We started in Ushuaia, with awesome views of both male, female and young Magellanic woodpeckers in the National Park - stonking views! Epic birds, and also got great views of ashy-headed geese. Then out of the Beagle Channel and heading to Saunders Island in the Falklands. This has to be one of the best islands for diversity in the Falkland group, with a great array of species there nesting within easy walking distance. To be so close to nesting black-browed albatross is always a treat, and whilst we were there the birds had young chicks in the nest, so there was a lot going on. Having spent four incredible days on this island camping under a rock at 'The Neck' back in 2004 this place is one of my all-time World favourite spots!
Next stop South Georgia, and with landings at Salisbury Plain and St Andrews Bay we got to see a fair sack of the king penguin population that breeds on the island. Our afternoon at St Andrews was just spectacular, with incredible weather and so much going on. I managed a bit of time with tripod and neutral density filters to play around with some long exposures which was fun - let me know what you think of the images below. There might still be a slight colour cast from the ND filters, but I am pretty happy with the results...I'd just like to spend some more time experimenting with these filters.
We also called in to Coronation Island in the South Orkneys, with a little bit of sleet and drizzle it was a chilly landing, but thousands of chinstrap penguins were there to keep us company! Back onboard that afternoon my Canon 1Dx decided to give up the ghost - leaving me with my old worn out 1D MkIV for the rest of the trip. On getting back to NZ it turns out the 1Dx was the first in the country to have completely died - making me wonder if i was lucky or unlucky (!) - having blown a circuit board and some fuses. All covered under warranty when I got home, but effectively an expensive paper-weight for the rest of the trip!
Down on the Antarctic Peninsula we had stops at Brown Bluff, with a little foray along the ice front of the Weddell Sea in Antarctic Sound. There had been an Emperor penguin reported, but rising winds meant we could't get too close, and had to head back onto the western side of the Peninsula and carry on to the South Shetlands. A morning at Hannah Point was fantastic with lots of activity amongst the chinstraps and gentoos - including the gory killing of a gentoo chick by several giant petrels. At Deception Island, not normally know for its wildlife (at least the interior of the island), we had an awesome leucistic chinstrap penguin. At first it seemed to be playing hard to get, and then at the end walked up on to the shore with another bird, and right into the middle of our group! Ha, what little show off!
Then it was off south along the Peninsula, making landings at Petermann Island and Plennau. Awesome iceberg graveyard, and VERY 'friendly' leopard seals - one of which came steaming in and chomped on the end of my zodiac! That was a new experience - it all happened so quick I didn't have time to get out of there, so after our 2.5 hour zodiac cruise one of the pontoons was VERY flat! We only lost two people out of the zodiac...just kidding! We also had an incredible show with a female and calf humpback right at the stern of the ship. With everyone out on the stern of the ship, they came right in under us and just hung out at the back of the ship for more than 15 minutes - just incredible.
A final afternoon at Portal Point - after finally catching up with killer whales in the Neumeyer which I managed to spot a few miles off. We had stunning views of a pretty large pod of these Type B (small form) killer whales, in what looked like a feeding slick. There was a huge slick on the surface and clearly something attracting large numbers of Wilson's storm-petrels, giant petrels and other species, but we couldn't spot anything that looked like chunks of prey. A mystery!
And then we were on our way back to Ushuaia. Time just flies so quickly on a trip like this, with days at sea and the start of the trip seeming to go relatively slow, and then all of a sudden you are heading back across the Drake Passage! A great trip with great folks and an excellent Zegrahm Expedition team!
|Female Magellanic woodpecker pausing whilst foraging on a branch
|Stonking male Magellanic woodpecker on a Southern beech branch
|Ashy-headed goose looking stunning in the sunshine
|Brown-hooded gull foraging in the shallows amongst the kelp
|Adult black-browed albatross about to regurgitate food for its chick
|Everyone LOVES rockhoppers!
|Poop circles at the albatross colony
|A pair of black-browed albatross display to each other at the nest site
|Striated caracara having an 'Albatross Omelette'
|Is there anything more stunning than a black-browed albatross?
|Pair of black-browed albatross braying and displaying to each other at the colony
|Pair of black-browed albatross displaying to each other
|Antarctic fur seal pup looking cute, before it gets angry and attacks!
|Young Antarctic fur seal pups playing in the water
|Adult Antarctic tern hovering whilst feeding
|Gentoo penguin chick on the edge of the colony
|Long-exposure of the St Andrews king penguin colony, blur of the clouds and the river
|Long-exposure of the king penguins along side the river with the glacier in the background
|Long-exposure of the king penguins along side the river with the glacier in the background, a little closer and some blurred adults
|Long-exposure of the king penguins along side the river with the glacier in the background, a little further back, milky river
|Snowy sheathbills setting up a time lapse with my iPhone
|Snowy sheathbill with chicks at the nest
|Snow petrel near the nest with a large chick on another nest site
|Windy in Antarctic Sound
|Giant petrels display and tear apart a gentoo penguin chick - the struggle of life in the Antarctic!
|Giant petrel chick yawning at the nest
|Leucistic chinstrap penguin coming ashore in Deception Island
|One of these things is not like the other! Leucistic chinstrap penguin on the left, with a normal adult on the right.
|Gentoo penguin and chicks at the nest in a snow storm
|South Polar skua on the nest amongst fresh snow
|Blue-eyed shag in the sunshine
|Type B (small form) killer whale found in the Neumeyer Channel surfacing beside the ship in spray
|Mother and calf Type B (small form) killer whales surfacing beside the ship in spray
|A calf Type B (small form) killer whale gives a little tail flick as it dives beside its mother