Last walk to Fox Point: Sanderling and South American Terns

Protector arrived back in the Falklands in the third week of February and myself and Tony were both due to fly home the following week for some welcome rotation leave. Before that however, we had to pay one last visit to Bertha’s Beach; probably the last visit ever for the both of us! We did not have much time, so selected to visit Fox Point instead of the longer hike to the Gentoo Colony which by that time would have quietened down anyway. As we left East Cove we picked up the immature Brown-hooded Gull below feeding with several adult birds and a few Kelp Gulls. Note the leg colour difference between the Falkland Kelp Gull and the South Georgia bird eleven days earlier.

Immature Brown-hooded Gull, Mare Harbour, 24 Feb 2015

Kelp Gull, Mare Harbour, 24 Feb 2015

Kelp Gull, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

On the muddy sand at the end of East Cove were good numbers of Two-banded Plover and White-rumped Sandpiper. In among them were two Sanderlings, our first of the season.  An immature Rufous-chested Dotterel also showed well on the nearby grass.

Sanderling, East Cove, 24 Feb 2015

Rufous-chested Dotterel, East Cove, 24 Feb 2015

The rocks near Fox Point which are usually good for South American Terns and Brown-hooded Gulls did not disappoint; approximately 150 Terns and 100 Gulls being present. Every so often they would flush; usually when a Giant Petrel came closer than they would have liked.

South American Terns and Brown-hooded Gulls, Fox Point, 24 Feb 2015

South American Terns and Brown-hooded Gulls, Fox Point, 24 Feb 2015

South American Terns and Brown-hooded Gulls, Fox Point, 24 Feb 2015

 

Steve C

Breeding Albatrosses of South Georgia

Four species of albatross breed on South Georgia. I appreciate most readers of the blog will be familiar with them; but just in case you’re not it gives me the chance to show a few images all taken on the 14th Feb 2015. This was the day we left the island and headed west towards the Falklands. As we left we passed near to Bird Island, all four breeding species showed themselves for the camera.

Black-browed Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Wandering (Snowy) Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Wandering (Snowy) Albatross, Diomedea exulans, is the only ‘great’ albatross to breed on the island with 1553 pairs (2004). Breeding mainly in the North West of the Island. The bird has a circumpolar distribution with large populations at South Georgia, Crozet, Kerguelen and Prince Edward Islands. The bird has a number of plumage changes as it ages which I won’t go too deep into. But basically starting off chocolate brown as a juvenile and progressively getting whiter with age. Many excellent books such as Harrison’s, Onley and Scofield as well as the WILDGuides South Georgia guide cover this in more detail.

Wandering (Snowy) Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Wandering (Snowy) Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Wandering (Snowy) Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Wandering (Snowy) Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015. Still some good sized icebergs around even in the middle of Summer

I covered Light-mantled (Sooty) Albatross a few entries back so I won’t go into much details other than to hope you enjoy the pictures.Same goes for Black-browed Albatross to be fair which needs little introduction or information.

Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Black-browed Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Grey-headed Albatross is the final Albatross of the breeding quartet. This is another circumpolar breeding bird. South Georgia holds 48,000 pair which is approximately half the global population. Like the Black-browed the nest is a pillar of soil and vegetation. It also nests predominantly in the North West of the island. Incubation is 69-78 days, with fledging taking a further 140 days in May or June. The bird will breed biennially if successful.

Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Grey-headed Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

Grey-headed Albatross, South Georgia, 14 Feb 2015

 

Steve C

Birding at Sea – The first few weeks

We have now been away from home for about five weeks and as is seemily the case for us older folks the time has gone quick. After my amazing adventures in the Mediterranean in 2011 where I had numerous species of landbirds onboard I was quite surprised this time when passing through that I saw just a single Robin and a Yellow Wagtail.

Yellow Wagtail, Mediterranean Sea, 16 Apr 2015

The Suez transit was interesting. Due to security restrictions we weren’t always allowed onto the upperdeck but when I could I had good views of Spur-winged Lapwing, Slender-billed Gull and Western reef-Heron. Mixed flocks of White-cheeked and Little Tern could be seen flying North every so often but the highlight was a pair of Blue cheeked Bee-eater on a distant signpost.

