Friday, 27 November 2009

Adventure Sound and Bleaker

Well, I've been back for a few days now, and have been busy looking through my photos, doing lots of washing, and inputting all the data into a lovely spreadsheet. The trip was brilliant, even though the weather wasn't good, sleet, snow, hail, rain, wind and more wind!

The first couple of days I stayed at sound house at the head of Adventure sound. It was a nice house, but very cold, until the peat rayburn was going well, oddly there central heating was powered with an electric pump so you had to have the generator going rather than relying on convection to drive the water. As we worked further down the sound we moved our base onto the Damien II, there were lots of us on board for the first night, but then 3 people headed home, so there was then more room on board. It was still quite cosy with 7 of us.

 The FC RIB and Damien II

Going up and down the sound we were regularly accompanied by Commersons Dolphins, they seem to love playing alongside the boat and in the bow wave, it's amazing that they keep up so easily and with a couple of tail flicks they shoot away at a rate of knots. In the white of their bodies you can see marks and scrapes which let you recognise different individuals.

Commersons Dolphins

 Commersons Dolphin

There were lots of birds around the shores,all the usual suspects but some other interesting birds too, Black necked swans (with cygnets), White tufted Grebes, Hudsonian Godwits, it's quite incredible to see these birds that will have been in Northern America not so long ago.

Hudsonian Godwits

Dark-faced Ground Tyrant

 Cobbs Wren

On our survey we also managed to go to some of the islands down towards Bleaker, Halt Island, North Point Island, Turn Island and Third Island. These were interesting to visit and investigate, and it was a good opportunity to check for rats. It was great to find Cobbs Wren on two islands, although one did have one patch of rat droppings (Turn Island), this is a concern as it may be an indication that rats or a rat has just arrived. It's a priority now to assess this island properly and implement some erradication so that the Cobbs and other birds can live without rat invasion! Halt Island had no Cobbs, but does have lots of other songbirds, and also no rats after a succesful erradication in 2006. Unfortunately Third Island has rats and therefore no Cobbs Wren and few other songbirds too. It is quite incredible what a difference there is between a rat infested and rat free island.

Inflatable and kit on deck 

  In the cabin of the Damien II

Ah! Falkland Steamer duck chicks 

Looking for Snail Fish which parisitise crabs which we then had for dinner

Tasty Crab 

The infernal quadrat!

One island had Striated Caracara, this was my first encounter with these cheeky little monkeys! Little feathered bags of mischeif! By the time we had got around the island they had dragged the welly sack half way down the beach. They also hover just above your head which is rather disconcerting when you see how sharp their talons are! It's quite amazing that they are so unafraid when they have suffered from persecution.

Cheeky Johnny Rook inspecting out Wellies! 

  Nice male Kelp Goose

Striated Caracara 

  Taking a good look

Ripples in the bedrock 

  Dion Poncet taking a photo

Dion the skipper

Black Browed Albatross

My first encounter/sightings of Black browed Albatross. On the last day of the trip there were 3 flying around. The divers had seen them a few days before whilst further down the sound diving, but I had missed those, so I was really pleased to see them.

Pintado Petrel

After a rather blowy night it was a nice morning although still blowing strong and this Pintado Petrel was paddling around the yacht. It almost got an unexpected bath as the toilet had broken and we were using a bucket, I spotted it just before emptying said bucket! Look before you chuck is a good idea!!

Southern Giant Petrel

So the next mission! On Sunday I'm heading over to West Falkland to do some botanical work with Rebecca - FC's botanist. This should last until about the 17th Dec when I fly back to Stanley to board the Golden Fleece and head off on another adventure! I will then be heading off to Sea Lion Island followed by Beauchene Island until the end of December! Getting the chance to visit Beauchene is rare, a small island and the furthest south in the Falkland Archipelago. It's also home to over 100,000 pairs of Black browed Albatross, 61,000 pairs of Rockhoppers, and various other Shearwaters, Prions, Tussacbirds, Cobb's Wren, Striated Caracaras etc.

So that's it for about a month! Happy Christmas to you all!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Summer? Winter? Summer? Winter? Who knows!

One minute it's looking bright, the next it's blowing a blizzard! Various things have been happening today, I managed to track down a gas cylinder regulator for a camping stove, and then I managed to find a gas cylinder too! A refill is about £20, the deposit for a cylinder is £45 so it's a good job we didn't need to get one. We also topped up the Land Rover with diesel, quite a pleasant experience when it's only 46p per litre! Mind you, as everyone needs to drive 4x4's they get through nearly twice as much fuel.

Today my radio interview was supposed to ge out, but, like the first there were some problems it seems, this time we sounded like chipmunks apparently!

I also had a meeting about the next fieldwork, carrying out some botanical work over in West Falkland. There are a few details to iron out, but some of the work will incude collecting samples for DNA analysis. I will be heading over on the ferry on the 29th, and have 3 days to do my own exploring before being joined by our botanist Rebecca. One of the plants I'm looking forward to seeing is the False Plantain, and it will be great to explore the 'other half' of the Falklands!

