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Falklands escapade 14 - 25 Feb

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Old Sunday 4th March 2007, 22:21   #1
Scamp123
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Falklands escapade 14 - 25 Feb

Hi all. Not long back from a short jaunt to the Falkland Islands. Now that I've finally worked out how to reduce the size of my pictures I'll start a trip report. For now, here is a picture of a Gentoo Penguin taken at Bertha's Beach.
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Old Sunday 4th March 2007, 22:26   #2
dafi
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Brill Jason iv wanted to go there for a long time. Look forward to reading and seeing some photos cheers.
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Old Monday 5th March 2007, 10:44   #3
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I’d better start by saying that this was not a birdwatching trip. The main purpose of the journey was to visit my girlfriend (Paula) who is currently stationed at the military base at Mount Pleasant Airfield (MPA). As she was still at work for the first few days I had to content myself with bimbling around the base area to see what I could find. I was not disappointed. The first bird I saw was a Turkey Vulture followed by a pair of Upland Geese. I’d already been told that these were pretty common everywhere, but I wasn’t really prepared to see such large birds roaming freely around the site.

MPA area 15-02-07

With Paula at work I set off on a walk around the accommodation block area of the camp. Again, the first birds I saw were a trio of Turkey Vultures soaring over the site. Upland Geese were also very evident. The back of the complex plays host to the golf course and there is a small gulley between. I decided to start in this area and was rewarded with a pair of Black Throated Finch and a Falkland Pipit. Long-tailed Meadowlark were very much in abundance and so too were the Falkland thrushes, but none of these birds would stay still for any period of time. Kelp Gulls also frequented the area (bins being a favourite as with all gulls) and on my return I managed to find a Dark-faced Ground-tyrant.
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Old Monday 5th March 2007, 11:28   #4
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Well you started of with a penguin, that is a sure way to get my attention.

Sounds like you had a good time birding and of course the added bonus of seeing Paula.
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Old Monday 5th March 2007, 11:34   #5
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Mare Harbour/MPA area 15-02-07

For the afternoon of the 15th I was lucky enough to have an experienced birder for company. “Slasher” also works at MPA and thanks to him I was able to explore the local area a bit more thoroughly than I otherwise would have. Our first stop was the rubbish dump in the search for rare gulls. Only Kelp Gulls were seen, but they did have Turkey Vultures and Falkland Skua’s for company. After that we parked up on the jetty and did a bit of sea watching. Southern Giant Petrels, South American terns and Kelp Geese were noted in the bay area and Rock Shags have made their nests along the jetty. Along the rocky foreshore Slasher pointed out to me a Black Crowned Night Heron.

On the main camp area are 2 ponds. Champino and Sand ponds are home to wildfowl and very quickly it was pointed out to me the Chiloe Wigeon, Silver Teal, Speckled Teal and Yellow Billed Pintail. Here Slasher was invaluable in pointing out the differences between the Speckled Teal and the Pintails as the two are very similar. As an added bonus, a pair of Ruddy Headed Geese were also in the area.
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Old Monday 5th March 2007, 12:38   #6
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Hercules trip 16-02-07

On the 16th I managed to get a trip round the islands in an RAF hercules. Although not bird related, I have included a few pictures to show some of the terrain of the islands.
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Old Monday 5th March 2007, 12:50   #7
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Jason thats fantastic you must get a great idea of the scale of the islands from the air. and great birds it all sounds so diffrent but similar. exelent place.
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Old Monday 5th March 2007, 13:48   #8
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Hi Jason,

Sorry that we did not meet up, glad that you got out with Mark (Slasher)

Maybe next time

Cheers

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Old Monday 5th March 2007, 14:23   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan henry
Hi Jason,

Sorry that we did not meet up, glad that you got out with Mark (Slasher)

Maybe next time

Cheers

Alan
Hi,

With luck I'll get a 4 month stint down there!!! The wildlife is extraordinary and having Slasher as a guide at MPA was a big bonus. Without him I would definately have suffered with my identifications during the first few days. In the end I only managed one night in Stanley and the weather was pretty poor on the Tuesday.

