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Perhaps nothing more exemplifies Antarctica than penguins on ice. While we saw a higher number of King Penguins, Gentoo Penguins were our most widely encountered species, breeding from the sandy beaches and rocky shores of the Falklands, all the way down to the ice covered Antarctic continent. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Antarctica. The word evokes different images and emotions for everyone. Whatever those images are, they are but a shadow of what it is like to be physically present in Earth’s icy, vibrant, deep south. From sun-drenched colonies of hundreds of thousands of King Penguins, to seas whipped into a frenzy by southern storms, and channels choked closed with pack ice, we had a range of experiences that could be provided only by the extreme latitudes of our planet.
We started out in Ushuaia, an extreme place in its own right, in Tierra del Fuego at the very southern tip of South America. Tierra del Fuego provided a starkly beautiful mountainous backdrop for a day and a half of exciting pre-maritime birding. Our trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park (TdF NP) started off with a bang when we found a family group of charismatic Magellanic Woodpeckers shortly after we entered the park! After watching and listening to these for a while, we availed ourselves of the rest of the copious birdlife the park had to offer, from flocks of Austral Parakeets and Patagonian Sierra-Finches, to Ashy-headed Goose and Austral Pygmy-Owl. The aptly named Thorn-tailed Rayadito was a group favorite, and other great pickups were Tufted Tit-Tyrant, Austral Blackbird, and a clean sweep on the three species of Cinclodes in the area. The next day was embarkation day, but not before we squeezed a bunch more birds out of Ushuaia. A trip to the dump gave us the range-restricted White-throated Caracara among many of its Southern and Chimango relatives, and the lagoons in town provided us with Austral Negrito, a waterfowl-palooza, and walk-away looks at Magellanic Snipe. After boarding the M/V Ortelius, our home for the next two and a half weeks, and being shown to our rooms, we went through various orientation and safety briefings, and ship fire drills, and then it was off into the Beagle Channel as dusk set in.
Our first full day aboard the ship was also our first fully at-sea day as we steamed towards the Falkland Islands. Though we didn’t set foot on land, we still had plenty of birds to divert us. Black-browed Albatrosses and Southern Giant-Petrels were our constant companions, and amidst these graceful giants we picked out a single Southern Royal Albatross. White-chinned Petrels abounded as well, and we were fortunate to get close views of its very close relative, the regionally scarce Westland Petrel, flying around the boat and landing on the water. Our first prions of the voyage came into view as we got farther east, a Manx Shearwater put in a lightning quick appearance amongst the more numerous Great and Sooty shearwaters, and we had our first encounter with the dynamic and gorgeous Hourglass Dolphins in the afternoon.
Our couple of days in the Falkland Islands (Las Islas Malvinas) was jam-packed with excellent natural history experiences. Carcass Island gave us all the regional scarcities we were hoping for: Obscenely close views of dozens of fearless Striated Caracaras, Blackish Cinclodes clambering over our feet and between our legs as they foraged seemingly heedless of the giants that were invading their territory, and the endemic Cobb’s Wren (it seems almost laughable that this was considered a subspecies of House Wren at some point!). Saunders Island presented our first big penguin spectacle, with Gentoo, Magellanic, and a couple of dozen King Penguins on the beach. The nearby cliffs held Black-browed Albatrosses (from plump downy youngsters to still courting adults!) , Imperial Cormorants, and around twenty young Southern Rockhopper Penguins molting their way through adolescence. The commanding view of the penguins from the bluff overlooking the beach with courting albatrosses in the side-view mirror was something right out of National Geographic, and the rolling seas during the beach extraction were a proper introduction to the world of zodiac landings (and these would fortuitously be our roughest landing conditions of the entire tour).
While the landscape of the Falklands was beautiful, it was but a wafer thin appetizer of the scenery to come. We awoke on the 22nd adjacent to South Georgia Island, one of the most remote islands of its size on the planet. The rugged mountains coming right out of the sea with the lush valleys sheltered in between presented a starkly beautiful landscape as the backdrop for our next three days of adventure.