Went down to the post office this evening and headed on to the war memorial where you could see snow on the hills beyond.

Tomorrow I'm off to Adventure Sound and Bleaker Island. I'll be carrying out Coastal bird surveys for the Shallow Marine Survey Group. I had thought we were going to be camping for the whole trip, but luckily there is going to be accommodation at the start for a few nights, and then at the end too (in a cowshed) only leaving a few camping days in the middle! Well, that's it for now, an early start and I get back around the 22nd, so more news then.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Cape Pembroke and the radio

Popped into the office this morning, discovered what my next job is going to be. 9 days walking around Adventure Sound and Bleaker Island doing coastal bird surveying while the Shallow Marine Survey Group do diving and bathymetric stuff in the Sound. Also discovered I'm going to be camping, well, that would be lovely but it's still rather chilly, no, freezing, and there are a lot of hail and snow showers around! At least I'll get to go onto the research vessel for dinner etc.

Had an interview with Falklands Radio for their Conservation Conversation slot, which will go out on Thursday evening. Annoyingly this was arranged at just the time the Animal health/vets decided to release the two Gentoo Penguins that were now fit and healthy after their oiling about 6 weeks ago!

This afternoon Mike Morisson and Robin Woods came round on their way to see what was on the pools down at the airport and Cape Pembroke. There were a few birds around, the Lesser Yellowlegs was still present, the second individual to be there recently.

Lesser Yellowlegs

There was also a nice White-tufted Grebe on the same pool. Currently this species is listed as the same species as found in South America, but, apparently it's much bigger and there isn't even any size overlap. There is some genetic analysis going on at the moment, it'll be interesting to see the outcome.

White-tufted Grebe

Pair of Flying Steamer Duck, notice two toned bill colour.

Female Flying Steamer Duck showing off her longer wings and white belly

Silver Teal

One of 3 Baird's Sandpipers to fly infront of us and land near the road

There was a Variable Hawk sitting on top of a dune, presumably waiting for a suitable dinner to come along!

Nice afternoon overall, cheers Mike :-)

Bird List
White-tufted Grebe (tick)
Flying Steamer Duck
Yellow-billed Pintail
Speckled Teal
Silver Teal (tick)
Rufous-chested Dotterel
Two-banded Plover
Lesser Yellowlegs (tick)
Baird's Sandpiper (tick)
Variable Hawk

Salvador Waters

Well, I'm back from Salvador Waters in the North East corner of the Falkland Islands. The trip was all in aid of visiting the little islands to look for Cobb's Wren and also Rats, and to record any other birds and plants found too. It was a brilliant trip and we found lots of interesting wildlife, but unfortunately lots of rats too. In the end only one island was rat free, and it was incredible. The Tussacbirds and Cobb's Wrens were spectacular and in abundance where on the rat infested islands there were none at all.

Salvador Waters with passing snow showers and a Southern Giant Petrel

Last monday we set off to Salvador settlement, and made ourselves at home in the comfortable accomodation. There was a peat stove/boiler in the kitchen and comfortable bedrooms and a living room too. Electricity came on in the evenings around 6pm, and went off at 11:30pm, no TV, no phone, no internet :-) Wandering around the settlement we came across a boat shed, in which there was a Barn Swallow nest! Apparently it was built a a few years ago by two adult Swallows, maybe it was practice? Certainly surprising though!

Landing with the RIB

On the Tuesday the weather forecast was excellent so we headed out at 6am and surveyed Big Shag, Little Shag, Centre, Rat, Rabbit and Ear Islands. Big Shag held my first encounter of a Sea Lion, it's quite unnerving to walk casually around a tussac to be confronted with a belching beast who then flee towards the sea, and that better not be through you as they will flatten you and have a bite if needs be! I was pretty quick to move away I can tell you!

The last Island we visited Ear Island, and it was certainly the best too, having no rats. As we were approaching in the RIB Tuccacbirds came out to see what we were up to and then went back to foraging on the shore, there were also Dark-faced Ground-tyrants, a petrel burrow, Grass Wrens and Cobb's Wren adults and juveniles too, which was the main target of the expedition. We got back at about 6pm and were worn out!

Southern Sea Lions

Cobb's Wren

Rat droppings and burrow

There was lots to investigate on the islands over the next few days, but all the others had rats, so birds were limited to larger species, and also interestingly Grass Wrens. We managed to find several endemic plant species including Smooth Ragwort, Wooly Ragwort, Vanilla Daisy, Coastal Nassaurvia.

Endemic Falkland Smooth Ragwort


On a few days the ride in the RIB was shall we say bouncy, but it wasn't too bad and it was good fun getting to drive it around. The cabin was handy for keeping the driver dry, but without windscreen wipers was a bit tricky to see through in the spray!

Falkland Skua

One interesting bird to see was the Falkland Skua. Having worked on Hermaness with all the Great Skuas (bonxies) it was interesting to see how little difference there is between them. This one looked rather less flecked than a bonxie, but they are so variable this is hardly a good feature to compare.

