TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT


Fabulous Falkland Islands

13 to 26 January, 2005

Leader: Tim Earl



Highlights:
  • Ascension Island Frigatebird over our heads as we waited for the aircraft to be refuelled.

  • Adult and juvenile Barn Owl at Darwin on our first evening.

  • Our first safari on Pebble Island when we saw Coscoroba Swans, Flying Steamerducks, Red Shovelers and Yellow-billed Pintail; our first Black-browed Albatross swiftly followed by a King Penguin and two leaping Commerson’s Dolphins; Rockhopper Penguin, Cassin’s race of Peregrine, Crested Caracaras and Southern Sea Lions.

  • Five species of penguin in one day on Pebble Island.

  • Erect-crested Penguin, a life-bird for everyone, including Tim.

  • Pod of five Sei Whales off Carcass.

  • Three Peale’s Dolphins playing in the kelp bed a few metres from us on Carcass Island.

  • The mixed Black-browed Albatross and Rockhopper Penguin colony on West Point Island.

  • Commerson’s Dolphins riding the bow-wave for 25 minutes and, later, Peale’s Dolphins tail-slapping alongside and splashing us on our first boat trip.

  • Short-eared Owl flitting in circles over us as it investigated the group on Sea Lion Island.

  • Five Orcas with two calves, the sun turning their fins red in the most wonderful sunset on Sea Lion Island.

  • The whole Falkland Islands experience: the inclusiveness of the wildlife, the scenery, hospitality, food and friendliness,



DAILY DIARY



Thursday 13 January

To Ascension Island

After fun and games with a taxi company in Swindon we finally met at Brize Norton airbase refectory after checking in. A poor meal was taken (flavoured by great excitement about the trip ahead, however) and we returned to the terminal to board our Air Luxor Airbus 300, chartered because the usual RAF Tristar jets were in use elsewhere in the world. We took off on time at 11pm, but Tim worried that too early an arrival in Ascension could result in us missing views of the frigatebird.



Friday 14 January

To the Falkland Islands

We landed in Ascension at 7.30, on time just after dawn. A number of Sooty Terns, seen for the second time only on a Falklands trip, were drifting past. It is possible that a conservation initiative has resulted in greater numbers on their colonies.

The terns were joined by a few distant Ascension Island Frigatebirds, until one suddenly appeared above the passenger compound giving us all great views of this highly endangered bird. Tim seemed relieved.

A few Common (Indian) Mynas were also seen and we re-boarded the aircraft for a 9am take-off well pleased with the visit to one of the world’s s most remote islands.

The flight to the Falklands is one of the easiest (and most expensive) long-hauls in the world. Some of us had slept well overnight and after buying postcards and souvenirs in the NAAFI shop on Ascension we settled down for the day flight to the Falkland Islands.

We arrived at Mount Pleasant Airport, East Falkland, at 2.30pm after receiving a Tornado welcome. Jane saw a European Brown Hare as we taxied to the terminal. Two more were seen during the day.

Jenny Luxton from Stanley Services, who had organised our visit, met us at the airport with Bonny and Ken Greenland from Darwin Lodge.

Our first birds en-route to Darwin were Upland Geese and a two Turkey Vultures. We stopped at an inlet to scope about 15 magnificent Black-necked Swans which gave us super views of their shiny red bills and thin white eye-stripe. Another 45 or so were seen nearby.

We had plenty of time before dinner and after freshening up went for a walk around the enchanting Darwin settlement recording 16 species at the pre-dinner call-over. These included Antarctic (Southern) Giant Petrel, Rock Shag, breeding precariously on the piles of an old jetty, the endemic Falkland Flightless Steamer-Duck, Ruddy-Headed Goose, Blackish Oystercatcher, Falkland (Austral) Thrush and Long-Tailed Meadowlark. A flock of about 15 pretty Black-chinned Siskins was most obliging but we had only poor views of a Southern Brown Skua.

Ken and Bonny gave us their usual fabulous welcome, not only in friendly and homely hospitality but also in the form of a meal of vegetable omelette, followed by roast Falklands’ beef and stuffed peaches. Two-puds Tim found competition in the form of Clive.

A tip that Barn Owls were in the area was followed up. A chick was heard calling and an adult seen in the falling light at 10.45pm. This was a new bird for Tim’s Falkland list.

Ascension Island birds:



FRIGATEBIRDS

Ascension Island Frigatebird

TERNS

Sooty Tern



STARLINGS

Common Myna





Saturday 15 January

Darwin, San Carlos and Goose Green

Several of us were up early, our bodies still ticking three hours fast on UK time. The reward for insomnia was a good selection of local birds and a better understanding of the common species. Several pretty Speckled Teal were feeding on Darwin’s pond, allowing us close views while Magellanic Oystercatchers, their bright yellow eyes gleaming even a distance, gave their weedy piping calls as they flew from one beach to another.

Ken and Tim drove us out to San Carlos in the morning, stopping to admire Rufous-chested Dotterels, Black-throated Finches and a Red-backed Hawk seen by the folk in Ken’s vehicle. We visited the British war cemetery at San Carlos, always a moving experience. We were running late for lunch and stopped only to take a few photographs on the return journey.

