Thursday, February 06, 2014

Port Stanley and Gypsy Cove, Falkland Islands

We docked alongside the floating harbour in Port Stanley, during breakfast, and then were released onto the Island either on foot or making use of a bus service which was running to a pre-agreed schedule.  I'd opted to go on the first bus, to Gypsy Cove, with birds in mind, as had a number of others.  Gypsy Cove is a relatively short ride from the harbour and there were also a couple of return bus rides available.

We were shown maps of areas out of bounds due to mines, those thought cleared, areas to watch out for washed-up munitions, etc., basically it's a difficult landscape for the Islanders and indeed for the wildlife.  Aside from this however we were free to roam.

Gypsy Cove is both picturesque:


and a great wildlife site.  We saw a pair of King Penguins, our first, both at a reasonable distance and moulting, as well as Magellanic Penguins and King Shags.

One unexpected species (for me anyway) was the Black-crowned Night-Heron, here fledglings around the nest site:


We followed the path around the coast with a view to either following the coastline back to Stanley or cutting back across for one of the buses.  An Austral Thrush stayed close to the path as we walked along:


This is the view further around the coastline, looking back, a Peale's Dolphin was exploring the shoreline, always just a bit too far for a picture:


An Adult Black-crown Night Heron fed on the shoreline:


At one point we came across a group of Sea-lions:


I know you're not supposed to anthropomorphise but this does look like a tender moment:










The further we walked the fewer our number, until in the end we'd dwindled down to four intrepid birder/photographers.

I was surprised to see a Turkey Vulture sat on the rocks, this is a bird I associated with the USA:







A new species for me, was the Black-throated Finch:


And another, the Blackish Oystercatcher:



At first I thought this might have been a Cobb's Wren but it was my second Grass Wren, shame I didn't get a good picture of the Pipit that in turn led us to this bird:


Another Dark-faced Ground Tyrant:


At one point we passed a couple of locals who were out walking the path in the opposite direction, they assured us we were enjoying the very best day of the season and the best the Falkland Islands had to offer, even though it had been very nearly as good the previous day.  Suffice to say everyone agreed we were thus far very lucky with the weather.

A little further on again we encountered Magellanic Penguins on the shoreline:



I was chuffed to get close enough for some reasonable pictures of them.

The glamour bird, the Long-tailed Meadowlark, also put in appearance:


as did either a female or young adult male, I'm uncertain:


Close to the shore was another shipwreck, a familiar sight in the Falklands, with Stanley in the background:


Here you can see some of the tussock grass and moss growing just above the water line:


Once we'd gone almost full circle, pretty much right here in fact:



we saw a good number of waders in a tidal area of the shoreline, including Magellanic Oystercatcher, here feeding young:


and White-rumped Sandpiper captured in the moment it was pulling a worm from the mud:


By this time we'd decided to walk the whole way, which involved crossing a bridge frequented by heavy lorries, some were kind enough to slow down for us, some that is.

We found another part of the tidal shore and turned up the excellent Two-banded Plover:


We passed the entrance to the harbour (losing a quarter of our small group to the call of lunch aboard) and just thereafter saw the only Coscoroba Swans recorded on the trip:


We had a pretty good idea of the bus times from Stanley back to our boat so picked up our pace as we walked into town.  The first pub we visited didn't serve food and by now we were properly hungry so we moved on to the Victory Pub where more passengers were enjoying some creature comforts.  We ate, we drank and frankly the rest is a blur, though I do remember being on the bus for a while and then being back at the bar on the boat... good times :)

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