Grass Wren singing from a Tussac

Vanilla Daisy (endemic)

After finishing surveying the islands we took a trip out to Ronda Pond where there were about 19 Silvery Grebes, Chiloe Wigeon, Flying Steamer Duck, Yellow-billed Pintail, Speckled Teal and Magellanic Snipe, and the beach beyond where there were hundreds of White-rumped Sandpipers feeding and 3 Peale's Dolphins just off-shore.

Birds on the trip:
Gentoo Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Southern Giant Petrel
Imperial Shag
Rock Shag
Falkland Skua
Kelp Gull
Brown-hooded Gull
Dolphin Gull
South American Tern
Silvery Grebe
Black-crowned Night Heron
Feral Domestic Goose
Kelp Goose
Upland Goose
Ruddy-headed Goose
Chiloe Wigeon
Falkland Steamer Duck
Flying Steamer Duck
Crested Duck
Yellow-billed Pintail
Speckled Teal
Pale-faced Sheathbill
Magellanic Oystercatcher
Blackish Oystercatcher
Rufous-chested Dotterel
Two-banded Plover
White-rumped Sandpiper
Magellanic Snipe
Turkey Vulture
Variable Hawk
Southern Caracara
Falkland Thrush
Long-tailed Meadowlark
Dark-faced Ground-tyrant
Falkland Grass Wren
Cobb's Wren
House Sparrow
Falkland Pipit
Black-chinned Siskin
Black-throated (Canary-winged) Finch

Other stuff
Peale's Dolphin
Southern Sea Lion
Brown Hare
Falkland Smooth Ragwort
Falkland Wooly Ragwort
Vanilla Daisy
Coastal Nassaurvia
Pale Maidens
Balsam bog

Monday, 2 November 2009

Volunteer Point

What a day! Out the window was horizontal snow. It was a reasonable start, out at 9:30, meeting up to head over to Volunteer point. The first section is road, well, gravel track, for about an hour and a half, and then another hour and a half off roading. In total we had a Toyota Hilux, Defender LWB, Defender SWB, Toyota Surf, and a little white suzuki. The sign saying wide tyres only was a good guide of the conditions! It was rough and bouncy, but we were led in convoy by the warden and we all got through fine.

As soon as we arrived there were King Penguins to be seen wandering about. The wind was blasting sand everywhere, and it was making it a struggle to even walk, but we were there and determined to enjoy ourselves.

King Penguin in driving sand

Two banded Plover

Heading to sea

I decided to follow this group of 4 Kings as they headed off to the sea, they got into the water eventually, but then started to have a good look and high tailed it back up the beach as fast as their little legs would carry them! And the culprit....

Kings making a sharp exit!

A Southern Sea Lion

The reason the Kings exited! They saw it before I did. There was a Leopard Seal here yesterday too, so it wasn't surprising that they were being wary!

Adult King Penguins

King Penguin chicks huddling together to avoid the gale

Feeding a chick

Well, I guess you can see that it is a pretty amazing place.

The drive back was interesting, making our own way as a convoy, the lead landrover got stuck a couple of times, but was pulled out easily. In the Toyota surf we bounced and bumped a bit but got through OK, the little suzuki zipped over all the obstacles and was almost airborne at times!

King Penguin
Did I mention King Penguin
Gentoo Penguin

Brown Hooded Gull
Chiloe Widgeon
Ruddy Headed Goose
Blackish Oystercatcher
White rumped Sandpiper
Magellanic Oystercatcher
Southern Caracara

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Gypsy Cove

Walked all the way to Gypsy Cove this afternoon, it's a long way by foot, but it was a pleasant walk. The wind picked up and there were wintery showers on the way back which wasn't so pleasant! Saw Magellanic Penguins, there were not many of them, but it is so cool watching them whizzing around under the water and then popping out onto the beach. One peered out of it's burrow at us too.

Falkland Steamer Duck

Magellanic Penguins

Been to a Halloween party this evening (It's now about 1am), dressed up as a Vampire and had good fun.

Off to Volunteer Point tomorrow, can't wait!

Magellanic Penguin
Black-throated (Canary-winged) Finch
Falkland Thrush
Rufous-chested Dotterel
Magellanic Oystercatcher
Speckled Teal
Kelp Goose

Penguin washing and Camp driving

Had a good morning, went and gave a Rockhopper and two Gentoo Penguins a bath and their breakfast!!

Went camp driving today, no pink dice though! Was great fun, I managed to avoid getting stuck and consequently did a bit of pulling people out of boggy holes! It was down on/near Wireless ridge I think, good view of Stanley from that direction, and it was all good fun. It's great actually using a 4x4 for what it was designed rather than picking up kids from school in chelsea!!


Went for a walk along the front this afternoon, saw some new birds.

 Government House

Steamer Ducks
Military Meadow Lark
Southern Giant Petrel
Two-banded Plover
Dolphin Gull
Crested Duck