We started out by landing in Grytviken, the first and most famous whaling station on the island. There were a couple of tours of the grounds on offer, as well as a post office from which to send postcards abroad (with some very fashionable albatross stamps). The must-do here, of course, is paying respects to “The Boss” himself, with a toast over Sir Ernest Shackleton’s (and Frank Wild’s) grave. There were indeed some birds around as well, highlighted by our first South Georgia Pipit for some of the group. An evening cruise down West Cumberland Bay to Neumayer Glacier under a kaleidoscopic sunset was a perfect way to end our first day here.
Day two saw us exploring the Bay of Isles, the area where Robert Cushman Murphy did much of his pioneering seabird research in the early part of the last century. Our first landing here was Salisbury Plain, where we had our first exposure to a massive King Penguin rookery, and what an experience it was! The din of King Penguin generated noise was a constant, and when we were up close and personal with the penguins it was impossible to ignore or block out. It was breezy, and several snow squalls blew through, alternating with a golden morning sunlight every fifteen to twenty minutes. This gave us insight into the contrast in conditions these remarkable birds face throughout their lives. As we ate lunch, the boat re-positioned towards nearby Prion Island, where another special treat awaited us. First up for us was a zodiac cruise around the island, where we got to study several South Georgia Pipits feeding in the rocks and kelp, a South Georgia Pintail, and an unforgettable surprise encounter with a Leopard Seal tenderizing a young fur seal which it had caught. After this excitement, we landed on Prion Island, and climbed a short distance to an overlook that gave us stunningly good views of several Wandering Albatrosses on nests. There were also several of these longest-winged of all extant creatures gliding around and over the colony. We even got to see them switching nesting duties and vocalizing to each other and to the skuas lurking nearby. It was a truly magical afternoon.
Day two alone would’ve been worth the price of admission, but our ultimate day on South Georgia went above and beyond, featuring not two, but three different once-in-a-lifetime excursions. We stepped outside as the first tendrils of dawn illuminated the landscape around Cooper Bay, and felt not a breath of wind, a great augury for what was to come. We embarked on a zodiac cruise around the bay, wending our way from the Chinstrap Penguin colony (our first) through the rocky shorelines with their attendant beds of kelp moving hypnotically to and fro, South Georgia Pipits in seemingly every cove, and ultimately to the base of a Macaroni Penguin colony. Both species of Giant-Petrels (including a couple of “White Nellys”) and a few Cape Petrels foraged on the water’s surface, heedless of our presence. We were at the base of the colony as the daily single-file procession of Macaroni Penguins shuffled its way downslope as if it were a never-ending conveyor belt, and they queued up and then dove into the water mere meters from where we were watching. We returned from this idyllic outing to have breakfast aboard as the ship re-positioned to our next destination: Gold Harbor. Gold is many people’s favorite place on South Georgia, and between the backdrop and the fauna, it’s hard to argue against that position! The main event here is ostensibly being immersed in the large colony of King Penguins and the larger than life Southern Elephant Seals, but the landscape wasn’t overshadowed by much. We enjoyed blue skies and sunshine beating down on us as we enjoyed it all, and even saw some Light-mantled Albatrosses patrolling over the nearby ridges. During lunch, we again repositioned, this time to St. Andrew’s Bay. The wind was picking up and the skies were clouding over, but we were able to have a successful landing before things started taking a turn for the rough. St. Andrew’s is host to the largest colony of King Penguins on South Georgia, and one of the largest in the world, numbering over a quarter of a million birds. Once we landed, those who chose to ford the penguin-lined, knee-deep, river were rewarded with a mind-boggling view overlooking the core of the astoundingly large colony, and the spectacle of penguins along the river and around the beaches were highlights for everyone. Some even got into zodiacs and cruised around just offshore of the colony, giving themselves a unique perspective on this unique spectacle. We could not have expected a better culmination to our South Georgia experience than we were treated to.
