decided to try and trap this bird and placed a net near its regular singing perch. Eventually the bird was in hand and we proceeded to take the biometrics. Immediatley we could see that the bird had no emargination on its 6th primary, unfortunately this ruled out all species (or sub-species) of Chiffchaff and left us to conclude that this was a typical Willow Warbler.

Willow Warbler, Botley Wood, Hants, 19th Apr 2014

More to come from this site during the spring.
Mark C

Antarctic Birding: Deception Island

From Palmer Station HMS PROTECTOR headed for Deception Island. Like Southern Thule of the South Sandwich Islands the Island is formed from the exposed circular rim of a volcano. However, unlike Southern Thule the rim is completely intact except for the single narrow entrance, known as ‘Neptune’s Bellows’, that provides access into the wide flooded caldera. The ship arrived offshore in heavy seas and strong winds on 24 Mar 14 and unsurprisingly, given the poor conditions, the Commanding Officer decided against an immediate transit through ‘Neptune’s Bellows’. Instead, with the weather conditions set to improve throughout the day and overnight, PRTR sat out the storm in the lee of the island.

 

Southern Fulmar and Cape Petrel, Deception Island, Antarctica – 24 Mar 14
Cape Petrel, Deception Island, Antarctica – 24 Mar 14
Cape Petrel, Deception Island, Antarctica – 24 Mar 14

The following morning in much calmer conditions PRTR negotiated ‘Neptune’s Bellows’ surrounded by numerous Chinstrap Penguins and several whales.

Neptune’s Bellows, Deception Island, Antarctica (from offshore) – 25 Mar 14
Neptune’s Bellows, Deception Island, Antarctica (from Whalers Bay) – 25 Mar 14

After the ship had negotiated the narrow entrance into the caldera the ship turned into Whalers Bay, formed by a headland within the caldera itself. Being very late in the Antarctic Summer birds were very few and far between, although several Antarctic Fur Seals were visible amongst the derelict buildings of the former Whaling Station. Had PRTR visited the island during the breeding season I would have encountered thousands of Chinstrap Penguins that nest on the inner slopes of the cliffs. However, in late March the most numerous species was Kelp Gull with approximately twenty individuals spread out around the bay. The occasional Imperial Shag and Brown Skua were the only other species seen within the interior of Deception Island.

Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island, Antarctica – 25 Mar 14
Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island, Antarctica – 25 Mar 14
Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island, Antarctica – 25 Mar 14

Later that morning the ship relocated to Port Foster, deeper within the caldera, from where it became apparent that the Spanish and Argentine Research Stations there had already been vacated for the winter. However, a lunchtime ‘birding’ session added a forth species – two Gentoo Penguins. PRTR spent the night back in Whalers Bay before heading out through Neptune’s Bellows the following morning.

Gabriel de Castilla Station (Spanish), Deception Island, Antarctica – 25 Mar 14
Decepcion Station (Argentinean), Deception Island, Antarctica – 25 Mar 14
Chinstrap Penguin, Bransfield Strait, Antarctica – 7 Dec 13

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Albatrosses in the Pacific Ocean off the Chilean coast

A couple of days after leaving Punta Arenas and transiting north through the spectacular Patagonian Canal, (see blog entries from HMS York during May 11), we finally entered the Pacific Ocean. As with three years previously we encountered rough seas for the first night but thankfully the sea state dropped overnight. We had Saturday afternoon off, so after lunch Tony and I spent the majority of the time sea-watching. We had a good mixture of birds including White-chinned, Southern Giant and Cape Petrels, not forgetting Sooty Shearwaters and Wilson’s Storm Petrels.

White-chinned Petrel, South East Pacific, 12 Apr 2014

Southern Giant Petrel, South East Pacific, 12 Apr 2014

However, it was albatrosses we were after and we were not disappointed. Over the next five or six hours we had 11 Wanderers, 10 Northern Royals, 16 Southern Royals, 16 Salvin’s and in the region of 70 Black-browed.

Wandering Albatross, South East Pacific, 12 Apr 2014

Southern Royal Albatross, South East Pacific, 12 Apr 2014

Southern Royal Albatross, South East Pacific, 12 Apr 2014

Northern Royal Albatross, South East Pacific, 12 Apr 2014

We were both fully aware of the id conundrum surrounding the two species of juvenile Royal Albatross. (Again see entries posted during May 2011); but as then I believe we got the majority of id’s correct. So I/we will stick our necks out and call the images. As always with this blog please feel free to put us straight if we have erred. Hopefully we will come across plenty more albatrosses during the next week or so.