Hopefully I'll get down that way again in the future,

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Old Monday 5th March 2007, 14:30   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dafi
Jason thats fantastic you must get a great idea of the scale of the islands from the air. and great birds it all sounds so diffrent but similar. exelent place.
The hercules trip was a big bonus. I'd worked with one of the crew some 12 years earlier and I jumped at the chance to go flying. It's surprising how big the islands actually are and how high the mountains are. I'd got the impression from documentaries on the war that the land was gently undulating. To see how steep the hills are around Port Stanley came as a bit of a shock. They really do dominate the area and it's no wonder the war was over quite quickly once they were taken. It's fantastic terrain as long as you dont mind no trees and the stone runs are something else.

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Old Tuesday 6th March 2007, 12:27   #11
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Bertha’s Beach 18-02-07 Part 1

Bertha’s beach is about 5 miles from the base at MPA. Access to vehicles is strictly limited and you have to obtain a key to enable you to drive any vehicles down to the car park at the beach itself. The area is named after a ship which run aground here, and it’s cargo of wood can still be found in amongst the dunes. Within seconds of arriving at the car park a Tussacbird arrived at our feet, had a look around and then flew off before any of us could get a camera out. Slasher pointed out that this species is normally found on the outlying islands and it was extremely rare to find one on the mainland. Bonus!!!!

The walk along the beach was quite pleasant. Two-banded Plover, White Rumped Sandpiper and Magellanic Oystercatcher were along the shore line and Turkey Vultures, Kelp Gulls and South American Terns were frequent over the area. Southern Giant Petrels and Falkland Skua’s were to be found flying along the shore line also.

Further on down the beach we came across my first Steamer Ducks. There are 2 types in the Falklands, the Flying Steamer Duck and the Flightless Falkland Steamer Duck. Both are extremely similar, and identification can be difficult. Apparently the way to identify them easily is, if they are more than a mile inland then they are probably the Flying variety. If they take off then that’s another clue as to which species it is!!!

Further along the beach was the real target of the day – the Gentoo Penguin colony…..
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Old Tuesday 6th March 2007, 14:30   #12
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Keep up with the reports Jason - never been there myself - in fact never heard of them until the Falklands War broke out!!! So thanks too for the pics (which are very good btw)
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Old Wednesday 7th March 2007, 01:33   #13
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Bertha’s Beach 18-02-07 Part 2

The Gentoo’s at Bertha’s beach must be quite used to people visiting on a regular basis. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has done a tour of duty at MPA and not gone to visit these delightful creatures at least once. There’s just something so endearing about their trusting nature. I’d been briefed that if you keep below their height and don’t make any sudden movements they will amble past you without a care in the world. And they do!!!! Amazing!!! During this visit the majority of the penguins were spread out along the beach with a separate bunch at what I’d been told was the breeding area for this year. These ones appeared to be in the later stages of moulting and some looked pretty ragged indeed. A King Penguin had been at this site for the last few days and luckily for me it was still there in the middle of the moulting Gentoo’s. It was great being able to see the contrast between the two species, the sleek lines of the King compared to the dumpy looking Gentoo’s. I could have stayed there all day just watching them come and go but eventually it started to cloud over and so we left. Slasher though took us on a slight detour. Just behind the dunes is a large pond that plays host to a variety of wildfowl. Most people who visit Bertha’s don’t seem to go there but it turned out to be well worth the time spent there. It was raining by this point but to make up for it we saw Chiloe Wigeon, Crested Duck, Silver Teal, Speckled Teal and White Tufted Grebe. I also managed to pick out Rufous Chested Dottrel in the rough ground. More spectacularly were the Black Necked Swans, 71 of them!!! A very nice way to end the day.
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Old Wednesday 7th March 2007, 02:05   #14
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A few more piccies from my first trip to Bertha's Beach.
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Old Wednesday 7th March 2007, 12:37   #15
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The Falklands are great. Was at Carcass, Saunders and Bleaker Islands, Stanley and Gypsy Cove. The place is incredible with a mild climate and loads of birds, seals and dolphins. Saw Roddy's crashed plane, beautiful trees at the church (does anybody know the species), picked through shells and met Debbie Summers.