The ambitious plan by the expedition staff of three separate expeditions in a single day was brought on (in part) by weather. The weather that we started to see at the end of our St. Andrew’s landing was just the leading edge of a massive storm system that was to loom over the island for the next four days. Given its approach, the (correct) decision was made to forego our final day around South Georgia, and so we turned our gaze at last to the chilly south. It took us almost two whole days to get to the South Orkney Islands, but we were in the good and faithful company of seabirds for most of that time. Kerguelen Petrel was a gem that we encountered briefly twice, and we started seeing more cooperative Light-mantled Albatrosses, including some cruising back and forth around the ship. Upon our arrival in the South Orkneys we cruised over choppy seas between Powell and Laurie Islands, seeing the lights of Orcadas Station twinkling in the distance. We then made a hard right and steamed. Two mornings later we found ourselves just off Elephant Island’s Point Wild, where Shackleton’s crew spent months marooned and waiting to be rescued. We had arrived at Elephant Island in a big time storm, but it was supposed to abate within a couple of hours of sunrise. It initially seemed indeed to be letting up, but then the wind speeds suddenly skyrocketed, and we got to see the southern ocean in full fury for a couple of hours, though the ship stayed relatively stable, as we were sheltered from the largest swells by the windbreak of the island. As the storm passed, we started making our way down through the Bransfield Strait towards the Antarctic continent itself.
As March dawned, we found ourselves amidst pack ice at the northern mouth of the Antarctic Sound, with a red sunrise bathing the sparkling white icebergs all around us. We navigated our way through the ice to Brown Bluff, at the very northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, on the southern side of the Antarctic Sound. It was here that we made our first “continental” landing on Antarctica. We also found our first Adelie Penguins here (amidst the more numerous Gentoos), and had the opportunity to climb to a high vantage point to overlook the nearby glacier and the rest of the area. We then went out on a zodiac cruise around the bay, having up close encounters with Antarctic Shag foraging at the base of the glacier, Adelie Penguins playing around and tobogganing on icebergs, and the icebergs themselves, as they towered over our small boat. The afternoon saw us cruising around the ice-packed northern side of the sound, where we saw more Adelies and Gentoos, and got to see Wilson’s Storm-Petrels pattering around as they fed in the meltwater at the foot of icebergs. It was then time for the South Shetland Islands, and the next morning saw us stationed off Half Moon Island, where we experienced our figurative immersion in a Chinstrap Penguin colony before some folks experienced a literal immersion in the frigid -1 degree C waters during the optional Polar Plunge for those who wanted to get an impression of what the seals and penguins are experiencing for much of their lives. The boat once again repositioned during lunch, this time to the caldera of Deception Island. In addition to the striking geological features here (including Neptune’s Bellows at the mouth of the entrance), we got a great study of skuas, being able to pick out a couple of South Polars from their larger, bulkier cousins, and some individuals that defied identification.
Our final two days around the Peninsula were spent even farther south. We explored the Errera Channel, visiting Cuverville Island one morning and Danco Island the next. In addition to the amusing antics of the Gentoo Penguins in both places, and the Leopard Seals, the most memorable highlight was the show put on by Humpback Whales. We had numerous up close and personal meetings with Humpbacks, complete with surround sound audio as they breathed out upon surfacing. Sandwiched between these two magical mornings were was a southward trek to visit the “Penguin Post Office”, officially known as Port Lockroy, an old outpost maintained by the British Antarctic Heritage Trust. In addition to the museum and shop, we had to be careful not to tread on the numerous Snowy Sheathbills and Gentoo Penguins.
We then turned our attention north once more, and ventured out into the open water of the legendary Drake Passage. We had a blessedly smooth crossing, though it was almost as uneventful for birds as it was smooth. A Cuvier’s Beaked Whale was a highlight, and we started picking up our old friends Great and Sooty Shearwaters as we approached Cape Horn, which Captain Mika gave us a nice drive-by of before continuing north to the Beagle Channel and ultimately the dock at Ushuaia.
From idyllic days with placid seas and landscapes saturated with late summer sunlight, to simultaneously snow and sun-dappled cacophonic penguin colonies, and to ship-heaving gales giving us a mere sliver of insight into what some of the first Antarctic explorers faced, we experienced a full spectrum of the Southern Ocean. It was a true pleasure to make this journey with such an interesting (and interested) group, and I hope to see each and every one of you again somewhere on this birdy planet of ours. Hasta luego!
