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Field Guides Tour Report
Antarctica, the Falkland Islands & South Georgia Cruise 2018
Jan 31, 2018 to Feb 21, 2018
Tom Johnson & Bret Whitney


These Macaroni Penguins porpoised (or is it "penguined"?) out of the water alongside our ship as we cruised the beautiful coastline of South Georgia. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

NOTE: This triplist contains six large (15-20 minute) embedded video files. If you encounter problems seeing the videos or loading the triplist in your preferred browser, we suggest trying an alternate browser (it may handle the large video files better). Please note that you may also see all the videos directly on our smugmug media storage site at this link.

How could it not be great? Our 2018 tour through the Southern Ocean allowed us to absorb the wildlife spectacles of the Falklands and South Georgia, enjoy impressive flocks of pelagic seabirds, and visit the icy tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. This was a phenomenal journey across a route of vast scope, and Bret and I were very happy to travel with our group of Field Guides birders and with the other guests of Oceanwide Expeditions on the wonderful ship M/V Ortelius.

On our first day, February 1st, we started out in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina with a day trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park where we found Andean Condors, Magellanic Woodpeckers, White-throated Treerunners, and even a scarce Culpeo Fox! It was splendid to spend some time among the lovely Nothofagus (Southern Beech) forest before heading off to an entirely treeless realm.

We walked around Ushuaia, finding some Southern Cone ducks like Red Shoveler and Flightless Steamer-Duck and watching Dark-bellied Cinclodes and Dolphin Gulls before we gathered to board our ship, the Ortelius. This is a comfortable and highly seaworthy vessel operated by Oceanwide Expeditions. The first evening aboard, we met the expedition staff and practiced safety drills as we sailed east out of the Beagle Channel.

Leaving Tierra del Fuego behind, we steamed northeast toward the Falkland Islands, finding our first Royal Albatrosses, Gray-backed Storm-Petrels, and Peale's Dolphins along the way. In the Falklands, we had two days to make landings, and we visited Carcass Island, Saunders Island, and Stanley. Between these sites we found four species of penguins (Magellanic, Gentoo, Southern Rockhopper, and a few Kings), nesting Black-browed Albatrosses, Ruddy-headed Geese, White-bridled Finches, and Rufous-chested Dotterels. Weather was actually quite sunny and warm for our first day at Carcass and Saunders, though cooler temperatures and a stiff breeze accompanied us across the tundra-like grasslands of Stanley.

Next, Ortelius took us eastward along the Scotia Arc toward the wildlife-rich island of South Georgia. En route, we were entertained by excellent seabirding, with hundreds of Soft-plumaged Petrels, five species of albatrosses, and even a dozen rare Gray Petrels. The seas picked up a bit but we made it to Shag Rocks and then finally, magnificent South Georgia. Four full days on this huge island heaving with life left us full of memories of nesting Wandering Albatrosses, massive colonies of King Penguins, beaches covered in Antarctic Fur Seals and Southern Elephant Seals, and huge, ice-covered peaks looming in every direction. At several locations, we also learned about the human history of the island and the legacy of international whaling and exploration.

Leaving South Georgia, we sailed southwest into some of the heaviest seas of the trip. Outer decks of Ortelius were closed for safety reasons, but we were still able to watch the sea from inside the spacious bridge. We were able to study diving-petrels, Snow Petrels, and even a rare Kerguelen Petrel as we crossed to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, where conditions were certainly much calmer. Oceanwide staff offered informative lectures during the ocean crossings for those who wanted a bit more variety in their daily routines.

On our first morning in Antarctica proper, we cruised around in zodiacs in Hope Bay. This would have been fantastic on its own due to the lovely weather and amazing scenery, but then the Leopard Seals showed up and started hunting Adelie Penguins all around us. We watched in awe for about an hour as one seal caught penguins, released them, caught more, and eventually ate one in gruesome fashion. A jaw-dropping, primal experience, to be sure. While in Antarctica, we also visited Brown Bluff, d'Hainaut Island, and Cierva Cove, finding Killer Whales, nesting Gentoo Penguins, Minke Whales, and South Polar Skuas - life everywhere, and ICE, magnificent, stunning ICE.

Leaving the continent behind, we had one more stop to make before returning to South America. We cruised through the sunken caldera of Deception Island and then made a landing at Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands. Here we experienced a beautiful and noisy colony of Chinstrap Penguins, and some members of the group took an Antarctic swim from the beach - brrrrrr!