Bkue-cheeked Bee-eaters, Suez Canal, 17 Apr 2015

White-cheeked Tern, Suez Canal, 17th April 2015

In the Red Sea we had two nights on the trot where Barn Swallows turned up at dusk, which tells me there is a migration route nearby and the following day I saw my first group of eight Bridled Terns flying in front of the ship. Into the Indian Ocean and distant views of a breaching Humpback Whale were enjoyed. Over the next few days we had Brown Booby, Red-billed Tropicbird, Masked Booby, Sperm Whales and Red-footed Booby, but all in small numbers.

Masked Booby, Red Sea, 28th April 2015

A week later I was called up for this really impressive hawkmoth, I have no idea what species it is.

Hawkmoth sp, Indian Ocean, 6th May 2015

The next day I was handed a Lesser Noddy. I believe the bird had broken its leg and although we dried it out and kept it quiet overnight, I doubt if it survived the next day.

Lesser Noddy, Indian Ocean, 7th May 2015

Relatively quiet to be honest with no landbirds onboard since leaving Suez and just the odd seabird. Hopefully this will improve in the next few months
Mark C

Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven

Hardly scoop of the century I know, but after seeing some excellent pictures of this bird on the web, (particularly Richard Ford’s shots). I was spurred back into another attempt to capture some better images of the bird than those I shot a week or so back when the bird was rather distant, to put it mildly. Not in the American Golden Plover bracket,  but to be fair even the Yellowlegs own mother would have had difficulty recognising the bird. Also the fact that the bird is now pretty much in breeding plumage was another good reason to head to the reserve.

Greater Yellowlegs, Titchfield Haven, 21 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs, Titchfield Haven, 21 May 2015

As I was entering the reserve, “after paying” I bumped into Jim H and Dave W and we ambled along to the Suffern Hide. One of the Birds favourite haunts is the mud to the right of the hide and sure enough within a few minutes the bird was picked up and good views were obtained in the scope. But it was too far for the camera. Within twenty minutes the hide was toppers, so Jim and I walked up to the new Meadow Hide further up the reserve. After a good natter and a brew in the café Jim had to get back to work, so I popped back to the Suffern Hide to see if the bird was any nearer for the camera. Glad to report the hide was only half full and the greater Yellowlegs was actively feeding on the mud just fifty yards in front of the hide. Cameras were snapping away like we were back at the Dell in 82. (Lou Macari nipping in for the winner). As I said the bird was constantly feeding in and around the wooden staging in the river; every so often a Black-headed Gull would give it a bit of hassle, but nothing stopped the bird feeding for more than a few seconds. The bird put on a great show for the next twenty minutes before flying to the back of the river nearer to the Meon Shore.

Greater Yellowlegs, Titchfield Haven, 21 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs, Titchfield Haven, 21 May 2015, being pestered by a Black-headed Gull

Greater Yellowlegs, Titchfield Haven, 21 May 2015, back to feeding

Greater Yellowlegs feeding; Common Tern looking on, Titchfield Haven, 21 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs, Titchfield Haven, 21 May 2015

 

Steve C

Titchfield Canal Update 20-May 2015: Water Vole and Roe Deer, both with Young.

Since being home on leave I have enjoyed several walks down the canal path. The obvious highlight; the Greater Yellowlegs rediscovered on the Posbrook Floods the Saturday before last. The Saturday just gone I enjoyed an early morning stroll to the Meon Shore bumping intKen and Mark en route; two local birders. The highlight of that walk had to be a couple of Water Voles with young seen on the stretch north of Posbrook Bridge. Ken informed me that they are quite regular now after the release scheme at the Haven the other year. But this was my first sighting of the species for a good few years so very pleasing. In fact it has been that long; at first I thought it was just a rat. But now I am happy with the id. Unfortunately I was not quick enough to get the one young animal I saw, but it was only a couple of inches long so I guess maybe only a week or two old.

Water Vole, Titchfield Canal, 16 May 2015

Water Vole, Titchfield Canal, 16 May 2015

Water Vole, Titchfield Canal, 16 May 2015

Today I saw an animal which was much younger; a Roe Deer Kid, (hope that is the correct term as opposed to Fawn). I had only got 100 yards or so down the path when I spotted a hind on her own. She looked wary and was constantly on the lookout, to be fair they are always wary but this one just made me wonder. So I carried on watching and within five minutes the reason for her behaviour became clear as a kid came into view.

Roe Deer, Titchfield Canal, 20 May 2015

Roe Deer with Kid, Titchfield Canal, 20 May 2015

Roe Deer with Kid, Titchfield Canal, 20 May 2015

I have little knowledge of Roe Deer but I would say this was a very young animal. Maybe a day or so old, more likely only a few hours. The female was paying the kid a lot of attention and constantly licking and cleaning the youngster which would also indicate the latter. I did not see the kid suckle but as you would expect it stuck very close to the mother, who would take a few paces one way and have a quick feed before looking around again. Each time the mother moved, the kid would make small leaps to catch her up, already very steady on its feet.