Lunch was followed by a tour of the Darwin battlefield in which the events leading up to the Argentinean surrender of Goose Green were charted in detail by Ken. It was an illuminating and somewhat chilling experience, widely appreciated by the group.

As ever in the Falklands we watched birds here and there but a number of goodies were seen as we walked back to the lodge from Goose Green in a rather cool gale.

Several Black-crowned Night-herons, including a speckled immature bird, were seen close to a wrecked ship at the end of Goose Green’s jetty.

Gill spotted a couple of Magellanic Penguins in the sea close to the beach. The timid creatures dived constantly but we were able to see their black heads and white eye-stripes when they surfaced.

Several Brown Skuas, both oystercatchers and the resident steamerducks were studied. We had excellent views of Kelp Geese and were able to admire the handsome Falkland (Correndera) Pipit firstly through the ’scope and then a dried wing left behind by a Peregrine.

The walk straggled along as we got closer to Darwin and people stopped to take pictures of flowers, views and the occasional group member.

Birds of Darwin:



PENGUINS

Magellanic penguin

SHEARWATERS & PETRELS

Antarctic (Southern) giant petrel

CORMORANTS

Rock shag

King cormorant (Blue-eyed shag)

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS

Black-crowned night-heron

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS

Black-necked swan (en-route)

Upland (Magellanic) goose

Kelp goose

Ruddy-headed goose

Falkland steamerduck

Speckled teal

Mallard

(Patagonian) Crested duck

NEW WORLD VULTURES

Turkey vulture

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES

Variable (Red-backed) hawk

OYSTERCATCHERS

Magellanic oystercatcher

Blackish oystercatcher

PLOVERS & LAPWINGS

Two-banded plover

SANDPIPERS

White-rumped sandpiper

SKUAS

Brown skua

GULLS

Kelp gull

Dolphin gull

TERNS

South American tern

TYRANT FLYCATCHERS

Dark-faced ground-tyrant

WAGTAILS & PIPITS

Correndera pipit

THRUSHES

Austral thrush

OLD WORLD SPARROWS

House sparrow

FINCHES

Black-chinned siskin

TRUE BUNTINGS

Canary-winged finch

TROUPIALS & ALLIES

Long-tailed meadowlark





Mammals of Darwin:

RABBITS & HARES

European hare



Sunday 16 January

To Pebble Island

It was with some sadness that we bade farewell to Ken and Bonnie who had given us such a warm welcome to the Falkland Islands, their recent history and introduced the group to local wildlife. We were driven to Darwin International Airport (the Duty Free shop was closed) where two small FIGAS (Falkland Islands Government Air Service) aircraft swept in to collect us, destination Pebble Island.

Jackie Jennings, Allan White and his mum Judy were on hand to meet us. After smoko – tea and cakes – and being shown our rooms we started one of the best safaris Tim has been on in more than 15 visits to this amazing island.

He and Allan drove our two vehicles inland on barely visible tracks across the ‘camp,’ an abbreviation for the Spanish word campo meaning countryside. Stops were made to admire Rufous-chested Dotterel, Black-throated Finch and South American Snipe. Several Magellanic Penguins were seen in their burrows, adding to our mounting excitement.

Pure ornithological gold was struck when we arrived at one of Pebble Island’s many shallow ponds – at least 80 Black-necked Swans in the company of hundreds of ducks were feeding happily as we tried to put up telescopes in the strong wind.

A shout went up as four rare Coscoroba Swans were found, a really exciting sight with pink legs and beaks showing well. Tim’s radio cracked as Allan said “I think that family of ducks ahead is Flying Steamerduck”. So they were and later when we had a better angle on them we could see the birds’ long wings. This was really good.

The next difficult species to fall to our lucky leaders’ gazes was Yellow-billed Pintail. A search through the many Chiloe Wigeon revealed several of these cryptic birds and we were able to compare them with the Speckled Teal also on the pond.

The fun was not over yet as first three and then up to eight Red Shovelers were found, a rare duck in the Falklands.

Eventually we found time to eat our picnic lunches, almost stunned to silence by the terrific sightings. We nearly choked as a dark falcon shot across the pond scattering the duck flocks and causing pandemonium.

The hunter made several stoops at ducks, all unsuccessful, before sitting on a bank opposite where we were able to ‘scope it with ease. It was Cassin’s Falcon, the race of Peregrine found in the Falklands. We were able to admire its black balaclava and dark plumage before the bird once again took to harrying the wildlfowl, again without success.

We drove along Ship Harbour, an inlet where ships once waited for favourable tides and wind to cross the nearby Tamar Passage, pausing to look down into penguin burrows from the vehicles.

A pair of South American Terns swooped low to examine us and as they did our first Black-browed Albatross came soaring down the inlet. It was a breathtaking sight, only a few metres away from us as the bird swept past.

The breath had not come back when Allan radioed for the others to catch up quickly as they had found a King Penguin making its way to the sea. Soon the others were watching in relief as the bird turned around and settled on a rock. It was in moult and would stay for the next couple of months in all likelihood.