From the South Shetlands, we steamed north into the feared Drake Passage of seafaring lore. However, this time we had a rather placid crossing without any storms to speak of, and actually had extra time to visit Cape Horn on our way back to the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia. Home again!

Bret put together six compilation videos that combine a variety of his videos and those of several participants who contributed their images and videos. These videos run for about 90 minutes - it's basically a feature film highlighting our adventure together.

Thanks for your companionship and spirit during this memorable journey. We hope you'll always remember your time at the end of the world!

-Tom and Bret


KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant


BIRDS
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
BLACK-NECKED SWAN (Cygnus melancoryphus) – A dozen of these big, striking waterfowl were foraging at Tierra del Fuego NP.
UPLAND GOOSE (Chloephaga picta) – Common both in Tierra del Fuego and in the Falklands. Bar-breasted males dominated in the Ushuaia area, while white-breasted males were in the Falklands.
KELP GOOSE (Chloephaga hybrida) – Common along rocky shorelines along the Beagle Channel and in the Falklands. The flock of 60 molting birds that we found at Carcass Island was a notable count.
RUDDY-HEADED GOOSE (Chloephaga rubidiceps) – Ten of these lovely, rare sheldgeese were on the beach at Carcass Island in the Falklands. This species has declined dramatically on the South American mainland, but is doing fairly well in the Falklands.
FLYING STEAMER-DUCK (Tachyeres patachonicus) – Good views in Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego NP. Their presence in freshwater was a good tip-off, but we also saw the length of the primaries to help separate them from Flightless Steamer-Ducks.


This immature King Penguin looked a little soggy in its "Oakum Boy" suit as it wandered through lots of stately, colorful adults. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

FALKLAND STEAMER-DUCK (Tachyeres brachypterus) – This Falklands endemic was common at Carcass Island, our first landing site in the Falklands. These massive ducks were paddling around in the surf and we had great views of males, females, and youngsters.
CRESTED DUCK (Lophonetta specularioides) – This elegant duck with the long, upswept tail was common along the Ushuaia waterfront and in the Falklands.
RED SHOVELER (Spatula platalea) – About twenty were paddling around the Bahia Encerrada in Ushuaia on our first day together.
YELLOW-BILLED PINTAIL (SOUTH GEORGIA) (Anas georgica georgica) – This form of Yellow-billed Pintail is restricted to South Georgia. They are slightly smaller and darker than the mainland birds. Great views, especially at Grytviken.
YELLOW-BILLED PINTAIL (SOUTH AMERICAN) (Anas georgica spinicauda) – These were the pintail that we found in pools near the Ushuaia waterfront. They are a bit paler and lankier than the South Georgia subspecies.
YELLOW-BILLED TEAL (Anas flavirostris) – Sightings both in the Ushuaia area and on the Falkland Islands near Stanley. Like a miniature version of Yellow-billed Pintail.
Podicipedidae (Grebes)
GREAT GREBE (Podiceps major) – These large grebes were nesting at Tierra del Fuego NP.
Spheniscidae (Penguins)
KING PENGUIN (Aptenodytes patagonicus) – This was a highlight bird for many folks on the trip, and for good reason. We visited large colonies in South Georgia at Salisbury Plain and Gold Harbor, where we got to see a mixture of tens of thousands of beautiful adults and their awkward brown, fuzzy chicks ("Oakum Boys") wandering around. Seeing a King Penguin colony up close is a life-changing experience.
ADELIE PENGUIN (Pygoscelis adeliae) – Common in the waters off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. We had a magical morning watching the immature Adelies in Hope Bay as they gathered on shore-fast ice and contemplated getting into the crystal clear water. Those that did enter the water had to brave the massive, speedy Leopard Seals that patrolled the area. Not all survived.
GENTOO PENGUIN (Pygoscelis papua) – These adaptable penguins were with us at most of the locations we visited - they were in the Falklands, South Georgia, and around the Antarctic Peninsula. Many had large chicks that were starting to explore the edges of the colonies on their own - risky behavior with marauding skuas around!
CHINSTRAP PENGUIN (Pygoscelis antarcticus) – Though we found hundreds of these striking black-and-white penguins in the water at the southern end of South Georgia, we were overwhelmed by the sight, sound, and smell of the big colony at Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands.

