Naturetrek Tour Day 9 – Carcass – North West End

Today we were going to drive to the North West end of Carcass Island and then hike all around the coast in that area before heading back to the house late in the afternoon. As it was going to be difficult walking one member of the group decided on not doing the trip and would spend the day relaxing around the house.

We parked up at the large pond and soon saw the large Black Crowned Night Heron colony on the edge of the pond. On the pond there were large numbers of Speckled Teal, Falkland Steamer Duck, CRested Duck, Upland & Ruddy Headed Geese with smaller numbers of Chiloe Wigeon & Silvery Grebe.

At the beach and along the back of the beach there were Falkland Skua, Magellanic Oystercatcher with chicks, Snowy Sheathbill, Magellanic Snipe, White Bridled Finch, Tussucbird, Grass Wren, Falkland Thrush and large numbers of feeding Kelp & Dolphin Gull.

All along the beach there were hundreds of Southern Elephant Seals including this year’s pups on the beach a few sub adults play fighting in the water as well as sleeping beach masters.

Towards the North West point I picked out a very pale Giant Petrel flying towards us, as it got nearer I made sure everybody saw it well as it past us. As I had suspected it was indeed a Northern Giant Petrel a new bird for the trip. There were also a few Southern Seal Lions on the rocks and a couple of Peale’s Dolphins offshore. As we were heading back to the rover we saw an adult Striated Caracara at the back of the beach.

Naturetrek Tour Day 8 – Carcass – West Point Trip

Today the plan was to go over to West Point Island aboard Mike Clarke’s boat Condor if weather permitted. As the weather was again sunny with clear blue skies with a slight breeze the trip was on. We board the Condor at 09:15 and were soon on our way to West Point Island. We were soon seeing King Cormorants and black Browed Albatross passing the boat before I heard the shout of “Dolphin”. Up to 9 Commerson’s Dolphin spent the next half an hour swimming alongside and bow riding giving us all fantastic views.

When we arrived at West Point Island we went up to the house where Mike’s wife Jeanette had made tea/coffee & cakes for us to enjoy before going to the Black Browed Albatross colony at Devils nose.

We then spent the next few hours in amongst the Black Browed Albatross and Rockhopper Penguins. Enjoying close up views of the adult birds flying into their mate on the nest.

 

Soon it was time to leave so we headed back to the settlement for another quick hot drink before setting off to the reef to look for seabirds.

We soon connected with Cape Petrel a new species for the trip. We also saw lots of Southern Fulmar, Black Browed Albatross and Southern Giant Petrel. Soon it was time to head back to Carcass, along the way we were escorted by Peale’s Dolphins a much larger relative to the Commerson’s seen earlier. A bonus seabirds seen on the way back to Carcass was a Common Diving Petrel, it took off very near the boat and was seen well by everybody. Back at Carcass there was a King Penguin on the beach, another great finish to a fantastic day.

Naturetrek Tour Day 7 – Pebble Island to Carcass Island

Our flight from Pebble Island to Carcass Island was scheduled for 11:15 so we all went for a walk down to the beach after breakfast to have a last look around. We saw Magellanic & Blackish Oystercatchers along with Snowy Sheathbill and Black Crowned Night Heron.

We then headed to the grass airstrip for our 15 minute flight to Carcass Island where we were met by Rob McGill the owner of Carcass Island. We loaded up the landrovers and headed over the hill to the settlement. After sorting the rooms and luggage we had a quick hot drink before walking down to the white sandy beach where we were met by a large group of Striated Caracara.

Also on the beach there were quite a few Kelp Geese including a female with a odd shape on its head, Crested Duck, Falkland Steamer Duck and Black Crowned Night Heron.

Further around the beach towards the jetty we found Rock Shag, Blackish Oystercatcher and had great views of the endemic Cobb’s Wren.

Naturetrek Tour Day 6 – Pebble Island – East End

Today we headed to the east end of Pebble Island, again the weather was very sunny & warm with a slight breeze. We stopped off at Big pond were we had Silvery & White Tufted Grebe and a couple of pairs of Flying Steamer Duck. Further along we saw the male Cinnamon Teal that has been hanging around for quite a while.

We pushed on and checked lots more ponds where we saw Chiloe Wigeon, Speckled Teal, Silver Teal, Yellow Billed Pintail and Black Necked Swan to name a few. We also saw lots of Falkland Pipit, Falkland Thrush, White Bridled Finch & Long Tailed Meadowlark. We then stopped for a while at a Southern Sea Lion colony where we counted at least 76 animals and out at sea we could see Black Browed Albatross flying past.

At the Rockhopper Penguin colony we quickly found the Leucistic Rockhopper Penguin that has just returned for the 10th year.

We also found a very odd looking “spotty” Rockhopper Penguin. A great finish to a brilliant day on Pebble Island.

Naturetrek Tour Day 5 – Ringed Southern GP

During the tour of the west end of Pebble Island I found a dead adult Southern Giant Petrel, while I was showing the group the detail of the bill of the bird to seperate it from Northern Giant Petrel we noticed that it had a metal ring on its left leg. I took the ring off the bird so we could track down some details later.

