A BIRDING TRIP TO

‘Antarctica, South Georgia, the Falkland Islands and Argentina’

              

 

 

A diary sent to those that travelled with

ORNITHOLIDAYS (www.ornitholidays.co.uk)

&

CRUISES FOR NATURE (www.cruisesfornature.co.uk)

29 January to 21 February 2004

aboard the

'WORLD DISCOVERER'

 

 

 

Above - King Penguin detail

A Personal Diary

Thursday 29 January

There had been heavy snow with treacherous icy roads. Some airports in the UK, and in other parts of Europe, had closed. I travelled earlier than planned to Heathrow in case of any problems on the roads or at the airport. I arrived at Heathrow at 1600, four hours before our scheduled departure, and many of the group were already in the terminal having had the same thoughts as myself. Air France advised that our flight could have problems connecting with the one to Argentina and suggested we took earlier flights to Paris. There was then an announcement saying that the plane we were scheduled to go on was to be cancelled! Luckily, our entire group arrived at Heathrow on time for transferring to other planes, and we set off for Paris on four different flights! We agreed to meet in Paris at the departure gate for Buenos Aires.

Everything went to plan and in Charles de Gaulle Airport the group was complete at last. The long haul flight to Argentina boarded on time and soon we were underway to Buenos Aires, and South America! The flight, through the night, was to take 13 hours.

Friday 30 January

Hopefully, most of the group got some sleep last night. We arrived in Buenos Aires ahead of schedule, at 0900 local time. It was a lovely day, the sun was shining and the temperature around 24°C. Immigration formalities went smoothly and our luggage soon was on the carousel.

In the arrivals hall our local specialist guide, German, was waiting for us. It was good to see my old friend again. He is, without doubt, one of the top birders in Argentina. We followed German to our bus and were soon underway to our city hotel, the Lafayette. We passed the dockland area alongside the old port, now radically redeveloped, and in the city centre German pointed out the Pink House where Eva Peron famously spoke to the crowds from the veranda. We checked-in to the hotel and had time to freshen-up before lunch. An early lunch was arranged as this afternoon a birding walk was planned.

 

At 1430 Jorge our driver was outside the hotel with the bus. We drove firstly through the main square passing the government buildings, the cathedral and now we had a close view of the Pink House. From here we drove to the city nature reserve of Costanera Sur. This marvellous reserve was earmarked for development but luckily was saved on appeal. It has lagoons that can be viewed from good walkways and there are many tree species plus scrub areas - an excellent place for birds!

For many of the group this was an introduction to Neotropic birding. Many waterbirds were pointed out including three species of coot, two species of swan and two of ibis. For some, their first hummingbird - Glittering-bellied Emerald. This lovely ‘hummer’ was seen taking insects from spider webs. Also there were bright and gaudy cardinals and warbling-finches. The highlight though was yet to come. We started to scan a muddy edge that bordered a small reedbed when my eyes caught two birds scurrying away into cover, South American Painted-snipe! This is a difficult species to see, anywhere in South America. We positioned the scopes and waited. After some moments of trepidation one appeared and walked into full view. This was a superb bird to get, and hopefully a foretaste of what was yet to come on our holiday together.

The sky began getting darker and then came thunder and lighting. The heavens opened and the rain became very heavy. Luckily we found some cover - I still do not know what the structure was originally, but it looked like a stall for selling ice cream! We crammed in, at least out of the heavy rain. Two or three of the group took cover in the portaloos that were close by! A park ranger arrived in the downpour saying he would arrange by radio a vehicle to take us back to the reception centre. When it arrived it was an open-backed four-wheel drive. We piled into the back and most of us got drenched anyway!

We clambered into our bus looking like drowned rats. It was fun, now looking back on it….and, the question 'is a South American Painted-snipe worth it?'….yes!

We drove back to the hotel and met again for dinner at 1930, this being followed by our first birdlog, a roll call of the species we had seen today. We retired to bed after a long day, and there was to be an early start tomorrow.

Saturday 31 January

Breakfast was at 0600. It was still raining, and it was still very heavy! German arrived and we left the hotel at 0645. Many streets in the city were flooded and cars had been left abandoned. Water was so deep in places that vehicles were turning around. We plodded on, but the sky did look foreboding.

 

On the highway there was a lot of spray. We decided to pass our intended first stop, hoping that the weather would improve as we travelled. In the Ceibas area we drove off the highway and onto smaller roads heading towards Ibicuy. At least we could try some birding from the bus. To both sides of the road were ponds and marsh, with some scrubby areas. Actually the birds could be seen, most though bedraggled. Maguari Storks, Limpkins, Roseate Spoonbills were typical of this habitat. We even put the scopes up inside the bus to look at Southern Screamers and a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers, the latter being migrants from North America.

It was time for lunch and we headed to the Estancia La Azotea. We found the approach road looked like a quagmire. German spoke to the owners and a vehicle arrived to escort us down a different track into the estate. At the estancia an old barn, complete with old farm implements, had been prepared as our eating-place. At a long rustic table we ate a picnic of sandwiches and fruit. Suddenly the rain eased….it had rained for twenty-two hours solid.

Around the farm the birds now became active. Field Flicker and Green-barred Woodpeckers were busy prodding the ground. Savannah Hawks started to call loudly from a small plantation. Flycatchers were now lively - smart Cattle Tyrants and flashy Vermilion Flycatchers amongst them. Of special note were the birds found only in the Choco region, a biome primarily of thorny thicket: Golden-billed Saltator, Short-billed Canastero and the startling White Monjita.

We returned to Buenos Aires late afternoon. Around 1800 it began raining once more. We had been lucky even to get just a few hours of birding today. Dinner at the hotel was followed by the log call, and then it was time for bed. Tomorrow there was to be another early start.

Sunday 1 February

Breakfast was served at 0545, early as we had to get to the domestic airport. Today we would be flying to Ushuaia, the south of the country and Tierra del Fuego.

German arrived, we loaded the luggage and checked-out from the Lafayette. At the airport there was a very long queue for the security check and after some negotiation with officials we were ushered to the front to board. The plane flew over the Peninsular Valdez (famous for its whales) and then to Calafate (gateway to the glaciers). The snow-covered peaks of the Andes were on our right as we continued our journey to Ushuaia.

Marcelo was at the airport to meet us. He had looked after our birding groups to Tierra del Fuego for some years now. He took us to our hotel, which was situated overlooking the Beagle Channel. Kelp Geese and Dolphin Gulls were on the foreshore and Southern Caracaras strolled around the hotel lawn. We soon had notched-up Flightless Steamer Duck, Imperial Cormorant and our first albatross, a Black-browed.

After lunch Marcelo took us to the Martial Glacier. A ski lift took us to about 500 metres altitude (only) but we were close to the snow line. We walked a trail alongside a meltwater stream. In front of us were snow-covered mountains. There were some localised birds to be found here and before very long we found our first Bridled Finch, a very smart bird, followed by both Bar-winged and Grey-flanked Cinclodes. Two ground-tyrants were seen, Dark-faced and Ochre-naped. We had in effect, ‘cleaned-up’ on the species here, having seen all the birds of this area. We celebrated with hot chocolate served in the small café and then went back down the mountain, on the ski lift. Some of the group hadn’t had enough fresh mountain air and opted for more exercise, walking down to meet us at the bus.

We drove back to the hotel, stopping once more to scan the beach near the hotel. A surprise find was three Rufous-chested Dotterels in amongst White-rumped Sandpipers. I associate this species with open fields and moorland yet here were birds in non-breeding plumage, already ‘wintering’ on the tideline. We called the birdlog after dinner and retired to our rooms.

Monday 2 February

Our first chance for a lie-in, with breakfast being served from 0730. New birds on the beach outside the hotel included Blackish Oystercatcher and Flying Steamer Duck.

Marcelo arrived to take us to the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Our first stop was a known ‘stakeout’ for Austral Pygmy Owl. The bird reacted immediately to the tape played by Marcelo. It was in the top of a large conifer but then flew to perch conveniently for excellent views through the scope. As we walked back towards the bus a small flock of Austral Parakeets flew overhead, squawking noisily they landed close to us.

We drove to another stakeout, this time for the Magellanic Woodpecker, so wanted by all birders when visiting the region. All worked exactly to plan again - Marcelo played the tape and in came a male Magellanic Woodpecker! The bird was in view moving along the trunks of the trees and bashing away at a bough here and there. Another good bird for us to get, and certainly not seen on every visit to Tierra del Fuego.

Our next species, and another stakeout: Magellanic Horned Owl. Here at this site Marcelo went into a small wooded area by himself with us waiting for his signal to move forward. The news was good again - Marcelo had found the bird. We had to be quiet, so walked in single line, not saying a word. In front of us, sitting on a tree branch was this splendid large owl. Occasionally there would be a blink from one of the eyes; it knew we were here, yet it could rely on its cryptic plumage. The view was incredible, the bird filling the scope.