As we watched the superb bird, Gill shouted that she had seen a dolphin… and to our amazement two beautifully pied ‘Puffing Pigs’ – Commerson’s Dolphins – started leaping right out of the rough water. All this was too much for one group member who burst into tears with emotion. We all understood completely.

The safari continued up to Tamar Point where we stopped at a mixed colony of Rockhopper Penguins and King Cormorants, a bustling city of birds which had attracted fearless Brown Skuas and Dolphin Gulls. We soon became aware of Snowy Sheathbills as they hurtled in on the strong winds like huge Antarctic snowflakes.

Their white plumage was contrasted by the darkness of at least two juvenile Peregrines practicing their deadly stoops down the cliffs in a breathtaking display of speed and power Tim described them as being ‘like teenagers trying out a Ferrari’.

It seemed impossible to cram any more into the excursion but at Cape Tamar we found several Southern Sea Lions hauled out on rocks. Sadly, they heard our excited conversations, lifting their heads to peer our way and sniff the air. We cautiously backed away from our cliff-top vantage point (at least 150 metres away) and left them in peace.

No peace for us as first a pair of Red-backed Hawks was admired and then a full-scale disembarkation occurred so that we could ’scope two Crested Caracaras which proceeded to delight us with their displays – throwing their heads back onto their shoulders. They are never easy birds to find or observe but this was a lucky group on a great day and the birds obliged.

It was nearly over, but not quite. Our leaders stopped as we drove onto Elephant Beach to search diligently, and successfully, for White-rumped Sandpipers, birds which had flown even further than us from their breeding grounds in Arctic Canada to be in the Fabulous Falkland Islands.



Monday 17 January

Penguin picnic

Seeing five species of penguin in one day anywhere in the world, it is believed, can be done only on Pebble Island. Three are easy – Rockhopper, Gentoo and Magellanic. One is a wildcard – King Penguin has to be found on a beach. The last, Macaroni Penguin, can be found among Rockhoppers in one colony only… with luck.

We headed north this morning and after seeing the easy three and a King Penguin we knew there was a chance of five species in the day. Macaroni, however, is not easy and the only colony which had three this year was devoid of them. They all were out at sea fishing. Tim and Allan were disappointed.

“Let’s give it an hour. Anything can happen,” Allan said as he watched the steady stream of Rockhoppers parading up the cliff back to the colony to feed their youngsters.

Patience paid off and we still saw five species, but the last was not Macaroni Penguin… our fifth, an extremely rare Erect-crested Penguin emerged from the waves and walked into view. Champagne flowed in the evening’s celebrations.

The day had started rather solemnly as we visited the memorial to HMS Coventry where we paid our respects. The view was terrific, however, and a few of us sampled the fruit of wild strawberries which Jackie had found for us.

Our first new bird of the day was Sedge Wren. We went to a sheltered hillside hollow where about five were flitting around in fern plants posing for us fearlessly.

The journey continued across the paddocks of Pebble until we reached a Southern Giant Petrel colony which we stopped to ’scope at a great distance as these are extremely timid birds. Their white fluffy chicks could be seen easily in shallow scrapes on the cliff-top launch pad on which they had chosen to nest.

The group set off to walk in the opposite direction down onto a beach where a King Penguin had emerged from the sea in the company of Gentoos which were nesting about a mile inland. The vehicles were driven to the other end of the beautiful beach to meet everyone.

The Rockhoppers were visited and after the excitement of seeing the Erect-crested Penguin we rather greedily waited to see if a Macaroni would appear and make it six of the world’s 17 species of penguin in a day. It was not to be.

Our last stop was at the huge Gentoo Penguin colony where we watched almost full-grown chicks chasing their parents around wildly, flippers flailing, begging for food.

After an excellent meal we walked to Elephant Beach where we saw all three of the Falkland Islands’ gulls – Kelp, Dolphin and Brown-hooded, six of the latter displaying in their stunning immaculate plumage with pink-washed underparts. All agreed that we had enjoyed a special stay on Penguin Island.



Birds of Pebble Island:



PENGUINS

King penguin

Gentoo penguin

Erect-crested penguin

Rockhopper penguin

Magellanic penguin

GREBES

White-tufted grebe

Silvery grebe

ALBATROSSES

Black-browed albatross

SHEARWATERS & PETRELS

Antarctic (Southern) giant petrel

CORMORANTS

Rock shag

King cormorant

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS

Black-crowned night-heron

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS

Black-necked swan

Coscoroba swan

Upland goose

Kelp goose

Ruddy-headed goose

Falkland steamerduck

Flying steamerduck

Chiloe wigeon

Speckled teal

Crested duck

Yellow-billed pintail

Red shoveler

NEW WORLD VULTURES

Turkey vulture

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES

Variable (Red-backed) hawk

FALCONS & CARACARAS

Crested caracara

Peregrine falcon

OYSTERCATCHERS

Magellanic oystercatcher

Blackish oystercatcher

PLOVERS & LAPWINGS

Two-banded plover

Rufous-chested dotterel

SANDPIPERS

South American snipe

Fuegian snipe

White-rumped sandpiper

SHEATHBILLS

Snowy sheathbill

SKUAS

Brown skua

GULLS

Dolphin gull

Kelp gull

Brown-hooded gull

TERNS

South American tern

TYRANT FLYCATCHERS

Dark-faced ground-tyrant

PIPITS

Correndera pipit

THRUSHES

Austral thrush

FINCHES

Black-chinned siskin

TRUE BUNTINGS

Canary-winged finch





Mammals of Pebble Island:



EARED SEALS

South American Sea Lion





MARINE MAMMALS

Peale’s dolphin

Commerson’s dolphin



Tuesday 18 January

To Carcass Island

A walk along the North Point of Carcass Island was like being on the set of a David Attenborough documentary, we decided, as whales, dolphins, sea lions and elephant seals were all enjoyed by the group.

We had left the delightful settlement behind as Tim drove us back to the airstrip. A stop was made for a pair of inquisitive Striated Caracaras which were perched on a cow’s back. It was hard to believe that they are one of the world’s rarest raptors.

A large pond contained Flying Steamerducks and Chiloe Wigeon, the beach was home to at least 500 White-rumped Sandpipers although, search them as we did, no Baird’s Sandpipers could be found.

They were disturbed by a Peregrine at about the time we found or first Southern Elephant Seals lying on deep kelp cushions with delightfully tame Tussock-birds and Cobb’s Wrens scuttling around them. A bull Southern Sea Lion rushed off into the sea on our approach and we had difficulty in realising that this was just a youngster only a few years old.

Eventually, we popped through a gap in the tussock-grass to look for birds on the sheltered side of the point.

“There she blows,” Tim cried as the first whale-spout was seen immediately. Soon we had all spotted spouting Sei Whales as a pod moved slowly northwards, their backs and sharp fins showing occasionally. This was amazing.

So too was the sight of hundreds, if not thousands, of sea birds. Great flocks of Black-browed Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters and Slender-billed Prions.

We walked to the tip of the point for a better view and spent an hour watching birds and mammals come past us. Some of the normally pelagic prions had black-tips to their tails, others seemed to have a black centre to the tail – happily these were distinguishing features of Slender-billed and Fairy Prions both of which breed in the Falklands but are rarely seen.

Sea-watching is an acquired taste and the sight of three probable Dusky Dolphins playing in the kelp at our feet was more entertaining. A few Sea Lions were also seen close by.

All too soon it was time to return to the settlement and a fine dinner, some on foot all the way, others after a good hike back to the ’Rover.



Wednesday 19 January

West Point boat trip

We could not resist a pre-breakfast excursion to look for Elephant Seals at the North Point of Carcass Island but did not leave enough time so drove out and back with just a few minutes for observation. No seals were in the water but we did see tremendous numbers of prions again.

Michael Clark, our host for the day, turned up for breakfast having made the 50-minute crossing from West Point Island. We took supplies for the day and boarded his boat at 10am, arriving an hour later.

Some of us walked to the Black-browed Albatross colony; others were driven. It was a beautiful area with tussock beds, views of stunning cliffs laden with nesting albatrosses, and a mixed Rockhopper Penguin and Black-browed Albatross colony on a ‘stone run’. We were shown where to go and how to approach the birds and left to enjoy the visit.

Views down the cliff allowed us to watch penguins attempting to land, their nervous approaches often aborted due to the presence of two hunting Sea Lions. Two Commerson’s Dolphins could also be watched just off the penguin landing area.

After a couple of hours we returned to the settlement for typical Falklands hospitality – tea, cakes and scones. This acted as a starter for our rather late lunch on board.

The weather was calm enough for us to be treated to a circumnavigation of West Point Island, giving us unprecedented views of thousands of albatross nests and huge Rockhopper Penguin colonies on the high cliffs. About 12 Commerson’s Dolphins accompanied us for much of the way to the delight of the group.

As we rounded the last corner the boat entered a tide race in which about 500 Black-browed Albatrosses were fishing. We watched from calm water at the far side of the race as they landed only 100 metres from us, opened their wings and duck-dived under the waves often reappearing with krill in their beaks.

Our return to Carcass was interspersed with sightings of birds, including three auk-like Common Diving-petrels and a pod of three Peale’s Dolphins which sported around the boat for some time.



Birds of Carcass and West Point islands:



PENGUINS

Gentoo penguin

Rockhopper penguin

Magellanic penguin

GREBES

Silvery grebe

ALBATROSSES

Black-browed albatross

SHEARWATERS & PETRELS

Antarctic (Southern) giant petrel

Slender-billed prion

Fairy prion

Sooty shearwater

DIVING PETRELS

Common diving petrel

CORMORANTS

Rock shag

King cormorant

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS

Black-crowned night-heron

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS

Upland goose

Kelp goose

Ruddy-headed goose

Falkland steamerduck

Flying steamerduck

Chiloe wigeon

Speckled teal

Crested duck

NEW WORLD VULTURES

Turkey vulture

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES

Variable (Red-backed) hawk

FALCONS & CARACARAS

Crested caracara

Peregrine falcon

OYSTERCATCHERS

Magellanic oystercatcher

Blackish oystercatcher

PLOVERS & LAPWINGS

Two-banded plover

SANDPIPERS

South American snipe

White-rumped sandpiper

SHEATHBILLS

Snowy sheathbill

SKUAS

Brown skua

GULLS

Dolphin gull

Kelp gull

Brown-hooded gull

TERNS

South American tern

TYRANT FLYCATCHERS

Dark-faced ground-tyrant

PIPITS

Correndera pipit

THRUSHES

Austral thrush

FINCHES

Black-chinned siskin

TRUE BUNTINGS

Canary-winged finch





Mammals of Carcass and West Point islands:



EARED SEALS

South American sea lion

EARLESS SEALS

Southern elephant seal

RORQUALS (BALEEN WHALES)

Sei whale



MARINE DOLPHINS

Peale’s dolphin

Dusky dolphin

Commerson’s dolphin





Thursday 20 January

To Sea Lion Island

Our flights were at midday allowing us time to watch 120 cruise-ship passengers, each in bright red anoraks, file in line to Leopard Beach. They later filled the kitchen as Rob McGill served everyone tea and home-made cakes.

We fled to North Point where a productive sea-bird masterclass ensured that everyone had super views of White-chinned Petrel, Sooty Shearwater, Slender-billed and Fairy Prion plus Black-browed Albatross.

We returned to the airstrip, hitched the fire-engine and raised the wind-sock, and were soon joined by Rob who had our luggage in his ’Rover. Bidding him farewell, we were on Sea Lion Island 45 minutes later.

We spent the afternoon exploring the island on foot and using a borrowed Land Rover. A pair of Silver Teal with a duckling was seen at the Long Pond, Many Rockhopper Penguins and King Cormorants were nesting on the cliffs near the HMS Sheffield memorial. Chicks of both had suffered in the recent windy wet weather.

The island’s colony of South American Sea Lions was admired from above as we peered over the cliff top, and a search was made for a pod of Orcas seen that morning, without success.

After dinner we had another unsuccessful search for the Orcas but our attempt to find Short-eared Owls was far better rewarded – they found us. As we crept up to a likely spot one flew past us… and then the same bird or another came and circled our group for two or three minutes, as if examining us.

To cap the outing, Tim heard the drumming sound of South American Snipe and we were able to find a couple doing their display flights in the falling light. Our short walk had produced the sort of encounters with wildlife for which the Falkland Islands are rightly famous.



Friday 21 January

Sea Lion Island

Most of us were out at 7am for another attempt to find Orcas, this time with success as a pod of five, with two calves, was found. They swam past Elephant Point, turned around and then appeared in the tiny bay just in front of us. Once again the ‘Midas Group’ had struck pure Falklands’ gold.

The tour’s full day on Sea Lion Island is always a ‘go as you please’ session. Tim led three unsuccessful attempts to find the Orcas again but found five King Penguins in with the Gentoo colonies.

Most folk chose to take a packed lunch (despite the atrocious weather) and explore. This resulted some excellent sightings including 24 Silvery Grebes, 13 Chiloe Wigeon and great views of a Short-eared Owl in between-the-showers sunlight.

The day ended with a walk down to the beach after dinner where, with a stunning sunset as backdrop, we saw the pod of Orcas again. They were loafing around, sometimes stationary on the surface, apparently without purpose, except for a half-hearted attempt to stalk an Elephant Seal. It was a super end to our Sea Lion Island visit.



Saturday 22 January

To Port Stanley

Sea Lion Island to Port Stanley

News that Orcas had killed off Elephant Beach had us racing to the cliffs in the hope of seeing the spectacle. It was in vain and we settled to watch the Sea Lions instead. It was a fascinating hour as huge maned males roared at each other and threatened to fight, babies wriggled over their mothers to bleat at their siblings (were these “beachmaster” bulls in the making?) and young males were chased into deeper water by the older animals. After a final look at the Silver Teal on Long Pond we returned to the lodge and caught our midday flights to Port Stanley.

The afternoon was spent shopping for some, visiting the wonderful museum for others. There was little time for wildlife but the group managed to record Brown-hooded Gull, our first House Sparrows since Darwin, ages ago, South American Terns and Southern Giant Petrels.



Birds of Sea Lion Island:



PENGUINS

King penguin

Gentoo penguin

Rockhopper penguin

Magellanic penguin

GREBES

Silvery grebe

ALBATROSSES

Black-browed albatross

SHEARWATERS & PETRELS

Antarctic (Southern) giant petrel

CORMORANTS

Rock shag

King cormorant)