Roe Deer with Kid, Titchfield Canal, 20 May 2015

Roe Deer with Kid, Titchfield Canal, 20 May 2015

Roe Deer Kid, Titchfield Canal, 20 May 2015

Roe Deer Kid, Titchfield Canal, 20 May 2015

Roe Deer with Kid, Titchfield Canal, 20 May 2015

 

Steve C

Wandering Albatrosses in Undine Bay; South Georgia

Along with the 100’s of albatrosses and petrels mentioned in the previous entry there was also a pair of Wanderers sat on the surface. They did not come overly close to the ship, but appeared more intent on interacting with each other, the birds ‘billing’ for a few moments just as I swung the camera onto them.

Wandering Albatrosses, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

One bird is clearly an adult; the second bird would appear to be a stage 3-4 immature bird. That said some female wanderer species; certainly the Tristan Albatross, will breed in this plumage. So this could be an aspiring pair (or an established pair) or maybe an adult and offspring; I’ll let you decide.

Wandering Albatrosses, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

Wandering Albatrosses, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

Wandering Albatrosses and White-chinned Petrels, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

Steve C

Petrels and Albatrosses at Undine Bay, South Georgia

We left South Georgia on the afternoon of the 14th of February for the return passage to the Falkland Islands. Before that however, we spent the morning in Undine Bay, not too far from Bird Island. We had been asked by the rat eradication team to remove some twenty or so fuel drums that had been used by the team’s helicopters and transport them back to the Falklands. We were happy to oblige and I was pleased as it was an area I had not visited before. The ship pulled into the bay early morning; and we were quickly surrounded by good numbers of birds sat on the surface.

Dan and Beef; two of the ships company carrying fuel drums to the shoreline for return to the ship by boat

 

Albatrosses and Petrels, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

Albatrosses and Petrels, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

The three commonest species were Black-browed Albatross, (c300), Northern Giant Petrel, (c350) and White-chinned Petrel, (500). These were backed up by decent numbers of Antarctic Prions and Wilson’s Storm Petrels. The majority stayed around the ship as the ships boats ferried the drums back to the ship. It was particularly nice to get good close views of the White-chins, despite the overcast conditions. A great spectacle.

Black-browed Albatross, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

White-chinned Petrel, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

White-chinned Petrel, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

Albatrosses and Petrels, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

Albatrosses and Petrels, Undine Bay, 14 Feb 2015

 

Steve C

South Georgia Close ups

I always enjoy taking close up shots of wildlife. With the birds and mammals of South Georgia being very approachable it makes it all the easier.  The images below were all taken on the walk from Grytviken to Penguin River.

Elephant Seal, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Elephant Seal, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Subantarctic Fur Seal, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Subantarctic Fur Seal, suckling, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

King Penguin, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Northern Giant Petrel, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Subantarctic/Brown Skua, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Steve C

Antarctic Tern in South Georgia

The Antarctic Tern is the only tern species breeding on the island; Arctic Tern occurring every so often as a vagrant although it is probably overlooked. Antarctic Tern breeds throughout the Subantarctic Islands and I remember seeing birds feeding on Sandhoppers in among washed up seaweed back in 2012 on Tristan da Cuhna. The South Georgia population stands at 2500 pairs. The bird feeding the well grown chick below was photographed on the walk around to Penguin River from Grytviken.

Antarctic Tern, imm, Penguin River Walk, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Antarctic Terns, Penguin River Walk, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Antarctic Terns, Penguin River Walk, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Antarctic Tern, imm, Penguin River Walk, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Antarctic Tern, imm, Penguin River Walk, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

Steve C

South Georgia Pintail

Like I mentioned at the end of the last entry. I will endeavour to clear the backlog of entries that have managed to build up over the last few months. Busy, busy, busy!!! Unfortunately that means the entries will jump around in time a fraction, but regular readers will know that we often flit between various subjects on various continents. For now I will do my best to complete the South Atlantic.

South Atlantic Sunrise

South Georgia Pintail are often seen around the Grytviken area. This endemic species frequents both the sea and freshwater pools just inland from the coast. The birds breed off the ground in Tussac. Generally five eggs are laid between November and February. The South Georgia Pintail is another species that will benefit from the rat eradication currently taking place on the island. In the short term some ducks have been found dead after eating the bait, but the longer term prospects for the ducks, as for many species on the island must be brighter. Time will tell.