Lunch was taken on a grassy knoll near the bus. The packed lunches supplied by Marcelo were excellent. There was soup, various meats and mixed salads. As we relaxed a feeding flock of birds came into some nearby trees. The flock was mostly Thorn-tailed Rayaditos but amongst them was an obliging White-throated Treerunner. In actions it reminded everyone of our common or garden treecreeper.

We drove to another area, one I knew for Magellanic Tapaculo. These are secretive little birds, the species’ preference to live near heaps of fallen trees and branches and nearly always close to water. The bird reacted to the tape and soon we all had it in view. Another of the regions specialities was on our list.

On the return journey to the town we stopped for a view over a large bay and the Beagle Channel. Distant Black-browed Albatrosses soared over the water and hundreds of Sooty Shearwaters were in feeding flocks. A lone juvenile Magellanic Penguin popped up close to the shore - our first penguin, of the thousands that were yet to come.

We drove back to the town. We had our first view of the World Discoverer now moored alongside the pier. Soon we would be boarding her. All the group were given time to look around the town of Ushuaia. There was time for souvenir hunting or posting the cards home. Marcelo and myself returned to the hotel to collect the group’s luggage and transfer it to the ship.

The ship looked impressive as we drove along the quay. Michelle, the Expedition Leader, was at the gangplank and it was nice to see her again - the last time was on a cruise between Japan and Alaska in May of last year. We dropped off the bags for distribution to the relevant cabins and returned to pick up the group at the arranged meeting point.

World Discoverer staff welcomed the group on the quay. Everyone was shown to their cabins. There was time to unpack, time to familiarise oneself with the ship's layout. We met for a welcome drink; rum punch was on offer in the Lido Lounge. An announcement over the p.a. system asked all passengers to go to the Discoverer Lounge for a mandatory briefing about safety aboard. This was followed by a buffet dinner, usual on the first evening (the official welcome will be tomorrow night), and we enjoyed a glass or two of wine in the restaurant. At 2000 we cast off, the cruise was underway!

There was still an hour of daylight and most passengers went on deck to view the Beagle Channel. It was a lovely mild evening, and the light was good. Many seabirds were seen but only three of the group were lucky enough to see Magellanic Diving-Petrel, a small rotund flying ‘ball of feathers’ which is endemic to this tiny area within South America.

We met in the Observation Lounge to call the birdlog and complete our lists for Argentina. Tomorrow we would be in the open ocean, sailing the high seas, on our way to the Falkland Islands.

Tuesday 3 February

'I now belong to a higher cult of mortals, for I have seen the Albatross'

                                                                                                                                     Robert Cushman Murphy

Individually the group could choose their own programme today. Breakfast anytime from 0600 to 0930, there were lectures to choose from, or to simply relax, or be out on the decks. Michelle gave another briefing to all passengers – this one to introduce the expedition team and the lecture staff, followed by instruction on the use of the zodiacs (the rubber boats).

The sea conditions were good, although the light somewhat less than ideal for seawatching. Our first of the  'great albatross' was a 'northern' Royal, an adult followed then by an immature. Then came an adult 'southern' Royal Albatross. These two being races of the same species. It was good to see these in this region, as from here on we leave their range.

 

Prions started to appear. Their identification always tests our skills as it relies on subtleties of size, shape and plumage. Many of these ‘whalebirds’ were not identified but three species were certainly involved and some close individuals were confidently Fairy, Slender-billed and Antarctic Prions. Other new birds included Cape Petrel, looking like a flying chequerboard, and Great Shearwater. Wilson's Storm-Petrels were in vast  numbers, many thousands.

There was a lecture about the Falkland Islands. At the afternoon recap Michelle told everyone the plans for tomorrow. We would be landing at Westpoint Island in the Falklands and the recap gave everyone aboard the chance to ask questions on zodiac procedure and the walks that were being planned.

The Captain's Welcome Cocktail Party was held in the Discoverer Lounge. Champagne was flowing freely and served to all. The Captain, Oliver Kruess, welcomed everybody aboard the World Discoverer and introduced the ship's officers. We toasted to the success of the cruise. Dinner in the Marco Polo restaurant followed and consisted of six courses – no-one would be losing weight on this cruise!

Wednesday 4 February

Michelle woke us with a morning call through the p.a system at 0600. The ship lay at anchor off the small private island of West Point in the Falklands. It was a lovely morning and the sun was shining. The first zodiac, the scout boat, went across to the island and reported back to the bridge that the landing site was ‘good’ and there was a small pier that could be used. This was to be the first time many of the passengers had put on life vests and to get aboard the zodiacs. The first passengers went across at 0730. Our group boarded the zodiacs and once ashore started a walk to a colony of Black-browed Albatross.

At the landing site Striated Caracaras walked around us cheekily looking for any item they could inspect, steal or eat! Around the beach were Kelp Geese and as we walked higher many Upland Geese were grazing on the grassland. We commented that the scenery was very like that of the Western Isles or Shetland Islands.

 

The colony contained Black-browed Albatross and Rockhopper Penguins. Both species had young of assorted ages. We watched as large fluffy gawky albatross chicks sat on nests that now looked much too small for them. We watched as adults were seen to feed juveniles by regurgitating food. The penguin chicks went from small downy individuals through to young birds that gathered in separate crèches and would be soon going to the water. The photographs taken here should be excellent as some birds were only at some five metres distance.

We walked back towards a small farmhouse where tea and a variety of excellent cakes and scones were being served. A large Peregrine, a female, on a hunting foray flew by at great speed to return for a close flypast.

The first landing had gone very smoothly, and once everyone was back on board we lifted anchor to sail towards Carcass Island where the landing was after lunch. There were two options; a hike passing some four or five colonies of two penguin species, or to stay on the ship while she repositioned close to the zodiac collection point.

The hike was about two miles. We walked to see Magellanic Penguins, the birds standing sentinel at the entrances to their burrows only yards from us. We had to be careful not to stand above the underground tunnels as they could collapse. We walked along a sandy beach to see the Gentoo Penguins and on the way two Cobb's Wrens were seen, an endemic species of the Falklands. The Gentoo colony had decreased noticeably from two years ago due to a 'red tide' which killed many birds in 2003.

 

Further along the shore were both Flying and the Falkland Steamer Ducks (the latter being flightless) and Blackish Oystercatchers. The walk ended at the McGill's homestead where once more there was a spread of cakes and scones laid out. So much food today!

The walks had been very good indeed. We had enjoyed the exercise and had been lucky that the weather was so good. A recap session late afternoon discussed the birds and whales of the Falklands. Dinner followed, ‘à la carte’ menu and excellent cuisine, accompanied this evening with very good Argentinean wine.

Thursday 5 February

Morning wake-up call on the ship was at 0630. We were off the small island of Long Island, Falkland Islands. After breakfast the zodiacs were to take us ashore to visit a farm where sheep shearing and peat cutting was to be demonstrated. As usual, the homestead was to serve tea and savoury snacks!

As the zodiacs drew near to the beach a small pod of Commerson's Dolphins came to check us out. These small attractive black and white cetaceans came close to the zodiacs, within touching distance, to swim around and under them.

Right - Commerson's Dolphin

The landing site was a nice sandy beach where Kelp Gulls gathered and small flocks of White-rumped Sandpipers ('wintering' here after breeding in North America) fed along the tide line. We found the very handsome Two-banded Plover and a couple of Rufous-chested Dotterels. There were many Correndera Pipits in the shrub-heath – this habitat consisting mainly of Empetrum rubrum, a low growing shrub commonly called diddle-dee in the Falklands.

We returned to the World Discoverer, heaved anchor and sailed to Stanley, the main town. The ship had lain on coaches for a short tour and to operate a shuttle service from the town to the ship. The tour was a brief introduction to the history of the islands. We passed a number of shipwrecks in the channels - many dating back more than one hundred years. The 1982 conflict with Argentina was talked about but there wasn’t time for the full story.  In the town passengers could buy souvenirs and presents to take back home.

We had only four and half hours in Stanley before the World Discoverer was underway, next stop South Georgia, two days sailing to the southeast. The ship headed to open water. An incredible concentration of Sooty Shearwaters congregated offshore, more than 40,000, no doubt awaiting darkness to return to the breeding burrows.

After dinner the group met for the birdcall and to discuss the cruise to date.

Friday 6 February

We were making good progress on our journey. At 0630 we had covered 195 miles since leaving Stanley. The sky was overcast but the sun was trying to peek through.

There were many albatrosses in the wake. Wandering Albatross, the bird with the largest wingspan, could be seen in various age-related plumages. There was one very old bleached bird, lacking any black in the tail that could easily have been mistaken for a Royal Albatross. Soft-plumaged Petrels came shooting past the ship showing no interest in us. They numbered more than one hundred in three hours, a high count for this Pterodroma. We logged another new species, Black-bellied Storm Petrel.

