Day 3 |
Feb 22, 2010

Falkland Islands (West Point Island Am, Saunders Island Pm)

By Juan Mazar Barnett, General Naturalist / Ornithologist

Co-ordinates: 51º21’S, 060º40.7’W

Weather: from sunny to rainy, through calm and windy!

Seas: calm and rough

With the first two landings of today, and a day packed with excitement, the Expedition really began today for all the guests and staff of the Prince Albert II!! We arrived early in the morning in West Point Island and the weather conditions didn’t look very encouraging. I had a quick early breakfast in the Observation Lounge from where I could see lots of rain through the windows. However, when we all disembarked, the weather was already better and we were greeted by an assortment of very interesting bird species. The ones that called the attention of most of the guests were the beautiful Kelp Geese and the very tame and inquisitive Striated Caracaras, locally known as Johnny Rook. For me, the most exciting finding was that of two Blackish Cinclodes (or Tussacbird) along the beach, as I had never seen that species before. Soon after arrival we started heading towards the Black-browed Albatross and Rockhopper Penguin colony. I could notice the excitement of everyone on this, their first landing, as most people chose to walk, even though we had two Land Rovers available for transfers.

The sight of the colony left us all speechless, and all one could hear was the clicking of the cameras! We all got to enjoy fantastic views of the Albatrosses, from really close! Adults were flying around, and some were feeding the half-downy and half-feathered chicks. All this scenery was topped with the true cacophony of the colony. The penguins were slightly more distant from where a group of guests and I were, but some guests ventured all the way down to get a closer view.

After spending a good while enjoying this fantastic location, we headed back to the farm house where we were greeted by the hospitality of the island owners. And a lot of great pastries! With the sun shining, most of us wandered around the beautiful gardens in company of Rita, the pet Caracara.

Once back onboard the Prince Albert II, the Captain set course to Saunders Island while we were having lunch. This afternoon we had another “overdose” of Falkland Island wildlife. All sorts of birds awaited us on the beach. Also, a bunch of friendly Commerson’s Dolphins swam next to the Zodiacs during the landings. Seeing this small tame dolphin is always an exciting experience! Among the great numbers of birds on the beach we found the stylish Dolphin Gull, Magellanic Oystercatchers, the endemic Falkland Steamer-duck and again, some tame Caracaras, this time feasting on a dead penguin.

Speaking of Penguins, we had a great show today! The Gentoos were all over the island and most of the chicks were grown up already. It was really funny to see many of the chicks running after their parents begging for food, and the parents escaping the constant harassment. We also found several groups of the smaller Magellanic Penguins and a small colony of one of the best looking penguins – the King – some with very young chicks. To complete the penguin list was the Rockhopper. Several guests took the walk to see the colony that again was mixed with Black-browed Albatrosses and also had some Imperial Shags. A few guests and I approached this colony from the beach and we got some more views of the Commerson’s Dolphins.

We all decided that was time to start heading back to the Prince Albert II when some baddish weather reached the island. This provided an extra bit of excitement to our return and embarking! Once dry and back into our onboard attires, we had dinner at The Restaurant with the course set to Port Stanley, the Capital of the Falkland Islands. I am sure that today will remain forever in the retinas and hearts of all the guests of Voyage 7005 of the Prince Albert II as one of the most memorable experiences ever.