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Old Wednesday 7th March 2007, 12:44   #16
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Please put some of these pictures in the gallery, especially the Penguins...as not everyone comes over to the main threads and vice versa.....You can upload 3 pictures a day.
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Old Wednesday 7th March 2007, 13:39   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marmot
Please put some of these pictures in the gallery, especially the Penguins...as not everyone comes over to the main threads and vice versa.....You can upload 3 pictures a day.
Hi,

Have just uploaded some of the penguin pictures. I'll get more done over the next few days. If there are any you particularly want in there then please let me know,

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Old Wednesday 7th March 2007, 14:28   #18
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Thanks for doing that, you have been so lucky to see these and of course all the other birds.

I love the "Surfing without a board" Gentoo and can you put the Steamer Duck in the gallery please as we only have 2 other picures of them.
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Old Thursday 8th March 2007, 00:55   #19
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Originally Posted by Marmot
Thanks for doing that, you have been so lucky to see these and of course all the other birds.

I love the "Surfing without a board" Gentoo and can you put the Steamer Duck in the gallery please as we only have 2 other picures of them.
No problem, I've got loads more Steamer Duck to sort through so I'll get some of the best in there soon,

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Old Thursday 8th March 2007, 00:59   #20
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Port Stanley 19-02-07

Gypsy Cove

On a grey cloudy day myself and Paula set off for the capital of the islands. After checking into our hotel we made our way to Gypsy Cove a few miles away. These delightful beaches are situated on the same headland that contains Stanley Airport and the site itself commands an excellent view of the approaches to the anchorage. Unfortunately this very fact has made the beaches themselves out of bounds. Heavily mined during the Falklands war they are now out of bounds (like a lot of areas around Stanley) due to the risk of unexploded mines. As a result, once they have finished nesting, the Magellanic Penguins are quite away from the cordoned off area at the top of the headland so I was not able to get the same intimacy I had experienced with the Gentoo’s. Nonetheless it was gratifying to see them all on the beach and amongst the grass acting naturally and with the minimum of disturbance. Locally called the jackass they really do sound like Donkey’s braying!!!

Apparently it is always windy in the Falklands and today was no exception. The cove also has a colony of Rock Shags. Several juveniles were still on the nests and they seemed to be trying to huddle from the wind. A pair of Steamer Duck and Kelp Geese were to be found, along with the usual Falkland Thrush, Pipit, Meadow Lark and Ground Tyrants. Off the headland the usual Southern Giant Petrels and Falkland Skua’s were doing their best to foil my attempt to photograph them in flight. As usual, Upland Geese could be found at nearly every turn.
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Old Thursday 8th March 2007, 11:41   #21
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Port Stanley 19-02-07

Anyone who has visited the north west of Scotland will feel right at home in Port Stanley. From the rugged coastline to the brightly coloured houses all of your senses tell you that Ullapool is just round the corner. It is sometimes difficult to believe you are 8,000 miles from the UK. The difference though can be seen instantly in the wildlife. A walk along the sea front brings you Kelp Gulls and Magellanic Oystercatchers, so far you could still be in the UK, but then you come across the Kelp Geese, Steamer Ducks and Night Herons. These last 3 are ridiculously easy to watch from the seafront path and they go about their business with hardly a glance in your direction. Add that to the Rock Shags, Skua’s, Giant Petrels and the occasional Commerson’s Dolphin in the bay and it all adds up to a delightful little stroll, despite the wind and rain. Carrying on the stroll through Stanley itself found Falkland Thrushes rummaging in the gardens and Black Chinned Siskins and House Sparrows moving in small groups. The latter two species I’d surprisingly not seen up until that point.
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Old Friday 9th March 2007, 08:23   #22
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We were lucky enough to get to the Falklands earlier this year and had a fantastic time. The wildlife is amazing!!
Did you manage to get to see the black-browed albatross while you were there? They are pretty special too.
Can't wait to try and get back there again
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Old Friday 9th March 2007, 10:22   #23
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We were lucky enough to get to the Falklands earlier this year and had a fantastic time. The wildlife is amazing!!
Did you manage to get to see the black-browed albatross while you were there? They are pretty special too.
Can't wait to try and get back there again
I'd love to get back there also. Unfortunately I missed out on the Albatrosses!! Couldnt get to Pembroke point and a planned trip to Sea Lion Island got cancelled at the last moment and we had no time to organise a visit to one of the other islands. I'm still gutted!!!!
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Old Friday 9th March 2007, 10:27   #24
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Port Stanley and Darwin 20-02-07