After lunch the swell started to increase, though the wind speed was only Beaufort Force 5 and good conditions for this latitude (so far!) Diverse lectures on offer today included ‘Plate Tectonics’, ‘Whales and Whaling’ and ‘Seabirds of the Southern Oceans’. During the afternoon everyone had time to relax. Those seawatching did add two more species, Northern Giant Petrel and Grey-headed Albatross.

Saturday 7 February

Another day at sea as we continued our journey towards South Georgia. It was pleasant out on deck, the weather overcast generally but blue sky here and there. The amount of birds behind the ship had increased considerably. During the day the Black-browed Albatrosses increased and numbered hundreds. It was quite a sight to look behind the stern into the wake to see hundreds of albatrosses, prions, petrels and storm-petrels.

The day became brighter, balmy even. We could walk around the deck with the sun shining. Lectures were well attended. Talks were on whales, more on seabirds. On the deck those birding grappled with the identification of prions and sorted the Black-bellied from Wilson's Storm Petrels. The first Snow Petrel, elegant and dove-like, was a signal that Antarctica was getting closer.

During the afternoon we sighted a few whales. The blows were visible from a couple of miles. The Captain turned the ship so that we could drift amongst a herd of Sperm Whales. These were females and there was at least one small calf amongst them. These leviathans, real-life Moby Dicks, were slaughtered in numbers in these waters in the past. Two products specifically were extracted from these gentle mammals, spermaceti (a fine oil) and ambergris (used in cosmetics).

 

Late afternoon and the first iceberg was sighted. A large 'berg was to our port side; this had come floating from the Weddel Sea, a long way south. Over the next few hours ice could be seen to both sides of the ship - bergy bits (floating small pieces from a larger 'berg), some growlers (pieces mostly submerged) and brash.

Today the whale and seabird numbers had been impressive. We were told at recap that tomorrow morning we would be at South Georgia - penguin and albatross colonies lay ahead!

Sunday 8 February

‘I have often had the impression that, to penguins, man is just another penguin – different, less predictable, occasionally violent, but tolerable company when he sits still and minds his own business’

                                                                                                                          Bernard Stonehouse, ‘Penguins’

                        

Above - King Penguin                                                           Above - 'Teamwork'

Early morning and the ship is in the Bay of Isles, South Georgia. Salisbury Plain is in view where there is one of the most famous King Penguin colonies. The spectacle has a backdrop of mountains and glaciers. On deck there is the sight, sound and smell(!) of thousands of penguins.

The first zodiac landings were underway at 0715. Ashore the penguins were in uncountable numbers, maybe 100,000. They were on the beach, in the meltwater stream and the colony could be seen to reach high through a hollow up the hill. We walked past fur seals and a lone female Elephant Seal. Individual penguins, pairs and groups, would come waddling by. Chicks were in various stages of development, from the brown downy ones through the stages of moult. The edge of the penguin colony was a riot of colour as orange necks mixed with grey backs and black faces. Many birds were inquisitive of us (red-parkered interlopers) and would come to stare, or peck a wellington boot or any backpack left unattended on the ground. Camera batteries were packing up as shutters were clicking from countless shots being taken in the cold wind-chilled air.

  

Back aboard penguins could be seen filling the beach and high into the surrounding hills. It was quite a sight, one of nature’s wonders. Antarctic Terns were flying over the ship heading out to sea. A passenger on deck asked me about ‘the large white goose in flight’ – it was a white morph Southern Giant Petrel.

Left - King Penguin gathering on Salisbury Plain

We cruised to Prion Island where after lunch the zodiacs took us ashore. We had an uphill hike to see the Wandering Albatrosses that breed here. I had permission to take our group as one party, which would give us the flexibility to approach birds that were outside of the main flagged route for passengers.

We hiked a streambed where many fur seals were wallowing. We walked upwards to reach a plateau. Large white blobs dotted over the hillside were, in fact, albatrosses on nests. We went to some half a dozen birds. There was a little disappointment from some of the group as these birds may sit in one position for hours on end and not actually do much. Sure they were impressive in size, but we needed some movement! At last, a bird stood and stretched up, its huge size evident. Another bird walked to block the path as we were descending, to then move down the slope and take to the air.

Two more species were important here - the enigmatic South Georgia Pipit, a small brown job maybe not as impressive as a penguin or albatross but found nowhere else in the world and a duck, the South Georgia Pintail, which has been recorded to feed, amongst other things, on freshly dead seals and the like, and so, a meat-eating duck! We saw both species. We returned to the ship for afternoon tea and cakes.

Right - Wanderer on the nest

It had been a special day, and I'm sure will remain a memory for everyone - to witness thousands upon thousands of penguins and to see the magnificent Wandering Albatross on its nest.

During dinner the Captain moved the ship to Leith Harbour, the site of an abandoned whaling station. The rusting buildings were still here and the atmosphere one of a ghost town. The sun was shining; it was a beautiful evening, light reflecting from icebergs. The ship continued through the bergy bits and growlers, passing large 'bergs towards Stromness, another disused whaling station and the one where Shackleton finally reached help. The house Shackleton knocked at, to meet the Station Manager, was still here. To one side of the whaling station we could see down a valley to a waterfall, only one (and the last) of Shackleton's obstacles when crossing over the mountain range on foot.

Both whaling stations were emotional places to see. They were the sites of killing fields for thousands of the ‘Great Whales’. Looking at the rusting debris, hearing the creaking roofs, it was easy to imagine the stations in full use….and not that long ago.

Monday 9 February

We had arrived at Godthul and there were optional walks on offer. Firstly, to a Gentoo Penguin rookery, secondly, further on from this to a viewpoint ridge, and thirdly, a long hike of four hours for the more adventurous passengers on the ship.

The weather was superb. The temperature on deck was measured at 22°C, so warm that a coat wasn't needed. Here we were in the Subantarctic wearing T-shirts and looking at snow-covered mountains and icebergs. Glorious!

The ship sailed to Grytviken. The old derelict whaling station lay ahead as we entered a natural harbour, a large bay surrounded by mountains. The World Discoverer dropped anchor and the zodiacs whisked us ashore. Around the landing site there were scattered bleached whalebones. We gathered at the whalers' graveyard where Sir Ernest Shackleton was buried and the tradition is for visiting ships to toast 'the boss' (a term of endearment for Shackleton used by his men). We would be hearing a lot more about Shackleton in the forthcoming lectures.

After a fine speech by Captain Kruess to the memory and spirit of Shackleton we raised our glasses of Vermouth. Elephant and Fur Seals loafed around and watched us with disdain as we strolled past. Workmen from the Falklands were at the old whaling station – they had been commissioned to remove all the dangerous structures (as well as asbestos). The buildings were thus out of bounds and we had to walk around the perimeter to reach the renovated church and the museum, where there was a gift shop and the post office. The shop did a roaring trade in souvenirs and postage stamps.

Left - Elephant Seal dozing

We returned to the ship. This evening a barbeque was served at the pool deck with many meat and fish dishes on offer. Unfortunately it soon started to rain and most had to retreat to the lounge. Some guests, those working on South Georgia, were invited aboard - they were from the British Antarctic Survey and others from the base handling the work at the whaling station.

Tuesday 10 February

The wake-up call came from the Expedition Leader at 0500. Early morning, this was to announce that we were at Gold Harbour, another important King Penguin colony and we were to see the beach and penguin colony with the sun rising.

Once ashore we could walk to the main colony. Kings were all around, and if we stood still they would come close to peer at us. Snowy Sheathbills, the garbage collectors of the colony, would walk around like chickens, pecking at people's welly-boots. Three hours ashore allowed time for the photos against a stunning backdrop of glaciers.

At one end of the beach were the Elephant Seals, the 'blubber slugs'. Young males with well-developed proboscises would occasionally snort and face up to each other. The large adult males now will be at sea. A couple of the group went on a hike across the tussock to a breeding area for Light-mantled Albatross though they were not seen; the birds had finished breeding and were back at sea.

Lunch was served back aboard the ship. There was a German Frühschoppen or alternatively full lunch was served in the restaurant. During lunch I was asked to see a bird that had come onto the deck during the night and had been placed in a box by one of the crew. It was a Blue Petrel, a species we had not yet seen at sea! It was undamaged and in good condition. It was active and ready to be released. We informed those close by, and took photos before releasing the bird at the bow and out of sight of the ever-present giant petrels. It flew off strongly.

We arrived at Cooper Bay. The first landing beach was overcrowded with fur seals, and we had to be careful as young pups came charging playfully at us (and they do bite!). We followed a stream to view a Gentoo Penguin colony. Our second landing site was to take a hike to a Macaroni colony. This was quite some distance from the landing and with muddy conditions underfoot. I had visited here before and as most of the Macaronis are dirty from their ascent through the tussock to the colony (not so good for photography) suggested to the group that instead we could take a zodiac to where the penguins came ashore. This was much the better option, as there were many Macaronis and a few Chinstraps in the water and on the rocks.