Video 1 - Tierra del Fuego - Most of our group arrived into Ushuaia a couple of days ahead of boarding Ortelius. As tour participants’ logistics worked out close to our departure date, we heard from a number of folks that they would like to take advantage of part of their pre-tour time to visit nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park. Thus, we hastily arranged a day-trip to the park to look for Magellanic Woodpecker, Andean Condor, and whatever else might grace our binoculars. What a fun and memorable day 1 February 2018 turned out to be! Next morning, we also squeezed in a little birding around the Beagle Channel near our hotel, which produced a handful of birds not seen elsewhere. (Video by Bret Whitney)
MAGELLANIC PENGUIN (Spheniscus magellanicus) – This stout-billed penguin was common in the Beagle Channel and waters between Tierra del Fuego and the Falklands. We also saw these burrow-nesters with their fuzzy chicks at Carcass Island and Saunders Island.
MACARONI PENGUIN (Eudyptes chrysolophus) – Though we weren't able to visit a nesting colony full of these lovely crested penguins, we did see thousands of them in the water alongside the ship along the perimeter of South Georgia. Additionally, at our final landing site in the South Shetland Islands, we made the acquaintance of a single Macaroni Penguin (affectionately named Kevin) mixed in with a colony of hundreds of Chinstrap Penguins - Kevin was a little bit lost.
SOUTHERN ROCKHOPPER PENGUIN (Eudyptes chrysocome) – These chunky, crested penguins were nesting on the hillside at the Saunders Island Neck in the Falklands. We watched them feeding their downy chicks and got to see them, well, rock-hopping on their way to and from the colony.
Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)
GRAY-HEADED ALBATROSS (Thalassarche chrysostoma) – These mollymawks (small, dark-backed albatrosses) occasionally cruised past us while the Ortelius was at sea, but we saw fewer than expected, overall. The combination of gray head, yellow culmen ridge, and striking black-and-white underwing give this species a very distinctive look at any distance.
BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS (BLACK-BROWED) (Thalassarche melanophris melanophris) – This was the common and widespread albatross of our journey. They accompanied us on almost every day at sea, and we also visited them at a nesting colony at the Saunders Island Neck in the Falklands. When we arrived at the colony, the air temperatures was near 80°F, one of the hottest days of the year in the islands. All of the fuzzy gray albatross chicks were gular-fluttering (panting) in order to shed excess heat.


The excitement level was very high as this Gray Petrel winged its way in to the side of the Ortelius during our crossing between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

LIGHT-MANTLED ALBATROSS (Phoebetria palpebrata) – This is surely one of the most beautiful of all birds, and we were fortunate to study them closely as they wheeled around the ship around South Georgia and in the Drake Passage. Bret spotted a nesting pair with a chick on a cliff edge at Ocean Harbour on South Georgia, and we were able to position the zodiacs under the pair for some views.
ROYAL ALBATROSS (SOUTHERN) (Diomedea epomophora epomophora) – Almost as large as the Wandering Albatrosses we saw, these big guys followed the ship in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands and also near Tierra del Fuego. We noted the pale "starbursts" in the upperwing and pale edging to many inner upperwing coverts; this helped us separate these from the rarer Northern Royal Albatross. At close range we could see the dark cutting edges to the bill and lack of gray vermiculation on the head and neck that help separate these great albatrosses from the Wanderers.
WANDERING ALBATROSS (SNOWY) (Diomedea exulans exulans) – One of the world's great birds! We saw plenty of these massive creatures as they followed the Ortelius, sometimes passing by us within a few meters (staring us in the eyes as they went). However, the best experience was when we landed at Prion Island, a nesting colony. We were able to walk up the hills to see several albatross nests with the attendant adults - what a spectacular afternoon that was!
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL (Macronectes giganteus) – This was the common giant-petrel that followed Ortelius during most of our days at sea. The even-toned plumage and olive bill tip color helped us to separate them from Northern Giant-Petrel.
NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL (Macronectes halli) – These huge petrels with the red-tipped bills were quite common around South Georgia, where they nest. We encountered one at Stromness as it tore apart a dead baby fur seal - a gruesome sight. At sea, we practiced separating them from the very similar Southern Giant-Petrels as they followed the ship.
SOUTHERN FULMAR (Fulmarus glacialoides) – These pearly tubenoses with their pink and blue bills were in cold water near Antarctica - we found about 300 of them, with most near GPS -62.1322,-54.0421.
CAPE PETREL (Daption capense capense) – These striking "Pintado" Petrels were fairly common throughout the journey, but not in the large flocks that we'd typically expect. They often followed the ship like faithful dogs as we cruised along.
SNOW PETREL (Pagodroma nivea) – We found about 50 of these lovely white petrels, primarily in Drygalski Fjord at South Georgia, but also at sea between South Georgia and Antarctica. The Angel of Antarctica!
KERGUELEN PETREL (Aphrodroma brevirostris) – We only saw two of these odd gadfly petrels. The best view was the one that flew past while we were watching from inside the bridge of Ortelius after leaving South Georgia, bound for Antarctica. We could see the overall gray plumage with pale leading edges to the underwings as it shot past.
SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL (Pterodroma mollis) – This beautiful gadfly petrel is present in varying numbers along the tour route each year. We tallied about 230 of these fine birds, mostly between the Falklands and South Georgia but also between South Georgia and Antarctica and in the Drake Passage. It was extremely entertaining to watch their dynamic arcs and rapidly twisting flight.
BLUE PETREL (Halobaena caerulea) – This prion-like petrel was uncommon in cold waters south of the Antarctic Convergence, with most sightings between South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. All told, we saw <25 individuals, a low total for this species.