Salvin's Albatross, South East Pacific, 12 Apr 2014

Black-browed Albatross, South East Pacific, 12 Apr 2014

Steve C

Black-faced Ibis at Tres Puentes, Chile

Unfortunately on the Monday we dipped on Chilean Flamingo, a species I saw approximately 40 of at the reserve on Friday evening from the airport bus. So at half four we jumped straight back in a taxi for the last couple of hours of daylight at the reserve. Unfortunately we still dipped on the flamingo but we did have at least 11 Black-faced Ibis on the adjacent grassland. The Ibis’s stayed together feeding with the occasional bicker before flying over the main road into a more extensive grassy area nearer to the cemetery we had visited the day before.

We hung around until sunset hoping for some flamingo action but we had to leave as we had a date with a steak and a few glasses of red.
Steve C

Thorn-tailed Rayadito at Tres Puentas, Chile

From our position at the wetland site we could see a cemetery and some surrounding scrub on top of a small rise about half a mile away. Mid-afternoon we headed off to see if we could find some Chilean passerines. A Grass Wren in the track side vegetation was our first sighting and this spurred us on for more to come. The cemetery has a nature path running alongside it, so we made our way along, seeing Correndera Pipit and Long-tailed Meadowlark along the way across a small valley. We then had two superb birds in as many minutes. A high pitched call in a nearby bush alerted our presence to a Thorn-tailed Rayadito. This striking bird proved no headache id wise. Eventually we had four birds all chasing each other around a small Pine Tree.

Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas Chile 7th April 2014

As we watched the Rayaditos, we saw another smaller bird hopping around the branches. I knew the bird was a species of Tit-Tyrant form my visit to Peru in 2011. A quick look through the Birds of Chile by Alvaro Jaramillo, (a very thoughtful present from my son Josh) indicated the bird was a Tufted Tit-Tyrant.

Tufted Tit-tyrant, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Tufted Tit-tyrant, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas Chile 7th April 2014

We then left the nature walk path and headed across some scrub. Here we picked up Austral Blackbird, Southern House Wren and a single Chimango Caracara perched on a distant fence line. We also put up a couple of Magellanic Snipe. Although the bird below did not flush, it just slowly crept away allowing both myself and Tony a few decent images.

Magellanic Snipe, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Ashy-headed Geese, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Chilean cake shop, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

On the loop around the cemetery we also came across several Bar-winged Cinclodes and another American Kestrel that we watched unsuccessfully attack a small party of Meadowlark. In another small river valley we came across three figure numbers of Upland Geese with smaller numbers of Ashy-headed among them. No sign of Ruddy-headed though. All in all a superb afternoon’s birding. When we got back to Punta, we called in at a charming little cake and coffee shop to top up energy!
Steve C

Tres Puentes, Chile, Coscoroba Swans and Coots

Two new Coot species also made it onto the life list at Tres Puentes. These were Red Gartered and White-winged Coot. The former being present in larger numbers. A number of both Coot species were seen with juveniles in tow. The images below are not the best but always nice to get a snap of a new bird.

White-winged Coot, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Red-gartered Coot, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Tres Puentes ducks noticeboard, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

The rest of the wildfowl present was not new to me or Tony, as we had seen them in the Falklands on different occasions, but what I certainly noticed was how much more the confiding the Chilean birds were. Yellow-billed Pintail and Chiloe Wigeon are particularly wary in the Falklands, yet here they swam quite close. It may well be that the birds are simply more used to the noise, traffic and people who visit. The population of Punta Arenas is 120 thousand. Slightly more than Port Stanley! We also enjoyed good views of four Coscoroba Swans and a single male Cinnamon Teal and a number of Speckled Teal. The commonest species around the reserve was the Upland Goose. Probably in the region of 5-600 birds were seen, mainly on the surrounding grassland.

Coscoroba Swan, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Coscoroba Swan Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Cinnamon Teal, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Yellow-billed Pintail, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Chiloe Wigeon, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Steve C

Red Shoveler and Ashy-headed Goose at Tres Puentes Reserve, Chile

After leaving Fareham and travelling for close to 36 hours via London, Madrid, Santiago and Puerto Montt, I finally arrived at Punta Arenas in the far south of Chile. After a half hour bus ride on which I saw both Chilean Flamingo and Black-faced Ibis I finally joined HMS Protector.