Right - Chinstrap Penguin

Once back at the ship we sailed into the picturesque Drygalski Fjord. Thousands of birds fed around the melt waters from the glaciers, the majority Cape Petrels but also Snow Petrels and Antarctic Terns. We passed many icebergs as we headed out to open water. We were to sail to the South Orkney Islands. Some diving-petrels lifted off as the ship approached them. I am now convinced these tiny birds cannot be identified to species in these waters (except when in the hand). An Arctic Tern flew past the ship and was identified by being in winter plumage - this bird may have travelled from Iceland, or even Scotland, where it would have left in July or August last year.

During dinner the bridge announced that the wind was very likely to increase through the night and to ensure that our possessions were secured and would not move around the cabins. Somewhat ominous? We were now in the Scotia Sea and the region called the 'roaring forties' (and the 'furious fifties'!)

Wednesday 11 February

As suspected the wind had increased dramatically through the night. Early morning and we were in Beaufort Force 10, classified as 'Whole Gale' or 'Storm', the wind speed around 60 mph and visibility very poor. There was a white churning sea and spray was horizontal, in dense white streaks, from the wave crests. At breakfast the crockery was flying around. The ship pitched and rolled (and this with the stabilisers out!) All activities were cancelled and the Captain decided that all passengers would be escorted to their cabins, to ride out the storm.

Early afternoon, and the storm continued. Many didn’t want to look at food but for those wanting lunch the orders were delivered to cabins. During the afternoon the Captain headed for the lee of a large iceberg that was some seven miles long. His intention was to keep to the leeward side and out of the gale. This gave the passengers a respite. Even dinner could be served whilst we stayed here out of the strong wind.

We moved to the open ocean at 2100. We were heading south and were back on course again. The conditions had improved but we had lost a lot of time, and we were to lose the South Orkney Islands from the itinerary all together. Let's see what the night would bring.

Thursday 12 February

'We awoke to a confused sea' said Captain Kreuss on the early morning announcement. I went onto deck and the sea had moderated. The air temperature was fresh and, now and again, slight snow was in the air. Bird numbers had dropped considerably, only a few Cape and Giant Petrels and a couple of Black-browed Albatrosses.

Activities today included a cocktail party for those that had travelled on the World Discoverer before. There was plenty of choice with lectures where subject matter varied from understanding ice conditions through to sea mammals and toothed whales.

The Captain announced that Orcas (also called Killer Whales) were off the bow and everyone assembled on the forward decks. The pod numbered about fifteen. These animals were on the move but the ship was able to keep with them. In amongst this family group were a couple of large-finned adult males and two calves.

 

A couple of hours later and more whales but this time, baleen whales. The announcement from the bridge was that two Fin Whales were off the bow but they were ‘small’ and personally I believe at least one was more likely a Sei Whale. Whilst watching the whales our first Southern Fulmar flew past.

Another great dinner in the restaurant this evening. The individual chefs had chosen their favourite dishes for the menu. Seven courses were offered!

Friday 13 February

We had crossed the 60° latitude line and were now in the political Antarctic. It was foggy due to the ship’s position between an anticyclone and a low-pressure system.

During the morning there were lectures on Antarctic pioneers and exploration, which were well attended. I had asked the Chief Engineer if there was the chance of an engine room tour, and ten of the group put their names down for this. Two tours were necessary because of the numbers involved, and the first group went late morning, saying that it was educational and they had enjoyed it very much.

Elephant Island came into view as we ate lunch. Its craggy rock pinnacles and snow-covered mountains most impressive. A dozen or more Fin Whales, the second largest of the whales and called 'greyhounds of the sea' because they swim so fast, were ahead of the ship. A lone Humpback Whale surfaced close to an iceberg to then raise its tail flukes as it dived.

To our port side Point Wild could be seen, the isolated beach where Shackleton's men spent 138 days before finally being rescued. A small monument there was to the Argentinean Captain who, with Shackleton aboard his ship, finally reached the island and got them off.

The Captain did a remarkable piece of navigation and the ship went into the bay. This was the first time I had been aboard a ship that went this close to the island. Elephant Island is notorious for bad weather, strong currents and ice-bound bays. We launched the zodiacs but as I suspected the scout boat reported that a landing would be too difficult (I have only once got ashore here). Michelle, the Expedition Leader, never to be outdone, said a zodiac cruise though could take place and most passengers opted for this.

The zodiac took our group firstly to the edge of a glacier, its sculptured ice face looking like the meringue on top of a pie, and then through brash ice towards the bay where the men had stayed for long months. We passed large numbers of Chinstrap Penguins, probably 50 to 60 thousand. Birds were on the shoreline, on the cliffs, and many porpoising past the boats going to and from rookeries.

The ship heaved anchor and we were underway to our next island where we would arrive tomorrow. This would be Deception Island, an active volcano, where we planned to take the ship into the caldera itself.

Dinner tonight had ‘Shackleton’ as its theme however it was not to be penguin meat or seal blubber! The seven-course meal had pauses between courses when two of the lecturers quoted Shackleton, and what others thought of him. After dinner the Ornitholidays’ group had our own little gathering in the Observation Lounge for the birdlist and to chat about tomorrow and Deception Island.

Saturday 14 February

Deception Island lay ahead. Just after breakfast the ship entered the narrow channel called Neptune's Bellows. Sheer cliffs were to both sides of us. We had entered the large crater itself. The shore of Whalers' Bay ahead was black ash and cinder. We could see the remains of the British Antarctic Survey station, evacuated during an eruption in 1969, and scrap from the old whaling station, now left in one large pile. The whaling station operated for twenty years and in one year alone, 1931, more than 3,600,000 barrels of whale oil were collected - no wonder that whale numbers were becoming unsustainable. Sunken ‘water boats’ could be seen on one end of the beach, these used by the whalers in the past for the storage of fresh water.

Inside the caldera it was calm, we were out of the wind. The zodiac ride was over smooth water and there were easy walks once ashore. We found two old marked graves of Norwegian whalers and, at the far end of the bay, an old hangar complete with the fuselage of a plane left abandoned by BAS.

The ship's staff dug a large pit in the sand. This filled with water then to be heated by the fumaroles. By regulating the entry of the cold seawater they created a 'warm bath' for those brave enough to 'swim' in Antarctica. It wasn't the getting in to the water, it was rather the getting out into the cold air temperature!

 

There were thirty or more South Polar Skuas sitting together on the beach though few penguins, Gentoo mainly, ashore to moult, and a couple of Chinstraps. Generally the penguins stay away from these warmer waters of the inner volcano.

Once all were back aboard we sailed towards Livingston Island, a much larger island to the north of Deception and still in the South Shetlands. We passed Baily Head, a volcanic amphitheatre, jam-packed with Chinstrap Penguins. The colony here exceeds half a million birds. Birds could be seen all around the hollow and into the hills, but this is a difficult landing and, although considered, was thought too dangerous today.

At Livingston Island there were two landings, onto a beach where fossils could be found and Hannah Point where there were penguin and shag colonies. There was also an optional hike between the two places. The penguin rookery was of Gentoo and Chinstrap. There was a lot of activity as the penguin chicks were nearly at the stage of going to sea, and many adult birds were being pestered and showed signs that the bond between them and the chicks was breaking. We watched full-grown chicks chasing adults through the colony, sometimes obtaining food after a long chase. We commented that the Chinstraps were feisty little birds that did not put up with any nonsense from the other species, particularly the Gentoo. There were small groups of Elephant Seals laying around giving off a smell which made penguin guano positively perfume!

We returned to the World Discoverer, the anchor was raised, and we were underway to Port Lockroy. This evening the Captain invited our complete group to join him for dinner at the Captain's Table. A large central table had been arranged to seat fifteen. Champagne was served and lovely food was accompanied with good wines. Connie Kruess, the Hotel Manager, and wife of the Captain, joined us. It was very pleasant - convivial company and amusing conversation - and all enjoyed the evening.

Sunday 15 February

'Penguins are wonderful creatures, interesting and humorous. They are fun to watch even though they stink and their voices aren't very melodic'

George Gaylord Simpson

The morning wake-up call was at 0530 to photograph the Neumayer Channel. The sun had risen but it was overcast for the proposed photos. We arrived at Port Lockroy just after 0700. The zodiacs took us ashore to the British base where there was a museum, a small gift shop and a Post Office, which had its own stamps. Many passengers sent postcards. It did seem bizarre that in Antarctica I meet one of the British Antarctic Heritage Trust team stationed here who comes from Swindon, not far from where I live in Wiltshire.