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
While they appear pretty awkward on land, penguins are clearly in their element as they rocket through the water. This Gentoo Penguin could've convinced us that it had taken up base jumping as a hobby, with the cape of water it trailed behind as it leapt out of the water near Cuverville Island in Antarctica. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
BLACK-NECKED SWAN (Cygnus melancoryphus)
COSCOROBA SWAN (Coscoroba coscoroba)
Our first destination after leaving the mainland was the Falkland Islands (Las Islas Malvinas), and here our first avian bounty awaited us. From Steamer-Ducks to Albatross nests, we were entertained at every turn. Video by guide Doug Gochfeld.
UPLAND GOOSE (Chloephaga picta)
KELP GOOSE (Chloephaga hybrida)
ASHY-HEADED GOOSE (Chloephaga poliocephala)
Gold Harbor is one of the most scenic vistas on the mindbogglingly scenic island of South Georgia, and our landing at the King Penguin and Southern Elephant Seal laden beach was on a perfectly sunny morning. To say we struck gold would be an understatement. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
RUDDY-HEADED GOOSE (Chloephaga rubidiceps)
FLYING STEAMER-DUCK (Tachyeres patachonicus)
Southern Right Whale Dolphins!!!! These are one of the more enigmatic and difficult to track down marine mammals of the southern ocean, in large part because they are highly pelagic, and are typically in very deep water far removed from ship traffic. These dynamic dolphins are not closely related to either of the Right Whales, but they were so named because of one commonality: their lack of a dorsal fin. We encountered this pod of more than a hundred animals in an area of good marine activity midway between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. It was certainly one of our at sea highlights of the trip! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
FLIGHTLESS STEAMER-DUCK (Tachyeres pteneres)
FALKLAND STEAMER-DUCK (Tachyeres brachypterus)
CRESTED DUCK (Lophonetta specularioides)
Most of the Adelie Penguins had departed the colonies by the time of our arrival in their deep south breeding home, but there were still plenty around the ice of the Antarctic Sound. Their charming antics were a delightful part of of our first day in Antarctica. This one just seemed to want a big hug once it was done rolling around in the snow. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SILVER TEAL (Spatula versicolor)
RED SHOVELER (Spatula platalea)
CHILOE WIGEON (Mareca sibilatrix)
YELLOW-BILLED PINTAIL (SOUTH GEORGIA) (Anas georgica georgica)
Half Moon Island, just off the Antarctic Peninsula, is home to a breathtakingly picturesque colony of Chinstrap Penguins. There were also Wilson's Storm-Petrels entering and departing their rocky burrows on shore, and Half Moon was the landing during which those who wished took their polar plunge! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
YELLOW-BILLED PINTAIL (SOUTH AMERICAN) (Anas georgica spinicauda)
YELLOW-BILLED TEAL (Anas flavirostris)
The century old Church at the Grytviken whaling station was the most well-kept of all of the cultural landmarks from the whaling days of yore. Photo by Jennifer Johnson.
