Today was our first of two scheduled days in the Falkland Islands, visiting Bleaker Island in the morning and Bull Point in the afternoon. The Falklands offer a very different experience, bridging the ecological gap between the remoteness of South Georgia and the South American mainland.
We found new species of penguins, southern rockhoppers and Magellanics, alongside others that we are now more familiar with, such as gentoos. Albatrosses are no longer the great soaring giant wanderers and royals, but the more abundant and elegant black-browed.
From South Georgia’s single land bird (South Georgia pipit), we are now returning to what for most of us is normalcy, with small birds hopping around our feet and birds wading near the shore. Land birds include dapper white-bridled finches, austral thrushes, meadowlarks, and blackish Cinclodes, locally named “tussac-birds.” Birds of prey are appearing in our binoculars again, with the rare striated caracara visiting the shore’s landing station.
Offshore, a number of sei whales were busy feeding near Bleaker Island, while Peale’s dolphins made a brief appearance.
Long hikes were welcomed by some after the sea days, while others preferred to explore alone. Some guests went on guided wildlife walks with the naturalists, seeing many of the species introduced to us during the previous evening’s presentations. The dune systems of Bull Point are a fine example of a mobile habitat. We saw how dunes are formed and stabilised, allowing for colonisation by low-growing plants away from the windswept and mobile fronts.
At the shore station on Bleaker Island, we enjoyed a socially distanced visit with the resident family and their wonderful son. They reminded us that there really are other human beings on the planet!
Unfortunately, the region’s forecast is deteriorating rapidly. We will have to cut our visit a little short and head for Ushuaia this evening to ensure safe passage. While disappointing, of course, it allows further opportunity for exploration around Ushuaia. With a full day at sea tomorrow, the adventure is far from over!