Wednesday 4 December 2013

Falkland/Malvinas Islands – Bird Paradise!

To the unprepared mind, the Falkland/Malvinas Islands are just a speck of land somewhere down the globe, in front of South America. To people with some more information, they are an interesting geological curiosity: a piece of Africa that sailed across the Atlantic and now sits comfortably on the South American continental shelf.

To the lucky visitor, amongst which we can count ourselves, the islands are a beautiful land of gently rolling hills and precipitous cliffs – teeming with magnificent birds! Today, we were treated to see 2 aspects of this bird paradise.

In New Island, after a nice hike across pastures, we arrived to a natural amphitheatre carved into a cliff, where black-browed albatross, rockhopper penguins and blue-eyed cormorants nest together in relatively peaceful vicinity. Albatrosses were busy courting, and remodelling their impressive, multi-layered nests made of mud and grass; penguins were methodically patrolling the neighbourhood to steal as many pebbles as possible from the neighbour’s nests; cormorants were stretching their necks to show off their elegant profiles and tufts, as if to say: look how beautiful I am! Meanwhile, skuas, cara-caras and vultures patiently flew overhead, waiting for the opportunity to snatch breakfast from the unsuspecting/distracted parents…

In West Point Island, we also hiked across to the cliffside, to be met by a powerfully agitated sea crashing against the imposing rock walls. The golden afternoon light was superb, the air teemed with juvenile albatross learning the art of flight, all manner of geese paraded the beach with their chicks following in train, we had dolphins accompanying the boats on our return to the ship – what a wonderful day!