WHITE-TUFTED GREBE (Rollandia rolland chilensis)
GREAT GREBE (Podiceps major)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
ROCK PIGEON (Columba livia) [I]
If you can only see one woodpecker on a tour, having it be the New World's largest is a pretty good deal. Magellanic Woodpecker was perhaps our top target on our day trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park prior to embarkation, and the species came through for us in a big way. What a remarkable woodpecker! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SNOWY SHEATHBILL (Chionis albus)
BLACKISH OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus ater)
MAGELLANIC OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus leucopodus)
A visit to the Wandering Albatross colony on Prion Island allowed us to spend some quality time with these larger than life birds. We were close enough to see just how extensive the vermiculations on the body were, and just look at that sky blue orbital ring! This one got very alert at one point, when a Brown Skua landed in the tussocks nearby and started calling loudly. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
SOUTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus chilensis)
TWO-BANDED PLOVER (Charadrius falklandicus)
RUFOUS-CHESTED DOTTEREL (Charadrius modestus)
The southern seas have the highest diversity of true seabirds of anywhere in the world. We connected with 30 species of tubenose this year, ranging from widespread long-distance migrant species such as Wilson's Storm-Petrels, to cold water specialists like Antarctic Prions and Light-mantled Albatrosses, and of course the longest-winged animal on earth: Wandering Albatross. This video will remind you of their mastery of the oceanic sky, regardless of the conditions (and don't forget about those awesome Southern Right Whale Dolphins!). Videos by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Calidris fuscicollis)
SOUTH AMERICAN SNIPE (MAGELLANIC) (Gallinago paraguaiae magellanica)
Cobb's Wren is found in very few easily accessible locations, and luckily we connected with several of these oddly proportioned, large-billed, tussock-loving wrens during our landing at Carcass Island. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Stercorariidae (Skuas and Jaegers)
CHILEAN SKUA (Stercorarius chilensis)
SOUTH POLAR SKUA (Stercorarius maccormicki)
BROWN SKUA (SUBANTARCTIC) (Stercorarius antarcticus lonnbergi)
Here we are enjoying that idyllic morning on the placid Cooper Bay shortly after the stunning sunrise. Chinstrap Penguins, South Georgia Pipits, Macaroni Penguins, Giant-Petrels, and mesmerizining kelp were some of the attractions which we were able to enjoy during our pre-breakfast zodiac cruise. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
BROWN SKUA (FALKLAND) (Stercorarius antarcticus antarcticus)
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
BROWN-HOODED GULL (Chroicocephalus maculipennis)
DOLPHIN GULL (Leucophaeus scoresbii)
KELP GULL (Larus dominicanus)
Think about how big King Penguins are. Then look at how dwarfed they are by these impressive Southern Elephant Seals. They are truly elephants of the pinnipeds. Photo by participant Dan Williams.
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea)
SOUTH AMERICAN TERN (Sterna hirundinacea)
ANTARCTIC TERN (Sterna vittata)
The massive colonies of King Penguins on South Georgia bring to mind the saying, adapted this way and that over the centuries: "For those who have seen it, no explanation is necessary. For those who have not, no explanation will suffice." Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
KING PENGUIN (Aptenodytes patagonicus)
ADELIE PENGUIN (Pygoscelis adeliae)
GENTOO PENGUIN (Pygoscelis papua)
South Georgia Island has mountains approaching 10,000 feet high (it hosts the highest peak in any territory under the sovereignty of the UK), and the weather up top is often not a reflection of the weather on the beaches. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
CHINSTRAP PENGUIN (Pygoscelis antarcticus)
MAGELLANIC PENGUIN (Spheniscus magellanicus)
MACARONI PENGUIN (Eudyptes chrysolophus)
Macaroni Penguins are abundant on South Georgia, but they nest in largely inaccessible, steep, mountainous areas of the coast. We had a very good experience with the accessible colony at Cooper Bay, but we experienced them most frequently during their daily foraging transits as we navigated the coastal waters around the island. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SOUTHERN ROCKHOPPER PENGUIN (Eudyptes chrysocome)
GRAY-HEADED ALBATROSS (Thalassarche chrysostoma)
BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS (BLACK-BROWED) (Thalassarche melanophris melanophris)
It's always fun to recruit a new birder, especially when that new birder is a bird itself! In actuality, this King Penguin seemed especially curious about what was physically inside the scope, rather than what could be seen by looking through it. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
LIGHT-MANTLED ALBATROSS (Phoebetria palpebrata)
ROYAL ALBATROSS (SOUTHERN) (Diomedea epomophora epomophora)
Light-mantled Albatrosses are surely one of the most beautiful and elegant of all the albatrosses, which is really saying something! We got to enjoy these quite a few times as we got into colder water, including a few individuals that hung with the ship for a couple of minutes each. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
WANDERING ALBATROSS (SNOWY) (Diomedea exulans exulans)
Oceanitidae (Southern Storm-Petrels)
WILSON'S STORM-PETREL (Oceanites oceanicus)
Here is a video compilation of some of the memorable moments during our three days around South Georgia Island, perhaps the single most important island for breeding seabirds in the world. Penguins, pipits, albatrosses, and more penguins! Video by guide Doug Gochfeld.
