Sunday, 27 March 2016

Antarctic Cruise Part 3

After leaving Ushuaia on the evening of the 18th, we set off,  heading south to Cape Horn, and,weather permitting, we would see sun rise over the Cape, so getting up at stupid o'clock (4.15am to be precise),  we went up to deck 10 to watch the sun come up. It was certainly worth losing some of my beauty sleep for - it was stunning! After a couple of hours cruising around the Horn, the ship set sail out across the Drake Passage heading towards northern peninsula of Antarctica.
                                                            Sun rise over Cape Horn

After breakfast we went back out onto deck 10, where we stayed, waiting to see what delights we would come across whilst sailing the Drake Passage. There were still lot of Albatross about, but it was a Giant Petrel that caught my eye first - there seemed a lot of white around the face, and on closer inspection of the bill, I saw it had a red tip, meaning this was a Northern Giant Petrel; with so many Black-browed Albatross about, you have to try and look at them all, just in case another species of  Mollyhawk is among them. Later that afternoon, quite a few Cape Petrels were noted, and then a new Mollyhawk in the shape of a Grey-headed Albatross. Tomorrow would see us in the Gerlache Straight and Paradise bay Antarctica
 
                                                                 Cape Petrels
                                                              Northern Giant Petrel
                                                              Grey-headed Albatross

The weather now was really quite changeable, going from bright sunshine into fog banks, rain, and we even had a snow shower! It was quite windy, making bird watching somewhat frustrating at times, as you were wondering what's out there that you could not see in the waves. Our first birds of note were the Southern Fulmar and Antarctic Tern; lots of Wilson's Storm Petrel were about too, along with a few South Polar Skuas
                                                                     Southern Fulmar
                                                                  Southern Fulmar
                                                                  South Polar Skua

 It wasn't long before we had our first sighting of an iceberg - these giant lumps of ice, some as big as high rise apartments that have been sculptured by the wind and sea are spectacular! Below are some images of just few of the vast amount we saw                                                  



                                              Yours truly trying to keep the draughts out

We did see lots of Humpback whales in the straight and Paradise Bay, but sadly too far away for any images. The only other bird of note was a bird I did not expect to see, and to be fair we saw quite a few - the Black-bellied Storm Petrel; all the other species were still about Albatross, Prions and Giant Petrels. We were supposed to go from The Falklands to Puerto Madryn in Argentina, but because of two low depressions in the Atlantic between us and where we were heading, the Captain decided to stay down in Antarctica for an extra day and cruise around Deception Island - somewhere the cruises don't normally get to go to -but it was such a shame that when we got there, this wildlife-rich area was covered in fog, and so little was seen. We waited for a few hours to see if it would lift but to avail, so we set sail for the Falkland Islands
                                                            Black-bellied Storm Petrel

When we awoke on the 24th we were anchored out in the bay close to Port Stanley. We had arranged a trip to the penguin colony at Volunteer Point through a private tour operator prior to us leaving the UK, so when we got off our tender, we just had to find our driver (which didn't take long). We quickly set off  for the two and half hour journey to see the penguins with our driver Richard, who was very knowledgeable, telling us stories about the Argentine invasion in 1982, which he witnessed,  and showing us some of the areas where battles took place. Afterwards, he pointed out to us a team still clearing mine fields. He was also great at identifying the local birds, and along the way we noted Falklands Pipit, Falkland Thrush and Variable Hawk; Richard pointed out some Flightless Steamerduck, and said we would stop there on the way back for a better look ase we needed to keep with the convoy. The road to the colony soon became a track which in turn petered out till were just driving over marsh land, hence all the vehicles that go to the point have to be 4x4's. Once you get to the Point, you don't where to look first - there are Two-banded Plovers, Magellanic Oystercatchers, Gulls and Skuas, Geese and thousands of Penguins I think the images below hopefully will give you an idea just our magical this place is
                                                              Gentoo Penguin colony
                                                                  Gentoo Creche
                                                                    Gentoo Penguin
                                                            Magellanic Penguin Creche
                                                                Magellanic Penguin
                                                                 King Penguin Colony
                                                                    That's my egg
                                                                Are you ok down there?
                                                                 Pretty Face
                                                              Have you two got flea's
                                                               Just having a stretch

Walking around the colony there were quite a few geese about mainly Upland Goose and ruddy-headed goose
                                                                 Ruddy-headed goose
                                                                   Upland Goose

True to his word,Richard our driver stopped on the way back at the small bay where the Steamerducks were, and by luck, both species - Flying and Flightless Steamerduck - were there!
                                                           Flightless Steamerduck
                                                               Flying Steamerduck

Once we were back in Stanley, Sue and I had a little walk down the roadside along the coast and noted Blackish Oystercatcher, Black-crowned Night Heron, Crested Ducks and Rock Shag
                                                                   Crested Duck
                                                          Black-crowned Night Heron
                                                                       Rock Shag

We had a great time on the Falklands, but like any other cruise destination, it was not long enough and soon it was time to leave.Our next port of call was Montevideo in Uruguay, which I will leave for the last part of my blog of our Antarctic cruise. The image below is a Southern Royal Albatross which we saw as we sailed away from the Falklands
As always thanks for stopping by and hoped you enjoyed part 3

7 comments:

  1. More good stuff Col, great set of images. Not sure I'd fancy doing this trip, you looked freezing in that image on the ship!

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    1. A bit cool mate,certainly not sunbathing weather!!

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  2. More good stuff Col, great set of images. Not sure I'd fancy doing this trip, you looked freezing in that image on the ship!

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  3. Great report and some great birds. There's nothing wrong with a bit of freezing weather eh Col?

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    1. As Del would say Carl, he who dare's

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  4. Hey Colin. This is Tobias from the ship. Please send me a mail at saiiibot@gmail.com so i can send you a link to the videos i finally managed to upload to my dropbox. :)

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