HMS Protector alongside Punta Arenas, Chile

The first few days were spent settling in but on Monday afternoon myself and Tony T who is already serving on the ship jumped in a taxi and headed to Tres Puentes; a local wetland reserve on the outskirts of the city. Although the reserve is backed onto by an industrial estate and has two main roads running adjacent it is a cracking spot with plenty to see, all the better if the sun is shining as it was for us that day. Two birds that I have been desperate to see in the Falklands but have never connected with, were found here within a few minutes. Both species were present in good numbers; Red Shoveler and Ashy-headed Geese.

Tres Puentes noticeboard, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Ashy-headed Geese (inc juvenile), Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile

Small flock of Red Shoveler, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

I would estimate around 40-50 Red Shoveler were present on the small lakes with maybe around 70 Ashy-headed Geese. Both birds are pretty much unmistakeable. The majority of the shovelers were roosting to the rear of the reserve. Although they did come a little closer later in the afternoon. The bulk of the geese flew in as we watched and after a cleaning and preening session moved out onto the surround grassland to feed. A great start to my stint on the ship.

Red Shoveler (female), Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Red Shoveler (male), Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Ashy-headed Geese, Tres Puentes, Punta Arenas, Chile 7th April 2014

Steve C

Antarctic Birding: Port Lockroy and Snowy Sheathbill at Palmer Station

With the survey tasking completed HMS PROTECTOR departed the waters around Detaille Island on the morning of Tuesday 18 Mar 14. Heading north the ship crossed the Antarctic Circle in the afternoon and held station overnight in Crystal Sound to the southeast of Pendleton Strait. The following day the ship sailed passed more stunning scenery as PRTR transited through the Grandidier Channel under clear blue skies.

Grandidier Channel, Antarctica – 19 Mar 14

Grandidier Channel, Antarctica – 19 Mar 14

Due to there being insufficient daylight to transit the narrow Lemaire Channel that evening the ship held station overnight several hundred meters from the entrance. Humpback and Sei Whales were regularly spotted around the ship and one sighting was particularly memorable. From inside the Bridge I heard a whale blow on the starboard side of the ship. When I reached the starboard Bridge Wing I spotted a Sei Whale just a few metres from the ship’s side. The animal submerged but remained visible as it swam alongside the ship in the crystal clear water. Just before it was directly below me it banked to the right and turned about showing its pale flanks. It then resurfaced, blew and then submerged and was lost to sight.

The following morning in misty conditions PRTR transited through the Lemaire Channel. Kelp Gull, Brown Skua, Imperial Shag, Antarctic Tern and Wilson’s Storm-petrel were regularly encountered. However, the most spectacular sighting was the rafts of literally thousands of Gentoo Penguins. The ‘Gentoos’ were so closely packed together that from a distance it was difficult to discern what the dark masses moving around ahead of the ship actually were without the aid of binoculars. Four Adelie Penguins were also encountered during the transit.

Lemaire Channel, Antarctica – 20 Mar 14

After the ship exited the Lemaire Channel the ship headed for Port Lockroy. Although the UK Base had already been shut down for the winter, the ship had been tasked with removing the waste that had been separated and left for collection. Unsurprisingly, there was considerably less ice present than during my previous visit three and a half months earlier (as shown in the two images below).

Port Lockroy (UK), Antarctica – 20 Mar 14

Port Lockroy (UK), Antarctica – 3 Dec 13

Just after I had tucked into my lunch the Officer Of the Watch informed the Ship’s Company that a Leopard Seal had been spotted close inshore with a penguin kill. Although I refrained from ‘legging it’ to the upperdeck I did grab my camera and binoculars and made my way there as soon as I had finished eating. Half an hour later I spotted the same or another Leopard Seal appear from behind the island. It moved purposely very close inshore and its presence had an immediate effect on the behaviour of the ‘Gentoos’. Those on the island backed well away from the edge of the water, and an exposed group on a rock close inshore knew that they were vulnerable. Not content with huddling together in the middle of the rock, first one and then the rest of them leapt into the water and made a mad dash for the island. All the ‘Gentoos’ made it safely across but several minutes later my attention was drawn to a gathering of seabirds to port. Through the binoculars I witnessed a ‘Leopard’ thrash a penguin kill violently from side to side. The surrounding water turned a bright red and the Giant Petrels, Brown Skua, Kelp Gull, Antarctic Tern and Wilson’s Storm-petrels were drawn in like a magnet for a share of the spoils.