This Leopard Seal hunted juvenile Adelie Penguins as we watched from just feet away in Hope Bay at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. This is one of the greatest wildlife behavior encounters any of us had ever seen - absolutely spectacular. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

ANTARCTIC PRION (Pachyptila desolata) – This was the common prion around South Georgia and at sea for the southern portions of our cruise route. We studied the flocks of thousands to see if we could pick out a Fairy Prion, but we didn't succeed this time.
SLENDER-BILLED PRION (Pachyptila belcheri) – These prions were abundant in waters around the Falklands. Their narrow-based bills and broad white eyebrow (with little black in the face) helped us to identify them during close observations. Between the Falklands and South Georgia, we ran out of Slender-billed Prions and started to see Antarctic Prions.
GRAY PETREL (Procellaria cinerea) – This stocky petrel with white body and dark underwings is quite rare on our route, so we were surprised and very fortunate to find at least 12 individuals at sea between the Falklands and South Georgia. Some were even close enough to photograph!
WHITE-CHINNED PETREL (Procellaria aequinoctialis) – These large, stout "Shoemakers" were our frequent companions throughout the journey at sea. We even had one land on the bow of the Ortelius during rough weather between South Georgia and Antarctica. At sea, usually dozens per day.
GREAT SHEARWATER (Ardenna gravis) – These abundant shearwaters of the South Atlantic showed well for us in the waters between South America and the Falkland Islands. The largest numbers breed in the central South Atlantic around Tristan da Cunha.
SOOTY SHEARWATER (Ardenna grisea) – Quite common around Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. However, we saw small numbers all the way down to the Antarctic Peninsula. It was neat to see these familiar seabirds in a different context from where we usually see them in Massachusetts or California.
LITTLE SHEARWATER (SUBANTARCTIC) (Puffinus assimilis elegans) – One made a quick pass between the Falklands and South Georgia, around these GPS coordinates: -53.1168,-45.2145. This tiny black-and-white shearwater had a face pattern like a Manx Shearwater, but its fluttering wingbeats and extensively white underwings helped nail the ID.