I have had a little bit of detail back about the bird, It was a male and was ringed at Palmer Station on Anver Island in Antarctica on 01/11/03. Not much details about the age of the bird apart from that it was hatched before 2000.

Naturetrek Tour Day 5 – Pebble Island – West End

Another glorious warm sunny day with a little wind greeted us for day 5 of our tour. Today we were going on a full day’s tour of the west end of Pebble Island with Allan White driving one Land Rover and me driving the other. We soon picked up Brown Hooded Gull, Blackish & Magellanic Oystercatcher on the beach at the settlement before pressing onto Victory Creek for a look around. At Victory Creek we saw White Rumped Sandpiper, South American Tern, Magellanic Penguin along with a host of other species.

We then stopped at a crash site of an Argentine Dagger aircraft shot down during the 1982 war; here Allan gave a very informative talk on the circumstances of the shooting down of the aircraft.

After a quick stop at Green Rincon to see the Gentoo Penguins coming ashore and to view the breeding Southern Giant Petrels, we drove to the Rockhopper Penguin colony at Marble Mountain for lunch and a good look around.

There were 3 Macaroni Penguins in with the Rockhoppers including a breeding pair.

On the way back we stopped at a Gentoo Penguin colony where we saw a very small chick, certainly the first to hatch on Pebble this season.

Finally we stopped at the HMS Coventry Memorial where Allan gave another excellent and informative talk about the sinking of HMS Coventry by an Argentine aircraft during the 1982 war.

Naturetrek Tour Day 4 – Port Howard to Pebble Island

A very sunny and warm start to the day meant a quick look around the settlement which produced much the same birds as the previous day but we did have good views of  our first Commerson’s Dolphins of the trip. We then took a short 15minute flight over to Pebble Island where we were spending the next 3 nights. After sorting the rooms and having tea and biscuits we headed out for a walk towards Big pond. On the way we saw plenty of Two Banded Plover, Rufous Chested Dotterel, Falkland Thrush, Southern Giant Petrel (GP’s), White Bridled Finch, Long Tailed Meadow Lark, Upland Goose, Ruddy Headed Goose and Kelp Gosse including a nice sub adult male.

At the small pond we got our first Flying Steamer Duck and Silvery Grebe of the trip along with more Crested Duck and Speckled Teal. At Big Pond we saw large numbers of Silvery Grebe with White Tufted Grebe, a few of the White Tufted Grebe had young on their backs.

Also on Big Pond there were Black Necked Swan, Flying Steamer Duck, Speckled Teal, Chiloe Wigeon and Silver Teal. Around the edge of the pond we saw both Two Banded Plover and Magellanic Oystercatcher with young. On the way back to the lodge we had a female Peregrine Falcon fly over which was new for the trip. Back at the lodge quite a few Southern Painted Lady butterflies were on the wing these are annual but scarce migrants.

Naturetrek Tour Day 3 – Port Howard

Today the plan was to visit some Rockhopper Penguin colonies at White Rock on Port Howard farm land, it was a couple of hour’s overland drive from the settlement. Before we set off we had a bit of time to do a bit of birding around the settlement we had Long Tailed Meadowlark, Black Chinned Siskin, Falkland Thrush & a couple of Black Crowned Night Herons.

On the way to White Rock we had to pass a couple of old shepherds outside houses in the form of Rosalie & White Rock houses.

We added Magellanic Snipe to the trip list on route and once at White Rock we soon added more when we found a couple of Macaroni Penguins in the Rockhopper Penguin & King Cormorant colony.

We saw a least 4 Brazilian Painted Lady butterflies at the back of the colony, this is a rare migrant to the Falkland Islands.

Falkland Skua and a Striated Caracara kept the Rockhopper Penguin & King Cormorants on high alert as they kept trying to steal their eggs, unfortunately every so often one of the Falkland Skua’s was successful. On the rocks below the cliffs there were about 25 Southern Seal Lions.

Naturetrek Tour Day 2 – Port Howard

Today we flew into Port Howard for two nights stay at Port Howard lodge.

We settled into our rooms and then went for a tour down to Fox Bay East stopping at Hawks Nest pond on the way. At the pond we had Silver Teal, Speckled Teal, Crested Duck, Yellow Billed Pintail, White Tufted Grebe and a small group of 5 Black Necked Swans. Around the edge of the pond we had our first Grass Wren along with White Bridled Finch & Falkland Pipit

At Fox Bay East we saw lots of Two banded Plovers, Rufous Chested Dotterel and a pair of Red Backed Hawks, offshore we had quite a few Southern Fulmar.

Naturetrek Tour Day 1 – Volunteers Beach

Today I started the Naturetrek 2012 tour of the Falklands with 6 clients. We headed out of Stanley for Volunteers beach at 08:00 arriving at VB just after 10:30. It was very windy with frequent squalls of snow and hail on the way. When we got there it continued to hail but this did not dampen the enthusiasm amongst the group. We then spent the next 4 hours exploring the area, the big attraction is of course the King Penguins, with Gentoo & Magellanic Penguins both breeding there.

Tomorrow we fly to Port Howard for 2 nights followed by Pebble for 3 nights, then Carcass for 3 nights with a trip to West Point Island finishing with 3 nights to Sea Lion Island. As I will have no internet connection during the tour I will do updates on my return.