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS

Black-crowned night-heron

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS

Upland (Magellanic) goose

Kelp goose

Ruddy-headed goose

Falkland steamerduck

Speckled teal

Crested duck

Silver teal

NEW WORLD VULTURES

Turkey vulture

FALCONS & CARACARAS

Striated caracara

OYSTERCATCHERS

Magellanic oystercatcher

Blackish oystercatcher

PLOVERS & LAPWINGS

Two-banded plover

Rufous-chested dotterel

SANDPIPERS

South American snipe

Fuegian snipe

White-rumped sandpiper

SHEATHBILLS

Snowy sheathbill

JAEGERS & SKUAS

Brown skua

GULLS

Dolphin gull

Kelp gull

Brown-hooded gull

TERNS

South American tern

Common tern

OWLS

Short-eared owl

OVENBIRDS

Blackish cinclodes

TYRANT FLYCATCHERS

Dark-faced ground-tyrant

WAGTAILS & PIPITS

Correndera pipit

WRENS

Cobb's wren

Sedge wren

THRUSHES

Austral thrush

FINCHES

Black-chinned siskin

TRUE BUNTINGS

Canary-winged finch













Mammals of Sea Lion Island
:



EARED SEALS

South American sea-lion

EARLESS SEALS

Southern elephant seal



MARINE DOLPHINS

Orca (Killer whale)

Peale’s dolphin



Sunday 23 January

Volunteer Point

Volunteer Point is home to 600 pairs of King Penguins besides being one of the most beautiful headlands in the Falkland Islands. Getting there used to be a long cross country marathon but with new roads built out to Johnston’s Harbour access involves only a short section off-road. Nevertheless, we were pleased when our three vehicles pulled up at the isthmus, within sight of the enormous colony of kings.

The objects of our wildlife desires were the King and Gentoo Penguin colonies. We set off to study the colonies, managing to find a couple of King Penguin chicks from last season looking like Guardsmen’s busbies. Moulting birds were sitting apart from the colony, looking forlorn.

Kings are dramatic-looking penguins but more gentle and placid than raucous Rockhoppers, and slower than the galloping Gentoo. Occasionally a male would point its beak to the sky and call loudly, allowing its head to flop forward onto the chest afterwards. Many of the birds were feeding newly-hatched young. Sometimes jabbing pecks would be thrown at some poor bird attempting to reach its mate deep in the colony, but otherwise activity was a regal pace.

We watched Gentoo Penguins coming ashore on the wide white-sand beach, then to walk up through small flocks of White-rumped Sandpipers not knowing the great journey they had made from the Canadian Arctic to be on the beach. Helen, Anne and Jane all saw Tussock Birds on the beach, probably from nearby tussock islands. Tim spent time in the shelter of a newly-installed cabin pointing out the many Sooty Shearwaters passing the bay.

Our return to Stanley was uneventful.



Birds of Volunteer Point, Kidney Island, Port Stanley and Point Pembroke:



PENGUINS

King penguin

Gentoo penguin

Magellanic penguin

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS

Upland goose

Kelp goose

Ruddy-headed goose

Falkland steamerduck

Speckled teal

Crested duck

NEW WORLD VULTURES

Turkey vulture

OYSTERCATCHERS

Magellanic oystercatcher

PLOVERS & LAPWINGS

Two-banded plover

Rufous-chested dotterel

JAEGERS & SKUAS

Brown skua

GULLS

Dolphin gull

Kelp gull

Brown-hooded gull

TERNS

South American tern

WAGTAILS & PIPITS

Correndera pipit

THRUSHES

Austral thrush

TRUE BUNTINGS

Canary-winged finch

TROUPIALS & ALLIES

Long-tailed meadowlark



Mammals of Volunteer Point, Kidney Island, Port Stanley and Point Pembroke:



RABBITS & HARES

European hare

EARED SEALS

South American sea lion

EARLESS SEALS

Southern elephant seal



RORQUALS (BALEEN WHALES)

Sei whale

MARINE DOLPHINS

Peale’s dolphin

Dusky dolphin

Commerson’s dolphin





Monday 24 January

Kidney Island and Cape Pembroke

Our last full day in the islands was spent getting closer to sea birds. A boat trip in the morning saw us following a Wandering Albatross almost as soon as were left Stanley Sound. A fishing boat had anchored and was attracting albatrosses, including the wanderer.

Tim decided that we should visit Kidney Island where a pair of Macaroni Penguins had a nest but after and adventurous walk through the tussock we found only a crèche of baby Rockhopper Penguins from which it was impossible to tell the Macaroni chick.

Our efforts were not in vain, however, for as we walked over the top of the island two vast feeding flocks of feeding Sooty Shearwaters containing about 3,000 birds were seen close inshore. It was an amazing spectacle.

Two ‘chumming’ attempts were made but we were too close inshore having gambled on the penguins and few truly pelagic birds were seen. We still returned to the hotel for lunch pleased with our morning.

Some of us took a taxi out to Pembroke lighthouse where we watched tens of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters pass the headland in the company of Black-browed Albatrosses and two Greater Shearwaters which were seen by Tim only.

Swapping highlights of the holiday in the bar that evening we all agreed that it had been a memorable visit to the Fabulous Falkland Islands.



ANNOTATED LIST OF SPECIES



BIRDS



ASCENSION ISLAND



FRIGATEBIRDS Pelecaniformes Fregatidae

1 Ascension Island frigatebird
Fregata aquila

Distant views of about three from the enclosure with great views of another bird almost overhead.



STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae

2 Common myna
Acridotheres tristis

Several flying around the base.



TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

3 Sooty tern
Sterna fuscata

Lots drifting past at a distance while we were in the enclosure. These were the second consecutive observation by a group passing through Ascension and may be present thanks to conservation projects for this species on the island.



FALKLAND ISLANDS



PENGUINS Sphenisciformes Spheniscidae

1 King Penguin
Aptenodytes patagonicus

Pebble Island, two lone birds in moult; Sea Lion Island, five with the Gentoo penguins; Volunteer Point, colony of 600 pairs.

2 Gentoo Penguin Pygoscelis papua

Pebble Island, a colony on Middle Mountain; Sea Lion Island, three colonies of about 500 pairs; Volunteer Point, colony of 500 pairs.

3 Erect-crested Penguin Eudyptes sclateri

One walked into the Rockhopper Penguin colony after a three-month absence at sea, while we were there. Great good fortune.



4 Rockhopper Penguin
Eudyptes chrysocome

Pebble Island, two mixed (with King Cormorants) rookeries at Tamar Point, Green Rincon pure Rockhopper colony with an Erect-crested Penguin; Sea Lion Island, one rookery.

5 Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus

Darwin, two near the beach; common daily on all the off-shore islands, Volunteer Point, and on the boat trips.



GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae

6 White-tufted Grebe
Rollandia rolland

Two Laguna Verde on the way to Darwin; Pebble Island, five on the big pond.

7 Silvery Grebe Podiceps occipitalis

Pebble Island, 50+ on the big pond; Carcass, six on the pond; Sea Lion Island, 24 on Long Pond.



ALBATROSSES Procellariiformes Diomedeidae

8 Wandering Albatross
Diomedea exulans

One on the boat trip from Stanley

9 Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris

Common daily out at sea; West Point Island, huge colonies on the cliffs and 500 fishing in a tide race; Pembroke Lighthouse sea-watch, about 250.



SHEARWATERS & PETRELS Procellariiformes Procellariidae

10 Antarctic (Southern) Giant Petrel
Macronectes giganteus

Common daily; Pebble Island, colony with about 25 chicks

11 Slender-billed Prion Pachyptila belcheri

Carcass Island, Hundreds, many close to shore. Some from the aircraft.

12 Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur

Some in the flocks of Slender-billed prions off Carcass Island.

13 White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis

Six sea-watching from Carcass Island.

14 Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus

Common daily out at sea; Kidney Island, 3,000 in two great flocks; Pembroke Lighthouse sea-watch, 10,000 or more in 90 minutes.



DIVING-PETRELS Procellariiformes Pelecanoididae

15 Common Diving-petrel
Pelecanoides urinatrix berard

Three of the Falkland Islands’ race on the Carcass Island boat trip.



CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae

16 Rock Shag
Phalacrocorax magellanicus

Common daily.

17 King Cormorant Phalacrocorax atriceps

Common daily on off-shore islands.



HERONS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae

18 Black-crowned Night-heron
Nycticorax nycticorax

One or two daily.



SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae

19 Black-necked Swan
Cygnus melanocorypha

Darwin, 60 on Laguna Verde; Pebble Island, 85 on the big pond.

20 Coscoroba Swan Coscoroba coscoroba

Pebble Island, four on the big pond.

21 Upland (Magellanic) Goose Chloephaga picta

Abundant daily.

22 Kelp Goose Chloephaga hybrida

Common daily.

23 Ruddy-headed Goose Chloephaga rubidiceps

Common daily.



24 Falkland Steamerduck
Tachyeres brachypterus

Abundant daily.

25 Flying Steamerduck Tachyeres patachonicus

Pebble Island, family on nine on the big pond; Carcass Island, four on the pond.

26 Chiloe Wigeon Anas sibilatrix

Pebble Island, at least 100 on the big pond; Carcass Island, two pairs with four ducklings; Sea Lion Island, 13 on Long Pond.

27 Speckled Teal Anas flavirostris

Common daily.

28 Crested Duck Anas specularioides

Common daily.

29 Yellow-billed Pintail Anas georgica

Pebble Island, about 20 on the big pond.

30 Silver Teal Anas versicolor

Sea Lion Island, a pair with a duckling on Long Pond.

31 Red Shoveler Anas platalea

Pebble Island, eight on the big pond.



NEW WORLD VULTURES Falconiformes Cathartidae

32 Turkey Vulture
Cathartes aura

Common daily.



HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae

33 Variable (Red-backed) Hawk
Buteo polyosoma

Seen on six days, with a maximum of three on three days, in wild areas outside Stanley.



FALCONS & CARACARAS Falconiformes Falconidae

34 Striated Caracara
Phalcoboenus australis

Between 20 and 25 present on Carcass, West Point and Sea Lion islands.

35 Crested Caracara Caracara plancus

Pairs seen on Pebble and Carcass islands and on the Volunteer Point trip.

36 Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus cassinii

Great encounters with this dark-hooded form on Pebble, Carcass and Sea Lion islands. The young birds learning to stoop down cliffs at Tamar Point, Pebble Island, were among the best views ever.



OYSTERCATCHERS Charadriiformes Haematopodidae

37 Magellanic Oystercatcher
Haematopus leucopodus

Common daily.