GRAY-BACKED STORM-PETREL (Garrodia nereis)
BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL (Fregetta tropica)
BLACK-BELLIED STORM-PETREL (GOUGH STORM-PETREL) (Fregetta tropica melanoleuca)
Brown Bluff, our Antarctic continental landing, was really shining upon our arrival. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
SOUTHERN GIANT-PETREL (Macronectes giganteus)
NORTHERN GIANT-PETREL (Macronectes halli)
SOUTHERN FULMAR (Fulmarus glacialoides)
Cape Petrels joined the ship as we got into colder southern waters. This was one of the most badass birds we encountered, as they leisurely cruised around the ship during the height of the strong storm off of Elephant Island, and were also seemingly enjoying (if one could be forgiven to anthropomorphize) the windy snow squalls that we encountered the day prior. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
CAPE PETREL (ANTARCTIC) (Daption capense capense)
SNOW PETREL (Pagodroma nivea)
KERGUELEN PETREL (Aphrodroma brevirostris)
We had an excellent cruise for Soft-plumaged Petrels, seeing these aerial acrobats on several days, and tallying almost 700 for the trip. Their frequent presence during our sea days was a consistent highlight- they truly are at home on the breeze of the southern ocean. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SOFT-PLUMAGED PETREL (Pterodroma mollis)
BLUE PETREL (Halobaena caerulea)
FAIRY PRION (Pachyptila turtur)
Can you ever have too many King Penguins? Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
ANTARCTIC PRION (Pachyptila desolata)
SLENDER-BILLED PRION (Pachyptila belcheri)
GRAY PETREL (Procellaria cinerea)
Seabirds, seabirds, seabirds! Here an adult Gray-headed Albatross leads its tubenose compatriots, a White-chinned Petrel and an Antarctic Prion, as they glide across the bow of Ortelius. Indeed the penguins are phenomenal, and the ice is jaw-dropping, but the diversity and number of seabirds is definitely one of the major attractions of any voyage in these waters. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
WHITE-CHINNED PETREL (Procellaria aequinoctialis)
WESTLAND PETREL (Procellaria westlandica)
We were fortunate enough to encounter Leopard Seals in several locations, including this inquisitive one around Prion Island in South Georgia, much farther north than any of the others we sighted. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
GREAT SHEARWATER (Ardenna gravis)
SOOTY SHEARWATER (Ardenna grisea)
MANX SHEARWATER (Puffinus puffinus)
LITTLE SHEARWATER (SUBANTARCTIC) (Puffinus assimilis elegans)
The sun breaking through some dark clouds to light up the higher slopes of an icy Antarctic landscape. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
COMMON DIVING-PETREL (Pelecanoides urinatrix)
SOUTH GEORGIA DIVING-PETREL (Pelecanoides georgicus)
MAGELLANIC DIVING-PETREL (Pelecanoides magellani)
We even had the priviledge of seeing Elephant Island, where Ernest Shackleton's men endured four and a half months of the southern winter while waiting for rescue in 1916. We happened to be there during the roughest weather of the trip, with a morning gale that raged up to 75 miles per hour, though it was surely but a shadow of what the crew of the Endurance faced a century earlier. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
NEOTROPIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax brasilianus)
MAGELLANIC CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax magellanicus)
SOUTH GEORGIA SHAG (Phalacrocorax georgianus)
The Angels of the Antarctic, Snow Petrels put on good shows in a couple of places during our sea voyages in cold water and then around the pack ice of Antarctica. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
IMPERIAL CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax atriceps atriceps)
IMPERIAL CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax atriceps albiventer)
ANTARCTIC SHAG (Phalacrocorax bransfieldensis)
Antarctic Prions could be counted on to be around the boat during our at-sea segments of the trip from South Georgia southwards. The deep bill base and the well-marked face are good characteristics to separate it from its similar congeners that occur in this region. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (FALKLANDS) (Nycticorax nycticorax falklandicus)
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
ANDEAN CONDOR (Vultur gryphus)
TURKEY VULTURE (SOUTH TEMPERATE) (Cathartes aura jota)
We weren't quite following in Ernest Shackleton's footsteps, but it was awe-inspiring to see the barren place in which he and his men were marooned, under seemingly harsh weather which would probably have been par for the course for what they endured. Thankfully, we only had to experience this for one morning, and we were staying put in the lee of the island, rather than motoring through through the open seas. Video by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
BICOLORED HAWK (CHILEAN) (Accipiter bicolor chilensis)
VARIABLE HAWK (Geranoaetus polyosoma)
BLACK-CHESTED BUZZARD-EAGLE (Geranoaetus melanoleucus)
It wasn't all about Antarctic birds. The bizarrely shaped Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle was one of our Argentinian highlights before we set sail. Photo by participant Dan Williams.