South Georgia Pintail, Penguin River, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

South Georgia Pintail in among the Fur Seals, Penguin River, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

South Georgia Pintail, Penguin River, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

South Georgia Pintail, Penguin River, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

One particular bird receiving some unwanted attention from a Fur Seal Pup

South Georgia Pintail, Grytviken, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

South Georgia Pintail, Grytviken, South Georgia, 11 Feb 2015

This individual appeared to follow me all the way along the coast from Penguin River back to Grytviken

 

Steve C

Greater Yellowlegs and Bonaparte’s Gull: Two Hampshire Ticks

Having returned from a P & O cruise (some might say busman’s holiday) 24 hours late on Saturday morning due to an electrical fault on the Azura; I checked the web to see that the Greater Yellowlegs had been rediscovered on the Posbrook Floods. I managed to play the dutiful husband for about twenty minutes helping my wife unpack, before grabbing the dog and ambling down to the canal path. Twitch by walking is the way to go. The bird was showing well in the middle of the flood in among a number of Black-tailed Godwits. Although distant for the camera as you can see by the shots below it was a real stunner in the scope. The bird actually spent the majority of the hour or so I was there roosting; but every so often it would oblige the admiring crowd by having a look around or the odd scratch. Giving a glimpse of the Yellowlegs in the name before tucking its head away as it nodded back off. A great bird and a new addition to my Hampshire and British List. Good also to bump into Jeff Goodridge, Graham Barrett and Dave Wallace at the site. Hopefully now I’m back on dry land for a while, I’ll catch up with a few more locals.

Greater Yellowlegs, (centre right), Posbrook Floods, 9 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs, (showing a little leg colour), Posbrook Floods, 9 May 2015

With my luck obviously in, I then popped along to Riverside Park in Southampton to connect with the ever-reliable Bonaparte’s Gull that had been showing well for the last week or so. However my luck was not in. The bird not showing during my allotted time slot. My time limited, as I had to get back to Fareham to connect with a bottle of red wine. (No dipping on that one)!! So today having seen the bird reported again this morning at the park I drove once again to Southampton. This time I headed straight to Chessel Bay as it was low tide and the bird tends to favour this area when this is the case. I parked up and headed along the footpath that runs adjacent to the railway line, popping out onto the high tideline a few hundred yards along the path. Straight away I noticed a smallish gull at the water’s edge and set up the scope and was very happy to see the Bonaparte’s Gull. A few moments later the bird flew onto the mud and rooted around for a short time in a patch of seaweed. Flying back to the water with something it had uncovered among the weed. Despite the interests of a local Herring Gull, the Bonaparte’s Gull finished off its snack and then flew back to another patch of seaweed on the mud. When the bird alighted on the mud it was possible to see the pinkish legs, one of the key id features. It repeated this behaviour several more times during my visit; working its way right along the bay from south to north in the process. Another great bird and a second Hampshire lifer in the space of 48 hours. Thanks to the finders of both these crackers.

Bonaparte's Gull, Chessel Bay, 11 May 2015

Bonaparte's Gull, Chessel Bay, 11 May 2015

Bonaparte's Gull, Chessel Bay, 11 May 2015

Bonaparte's Gull, Chessel Bay, 11 May 2015

Bonaparte's Gull, Chessel Bay, 11 May 2015

On a separate note, I have now left the Protector, but find myself rather in arrears with my blog entries . I have bits and pieces from South Africa, Brazil, Chile, not to mention birds at sea in the Atlantic on the passage north back to Plymouth. into the mix I have several entries from the UK which I have yet to get round to including the Penduline Tits in Devon and a very obliging Cirl Bunting in the same county. Not forgetting last weeks cruise to Norway, (it wasn’t really a busman’s holiday). With my fellow amigo’s apparently “suffering” from writers block, I will hopefully get all these entries out and more in the coming months. Please keep viewing, Thanks.

Steve C

Northern Giant Petrels eating a King Penguin

A few days after the excitement of the Whale session the ship pulled into Cumberland Bay. Whilst walking along the beach from Grytviken to Penguin River, I came across a small party of Southern and Northern Giant Petrels in the shallows by a rocky outcrop. Although still distant I could tell they must be feeding on something as there was a lot of squabbling between the birds. I slowly inched my way towards the birds in order not to disturb them, during which time another Northern Giant had dropped in and had taken charge of proceedings; driving off all but one of the other giant petrels present. I can only assume the remaining bird was family or a possible mate. I’ll leave the pictures un-captioned as they pretty much speak for themselves.