Around the huts many Gentoo penguins had fully-grown chicks and Snowy Sheathbills were eating anything they could find. We took a zodiac across to Jougla Point to see a small Antarctic Shag colony. There were whale bones scattered around, from Humpback and Fin Whales, and a previous ship had put one of the skeletons together (wrongly as it happens - both anatomically and with a mix of species!)

Just as the call for lunch came across the p.a system the bridge announced that more Orcas were ahead. It was a small pod of only six animals but there was obvious feeding activity. There were thousands of birds around the Orcas - storm-petrels, skuas and petrels. I could see that the Giant Petrels were pulling away at something white and red on the surface. It was a large lump of blubber….the Orcas had killed a Minke Whale! Not much was left when we got to it and I assumed most of the carcass had sunk. Some saw Orcas swimming with lumps of blubber hanging from their mouths. The Orcas swam close to, even under, the ship as the cameras and videos were put to good use. Killer Whales are not true whales, indeed they are dolphins, and the origin of this alternative name is ‘whale killers’.

The ship went back through the Neumayer Channel. It was very calm and the snow-covered mountains stood proud in the clear air. We reached Paradise Bay but another ship, a small Argentinean vessel, was visiting the base there. The Captain took us to the Chilean station instead, called Gonzales Videla. The temporary residents numbered seven men….and hundreds of Gentoo. The men were naval personnel and they welcomed us to their summer station. This late in the season the place was messy and mucky, the penguins (and staff) having tramped around the base for the last few months.

We followed the station tour with a zodiac cruise around the bay passing icebergs of all shapes and sizes, bergy bits and powering through the brash ice. A Leopard Seal was found on one of the floes. This particular ‘penguin predator’ was a large one and we observed the typical reptile-like head of this species. On another floe we found two Crabeater Seals (they don’t eat crabs, only krill), these had totally different head shapes, more like dogs with small eyes.

Left - Leopard Seal

We set off for Marguerite Bay, another pod of Killer Whales came by on our port side as we left. Early evening and we were in the six-mile long scenic Lemaire Channel. This narrow waterway flows between 1000 metre high peaks reflected in the still water. We cruised slowly through whilst glühwein was served to those souls that were out on deck. Three Minke Whales were moving at a fair pace ahead of us to then join a group of fourteen more. The first time I had seen a group of this size.

We sat at a large table again for dinner, our entire group together as last night. This size table may not be possible in rough conditions when the chairs are then anchored to the floor.

Monday 16 February

During the early morning the ship crossed the Antarctic Circle (South Polar Circle). The Captain announced at 0900 that we had crossed the 67° latitude line, the furthest south this World Discoverer had ever been. Outside it was misty, snowing and a lot of ice was around the ship.

We sailed to the edge of Marguerite Bay, the furthest south we were to go on this cruise (67°21'). Only one other passenger ship had ventured to this area this season. There were many seals on the floes and South Polar Skuas, Snow Petrels, Wilson's Storm-Petrels, just a few Antarctic Shags, and even Kelp Gulls (this far south) made up the birds.

Surrounding us were 'bergs and brash ice as we sat in the Marco Polo restaurant and ate lunch. It was hard to believe we were eating cordon-bleu food whilst looking at this vista! The ship weighed anchor and the zodiacs were dropped down to the sea. We were to have a zodiac cruise through the ice. We spied Weddel and Crabeater Seals hauled out on the ice, and then drove to a small flock of Antarctic Shags. We stopped to photograph small groups of Adelie Penguins, the small penguin of the Antarctic ice, which comically strode around looking like miniature Charlie Chaplins. The ship moved its position and the zodiacs then rendezvoused with it in the open channel. This was real expedition cruising - had anyone before us cruised this area by rubber boat?

Left - Adelie Penguin

Once back aboard we sailed northwards. Two amazing Humpback Whales put on an incredible display for us. They turned on their sides, then upside-down with pectoral flippers waving in the air, then to start flipper-slapping on the water. The ventral grooves of the throat were visible, the barnacles on the rostrum, and the diatoms giving an orange colour to the belly. Just as we were about to leave one of the whales ‘spy-hopped’, with its head coming clear of the water – it was a fitting farewell, to see us on our way.

Minke Whales were in high numbers. Sometimes there were small groups and much splashing as whales would pick up speed. One whale was seen to lunge from the water, and another to ‘forward breach’ four times. What a marvellous day for cetaceans!

After dinner, there was a beautiful sunset with the sun setting behind snow-covered mountains, the lenticular clouds glowing red. It had been a memorable day.

Tuesday 17 February

'Whatever a penguin does has individuality, and he lays bare his whole life for all to see. He cannot fly away. And because he is quaint in all that he does, but still more because he is fighting always with the most gallant pluck, he comes to be considered as something apart from the ordinary bird - sometimes solemn, sometimes humorous, enterprising, chivalrous, cheeky - and always (unless you’re driving a dog team) a welcome and, in some ways, an almost human friend'

                                                                                                                                        Apsley Cherry-Garrard

We had arrived at Petermann Island where the landings started after breakfast at 0800. This would be our last landing of the cruise. The zodiacs took us to a rocky area where there had been extensive snowfall. The staff marked a path using flagpoles. One walk went to a colony of Gentoo Penguins, the southernmost  in Antarctica. Also Adelie Penguins were here and Antarctic Shags nested on the coastal rocks. Many birds were feeding young whilst numerous penguins were now in heavy moult. The second walk, through snow a few inches deep, was over a small hill to view a bay with ice floes.

The sky became grey and the wind picked-up. Soon it began snowing heavily and the visibility became poor. On returning to the ship, there was a surprise in store. The lifeboat had been launched….but it was flying a banner that read 'The Last Penguin Bar'! The barmen were aboard and serving hot chocolate laced with Drambuie - it was lovely and warming. We sat alongside in the zodiac with snow falling around us.

 

The snowstorm went as quickly as it came. The ship sailed to the Lemaire Channel again. This is commonly called 'Kodak Gap' for the amount of photographs that can be taken here. It lived up to its name, and the World Discoverer passengers were out on the deck in force. Another ship passed us going the other way, the Professor Mulchanov, a small Russian ship that takes about fifty passengers. About an hour later, after lunch, yet another ship was in view, the Bremen. We hadn't seen any ships, now two in an hour.

 

We were to meet the Bremen to exchange some supplies. Both ships came close to each other off Couverville Island and a zodiac took the goods. After the items had been transferred there was the traditional nautical goodbye, the blasting of ship's horns. It was beautiful and scenic as we sailed on. The sun was shining and the snow gleaming on high mountains which dominated the skyline. All shapes and sizes of ice were floating in the water.

We had a group meeting after dinner, giving us the opportunity for a chat about the disembarkation in a few days time. Tomorrow we would be in the Drake Passage, on our way to Cape Horn. An infamous stretch of water with a fearful reputation – what would the sea crossing be like?

Wednesday 18 February

We were still south of the Antarctic convergence this morning so bird numbers were still low. Wilson's Storm-Petrels were the exception and penguins were still around. The sea was calm, about Force 4 wind....would it stay this way for us over the next two days?

By lunchtime further birds were coming into the wake - Grey-headed Albatross, Black-bellied Storm-Petrel and now dozens of Antarctic Prions. A few of the group saw a whale breach. It was an Arnoux's Beaked Whale, a member of the poorly known Ziphiidae family. Most of the group went to the lectures - 'Seabirds and Long-lining', 'Orcas,Wolves of the Sea' and 'Climate Change'.

The second group for the engine room tour gathered at Reception at 1530. The Chief Engineer met us and took us down below where fifteen crew work. First we visited the Control Room with its computers, gauges and switchgear. Donning ear protectors we then went into the engine room, saw the propshafts spinning, and from there to the workshop. The ‘Chief’ also explained about the osmosis units, water treatment and waste containers. A very informative tour!

One of the afternoon presentations was a photo recap of the cruise. Two of the staff had put together a CD, a PowerPoint presentation of the cruise. It was very good, a photo diary that was available for purchase.

Dinner tonight, and again we had a large table laid out for us. The reason? The Drake, up till now at least, was very calm indeed.

Thursday 19 February

Early morning 0700 and the ship was off Diego Ramirez. These remote craggy islets are Chilean and have a lighthouse and a small naval contingent is based there. The Drake Passage had been amazingly smooth (the ‘Drake Lake’ for this crossing) and the swell was recorded at less than six feet – nothing to a ship like this!

Black-browed Albatrosses were in large numbers, another Royal Albatross was seen (this one epomorphora, Southern Royal Albatross) and Sooty Shearwaters were streaming past the ship as Cape Horn came into view around midday. We could see the lighthouse, built to one side of the most southerly point of South America. There is a monument on Cape Horn with the following inscription:

'I am the albatross that awaits you at the end of the earth. I am the forgotten soul of the dead sailors from all the seas of the earth who rounded Cape Horn, they did not die in the fury of the waves, but fly today on my wings towards eternity in the cry of the Antarctic winds'

                                                                                           Sara Vial from the Albatross monument, Cape Horn

 The ship sailed up the eastern side of the continent and late afternoon we entered the Beagle Channel, the last section taking us into Ushuaia. We held a group briefing at 1800 just to ensure everyone knew the programme for our leaving the ship tomorrow morning.