Yelcho Base (Chilean), Antarctica – 20 Mar 14

The following day PRTR visited Palmer Station, one of three US Bases in Antarctica. The visit provided me with my last opportunity to get ashore in Antarctica. The highlight was my first and only Snowy Sheathbills of Ice Patrol 4.

Palmer Station (US), Antarctica – 21 Mar 14

Palmer Station (US), Antarctica – 21 Mar 14

Snowy Sheathbill (presumed immature), Palmer Station, Antarctica – 21 Mar 14

Snowy Sheathbill, Palmer Station, Antarctica – 21 Mar 14

Snowy Sheathbill, Palmer Station, Antarctica – 21 Mar 14

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Early Purple Orchid in West Sussex

Yesterday I was in West Sussex visiting another member of the Royal Naval Birdwatching Society. We were discussing ways that we could improve our online database. This shows records of seabird sightings and landbirds onboard ships that have been collated by the society since its conception in 1946.
http://www.rnbws.org.uk/search-2/
A proactive morning was followed by a very nice lunch and I decided to hit the M25 before it became a carpark.
On the way out I admired his garden and the small wood next door. Talk got to orchids, as it does and Stephen took me to see his “spotted orchids”
We passed bluebells, primroses and Lady’s Smock until we came across a wide expanse of orchids. With spotted leaves, deep purple colour and loose flower heads, I straight away recognised them as Early Purple Orchid.

Early Purple Orchid, West Sussex, 9th April 2014

A nice surprise as some years I seem to miss this species. I only had my Iphone, so the above image is pretty rough
Looking forward to finding some new orchids this summer
Mark C

Antarctic Birding: Emperor Penguin at Detaille Island

Iceberg, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

No more than ten minutes after I had enjoyed superb views of my first Leopard Seal I was piped to the Bridge. I presumed it was because the Leopard Seal had been relocated, but on my arrival I was informed by the Commanding Officer that an Emperor Penguin had in fact been spotted to port. To my misfortune though the ‘Emperor’, the species at the top of my wish list, had dived and was no longer on show. Conscious that there were numerous pairs of eyes looking out ahead and to port, I went to the back of the bridge and kept an eye out astern and to starboard. I had dipped on the only other previous sighting of an Emperor Penguin that was spotted by the Bridge Team very late one night in the Weddell Sea during Ice Patrol 2. Fortunately, after a frustrating few minutes I was delighted to relocate the ‘Emperor’ that had appeared on the surface of the water behind the ship. The bird briefly launched itself onto a chunk of sea ice and stood up before it disappeared once again into the water.

Emperor Penguin, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Emperor Penguin, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Either it or possibly another individual was then spotted by the Officer Of the Watch (OOW) off the starboard bow. As with the Leopard Seal the Commanding Officer then got the OOW to utilise the bow and stern thrusters to manoeuvre PRTR towards the Emperor Penguin. Although the bird regularly dived the ship got progressively closer to it. With record shots in the bag I went out onto the Port Bridge Wing from where I got progressively better and better photographs of the bird that called frequently. Unfortunately, the ‘Emperor’ that had settled on a chunk of sea ice took to the water before I had reached the focsle from where I had hoped to get even better photographs of what is by far the largest species of penguin.

Emperor Penguin, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Emperor Penguin, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Emperor Penguin, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Emperor Penguin, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

HMS PROTECTOR remained in the area overnight and the following morning I spotted a distant Emperor. Later the Chief Bosun’s Mate ‘Inga’ confirmed my suspicions that there were indeed at least two birds present having seen one and heard another calling from a different direction.