Video 2 - To the Falklands! - 2 February: Having boarded Ortelius and duly completed safety drills, we scrambled to the upper decks as the ship sailed smoothly through the Beagle Channel in the waning evening light. Next morning we headed for the Falkland Islands in earnest! Here is a video compilation of those opening days aboard Ortelius, around and in the Falklands, with landings at Carcass and Saunders Islands, and Stanley (3-5 February). (Video by Bret Whitney)
COMMON DIVING-PETREL (Pelecanoides urinatrix) – These were the majority of the diving-petrels that we found during the journey. We usually saw them in ones and twos flying along in front of the ship, sometimes dropping underwater right out of the air.
SOUTH GEORGIA DIVING-PETREL (Pelecanoides georgicus) – These small tubenoses nest at South Georgia, where they are greatly outnumbered by Common Diving-Petrels. We were able to identify a few birds by combination of their pale back braces, white wing edging, and a white wrap-around pattern on the face. Many diving-petrels went unidentified due to distance and a lack of ideal viewing conditions, but that's to be expected with these little guys!
Hydrobatidae (Storm-Petrels)
WILSON'S STORM-PETREL (Oceanites oceanicus) – Widespread on our journey, from the Beagle Channel to the Falklands to South Georgia and beyond. This is one of the world's most common seabirds. We found them visiting nesting sites under slabs of rock on hillsides at South Georgia and in the South Shetland Islands, too.
GRAY-BACKED STORM-PETREL (Garrodia nereis) – These lovely, very small storm-petrels were seen on both sides of the Falkland Islands (both between Tierra del Fuego and the Falklands, and also when we were leaving the Falklands bound for South Georgia). We often saw them mixed in with Wilson's Storm-Petrels, and they were almost always at or near patches of floating kelp.
BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL (Fregetta tropica) – This was one of the common storm-petrels that we found in cold water, typically far away from land. They were usually by themselves but occasionally mixed in with Wilson's Storm-Petrels. In that context, we could appreciate the largely white underparts, broad-based wings, and distinctive foot-dragging behavior of the Black-bellied Storm-Petrels. This foot-dragging leads to small "rooster tail" splashes that can be seen at great distance.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) – A few were mixed in with other cormorants in Ushuaia.
MAGELLANIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax magellanicus) – Common around Ushuaia and in smaller numbers around the Falklands. Also called "Rock Cormorant".
SOUTH GEORGIA SHAG (Phalacrocorax georgianus) – This is the cormorant that we saw at Shag Rocks and around South Georgia.


South Georgia Pipits graced every single one of our landings at South Georgia. These rare but increasing songbirds are incredibly fearless and will walk right up to observers. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

IMPERIAL CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax atriceps atriceps) – We found these striking black-and-white "shags" in Ushuaia and around Tierra del Fuego. Both light- and dark-cheeked birds were present.
IMPERIAL CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax atriceps albiventer) – These were the Imperial Cormorants that we found in the Falkland Islands.
ANTARCTIC SHAG (Phalacrocorax bransfieldensis) – Regular sightings at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and in the South Shetland Islands.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (Nycticorax nycticorax) – Several close birds in Ushuaia (subspecies obscurus) and again in the Falklands (falklandicus). They are rather dark and tame in this region.
Threskiornithidae (Ibises and Spoonbills)
BLACK-FACED IBIS (Theristicus melanopis) – We saw one of these striking ibis flying high over the Ortelius as we left Ushuaia at the beginning of the trip.
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura) – Common in the Falkland Islands.
ANDEAN CONDOR (Vultur gryphus) – After we struggled to see a distant bird circling over a ridgeline at Tierra del Fuego NP, a stunning individual came flapping by at very close range - so close that we could hear the slotted primary feathers swoosh as the bird flapped its massive wings.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
BLACK-CHESTED BUZZARD-EAGLE (Geranoaetus melanoleucus) – One of these chunky raptors was soaring at great distance at Tierra del Fuego NP.
Chionidae (Sheathbills)
SNOWY SHEATHBILL (Chionis albus) – A dozen were on the rocks at the Saunders Island Neck in the Falklands, and then we found many more in South Georgia and Antarctica. Some of our most exciting experiences with these odd scavengers were of birds flying around King Penguin colonies at South Georgia, where they act like the cleanup crew.
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)
BLACKISH OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus ater) – These dark oystercatchers were along the Ushuaia waterfront and also on the Falklands.