 

Steve C

Macaroni Penguin interaction with Blue and Humpback Whales

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, there was some very close interaction between the feeding whales and the Macaroni Penguins on the 9th of February. The penguins were obviously benefitting from the feeding activities of the whales and needless to say the closer they were the better chance they had of grabbing a morsel. Every time a whale surfaced it often seemed to be surrounded by Macaroni’s and a few Gentoo’s. I guess also it is another excuse to show a few more whale images from that memorable day.

Blue Whale with Macaroni Penguins, South Georgia – 9 Feb 15

Blue Whale with Macaroni Penguins and Cape Petrels, South Georgia – 9 Feb 15

Blue Whale with Macaroni Penguins, South Georgia – 9 Feb 15

Blue Whale with Macaroni and Gentoo Penguins, South Georgia – 9 Feb 15

Blue Whale with Macaroni Penguins, South Georgia – 9 Feb 15

Humpback Whale with Macaroni's, Gentoo's and Antarctic Prions, South Georgia – 9 Feb 15

The last image with the Humpback reminded me of an extraordinary image I had seen on the internet taken by a lady called Kate Cummings, of a Humpback Whale that came bursting through the surface whilst feeding and inadvertently caught a Brown Pelican in it jaws. The pelican just peering out helpless; not sure of the outcome, but you can only assume it wasn’t a happy ending for the pelican. Hopefully the Macaroni’s will avoid a similar fate.

Humpback Whale with Brown Pelican, photo Kate Cummings

Steve C

Macaroni Penguins in South Georgia Waters

Macaroni Penguins were by the far the commonest penguin species seen during our time in South Georgia. On the morning of the 9th February during the whale watching frenzy we estimated around 5000 Macaroni’s were feeding in among the cetaceans; as I said before at times a few of the birds appeared rather too close for comfort. I have a few more images to show on that subject in due course.

Macaroni Penguin, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Macaroni Penguin, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Macaroni Penguin, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

1 million pairs of Macaroni Penguins breed on South Georgia, out of a global population of 6 million. Colonies have declined over the last few decades and it’s possible that competition for food with the growing population of Antarctic Fur Seals could be a factor. Quoting again from the WILDGuides book, “Macaroni Penguins lay two eggs but it is rare for more than one chick to be raised; the species is unique in that the first egg laid is always smaller than the second egg. (In other penguin species that lay two eggs, the first is bigger). When the second egg is laid the first egg is discarded”.

Macaroni Penguin, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Macaroni Penguin, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Some of the birds gave great views as they porpoised in and around the ship. It is always a pleasure to look down from the bow onto penguins as they ‘fly’ through the clear South Atlantic waters.

Macaroni Penguin, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Macaroni Penguins, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Macaroni Penguins, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Macaroni Penguins, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Macaroni Penguins, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

 

Steve C

Prions and Petrels of South Georgia

Antarctic Prion is by the far the commonest seabird on South Georgia; several sources state the population at 22 million breeding pairs which is an incredible number. The bird nests in burrows and lays a single egg in December with fledging taking place in March. This species will certainly benefit from the rat eradication that is currently taking place on the islands. If the eradication is a success (and so far the results seem positive) numbers will hopefully increase as will the population of all the smaller breeding seabirds.

Antarctic Prion, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Antarctic Prion, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Antarctic Prion, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Black-bellied Storm Petrel and Wilson Storm Petrel are the two breeding storm petrels of the island; with 10,000 and 600,000 pairs respectively. Black-bellied is slightly the larger of the two birds. Both have a circumpolar distribution but Wilson’s with a world population of up to 15 million birds far outnumber the quarter of a million or so Black-bellied.

Black-bellied Storm Petrel, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Black-bellied Storm Petrel, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Georgian (South Georgia) Diving Petrel is very difficult to tell apart from Common Diving Petrel. Although it is not very clear the bird below is showing a white trailing edge to the secondaries and does show white in the scapulars along with the paler underwing. All good indicators for Georgian. However, I am still not 100% confident calling it as definite. I’ll stick with possible/probable. Cop out from Coppo.

Possible Georgian (South Georgia) Diving Petrel, South Georgia, 9 Feb 2015

Steve C