Saturday, March 28, 2009



MARCH 27 on board Professor Multinovskiy- We spent a lovely day,
cruising Antarctic Sound in sunshine, with icebergs, bergy bits, brash
ice, and the huge tabular ice all around. Huge numbers of Leopard Seals
were lying on the ice floes, while small packs of Gentoo Penguins
porpoised amongst the floes, and occasional Antarctic Minke Whale fins
broke the surface. Feeding Humpback Whales were still about. A single
ANTARCTIC PETREL was spotted sitting near an iceberg with a group of 3
Cape Petrels! And, I spotted the first SNOW PETREL of the trip in the
ice. We made a continental landing at the Argentinc station, Esperanza.
Guides gave us a tour of the area, including the Nordenskoljd hut. Tea
and some "retail therapy" were provided! On the nearby beach, two
Weddell's Seals were "singing"-- first time I have ever heard/seen this!
A wounded Crabeater Seal was lying nearby. Afterwards, we relocated the
ship to Brown Bluff for another continental landing. What a change 7
days has made--- as the entire area was now covered in snow, with long,
frozen icicles hanging from the cliffs. We Zodiac cruised the en route
to our landing site, in order to have closer views of the Leopard Seals.
And, indeed, we enjoyed some close ups-- including the interior of the
mouth of one! Many Gentoo Penguins & Antarctic Fur Seals were on the
beach. One single Adelie Penguin was still present. Darkness was
falling when the last Zodiac returned.

MARCH 28- Today, we are making our way to the South Orkney Islands,
where we hope to land tomorrow. More Snow Petrels, and Light-mantled
Sooty Albatrosses were spotted. Quite a few FIN WHALES, and one group of
SOUTHERN BOTTLENOSE WHALES were spotted. Cruising has been very easy,
with little swell or winds. Fog has set in this afternoon.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Staff: Shearwater Cabin 518


Professor Multinovskiy departed Ushuaia, Argentina about 6 pm,March 24,
sailing for the Weddell Sea. For the past two days, our crossing has
been one of the most blissful crossings that I have ever had of the
Drake Passage! Weather and viewing conditions have been superb, with
horizon to horizon visibility, and not a whitecap in sight!
Unimaginable, considering our last crossing. The lesson here is to let
one's imagination run wild, as anything is possible in this region. We
are the very last ship this season to visit the Antarcitc region.

Wildlife highlights have included: Southern Royal, Wandering (Snowy &
Antipodean), Black-browed, Gray Headed, & Light-mantled Sooty
Albatrosses; both giant petrels, Kerguelen Petrels in good numbers; one
White-headed Petrel, King, Chinstrap, & Macaroni Penguins swimming in
the water (not usual in the Drake!), and many of the usual bird species.
Marine mammals have included: Long-finned Pilot Whales, large numbers of
Hourglass Dolphins; Fin, Humpback, and Sei Whales. We are really off to
a great start!

This morning, we are now cruising the stunningly beautiful Bransfield
Strait, with snow on the mountains, and gorgeous tabular ice all around
us-- and calmness that is amazing!

All the best,
Debra Shearwater
(Please do not reply)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Wakeup call at 6:30 a.m. Inside the Gerlache Strait, but pretty much snowed in! Snow covered the bow of the ship, and was coming at blizzard force outside. Cuverville Island, a small rocky island, lies in the Errera Channel between Arctowski Peninsula and Ronge Island, just off the western coast of Graham Land. Gentoo Penguins, Southern Giant Petrels, Kelp Gulls, Antarctic Terns, Pale-faced Sheathbills, Brown Skuas, and South Polar Skuas are confirmed breeders. The Gentoo Penguin colony is the largest in the region, with a minimum breeding population of 4, 818 pairs in 1994.

A new plan was made to land on Cuverville Island, keeping the ship in the lee of the winds. This was our wettest and coldest Zodiac landing of the trip. Very wet snow pelted our eyes, and gusts of wind almost knocked us over on shore. Beautiful snow algae lined the snow cliffs. About 1000 Gentoo Penguins were about, along with a few downy chicks, who would soon become food for the Brown Skua fledglings. Molting adults frequently ate bits of snow. Circular piles of rocks, some containing a tail feather or two, or perhaps, a bone indicated the remains of this season's nest sites. A few giant petrels patrolled the shoreline, as well. Today, winter appears to be imminent.

Back on board by 11:30 a.m., we repositioned the ship to Neko Harbor. Plagued by fog, we were not able witness the spectacular scenery.