AUSTRAL PYGMY-OWL (Glaucidium nana)
RINGED KINGFISHER (Megaceryle torquata)
MAGELLANIC WOODPECKER (Campephilus magellanicus)
The dawn brought a brilliant red sunrise as we cruised into the Antarctic Sound at the tip of the Antarctic Penguins. Ice fields, towering glaciers, Leopard Seals, and charming Adelie Penguins were just some of what awaited our entrance. Video by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
WHITE-THROATED CARACARA (Phalcoboenus albogularis)
STRIATED CARACARA (Phalcoboenus australis)
SOUTHERN CARACARA (Caracara plancus)
CHIMANGO CARACARA (Milvago chimango)
Ice, ice, baby. The infinite iterations of ice were one of the otherworldly highlights of our sojourn in the south. Photo by participant Barbara Williams.
AMERICAN KESTREL (SOUTH AMERICAN) (Falco sparverius cinnamominus)
PEREGRINE FALCON (Falco peregrinus)
Psittacidae (New World and African Parrots)
AUSTRAL PARAKEET (Enicognathus ferrugineus)
Furnariidae (Ovenbirds and Woodcreepers)
BUFF-WINGED CINCLODES (Cinclodes fuscus)
Gray Petrel is a scarcity on this route, but we tallied nearly a hundred, including many that approached the boat quite closely. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
BLACKISH CINCLODES (Cinclodes antarcticus)
GRAY-FLANKED CINCLODES (Cinclodes oustaleti)
DARK-BELLIED CINCLODES (Cinclodes patagonicus)
We saw White-bridled Finch in a couple of spots in the Falklands, but the beach around Stanley provided most excellent views of this striking male. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
THORN-TAILED RAYADITO (Aphrastura spinicauda)
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
TUFTED TIT-TYRANT (Anairetes parulus parulus)
Our evening cruise through West Cumberland Bay after our first full day at South Georgia provided an otherworldly sunset over the stark mountainscape, with icebergs glowing blue all around us. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
WHITE-CRESTED ELAENIA (CHILEAN) (Elaenia albiceps chilensis)
AUSTRAL NEGRITO (Lessonia rufa)
DARK-FACED GROUND-TYRANT (Muscisaxicola maclovianus)
FIRE-EYED DIUCON (Xolmis pyrope)
South Georgia Pipit is the farthest south breeding passerine on the planet. It is resident on South Georgia, where it endures the long winter foraging along the exposed ground and rocks along the coast. Even with the better summer conditions that alow them to roam the island more freely, they still must put up with some harsh weather. Here, a late summer snow squall at Salisbury Plain didn't seem to phase this pipit in the slightest. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
CHILEAN SWALLOW (Tachycineta leucopyga)
HOUSE WREN (SOUTHERN) (Troglodytes aedon chilensis)
COBB'S WREN (Troglodytes cobbi)
Once we got to Antarctica, it was time to explore. We travelled through the Errera Channel and the Garlache Strait, landing at Half Moon Island, Port Lockroy, and Danco Island. After our couple of days around the peninsula it was time to head back across the thankfully calm Drake Passage. Video by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SEDGE WREN (AUSTRAL) (Cistothorus platensis falklandicus)
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
AUSTRAL THRUSH (MAGELLAN) (Turdus falcklandii magellanicus)
AUSTRAL THRUSH (FALKLAND) (Turdus falcklandii falcklandii)
Oakum Boys, the colloquial name for furry brown young King Penguins, were scattered widely in the various King Penguin colonies on South Georgia. This one at Salisbury Plain was taking a bit of a time off from its normal ritual of begging for food to survey the incredible vastness of its colony...or maybe the odd gore-tex clad interlopers. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