The Captain invited all passengers to a Farewell Cocktail Party in the Discoverer Lounge. Champagne was served and the Captain gave a short speech recounting some memories of the cruise. The Farewell Dinner in the Marco Polo restaurant consisted of seven courses. Connie, the Hotel Manager, introduced the chefs from the galley and then the restaurant staff, some twenty-seven in all. The lights were dimmed and the waiters and waitresses came in carrying the dessert, Baked Alaska complete with lighted candles. It was a dinner to end the cruise on.

At 2130 we could see the lights of Ushuaia. We tied up alongside the pier and soon were cleared by Argentine Immigration and Customs. Some passengers went ashore to see the town whilst others to bed. Tonight there would be no rolling from the sea and waves.

Friday 20 February

Michelle woke everyone at 0530, for luggage to be outside the cabins for collection at 0600. After breakfast I went onto the quayside to check the group luggage was complete. Marcelo arrived early, 0730, and the group were called through the p.a system. It was time to leave the ship that had been our home for 18 days, time to say goodbye to officers, crew and staff at the gangplank.

Our luggage was loaded onto the bus. We left the World Discoverer, waving to everyone as we drove away. The drive to the airport was only twenty minutes. Marcelo had arranged in advance our boarding passes for the flight and soon we had the luggage checked and were going through into the departure area.

We flew to Buenos Aires where Hernan (friend of German, and one of the ground handling team in Argentina) was waiting. He escorted us to our bus to travel from the domestic to the international airport, forty minutes driving distance.

We had plenty of time to spare (which was to become much more than we realised!) We ate lunch in the airport restaurant. It was very good (even after the World Discoverer!) We checked-in with Air France to find something was wrong. There was a delay, which would mean missing the connecting flight to London. We were to later find that there had been an emergency landing at the airport and we were to be delayed by more than four hours.

At 2200 we finally boarded the Air France flight to Paris. We had a twelve-hour journey ahead of us, travelling through the night.

Saturday 21 February

We arrived in Paris at 1445 local time. New boarding cards were waiting for us and we walked to the next terminal. We had been rebooked on the 1700 flight, which arrived into Heathrow, London at 1740GMT. The group had travelled together for 24 days and it was time to say farewell - there only remained the final journey to our homes.

Acknowledgements

I have visited Antarctica many times and am running out of superlatives! Each visit has been different, yet each time fabulous. Antarctica cannot fail to impress. Antarctica is special, and long may it remain so. We had travelled more than 4300 statute miles aboard a marvellous expedition ship to see remote wilderness where whales roam the seas, albatrosses are escorts and penguins one’s companions.

Many thanks to the Captain, officers, staff and crew of the World Discoverer who attended to our every need. Our gratitude to the Captain and officers for taking us to the ‘White Continent’. Special thanks to Michelle, the best Expedition Leader I have travelled with, and her expedition team who arranged 20 landings for us at 18 different sites (and a further 3 zodiac cruises). To the staff and crew of the ship we pass thanks for their experience and professionalism – there were too many to mention by name but lecturers, hotel staff (chefs, waiters, cabin girls) and seamen all played their part in the success of this cruise.

Also thanks to German and Marcelo for organising the Argentina sectors and showing us the birds of their country.

Finally, and most importantly, my thanks to all of you for coming on this journey. I hope you enjoyed ‘Antarctica, South Georgia, the Falkland Islands and Argentina’ and that this cruise will remain a lasting memory. I look forward to seeing you on another Ornitholidays’ tour soon.

 

Tony Pym

Ornitholidays and Cruises for Nature

29 Straight Mile

Romsey

Hants

SO51 9BB

Tel: 01794 519445

Email: info@ornitholidays.co.uk

          info@cruisesfornature.co.uk

March 2004

 

 

 

Itinerary and Weather

Thursday 29 January

Flew from Heathrow, London to Paris, France. Flew Paris to Buenos Aires, Argentina

Friday 30 January

a.m. Arrival Buenos Aires. Transfer to hotel p.m. Costanera Sur

Warm becoming hot. Thunderstorm late afternoon 28ºC

Saturday 31 January

Ceibas. Ibicuy. Estancia La Azotea

Heavy rain (stopped for three hours only) 20ºC

Sunday 1 February

a.m. Flew Buenos Aires to Ushuaia p.m. Martial Glacier

Overcast 5ºC

Monday 2 February

Tierra del Fuego National Park p.m. transfer to, and embarkation, the World Discoverer. Sailed 2000 into the Beagle Channel

Overcast becoming brighter 10ºC

Tuesday 3 February

At sea en route to Falkland Islands

Bright becoming overcast 10ºC

Wednesday 4 February

Falkland Islands a.m. West Point p.m. Carcass Island

Bright, sunny at times 16ºC

Thursday 5 February

Falkland Islands a.m. Long Island p.m. Stanley

Sunny and warm 19ºC

Friday 6 February

At sea en route to South Georgia

Overcast, some blue sky, occasional rain showers 6ºC

Saturday 7 February

At sea en route to South Georgia

Cloudy becoming sunny with blue sky 6ºC

Sunday 8 February

South Georgia a.m. Salisbury Plain p.m. Prion Island

Cloudy, bright during evening 5ºC

Monday 9 February

South Georgia a.m. Godthul p.m. Grytviken

Sunny, warm, showers later. High temperature during day of 22ºC 

Tuesday 10 February

South Georgia a.m. Gold Harbour p.m. Cooper Bay

Overcast, blue sky later, rain during afternoon becoming brighter again 10ºC 

Wednesday 11 February

At sea

Storm Force 10! 3ºC

Thursday 12 February

At sea

Much improved conditions, becoming Force 4 and calm 4ºC 

Friday 13 February

At sea p.m. Elephant Island

Fog early becoming brighter with occasional blue sky 4ºC

Saturday 14 February

a.m. Deception Island p.m Livingston Island

Overcast, occasional blue sky 4ºC

Sunday 15 February

a.m. Port Lockroy p.m. Lemaire Channel and Paradise Bay

Grey, overcast, some sun with blue sky later, even light snow flurry 1ºC

Monday 16 February

Antarctic Circle. Sailed south to 67º21´ Marguerite Bay

Snow, overcast, sun with blue sky later 1ºC 

Tuesday 17 February

Petermann Island. Gerlache Strait. Drake Passage

Grey, snowfall, blue sky later, temperature rising to 5ºC

Wednesday 18 February

At sea. Drake Passage

Overcast, mild with calm sea 5ºC

Thursday 19 February

At sea. Drake Passage. Cape Horn. Beagle Channel. Ushuaia

Grey, overcast, light mist at times 10ºC

Friday 20 February

a.m. Disembarkation, the World Discoverer. Transfer to airport. Flew Ushuaia to Buenos Aires p.m. Flew Buenos Aires to Paris, France

Sunny and warm in Buenos Aires 24ºC

Saturday 21 February

p.m. Arrival Paris. Flew from Paris, France to Heathrow, London

TRIPLIST

CHECKLIST OF BIRDS SEEN IN ARGENTINA

(pretour to cruise)

    Max no of days

    seen and heard

                                 Location

   

       Abundance scale

         Maximum seen

           (on one day)

       Maximum 4

                 B = Costanera Sur, Buenos Aires

                 C = Ceibas

                 T = Tierra del Fuego (Martial Glacier and the

                            National Park)

             1 = 1-4

             2 = 5-9

             3 = 10-99

             4 = 100-999

             5 = 1000-9999

             6 = 10000-99,999

            

   Species                                       No of days recorded              Location    Abundance Scale         Scientific Name