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Wakeup call at 6:30 a.m, to watch the ship entering Neptune's Bellows, Deception Island. Deception Island is most noted for its geology, being the largest of three volcanic centers in the South Shetlands. Deception has erupted in 1800, 1812, 1842, 1871, 1912, 1956, 1967, 1969, and 1970. Neptune's Bellows is a narrow opening to the half-moon shaped bay. Unfortunately for us, we were socked in with fog which prevented us from enjoying this very scenic area. Nevertheless, we landed at Fumerole Bay in heavy mist. Both Argentine and Spanish research stations are on these shores, but not open to visitors. Very little wildlife was present at the landing site. So, I photographed the rocks, lichens, and mosses. One lonely adult Gentoo Penguin was in catastrophic molt on the beach. A flock of Kelp Gulls at the water's edge was constantly harassed by two skuas. A single WILSON'S STORM-PETREL flew out from the scree rocks, as I walked the beach. Presumably, they nest in this scree. I walked to an active fumerole, and could also see bubbles, like champagne, along the nearshore.The long hikers walked up the ridge to the top of the caldera rim, halfway down the outside and down to the CHINSTRAP PENGUIN colony. During the breeding season as many as 100,000 chinstraps are present, but this late in the season, only 2000 were present. Two SOUTHERN GIANT PETRELS, SUB-ANTARCTIC SKUAS, and six HUMPBACK WHALES which were feeding offshore! 

During lunch, we repositioned to the Whaler's Bay area of Deception Island. Our good luck with the weather seems to be running short. As, now we were confronted with gale force winds of 20+ knots. Troels announced a "standby" for future announcements, pending our scheduled afternoon landing at Whaler's Bay. The hike to Bailey Head is already canceled, as we cannot get far away from the ship in bad weather. Some hearty souls landed at Whaler's Bay where they had views of some of the whaling artifacts. And, soon it was time to return to our home on board Professor Multanovskiy, and meet for recap in the bar. A delicious salmon dinner was enjoyed by all. During the night, we once again crossed the Bransfield Strait and then into the Gerlache Strait. 

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Antarctica, South Georgia, & The Falkland Islands: January 5-24, 2010
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A 6:30 a.m. wake up call in calm, foggy seas, was followed by breakfast at 7 am, and our very first landing at 8 a.m. on King George Island in the South Shetland Island group. We were pretty excited, as this was a new island for Don and I, as well as the expedition staff. We landed on the Fildes Peninsula, near the Russian Research Station, Bellingshausen. We hiked over to the other side of the peninsula and some hiked even longer. Verdant valleys lit up by the cushion mosses spp. and crustose lichens Xanthoria, spp. made this the "greenest" landing that I have ever seen in the Antarctic region. On the landing beach, we were greeted by this year's fully grown GENTOO PENGUINS (300). BROWN SKUAS (30- some with leg bands: VCO, VH5) were patrolling the beaches and the research stations, while a few IMPERIAL SHAGS (4) landed on the inshore waters. The real thrill was finding 6 or 7 WEDDELLS' SEALS on the beaches. One had sustained an injury, possibly from a Leopard Seal, especially judging by the number of inside out penguin carcasses on the beach. We also saw a few SOUTHERN ELEPHANT SEALS (11), and ANTARCTIC FUR SEALS (28). Quite a few SOUTHERN GIANT PETRELS (12) were about, and Don saw two WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS which popped off the scree slopes. A PALE-FACED SHEATHBILL landed on the lifeboat! KELP GULLS (6) were still around. The CHINSTRAP PENGUINS (100) put on quite a show, always boisterous, they seem to be the most pugnacious of all penguins! Some of these hatch year birds were so funny— picking up stones, and then seeming to look around, as if to say, "Now what do I do with this?" Bear in mind that this is the very end of the season, and nearly all of the wildlife has departed! The Antarctic season is best compared to the breeding season in the high Arctic, and not the temperate zones where most of us live. Once nesting is over, birds quickly depart.

Chinstrap Penguin image by Debra Shearwater
In the afternoon, we made a brief visit to the Chilean station for some "retail therapy" of which there is very little in this region. Also, a stop in the post office was made for stamping of passports.

Several countries have research stations on the Fildes Peninsula, including Russian, Chile, China, Uruguay, Argentina, Poland, Korea, Brasil, Peru, and Yugoslavia. We were told that each country is hoping to have a stake in the minerals that might some day be mined (!) in AntarcticaThe only airstrip in all the Antarctic Peninsula region capable of landing a large aircraft is located here. My personal opinion of this site is that is grossly misrepresents the "pristine" Antarctica, as trash is everywhere— littering all of the beaches. Save Our Shores needs to be hired to come in and clean the place up and teach these research stations a thing or two about trash! This was a raw introduction to the dark side of Antarctica.
We departed King George Island about 7 p.m. heading into the Bransfield Strait and Antarctic Sound, and on to Dundee Island.



PO Box 190, Hollister, CA 95024

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Friday, March 13, 2009



This morning we awoke to a dusting of snow on the jagged peaks of the mountains, and steady rain throughout the day. Nevertheless, we managed to bird the entire day. Hundreds of BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSSES plied the Beagle Channel along with SOUTHERN GIANT PETRELS (20), CHILEAN SKUAS (100), SOUTH AMERICAN TERNS (100), ROCK, IMPERIAL and NEOTROPIC SHAGS. On the road, we saw GRAY-FLANKED CINCLODES (1) and DARK-FACED GROUND TYRANTS (2). The "old" dump has not existed for years, but driving along the road to the new dump, we were able to see CHIMANGO CARACARA (50), SOUTHERN CRESTED CARACARA (18), and the much sought after WHITE-THROATED CARACARA (6). In addition, about 800 KELP GULSS and a handful of DOLPHIN GULLS were at the dump. A bonus bird, perched in a tree near the road was a BLACK-CHESTED BUZZARD EAGLE! This was the closest I have ever been to a buzzard eagle. After a quick breakfast in town, and a visit to our favorite natural history ```bookshop, a business meeting at Hotel Albatros, and pumping some air into a deflating tire, we headed to Tierra del Fuego National Park.