Motacillidae (Wagtails and Pipits)
CORRENDERA PIPIT (FALKLANDS) (Anthus correndera grayi)
Did we see the sought after Striated Caracara well on the Falklands? I'd say so, and Charley probably would too! Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SOUTH GEORGIA PIPIT (Anthus antarcticus)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
BLACK-CHINNED SISKIN (Spinus barbatus)
Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)
RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (PATAGONIAN) (Zonotrichia capensis australis)
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
LONG-TAILED MEADOWLARK (Leistes loyca falklandicus)
AUSTRAL BLACKBIRD (Curaeus curaeus)
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
PATAGONIAN SIERRA-FINCH (Phrygilus patagonicus)
WHITE-BRIDLED FINCH (Melanodera melanodera)
Passeridae (Old World Sparrows)
HOUSE SPARROW (Passer domesticus) [I]
We didn't win trivia night, but there was no reason not to be beaming after this spectacular voyage. Photo by participant Karen Walz.
PEALE'S DOLPHIN (Lagenorhynchus australis)
HOURGLASS DOLPHIN (Lagenorhynchus cruciger)
COMMERSON'S DOLPHIN (Cephalorhynchus commersonii)
The river rushing out into St. Andrew's Bay was an obstacle for our expedition participants as well as the King Penguins, especially the molting ones who wanted to keep dry. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE DOLPHIN (Lissodelphis peronii)
LONG-FINNED PILOT WHALE (Globicephala melas)
We had some truly magical experiences with Humpback Whales during our time around the Antarctic Peninsula. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
ORCA (Orcinus orca)
CUVIER'S BEAKED WHALE (Ziphius cavirostris)
ANTARCTIC MINKE WHALE (Balaenoptera bonaerensis)
Grytviken was the epicenter of early 20th century whaling around South Georgia, and the remnants of this dark period in our ecological history are still very visible here. Tucked away in the modest cemetery at extreme left is the grave of Ernest Shackleton. It was the site of our first South Georgia landing, and we had our first taste of the island's King Penguins, Southern Fur Seals, and South Georgia Pipits here. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SEI WHALE (Balaenoptera borealis)
FIN WHALE (Balaenoptera physalus)
HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae)
Black-browed Albatross was among the most widespread of our seabirds, and one of the most common to boot. They also didn't seem to quibble about the weather, as this one was flying circuits behind the ship as we made our way through a morning blizzard. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SOUTH AMERICAN SEA LION (Otaria flavescens)
ANTARCTIC FUR SEAL (Arctocephalus gazella)
Northern Fur Seals were an ever-present sight for us at our landings throughout South Georgia, and this leucistic pup was one of three or four of these "one in ten thousand" morphs we encountered in our travels. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
SOUTHERN FUR SEAL (Arctocephalus australis)
CRABEATER SEAL (Lobodon carcinophagus)
LEOPARD SEAL (Hydrurga leptonyx)
Whether in the sunshine or in a snow squall, the King Penguin spectacles at South Georgia Island are not ones to be missed. Photo by guide Doug Gochfeld.
WEDDELL SEAL (Leptonychotes weddelli)
SOUTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL (Mirounga leonina)
The scale of the icebergs in Antarctica was truly impressive. To get a sense of it, check out those tiny little penguin specks way at the bottom left of the berg. Photo by Jennifer Johnson.
Totals for the tour: 121 bird taxa and 18 mammal taxa