Monday, 12 December 2011

Half Moon Island, South Shetlands. 23/11/11 A.M.

White Chinned Petrel

Approach to Half Moon Island

On the morning of 23rd we were approaching Half Moon Island which holds a colony tens of 1000s of Chinstrap Penguins. Round the ship we still had Cape Petrels, Southern Giant Petrels and White Chinned Petrels keeping us company until we anchored in the lee of the island.
A Superb Chinstrap Welcome

This was kind of welcome we received stepping out of our Zodiacs in glorious sunshine a balmy 7C for our first island landing.  Absolutely Magical!!

The Chinstraps were totally oblivious to our presence walking right up to us and so endearing. Making my 400mm lense almost superfluous.

Brown Skua
Brown Skuas and Kelp Gulls  patrolled the colonies looking for unattended eggs. While Sheathbills revelled in eating Penguin poo and anything else they could find.
Chinstrap with egg in nest of stones.

Our floating home M/V Plancius

Macaroni Penguin
In one of the Chinstrap colonies a lone Macaroni Penguin. We made special efforts to see this bird as we would be unlikely to see any more as there main breeding site is in South Georgia along way off our proposed route.
Macaroni Penguin

Ice Crystal Halo

While walking through some times waist high snow to the other end of the island to see some Weddell Seals an Ice Halo appeared above the island. Apparently these are caused by the sun shining through ice crystals in the atmosphere.
Weddell Seal

Collecting stones for its nest

Unfortunately our time ashore was very limited as we had a 4 hour sail to our next island visit on Deception Island.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

BT Super slow broadband

Thanks to BT super fast broadband (Not) I am now getting only 8-13KBPs so I unable to upload any pictures. Hopefully after the engineer comes tomorrow normal service will be resumed.  

Friday, 9 December 2011

Drake Passage and The South Shetlands

On the morning of the 21st after spending a surprisingly comfortable night in the top bunk of a 4 birth cabin which estate agents would descibe as snug, I woke up about 4.30A.M. to the sound of the sea hitting the closed port hole. I quickly got dressed and went on deck for a days sea watching, then the sea sickness hit me (along with more than half the passengers and crew) as the ship was being tossed about in 50+ knot winds. I returned to my bunk for the next 8 hrs until i forced myself on deck and over came the sickness and wow it was worth it!!!
Cape Petrel
Dozens of Cape Petrels were around the boat, at times they were so close you could reach out and touch them. These were almost constantly around the ship the whole trip.
Southern Giant Petrel (Green tip to bill)
Several Southern Giant Petrels (Northern as well Mike) it is not till you see them that you realise just how big they are, were around the ship, these also were seen daily.

                                                             Light Mantled Sooty Albatross
 Joining the growing throng of birds coming and going around the ship were upto 14 stunning Light Mantled Sooty Albatrosses. Apparently we very lucky to see the numbers these Albatrosses as ususally only 1 or 2 are seen.  Photographs do not do them justice. I must have taken at least 500 of them and are still sorting through them.
                                                                        Blue Petrel
Delightful Blue Petrels (note the white tip to the tail) danced around the ship at great speed in the strong winds making photographing them very difficult. Thats my excuse.
                                                            Antarctic Prions (Broad Billed)
                 Many Antarctic Prions buzzed around and escorted the ship south wards.
Northern Royal Albatross
Huge white backed Albatrosses drifted past the ship giving us some ID head aches though these Northern Royal Albatrosses were easier than most to sort out.
                                                                       Antarctic Petrel
 Several Antarctic Petrels joined the ship which is apparently unusal away from the pack ice.
Antarctic and Cape Petrel
                                                             Southern Royal Albatross
                                                                 Southern Royal Albatross
 Southern Royal Albatrosses came and went. This one dwarfs the Antarctic Prion with it. 
Black Bellied Storm Petrel
A Few Black Bellied Storm Petrels appeared as we sailed further south.
                                                              Grey Headed Albatross
Gorgeous Grey Headed Albatrosses joined the ever growing list of birds around the ship
                                        Grey Headed Albatross and Southern Fulmar
Black browed Albatross
Black browed Albatrosses accompanied the ship through to the South shetlands.
Wilsons Storm Petrels, Southern Fulmars and Wandering Albatrosses were also seen regularily. I am still sorting photographs. 