It’s a very wet day. It’s a very windy day. The fishing fleet had come into the anchorage to take shelter from the weather, never a good sign. We began by heading again to Gypsy Cove for another look at the Jackass Penguins. Most had decided to huddle together against the elements although one little soul had climbed the banks and indulged me in a game of peek-a-boo. It was the closest I was to come to the species. There was little else on the headland, a pair of Kelp Geese had made their way to the plateau but apart from the Rock Shags on the ledges, birds were noticeably absent. As we turned to leave bus loads of tourists from a cruise ship had started to arrive. The site soon became swamped in people and so we made our way elsewhere. I’d planned to go to the Lighthouse at Pembroke Point just a few miles away to indulge in a bit of sea watching and maybe pick up Albatross and Shearwaters, but on finding the track it was obvious that we’d need an amphibious vehicle to get to the site. The rain had started to get heavy by now and with Stanley full of wet tourists we decided to head on back to MPA.

On the way back Paula spotted a large bird of prey near to the settlement of Fitzroy. The large white wing patches were diagnostic of Southern Caracara and so we quickly stopped to get a better view. By sheer luck and to our great delight we’d stopped next to another one!!!!! Quite calmly the bird strolled past the vehicle and stood looking at the other one flying a short distance away. What an amazing looking creature. I managed to take a few photo’s and even managed to turn the camcorder onto it for a few minutes before it finally lifted off and joined it’s companion.

Once back at MPA we picked up a friend Christine and headed towards Darwin House for “smoko”. Before then however, the girls had a little surprise for me. At nearby Goose Green there is a jetty with an old wreck at the end. The wreck has been incorporated into the jetty and inside the remains of the vessel there is a small colony of Rock Shags and Black Crowned Night Herons. With the a couple of Steamer Duck and Crested Duck under the jetty itself, it made for a nice little detour. I wonder how many other little sites like this are scattered around the islands? In the conservatory at Darwin House we had our “Smoko” – tea/coffee and a superb selection of cakes – and I was able to just gaze out into the bay and watch the Terns, Skua’s and Giant petrels flying back and forth.
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Old Saturday 10th March 2007, 01:12   #25
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San Carlos/Darwin/Goose Green 21-02-07

Today wasn’t really a bird watching day but it did allow for a few interesting opportunities. The main aim was to visit the British Military Cemetery at San Carlos and the Argentinean one at Darwin. At San Carlos I was able to have a very close encounter with a Falkland Thrush in the gorse bushes. Ridiculously tame, it was happy to pose for a few photo’s before going on it’s way, At Darwin we were able to get good views of Crested Duck and Silver Teal, and as we were in the area, we couldn’t resist taking another peek at the jetty at Goose Green. This proved to be a good move as we soon had a close encounter with a Turkey Vulture on the shore line and an even closer one when 2 of them landed on the wreck. I still don’t know whether or not to call them beautiful, but they are impressive birds. Leaving Goose Green we came across a dark phase Red Backed (Variable) Hawk perched on a fence. Another first for me, it appeared to be a juvenile and was calling quite loudly. It flew off into a field, but we could see no others of the species in the area. On the way back to MPA we chanced upon Blackish Oystercatcher’s in one of the inlets and another Red Backed Hawk.

The day though ended on a big downer. We had planned a to visit Sea Lion Island (one of the best nature reserves in the Falklands) the next day, but we returned to MPA find that it had been cancelled.
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