White-tufted Grebe

1

B

4

Podiceps rolland

Great Grebe

2

B

T

1

Podiceps major

Black-browed Albatross

2

T

3

Diomedea melanophris

Southern Giant-Petrel

1

T

3

Macronectes giganteus

Sooty Shearwater

2

T

4

Puffinus griseus

Neotropic (Olivaceous) Cormorant

3

B

C

T

3

Phalacrocorax brasilianus

Rock Shag

1

T

1

Phalacrocorax magellanicus

Imperial Shag

2

T

4

Phalacrocorax atriceps

Black-crowned Night-Heron

1

C

1

Nycticorax nycticorax

Whistling Heron

2

B

C

1

Syrigma sibilatrix

Snowy Egret

2

B

C

3

Egretta thula

White-necked (Cocoi) Heron

1

B

1

Ardea cocoi

Great Egret

2

B

C

3

Ardea alba

Cattle Egret

1

C

3

Bubulcus ibis

Striated Heron

1

B

1

Butorides striatus

Bare-faced Ibis

2

B

C

3

Phimosus infuscatus

White-faced Ibis

2

B

C

3

Plegadis chihi

Black-faced Ibis

1

T

1

Theristicus melanopis

Roseate Spoonbill

1

C

3

Ajaia ajaja

American Wood Stork

1

C

2

Mycteria americana

Maguari Stork

1

C

2

Ciconia maguari

Southern Screamer

1

C

2

Chauna torquata

White-faced Whistling-Duck

1

B

3

Dendrocygna viduata

Fulvous Whistling-Duck

1

B

3

Dendrocygna bicolor

Coscoroba Swan

1

B

3

Coscoroba coscoroba

Black-necked Swan

1

B

3

Cygnus melanocorypha

Upland Goose

1

T

3

Chloephaga picta

Kelp Goose

2

T

3

Chloephaga hybrida

Ashy-headed Goose

1

T

1

Chloephaga poliocephala

Crested Duck

2

T

1

Lophonetta specularioides

Flying Steamer-Duck

1

T

2

Tachyeres patachonicus

Fuegian (Flightless) Steamer Duck

2

T

3

Tachyeres pteneres

Silver Teal

2

B

C

3

Anas versicolor

Speckled Teal

1

B

2

Anas flavirostris

Yellow-billed Pintail

2

B

T

3

Anas georgica

Rosy-billed Pochard

1

B

2

Netta peposaca

Brazilian Duck

1

C

2

Amazonetta brasiliensis

Black-headed Duck

1

B

1

Heteronetta atricapilla

Lake (Argentine Ruddy) Duck

1

B

1

Oxyura vittata

Andean Condor

1

T

1

Vultur gryphus

White-tailed Kite

1

C

1

Elanus leucurus

Snail Kite

1

B

1

Rostrhamus sociabilis

Long-winged Harrier

1

C

1

Circus buffoni

Savanna Hawk

1

C

1

Buteogallus meridionalis

Southern Crested-Caracara

3

C

T

2

Caracara plancus

Chimango Caracara

4

B

C

T

3

Milvago chimango

Giant Wood-Rail

1

C

3

Aramides ypecaha

Common Gallinule (Moorhen)

1

B

1

Gallinula chloropus

White-winged Coot

1

B

2

Fulica leucoptera

Red-gartered Coot

1

B

3

Fulica armillata

Red-fronted Coot

1

B

2

Fulica rufifrons

Limpkin

1

C

3

Aramus guarauna

Wattled Jacana

2

B

C

2

Jacana jacana

South American Painted Snipe

1

B

1

Rostratula semicollaris

Blackish Oystercatcher

1

T

1

Haematopus ater

Magellanic Oystercatcher

2

T

3

Haematopus leucopodus

White-backed (South American) Stilt

2

B

C

2

Himantopus melanurus

Southern Lapwing

4

B

C

T

4

Vanellus chilensis

Rufous-chested Dotterel

2

T

1

Charadrius modestus

South American (Paraguayan) Snipe

2

B

C

2

Gallinago paraguaiae

Lesser Yellowlegs

1

B

3

Tringa flavipes

White-rumped Sandpiper

3

B

T

3

Calidris fuscicollis

Pectoral Sandpiper

1

C

1

Calidris melanotos

Chilean Skua

2

T

3

Stercorarius chilensis

Brown-hooded Gull

1

B

3

Larus maculipennis

Dolphin Gull

2

T

3

Larus scoresbii

Kelp Gull

2

T

4

Larus dominicanus

South American Tern

2

T

4

Sterna hirundinacea

Rock (Feral) Dove (introduced)

3

B

C

T

4

Columba livia

Picazuro Pigeon

2

B

C

3

Columba picazuro

Spot-winged Pigeon

1

C

2

Columba maculosa

Eared Dove

2

B

C

3

Zenaida auriculata

Picui Ground-Dove

1

C

1

Columbina picui

Nanday (Black-hooded) Parakeet

1

B

3

Nandayus nenday

Austral Parakeet

1

T

3

Enicognathus ferrugineus

Monk Parakeet

2

B

C

3

Myiopsitta monacha

Guira Cuckoo

1

C

3

Guira guira

Magellanic Horned Owl

1

T

1

Bubo magellanicus

Austral Pygmy-Owl

1

T

1

Glaucidium nanum

Glittering-bellied Emerald

1

B

1

Chlorostilbon aureoventris

Green-backed Firecrown

1

T

1

Sephanoides galeritus

Ringed Kingfisher

1

B

1

Ceryle torquata

Green-barred Woodpecker

1

C

2

Colaptes melanochloros

Field Flicker

1

C

1

Colaptes campestris

Magellanic Woodpecker

1

T

1

Campephilus magellanicus

Bar-winged Cinclodes

1

T

2

Cinclodes fuscus

Gray-flanked Cinclodes

1

T

1

Cinclodes oustaleti

Dark-bellied Cinclodes

1

T

1

Cinclodes patagonicus

Rufous Hornero

2

B

C

3

Furnarius rufus

Thorn-tailed Rayadito

1

T

3

Aphrastura spinicauda

Chotoy Spinetail

1

C

1

Schoeniophylax phryganophila

Short-billed Canastero

1

C

1

Asthenes baeri

Wren-like Rushbird

1

B

1

Phleocryptes melanops

White-throated Treerunner

1

T

1

Pygarrhichas albogularis

Narrow-billed Woodcreeper

1

C

1

Lepidocolaptes angustirostris

Magellanic Tapaculo

1

T

1

Scytalopus superciliaris

Suiriri Flycatcher

1

C

1

Suiriri suiriri

White-crested Elaenia

1

T

2

Elaenia albiceps

Sooty Tyrannulet

1

C

1

Serpophaga nigricans

Vermilion Flycatcher

1

C

1

Pyrocephalus rubinus

White Monjita

1

C

1

Xolmis irupero

Dark-faced Ground Tyrant

1

T

1

Muscisaxicola macloviana

Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrant

1

T

1

Muscisaxicola flavinucha

Austral Negrito

1

T

1

Lessonia rufa

Spectacled Tyrant

2

B

C

1

Hymenops perspicillata

Cattle Tyrant

1

C

2

Machetornis rixosus

Tropical Kingbird

2

B

C

2

Tyrannus melancholicus

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

1

C

3

Tyrannus savana

Great Kiskadee

2

B

C

3

Pitangus sulphuratus

White-tipped Plantcutter

1

C

1

Phytotoma rutila

Gray-breasted Martin

1

C

1

Progne chalybea

Brown-chested Martin

2

B

C

3

Progne tapera

White-rumped Swallow

1

C

3

Tachycineta leucorrhoa

Chilean Swallow

2

T

4

Tachycineta meyeni

Sand Martin (Bank Swallow)

1

C

2

Riparia riparia

American Cliff Swallow

1

C

3

Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Barn Swallow

1

C

1

Hirundo rustica

Southern House Wren

2

B

T

1

Troglodytes musculus

Masked Gnatcatcher

2

B

C

2

Polioptila dumicola

Rufous-bellied Thrush

2

B

C

1

Turdus rufiventris

Austral Thrush

1

T

3

Turdus falcklandii

Creamy-bellied Thrush

1

C

1

Turdus amaurochalinus

Chalk-browed Mockingbird

1

B

1

Mimus saturninus

(Lowland) Hepatic Tanager

1

C

1

Piranga flava

Sayaca Tanager

1

C

1

Thraupis bonariensis

Patagonian Sierra-Finch

1

T

3

Phrygilus patagonicus

Yellow-bridled Finch

1

T

2

Melanodera xanthogramma

Black-and-Rufous Warbling-Finch

1

B

1

Poospiza nigrorufa

Black-capped Warbling-Finch

1

B

1

Poospiza melanoleuca

Double-collared Seedeater

1

B

3

Sporophila caerulescens

Saffron Yellow-Finch

1

C

1

Sicalis flaveola

Great Pampa-Finch

2

B

C

1

Embernagra platensis

Yellow-billed Cardinal

1

B

1

Paroaria capitata

Red-crested Cardinal

2

B

C

1

Paroaria coronata

Rufous-collared Sparrow

4

B

C

T

3

Zonotrichia capensis

Golden-billed Saltator

1

C

1

Saltator aurantiirostris

Epaulet Oriole

1

B

1

Icterus cayanensis

Yellow-winged Blackbird

1

B

1

Agelaius thilius

Brown-and-Yellow Marshbird

1

C

1

Pseudoleistes virescens

Bay-winged Blackbird (Cowbird)

1

C

1

Molothrus badius

Shiny Cowbird

1

B

1

Molothrus bonariensis

Screaming Cowbird

1

C

1

Molothrus rufoaxillaris

Hooded Siskin

1

C

2

Carduelis magellanica

Black-chinned Siskin

2

T

3

Carduelis barbata

House Sparrow (introduced)