Video 3 - South Georgia Part I - Following a fabulous couple of days at the Falklands, it was with great excitement that we turned the bow south toward fabled South Georgia. Here’s a chance to relive some of the very special moments we experienced at the various landings we made along the northeastern islands and shores of South Georgia, starting with some fabulous seabirding and Shag Rocks (5-7 Feb), followed by the Bay of Isles (rainy Salisbury Palin and crystal-clear Prion Island, 8 February), and then, considerably farther south/east, to Fortuna Bay (Stromness whaling station) and Cumberland Bay (Grytviken) on 9 February. (Video by Bret Whitney)
MAGELLANIC OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus leucopodus) – Though we found a few in Ushuaia, most of ours were in the Falkland Islands (including 24 at Saunders Island and 12 at Carcass Island).
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
SOUTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus chilensis) – These widespread South American plovers were common around Ushuaia.
RUFOUS-CHESTED DOTTEREL (Charadrius modestus) – A hike up onto the hills east of Stanley on the Falklands led us to a few families of these beautiful plovers. They were foraging on "diddle-dee" berries (also called red crowberry) along with White-bridled Finches.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
SOUTH AMERICAN SNIPE (MAGELLANIC) (Gallinago paraguaiae magellanica) – A few flushed up from the grassy ponds around Bahia Encerrada, but the best view was of the bird that we encircled near Stanley in the Falklands.
Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)
CHILEAN SKUA (Stercorarius chilensis) – These skuas were along the Beagle Channel and the waters off Tierra del Fuego. We identified them by their dark caps and orange-y highlights to the plumage.
SOUTH POLAR SKUA (Stercorarius maccormicki) – These small, solidly patterned skuas made a few limited appearances along the Antarctic Peninsula, especially near Trinity Island and Cierva Cove. The light morphs with their blonde heads and bodies were the easiest to pick out. This species interbreeds with Brown Skuas in the South Shetland Islands.
BROWN SKUA (SUBANTARCTIC) (Stercorarius antarcticus lonnbergi) – This was the breeding skua at South Georgia and in several places on the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands, where they overlap (and interbreed) with South Polar Skuas.
BROWN SKUA (FALKLAND) (Stercorarius antarcticus antarcticus) – These skuas were seen around the Falklands. We even found nests with large downy chicks around the beach at Saunders Island.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BROWN-HOODED GULL (Chroicocephalus maculipennis) – These slim, dark-headed gulls were along the Ushuaia waterfront and also near Stanley in the Falklands.
DOLPHIN GULL (Leucophaeus scoresbii) – These attractive mid-sized gulls were around Tierra del Fuego and on the Falkland Islands.

Video 4 - South Georgia II - Although 10 February dawned rather rainy (but calm!) at Godthul Bay, our afternoon landing at Ocean Harbour was under delightfully clear skies. Our final day on South Georgia, 11 February, was action-packed, with an especially leisurely and memorable early-morning landing at Gold Harbour followed by seabirding around Cooper Island and Drygalski Fjord, both near the southernmost reaches of South Georgia. Three fairly rough but seabird-rich days were in store as we made our way steadily south, across the Scotia Sea. (Video by Bret Whitney)
KELP GULL (Larus dominicanus) – This was the common large gull that we saw at many locations throughout the journey.
SOUTH AMERICAN TERN (Sterna hirundinacea) – Abundant around Ushuaia, the Beagle Channel, and at the Falkland Islands.
ANTARCTIC TERN (Sterna vittata) – This was the common species of tern that we found at South Georgia and around the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) – Common around Ushuaia. [I]
Strigidae (Owls)
AUSTRAL PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium nana) – Jean did well to spot the silent individual along the edge of the lake at Tierra del Fuego NP. We scoped this handsome bird and enjoyed watching it in the top of a Nothofagus tree for about 20 minutes.
Picidae (Woodpeckers)
MAGELLANIC WOODPECKER (Campephilus magellanicus) – These huge woodpeckers were at the top of our wish list during the day trip in to Tierra del Fuego NP at the beginning of the tour. Though we had to search for a few hours (and interrogate fellow hikers in the park), we eventually found a male and female with a juvenile flying around the Nothofagus forest, offering great views. This is the largest extant species of New World woodpecker, and the second largest overall in the world (after Great Slaty Woodpecker).
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
STRIATED CARACARA (Phalcoboenus australis) – These so-called "Johnny Rooks" were common at Carcass Island and Saunders Island. Quite rare overall, this species is only found on the Falklands and a limited area of Tierra del Fuego.


Some of the Soft-plumaged Petrels that we saw during our open-water crossings came very close for excellent studies. We were amazed by the careening, devil-may-care flight style of these acrobats. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