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Antarctic Birding: Leopard Seal at Detaille Island

Whilst I was on Watch Rotation Leave during Ice Patrol 3 HMS PROTECTOR conducted extensive Survey Operations of the poorly chartered waters that surround Detaille Island. It isn’t a very large island, and when the UK Station was constructed there it was assumed the exposed rock was adjoined to the surrounding terrain. However, as the ice retreated in response to climate change it eventually became apparent that the station had in fact been built on an island, and that realisation resulted in it being abandoned. Ironically, the ship despatched to pick up the last team to be stationed there couldn’t reach Detaille Island because of extensive ice. Therefore, they were forced to walk across the ice to the ship and had no choice but to leave the vast majority of their equipment behind. Consequently, the station represents a time capsule and it is a popular destination for cruise ships to visit. Hence no doubt the tasking.

Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Unfortunately on PRTR’s return to Detaille Island on 17 Mar 14 the landing point was chocked with ice and the intended ‘Leg Stretchers’ had to be cancelled, so I was unable to get ashore. Only the Royal Marine Detachment managed to get landed, at a less suitable alternative landing point on the other side of the island, tasked with the recovery of the survey tidal gauge equipment that had previously been setup and left to record data. In addition, both PRTR and the Survey Motor Boat conducted Sonar Survey Operations to fill in the gaps that remained from Ice Patrol 3.

Detaille Island and surrounding Icebergs – 17 Mar 14

Icebergs – 17 Mar 14

That afternoon at approximately 1700 the Officer Of the Watch (OOW) informed the Ship’s Company that a Leopard Seal had been spotted ahead of the ship on a slab of ice. Within minutes I was wrapped up in warm clothing and stood on the port Bridge Wing looking at the animal through my binoculars. Fortunately the ship wasn’t surveying at the time and was free to manoeuvre so the Commanding Officer, who was keen to take a closer look, got his OOW to steer a direct course towards it. It was a decision that certainly got my vote, despite the poor quality of the existing navigational charts. As the ship slowly approached the occupied slab of ice I was treated to ever closer and closer views of what can only be described as a menacing looking creature. Being the Top Predator (standfast Orca) it was only when PRTR was almost on top of it that it reluctantly turned and disappeared into the cold Antarctic water. It or another individual was regularly seen the following day.

Leopard Seal, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Leopard Seal, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Leopard Seal, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Leopard Seal, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

Although it had taken a long time to connect with a Leopard Seal my first encounter turned out to be well worth the wait. I have subsequently seen three more individuals, and on two of those occasions the ‘Leopards’ thrashed a Penguin violently from side to side turning the water a bright red. The Leopard Seal kills were easy to spot because Kelp Gull, Southern Giant Petrels, Antarctic Tern, Wilson’s Storm-petrel, etc would congregate around the spot for a share of the spoils. I have since read that the reason for the thrashing is to turn the Penguin inside out and make it easier to swallow. Fortunately for the penguins the Leopard Seal’s diet is also comprised of fish, krill and other seals.

Until shortly after the close encounter with the Leopard Seal the ‘birding’ highlight of the day had been several sightings of Snow Petrel. The sightings were my first of Ice Patrol 4, and once again the species was to be found in close proximity to significant amounts of ice. The sightings of what had been a regular species on my day lists during Ice Patrol 1 and 2 also turned out to be my last.

Snow Petrel, Detaille Island, Antarctica – 17 Mar 14

I didn’t expect the day to get any better after I had enjoyed yet more stunning scenery, bizarre shaped icebergs, sightings of the graceful Snow Petrel and my first ‘Leopard’. However, it did – ten minutes after the Leopard Seal!!! I joined HMS PROTECTOR knowing I only had an outside chance of connecting with what for me was the species at the top of my wish list. That box has now been well and truly ticked.

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Antarctic Birding: San Martin and Imperial (Blue-eyed) Shag

After HMS PROTECTOR sailed from Rothera it continued south to conduct a Base Visit of the Argentine San Martin Station at 68.2°S. It was the furthest south the ship was to go on this particular Ice Patrol and indeed had ever been.

Marguerite Bay, Antarctica – 16 Mar 14

Marguerite Bay, Antarctica – 16 Mar 14

San Martin Station (Argentinean), Marguerite Bay – 16 Mar 14

Brown Skua were once again regularly encountered. Southern Fulmar, Wilson’s Storm-petrel, Kelp Gull and Adelie Penguin were also spotted as PRTR held station offshore. However, the most numerous species was Imperial (Blue-eyed/Antarctic) Shag.