3

B

C

T

3

Passer domesticus

TAXONOMIC NOTES

Imperial Shag was formerly part of Blue-eyed Shag complex

Black-faced Ibis has been split from Buff-necked Ibis (Theristicus caudatus)

Southern Crested-Caracara has been split from Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) of Central and North America. Also known as Southern Caracara

Chilean Skua - all the Great Skua-type species are now placed in the genus Stercorarius

Magellanic Horned Owl has been split from the widespread Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)

Green-barred Woodpecker has been lumped with Golden-breasted Woodpecker. The race around Buenos Aires is now C. m. leucofrenatus

Austral Negrito - Rufous-backed Negrito now split into Austral Negrito (Lessonia rufa) and Andean Negrito (L. oreas)

Southern House Wren has been split from Northern House Wren (Troglodytes arenarum)

CHECKLIST OF MAMMALS SEEN IN ARGENTINA

  Species                                             No of days recorded          Location      Abundance Scale         Scientific Name

Coypu

1

B

2

Myocastor coypus

European Rabbit

1

T

1

Oryctolagus cuniculus

Guinea Pig

2

B

C

1

Cavia aperea

Also seen in Costanera Sur, Buenos Aires were two reptile species - a Tegu Lizard (Tupinambis teguixiu) and Hillary’s Side-necked Turtle (Phrynops hilarii)

CHECKLIST OF BIRDS SEEN ON THE CRUISE TO ANTARCTICA

    Max no of days

    seen and heard

                                 Location

   

       Abundance scale

         Maximum seen

           (on one day)

       Maximum 17

                          P = Pelagic (at sea)

                          F = Falkland Islands

                          S = South Georgia

                          A = Antarctica

             1 = 1-4

             2 = 5-9

             3 = 10-99

             4 = 100-999

             5 = 1000-9999

             6 = 10000-99,999

             7 = 100,000+

            

   Species                                       No of days recorded       Location      Abundance Scale          Scientific Name

King Penguin

3

S

7

Aptenodytes patagonicus

Gentoo Penguin

7

P

F

S

A

5

Pygoscelis papua

Adelie Penguin

2

A

4

Pygoscelis adeliae

Chinstrap Penguin

4

S

A

5

Pygoscelis antarctica

Rockhopper Penguin

1

F

4

Eudyptes chrysocome

Macaroni Penguin

1

S

4

Eudyptes chrysolophus

Magellanic Penguin

4

P

F

4

Spheniscus magellanicus

Wandering Albatross

6

P

S

3

Diomedea exulans

Royal Albatross

3

P

1

Diomedea epomophora

Black-browed Albatross

10

P

F

S

4

Diomedea melanophris

Grey-headed Albatross

4

P

S

1

Diomedea chrysostoma

Light-mantled Albatross

2

P

S

2

Phoebetria palpebrata

Southern Giant Petrel

15

P

F

S

A

4

Macronectes giganteus

Northern Giant Petrel

5

P

S

2

Macronectes halli

Southern Fulmar

1

P

1

Fulmarus glacialoides

Cape (Pintado) Petrel

10

P

S

A

5

Daption capense

Snow Petrel

6

P

S

A

4

Pagodroma nivea

Soft-plumaged Petrel

2

P

4

Pterodroma mollis

Blue Petrel

1

P

1

Halobaena caerulea

Antarctic Prion

8

P

S

A

5

Pachyptila desolata

Slender-billed Prion

4

P

4

Pachyptila belcheri

Fairy Prion

2

P

3

Pachyptila turtur

White-chinned Petrel

9

P

S

3

Procellaria aequinoctialis

Great Shearwater

2

P

2

Puffinus gravis

Sooty Shearwater

8

P

F

6

Puffinus griseus

Grey-backed Storm-Petrel

1

P

1

Oceanites nereis

Wilson’s Storm-Petrel

16

P

S

A

5

Oceanites oceanicus

Black-bellied Storm-Petrel

5

P

S

2

Fregetta tropica

Magellanic Diving Petrel

1

P

1

Pelecanoides magellani

Diving Petrel sp.

2

P

S

3

Pelecanoides sp.

Rock Shag

2

F

1

Phalacrocorax magellanicus

Antarctic Shag (endemic)

4

A

3

Phalacrocorax bransfieldensis

South Georgia Shag (endemic)

4

S

3

Phalacrocorax georgianus

Imperial Shag

3

P

F

3

Phalacrocorax atriceps

Black-crowned Night-Heron

2

F

1

Nycticorax nycticorax

Upland Goose

2

F

4

Chloephaga picta

Kelp Goose

2

F

4

Chloephaga hybrida

Ruddy-headed Goose

1

F

2

Chloephaga rubidiceps

Crested Duck

2

F

2

Lophonetta specularioides

Falkland Steamer-Duck

2

F

2

Tachyeres brachypterus

Flying Steamer-Duck

2

F

1

Tachyeres patachonicus

Yellow-billed Pintail

1

F

1

Anas spinicauda

South Georgia Pintail (endemic)

3

S

2

Anas georgica

Turkey Vulture

2

F

3

Cathartes aura

Striated Caracara

2

F

3

Phalcoboenus australis

Peregrine

1

F

1

Falco peregrinus

Magellanic Oystercatcher

2

F

3

Haematopus leucopodus

Blackish Oystercatcher

2

F

2

Haematopus ater

Two-banded Plover

1

F

3

Charadrius falklandicus

Rufous-chested Dotterel

1

F

1

Charadrius modestus

White-rumped Sandpiper

1

F

3

Calidris fuscicollis

Snowy Sheathbill

9

P

F

S

A

3

Chionis alba

South Polar Skua

5

P

A

3

Stercorarius maccormicki

Brown Skua

7

P

F

S

A

3

Stercorarius antarctica

Chilean Skua

1

P

1

Stercorarius chilensis

Dolphin Gull

2

F

1

Larus scoresbii

Kelp Gull

10

P

F

S

A

3

Larus dominicanus

Brown-hooded Gull

1

F

3

Larus maculipennis

South American Tern

3

P

F

3

Sterna hirundinacea

Antarctic Tern

8

P

S

A

4

Sterna vittata

Arctic Tern

1

P

1

Sterna paradisaea

Blackish Cinclodes

2

P

F

3

Cinclodes antarcticus

Dark-faced Ground Tyrant

1

F

1

Muscisaxicola macloviana

Cobb’s Wren (endemic)

1

F

1

Troglodytes cobbi

Austral Thrush

1

F

2

Turdus falcklandii

Correndera Pipit

2

F

3

Anthus correndera

South Georgia Pipit (endemic)

1

S

2

Anthus antarcticus

Long-tailed Meadowlark

2

F

2

Sturnella loyca

House Sparrow (introduced)

1

F

3

Passer domesticus

Black-throated Finch

2

F

2

Melanodera melanodera

Black-chinned Siskin

1

F

3

Carduelis barbata

TAXONOMIC NOTES

The albatrosses are currently under a radical taxonomic review, and currently an ‘interim taxonomy’ is recommended

Both Antarctic and South Georgia Shags are questionable splits from Imperial Shag

South Georgia Pintail is now given full specific status

Turkey Vulture: the New World vultures are considered now to be more closely related to Storks than to Raptors

Brown Skua: skua taxonomy is currently under considerable debate. A treatment by Olsen and Larsson (1997) lumps as subspecies the forms lonnbergi (seen in Antarctica and South Georgia) and antarctica (seen in Falklands). Another treatment, by Sibley & Monroe (1993), gives them full specific status

Antarctic Terns need to be reviewed as surely more than one species is involved. They differ markedly across the Atlantic, east to west and north to south

CHECKLIST OF MAMMALS SEEN ON THE CRUISE TO ANTARCTICA

Antarctic Fur-Seal

8

P

S

A

4

Arctocephalus gazella

South American Sea-Lion

2

P

F

2

Otaria flavescens

Crabeater Seal

3

A

3

Lobodon carcinophagus

Leopard Seal

2

A

2

Hydrurga leptonyx

Weddell Seal

3

A

3

Leptonychotes weddelli

Southern Elephant Seal

4

S

A

3

Mirounga leonina

Peale’s Dolphin

1

P

1

Lagenorhynchus australis

Commerson’s Dolphin

2

F

1

Cephalorhynchus commersoni

Orca (Killer Whale)

2

P

A

3

Orcinus orca

Antarctic Minke Whale

5

P

S

A

3

Balaenoptera bonaerensis

Fin Whale

3

P

3

Balaenoptera physalus

Humpback Whale

3

P

2

Megaptera novaeangliae

Sperm Whale

1

P

2

Physeter macrocephalus

Arnoux’s Beaked Whale

1

P

1

Berardius arnuxii

          

 

 

                                        

 

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