SOUTHERN CARACARA (Caracara plancus) – These large caracaras were around Ushuaia and again on the Falklands.
CHIMANGO CARACARA (Milvago chimango) – This is the common small caracara of southern South America - we saw them frequently around Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego NP.
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius) – At least three were at Tierra del Fuego NP.
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
AUSTRAL PARAKEET (Enicognathus ferrugineus) – We heard these elegant parakeets frequently at Tierra del Fuego NP; eventually we caught up to some that perched out in the open right above us along the road.
Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)
WHITE-THROATED TREERUNNER (Pygarrhichas albogularis) – This nuthatch-like ovenbird is uncommon in the forests of Tierra del Fuego NP; we felt lucky to find a couple of them in the afternoon of our visit to the park. One was a pale-spotted juvenile bird.
BLACKISH CINCLODES (Cinclodes antarcticus) – These "Tussockbirds" were very common at Carcass Island in the Falklands. They approached us and even walked over our life jackets and bags after we landed on the rocky beaches.
GRAY-FLANKED CINCLODES (Cinclodes oustaleti) – One put in a brief appearance in the drainage ditch near Bahia Encerrada in Ushuaia.
DARK-BELLIED CINCLODES (Cinclodes patagonicus) – These ovenbirds were conspicuous along the waterfront in Ushuaia.
THORN-TAILED RAYADITO (Aphrastura spinicauda) – These Furnariids take on a chickadee-like role in the Nothofagus forests of Tierra del Fuego. We found them to be delightfully conspicuous in the forests at Tierra del Fuego NP.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
TUFTED TIT-TYRANT (Anairetes parulus) – These delightful, strange little flycatchers graced us with a few close looks during our hike in Tierra del Fuego NP.
WHITE-CRESTED ELAENIA (CHILEAN) (Elaenia albiceps chilensis) – Very common around Tierra del Fuego NP.
AUSTRAL NEGRITO (Lessonia rufa) – A few folks saw these small, terrestrial flycatchers near the Ushuaia waterfront during our walk there.

Video 5 - Antarctic Peninsula - We awoke on the morning of 15 February to the sight we had all been anxiously awaiting (would we ever get there?): ANTARCTICA on the horizon! The weather was fine and the water thankfully quite calm as we steamed into Antarctic Sound, massive icebergs and continental glaciers gleaming in the early morning light. It was serenely spectacular. Today’s stops were at Hope Bay (Esperanza Station, which most of us opted out of in favor of zodiac cruising among Adelie Penguins and hungry Leopard Seals), and cruising the Brown Bluff area. (Video by Bret Whitney)
DARK-FACED GROUND-TYRANT (Muscisaxicola maclovianus) – Good views in the windy grasslands east of Stanley in the Falklands.
FIRE-EYED DIUCON (Xolmis pyrope) – One of these striking flycatchers made a brief appearance in the canopy near the parking lot at Tierra del Fuego NP.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
CHILEAN SWALLOW (Tachycineta leucopyga) – Flying overhead at Tierra del Fuego NP and in Ushuaia. The only swallow of the tour.
Troglodytidae (Wrens)
HOUSE WREN (Troglodytes aedon) – We found some of the "Southern" form in Tierra del Fuego NP.
COBB'S WREN (Troglodytes cobbi) – This Falklands endemic met us on the beach at Carcass Island, where we saw at least 5 very well. It's hard to believe that this chunky, long-billed critter used to be lumped with House Wren!
SEDGE WREN (AUSTRAL) (Cistothorus platensis falklandicus) – We found these chattery wrens at Carcass Island and again near Stanley, where a few climbed out on top of the grass for some good views.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
AUSTRAL THRUSH (Turdus falcklandii) – Plenty at Tierra del Fuego NP, but also a few around the settlement on Carcass Island in the Falklands.
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
CORRENDERA PIPIT (Anthus correndera) – One or two flew over us during our walk in Ushuaia, but our best sighting was in the coastal grassland near Stanley in the Falklands.


This young Wandering Albatross was one of our final sightings of this huge species for the cruise - and it was certainly the most curious. This massive beast repeatedly passed by within 15 feet of us as we stood on the 7th deck of Ortelius, mouths agape. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

SOUTH GEORGIA PIPIT (Anthus antarcticus) – This is the only songbird that we saw in South Georgia. The species has done remarkably well since the South Georgia Heritage Trust undertook a rat eradication effort. We found these lovely, approachable songbirds at every single landing we made on South Georgia.
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
PATAGONIAN SIERRA-FINCH (Phrygilus patagonicus) – These handsome gray, orange, and yellow finches were common in the edge of the forest at Tierra del Fuego NP.
WHITE-BRIDLED FINCH (Melanodera melanodera) – Falklands. Our first sightings were at Carcass Island, and then we saw more around the gun emplacements near Stanley.
Passerellidae (New World Buntings and Sparrows)
RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis) – A common bird around Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego NP.
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
LONG-TAILED MEADOWLARK (Sturnella loyca) – Seen both around Ushuaia and again in the Falkland Islands.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
BLACK-CHINNED SISKIN (Spinus barbatus) – These small finches were very active during our day trip to Tierra del Fuego NP. More at Carcass Island in the Falklands.
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) – A few were flying around downtown Ushuaia. [I]

MAMMALS
OLD WORLD RABBIT (Oryctolagus cuniculus) – Several around Ushuaia. [I]
DUSKY DOLPHIN (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) – Just a few around Tierra del Fuego.
PEALE'S DOLPHIN (Lagenorhynchus australis) – Several peppy groups followed the ship in the Beagle Channel and between Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands.
HOURGLASS DOLPHIN (Lagenorhynchus cruciger) – These pelagic dolphins were only found far from shore during our long ocean crossings.