38 Blackish Oystercatcher Haematopus ater

Common daily.



LAPWINGS & PLOVERS Charadriiformes Charadriidae

39 Two-banded Plover
Charadrius falklandicus

Common daily.

40 Rufous-chested Dotterel Charadrius modestus

Common daily in Diddle-dee stands.

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

41 South American Snipe
Gallinago paraguaiae

Common daily. Sea Lion Island, several pairs ‘drumming’ both night and day.

42 Cordilleran (Fuegian) Snipe Gallinago stricklandii

This pale species was seen on the way to San Carlos and on Sea Lion Island.

43 White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis

Normally a quite difficult species; hundreds were in the islands this year.



SHEATHBILLS Charadriiformes Chionididae

44 Snowy Sheathbill
Chionis alba

Seen commonly around Rockhopper penguin and large mammal colonies on Pebble, Carcass and Sea Lion islands.



SKUAS Charadriiformes Stercorariidae

45 Brown (Southern) Skua
Catharacta antarctica

Common daily.



GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae

46 Dolphin Gull
Larus scoresbii

Common daily.

47 Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus

Abundant daily.

48 Brown-hooded Gull Larus maculipennis

Present in good numbers this year, seen on all the islands, Volunteer Point and even in Stanley.



TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

49 South American Tern
Sterna hirundinacea

Common daily.

50 Common Tern Sterna hirundo

Sea Lion Island, one roosting with South American Terns on the 20th was seen again the following day.



PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae

51 Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon)
Columba livia

Seen only in Goose Green.



BARN-OWLS Strigiformes Tytonidae

52 Barn Owl
Tyto alba

Darwin, adult and fledgling seen in the garden area. One flew around our heads in near-darkness calling.



OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae

53 Short-eared Owl
Asio flammeus

Sea Lion Island; one flew around our heads for a couple of minutes before going off hunting at dusk. This or another bird was seen perched on a stake in bright sunlight the following evening.



OVENBIRDS Passeriformes Furnariidae

54 Blackish Cinclodes Cinclodes antarcticus

Common on rat-free islands: Carcass, where they were perched on the aircraft wings before we had chance to disembark, West Point, Sea Lion and Kidney. Those seen at Volunteer Point had probably migrated from nearby tussock islands.



TYRANT FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Tyrannidae

55 Dark-faced Ground-tyrant
Muscisaxicola macloviana

Common daily.



WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae

56 Correndera Ppipit
Anthus correndera falklandii

Common daily on areas of white grass and diddle dee.



WRENS Passeriformes Troglodytidae

57 Cobb's Wren
Troglodytes cobbi

Common on rat-free islands: Carcass, West Point Sea Lion and Kidney.

58 Sedge (Grass) Wren Cistothorus platensis

Seen daily in tussock on off-shore islands.



THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae

59 Austral Thrush
Turdus falcklandii

Common daily.





OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae

60 House Sparrow
Passer domesticus

Seen only at Darwin and in Port Stanley where they were common.



FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae

61 Black-chinned Siskin
Carduelis barbata

Common daily, particularly in introduced stands of trees. Abundant Carcass Island.



TRUE BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae

62 Canary-winged (Black-throated) Finch
Melanodera melanodera

Common daily.



TROUPIALS & ALLIES Passeriformes Icteridae

63 Long-tailed Meadowlark
Sturnella loyca

Common daily except on Sea Lion Island where they were absent.



MAMMALS



RABBITS & HARES Lagomorpha Leporidae

1 European Hare
Lepus europaeus

Extremely common around Darwin with one animal even in the lodge garden; two on the way to Volunteer Point.



EARED SEALS Carnivora Otariidae

2 South American Sea-lion
Otaria byronia

Pebble Island, five males and three females at Cape Tamar; Sea Lion Island: colony of 13 males and 20 females with pups; West Point Island, two hunting Rockhopper penguins at their landing site; Kidney Island: big bull with about 10 females in the tussock, six more beneath the cliffs.



EARLESS SEALS Carnivora Phocidae

3 Southern Elephant Seal
Mirounga leonine

Carcass Island, 40 juveniles; Sea Lion Island, more than 100 in total around the beaches.



MARINE DOLPHINS Cete Delphinidae

4 Orca (Killer Whale)
Orcinus orca

Sea Lion Island, one male and possibly five females, two with calves. These animals, with the red setting sun glinting on their fins, provided one of the highlights of the trip.

5 Peale's Dolphin Lagenorhynchus australis

Pebble Island, six at the northern end; Carcass Island, three on the boat trip, one tail-slapping to splash us; Port Stanley, two on the way into town from the airport, two on the pelagic trip.

6 Dusky Dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus

Carcass Island, three probably of this obscure species playing in the kelp at our feet.

7 Commerson's Dolphin Cephalorhynchus commersonii

Pebble Island: two leaping from the waves in Ship Harbour; West Point Island boat trip, 12 bow-riding for 35 minutes.



Tim Earl

Principal Leader


© The Travelling Naturalist / Limosa Holidays 2005