Imperial Shag, Marguerite Bay, Antarctica – 16 Mar 14

After the Base Visit to the Argentine Station PRTR turned about and commenced the transit north. En route the ship sailed pass the Teniente Luis Carvajal Station (Chilean) on Adelaide Island and discovered that it had already been shut down for the Antarctic Winter. A similar selection of species were to be found offshore, although a long strung out line of at least 300 Imperial Shag were particularly noteworthy. The birds flew low over the water and were headed for Adelaide Island.

Imperial Shag, Marguerite Bay, Antarctica – 16 Mar 14

Imperial Shag, Marguerite Bay, Antarctica – 16 Mar 14

There were also several Humpback Whales present. The two animals below showed particularly well.

Humpback Whale, Marguerite Bay, Antarctica – 16 Mar 14

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Kumlien’s Gull and Hoopoe in West Sussex

I am due to fly to South America to re-join HMS Protector on Friday so I have this week on leave along with my wife Jo. I asked her if she fancied a trip to see the sights of Arundel today. She was more than happy even though she was well aware that part of the day would be spent birding. We set off west in the fog but a half hour stop at the “unmissable” TK Maxx home store on the outskirts of Chichester allowed it to lift before we arrived at Arundel.

The frying pan selection has to be seen to be believed.

With the numerous antiques shops visited and the obligatory toasted teacake consumed, we headed down to the village of Climping to have a look for the recently reported Hoopoe. Glad to report the bird was showing well if a little distant in a horse paddock at the back pf the beach car park. The Hoopoe was constantly feeding and I was hoping it would venture a little nearer the camera, but a couple of para gliders came buzzing along the beach and unfortunately put the bird to flight.

Hoopoe, Climping, 1 Apr 2014

Hoopoe, Climping, 1 Apr 2014

Hoopoe Flushing Service........Does look good fun though

 

This is how close you see them in Portugal. Photo Mark Cutts

We checked out the grounds of the nearby Bailliffescourt Hotel but could not relocate the bird. We then drove down the west side of the River Arun and parked up in the car park adjacent to the mouth of the river. I looked around but could see no sign of the hoped for Kumlien’s Gull that has been residing in the vicinity since early February. We had lunch in the car overlooking the river and fortunately as we ate, the Juvenile Kumlien’s flew down the river in the direction of the sea. I was hoping that the bird would have alighted on the long groyne at the river’s mouth and sure enough about fifty metres out there was the bird perched on the wood. I was then hoping the bird would take to the air and come a little closer but there it remained for the remainder of our visit.

Kumlien's Gull, Littlehampton, 1 Apr 2014

Kumlien's Gull, Littlehampton, 1 Apr 2014

Kumlien's Gull, Littlehampton, 1 Apr 2014

Steve C

Chiffs, Cetti’s and Little Egrets down the Titchfield Canal Path

A couple of walks down the Titchfield Canal last Week produced a decent number of birds. On Sunday I walked from my house to the sea front; whereas on the previous Thursday I parked the car on Bridge St and just walked to Hammond’s Bridge and back. Chiffchaffs were well represented with 12 birds on Sunday and around seven on Thursday. All the birds were as you would expect particularly vocal in the spring sunshine. Cetti’s Warblers were heard in similar proportions with 10 and 7 respectively. 12 Little Egrets together in the first field south of Bridge St on Sunday was a great sighting. The birds were all feeding in the shallow floods of the nearest field.

Chiffchaff, Titchfield Canal Path, 27 Mar 2014

Little Egrets, Four of the twelve, Titchfield Canal Path, 30 Mar 2014

Little Egrets, Six of the twelve, Titchfield Canal Path, 30 Mar 2014

580 Black-headed Gulls were counted on the Posbrook Floods. No doubt part of the large Haven population to the south. There was a constant movement of gulls up and down the valley. I could also hear a number of Mediterranean Gulls amongst them. Other birds in good voice were Robins, Dunnocks, Greenfinches and the usual Tits. Nice to see the Reed Bunting in the same place as on the 22nd. The bird was still singing and calling repeatedly, so quite obviously on territory, maybe yet to find a mate. Nice also to see good numbers of Bumble Bees; many attracted to the flowering catkins of the canal side Willow Trees.

Dunnock, Titchfield Canal Path, 27 Mar 2014

Reed Bunting, Titchfield Canal Path, 30 Mar 2014

Bumble Bee on Willow, Titchfield Canal Path, 27 Mar 2014

 

Steve C