Video 6 - Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands - We left the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula behind to round the tip, bound southwest for Trinity Island (Mikkelsen Harbour and d'Hainaut Island) and Cierva Cove (16 February). The following day, in the South Shetland Islands, we made our final landing — and (for some) the “Polar Plunge”! — at Half Moon Island. Two seabirding days were required to make the crossing of the Drake Passage, which was mercifully calm, even in the vicinity of Cape Horn. We completed our voyage back at Ushuaia, disembarking Ortelius on the morning of 20 February. (Video by Bret Whitney)
LONG-FINNED PILOT WHALE (Globicephala melas) – One large pod of these large, oceanic dolphins that we ran into during our transit across the Drake Passage was mixed with Hourglass Dolphins.
KILLER WHALE (Orcinus orca) – These iconic oceanic dolphins always excite! We had two brief sightings of Type B animals. First, we saw several animals as we headed SW along the west side of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula toward Trinity Island. The other group was in the Bransfield Strait close to the South Shetland Islands. These magnificent beasts, fairly small as far as Killer Whales go, were coated in diatoms so that the pale patches on their bodies were stained yellowish.
HECTOR'S BEAKED WHALE (Mesoplodon hectori)
UNIDENTIFIED BEAKED WHALE SP. (Ziphiidae sp.) – During our transits over deep water, we saw at least 4-5 groups of unidentified beaked whales. Most appeared to be smaller "beakers," likely in the genus Mesoplodon, but they were just too far away to identify with confidence.
ANTARCTIC MINKE WHALE (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) – Good sightings of these small baleen whales close to the Antarctic Peninsula. Perhaps most memorable was the one that zipped around between our zodiacs at Cierva Cove.
SEI WHALE (Balaenoptera borealis) – Great views of these fast rorquals at several sites in our journey, including some close animals on our approach to Saunders Island in the Falklands.
HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae) – These mid-sized, showy whales were fairly common on our journey.
SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE (Eubalaena australis) – A few folks saw one of these chunky whales cruise past in the Bay of Isles at South Georgia, but it didn't stick around for long.
CULPEO FOX (Lycalopex culpaeus) – This robust canid visited us during our lunch break at Tierra del Fuego NP. Often referred to as a "red fox" in Argentina, this is very different from the widespread Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes).


This Black-browed Albatross was just one of thousands that followed Ortelius during our voyage. Photo by guide Tom Johnson.

SOUTH AMERICAN SEA LION (Otaria flavescens) – Small groups of these eared seals were porpoising around Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego
ANTARCTIC FUR SEAL (Arctocephalus gazella) – Over two million of these marine mammals breed at South Georgia. While we didn't see millions, these creatures did line the beaches at many of our landing sites on South Georgia, and we got to see lots of pups exploring the beaches for the first time.
SOUTH AMERICAN FUR SEAL (Arctocephalus australis) – The fur seals that we found around the Falkland Islands were likely this species, the local breeder there.
CRABEATER SEAL (Lobodon carcinophagus) – While cruising in the area around Brown Bluff at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, we found a group of these long, smiley seals sleeping on the ice.
LEOPARD SEAL (Hydrurga leptonyx) – WOW - this amazing mammal was clearly one of the top sightings of our trip. We found two animals hunting fledgling Adelie Penguins in the icy waters of Hope Bay at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, and watched them hunt, catch, and release penguins repeatedly before one animal finally thrashed a penguin until it was skinned, eating chunks as it went along. What a dramatic experience!
WEDDELL SEAL (Leptonychotes weddelli) – These large, relaxed seals were seen several times on the ice off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
SOUTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL (Mirounga leonina) – These massive, round sea elephants were frequent sights on the beaches at South Georgia and in the South Shetland Islands. While most of the adult males were gone, we did see some males aggressively belly-flopping at each other in between belching.


ADDITIONAL COMMENTS


Totals for the tour: 101 bird taxa and 20 mammal taxa