Antarctic Petrel in Drake’s Passage, Southern Ocean

On completion of the Survey Operations in the Bransfield Strait on 8 Dec 13 HMS PROTECTOR commenced the passage north to Montevideo, Uruguay where a watch handover was to be conducted. In the evening the ship left the sheltered waters of the Bransfield Strait through the channel between Nelson Island and Robert Island. The images below represented my last views of Antarctica from Ice Patrol 1.

Nelson Island, Antarctica – 8 Dec 13

Robert Island, Antarctica – 8 Dec 13

Species seen during the relatively calm transit of Drake’s Passage were Wilson’s Storm-petrel, Southern Fulmar, Cape Petrel, Antarctic Prion, Light-mantled Albatross, Grey-headed Albatross and Antarctic Petrel. The highlight was the single Antarctic Petrel that remained with the ship throughout the 9 Dec 13 and finally enabled me to capture some decent record images of the species. It is a species that isn’t normally associated with following ships.

Southern Fulmar, Drake’s Passage – 9 Dec 13

Antarctic Petrel, Drake’s Passage – 9 Dec 13

Antarctic Petrel, Drake’s Passage – 9 Dec 13

Antarctic Petrel, Drake’s Passage – 9 Dec 13

Antarctic Petrel, Drake’s Passage – 9 Dec 13

On the 10 Dec 13 PRTR passed to the east and within view of the Falkland Islands. Being a Tuesday I was surprised when an RAF Hercules Transport aircraft conducted a fly pass during my lunchtime ‘birding’ vigil because I would have expected the aircrew to still be on ‘weekenders’ (=P).

RAF Hercules Transport, South Atlantic – 10 Dec 13

Whilst PRTR remained within relatively close proximity of the Falkland Islands the ship was accompanied by both Giant Petrels (maximum 20 predominantly if not entirely Southern) and the majestic Black-browed Albatross (maximum 30). The first Sooty Shearwater of the deployment was also encountered off the Falkland Islands. Although there was no sign of it in the afternoon, one of the twelve Snowy Sheathbills from the previous day remained on the flight deck throughout the morning. Fingers crossed it and the eleven other Snowy Sheathbills made landfall in the Falkland Islands.

Southern Giant Petrel, South Atlantic – 10 Dec 13

Black-browed Albatross – 10 Dec 13

Sooty Shearwater, South Atlantic – 10 Dec 13

Snowy Sheathbill, South Atlantic – 10 Dec 13

Good birding,

Tony T BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

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