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Ushuaia Day 1 and 2

We (Mike Buckland, David Walker, Gillian Hollamby and my self) arrived In Ushuaia Tierra Del Fuego on the evening of 18th November. With a little day light left we had a look around the harbour before getting a meal. In the harbour several Southern Giant Petrels, Imperial Shags, Kelp Gulls, Dolphin Gulls and Rufous Collared Sparrows which were very common.  
Imperial Shag
Southern Giant Petrel

Kelp Gull

Dolphin Gull
Rufous Collared Sparrow
In the morning of 19th a guide picked us up and we drove up to the bottom of the ski lift to the Martial Glacier. Walking up the hill we found Austral Thrushes, House Wrens, Black Chinned Siskins, a Thorn Tailed Rayadito, Chimango Caracara's, White Crested Elaenia's, Patagonian Sierra Finches and more R.C.Sparrows.
At the base of the Glacier despite some hard trekking in strong winds and sleet showers and finding plenty of fresh pellets we failed to find our main quarry White Bellied Seedsnipe. As recompense we did find Yellow Bridled Finch, Bar Winged Cinclodes, Dark Faced Ground Tyrant and Ochre Naped Ground Tyrant.

Austral Thrush

Chimanga Caracara
Thorn Tailed Rayadito

Yellow Bridled Finch
Dark Faced Ground Tyrant
Bar Winged Cinclodes
We spent the afternoon in the nearby National Park where we saw Ahy Headed Goose, Upland Geese, Flying Steamer Duck, Yellow Billed Pintail, Crested duck, Chiloe Wigeon, Great Grebe, Chilean Swallow, Tufted Tit Tyrant, Fire Eyed Diucons, Grey Flanked Cinclodes, Southern Caracara, Black Chested Buzzard Eagle, Austral Parakeet, Austral Pygmy Owl, Magellanic Horned Owl, Night Heron, White Throated Treerunner, Austral Negrito and more C Caracara's, R.C.Sparrows and W.T.Elaenia's. Late afternoon after much searching and tape luring we located a pair of superb Magellanic Woodpeckers.
Ashy Headed Goose

Austral Pygmy Owl

Crested Duck

Magellanic Horned Owl

Grey Flanked Cinclodes

Tufted Tit Tyrant
Night Heron

Magellanic Woodpecker
Magellanic Woodpecker

Our Guide dropped us at the Tolkeyne Hotel, Ushuaia which gave us a few Kilometer walk back along the shore. The bay in front of the hotel held may Bairds and White Rumped Sandpipers, Magellanic and Blackish Oystercatchers, Southern Lapwings, Kelp and Dolphin Gulls, Chileans Skuas, Southern Giant Petrels, Kelp and Upland Geese, Steamer and Crested ducks, Long Tailed Meadowlarks and Dark Bellied Cinclodes. 
Southern Lapwing
Long Tailed Meadowlark
On the morning of the 2oth we took the pleasure boat down the Beagle Channel to see the Magellanic Penguins. Also seen from the boat were South American Terns, Magellanic Diving Petrels, Chilean Skuas, Black Browed Albatrosses, Southern Fulmars, Southern Giant Petrels, Steamer Ducks Steaming, Rock Shags, Imperial Shags superb views of the Penguins plus a Gentoo. Arriving back at the harbour at 3.0P.M. gave us just enough time to collect our luggage and board the M/V Plancius at 4.00 P.M. for the start of our voyage to search for an Emperor Penguin, probably one the hardest birds to find in the world.     
Chilean Skua
South American Terns

Flightless Steamer Duck "Steaming"

Magellanic Penguin