Birdlife was incredibly quiet inside the park. Maybe, it was the rain. Chimangos were everywhere, and I started to call them, Chickenmangos. Pishing finally brought on the THORN-TAILED RAYADITOS— at least 50 or more, all but landing on my head. They very much remind me of the little Bushtits in California, mobbing like crazy. Four of five, WHITE-THROATED TREERUNNERS were so agitated that they made their little cricket like sounds. Half a dozen AUSTRAL THRUSHES were feeding on some dark blue berries. Along the many lakes we found GREAT GREBES (6+ 2HY), YELLOW-BILLED PINTAILS (12), CHILOE WIDGEONS (4), FLYING STEAMER DUCKS (2), but missed the Spectacled Duck. Several UPLAND GEESE, along with 3 goslings were feeding along the roadside, ever so tame! We managed a couple of GRAY-HOODED SIERRA FINCHES, and several RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROWS. Our big miss of the day was the Magellanic Woodpecker! We checked several places where we have seen them in past years with no luck. We stopped at a spot where we have previously seen Rufous-legged Owl at night— and, immediately heard the rayaditos mobbing an owl!! But, darned if we could see any owl in the thick, dark forest. It was a very long day, with a late dinner in town.

A few corrections on yesterday's log entry! Hey, I'm blaming it on jet lag! Seriously, there are a few identification snags that always get me in this area. The reported Ashy-headed Geese of yesterday, were in fact, Upland Geese. And, the steamer ducks always seem so difficult, but I think that we saw both Flying and Flightless Steamer Ducks, yesterday. Hey, I know the two that were at the lake today, were Flying Steamer Ducks, else how the heck did they get there! We do not have a spotting scope with us. And, the reported Silvery Grebe, was in reality a WHITE-TUFTED GREBE (no ID problem there, I was just brain dead).

Well, tomorrow, we hope to get up to the Martial Glacier to hunt for the White-bellied Seedsnipe, which I have never seen, but the weather forecast does not sound promising at all! Well, there you have it— a few hours of birding yesterday— when it was balmy, and we were casually sitting on the beach photographing the waterfowl, and a full day of birding today in rain, rain, rain.

At 4 pm tomorrow, we shall board Professor Multanovskiy and set off for the Drake Passage! For now, I hope that you will enjoy Don Doolittle's image of the raindrop covered BLACK-CHESTED BUZZARD EAGLE!

Til' tomorrow,




PO Box 190, Hollister, CA 95024

Antarctica, South Georgia, & The Falkland Islands: January 5-24, 2010

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Thursday, March 12, 2009


Hello, Adventurers,

After 26 ± hours, Don and I have arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina— the town that calls itself, "Fin del Mundo," End of the World. Our travel here went remarkably well with no hitches with airlines or luggage! We departed San Francisco, California about noon yesterday for the 5 hour flight to Miami, Florida. Once, there, we connected to our eight hour American flight, non-stop to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We arrived on time, proceeded through immigration, which took about 40 minutes, and then claimed out bags, and made our way through customs. At the Aerolineas Argentina ticket counter, we learned that for $25 we could jump on an earlier flight, thereby avoiding a 5 hour wait for our scheduled flight! By the time we purchased the new ticket, the flight was boarding. Luckily, this was a non-stop flight, as often a stop is made at Rio Gallagos. Three and a half hours latter, we were on the ground at the small, but growing Ushuaia. The flight up the Beagle Channel was spectacular, with the jagged mountains all around.
On the ground, we wasted no time in renting a car, and began birding right at the airport ponds, and along other shorelines. Old friends, posed for our cameras: CHIMANGO (8) and SOUTHERN CRESTED CARACARA (9); KELP (350) and DOLPHIN GULLS (12); a couple ASHY-HEADED GEESE (3), many KELP GEESE (50) foraging on kelp; CRESTED DUCKS (200), CHILOE WIDGEONS (20), YELLOW-BILLED PINTAILS (30) FLYING STEAMER DUCKS (18); SOUTHERN LAPWING (4); NEOTROPICAL (12), IMPERIAL (30), and ROCK (3) SHAGS; MAGELLANIC (80) and BLACKISH (70) OYSTERCATCHERS; SOUTH AMERICAN TERNS (50); SILVERY GREBE (2); AMERICAN KESTREL (2), and GRAY-FLANKED CINCLODES.
After a couple of hours of birding, we checked in at Hostal Malvinas. Our friend and expedition leader, Troels, joined us for coffee. Dinner was at our favorite restaurant, Volver, which specializes in crab.
All flights on time, luggage delivered, a good start on birding, only a little bit of rain— we are off to a great start.

Debra Shearwater, Charter Master 2010
Don Doolittle, Expedition Photographer

PO Box 190, Hollister, CA 95024
Antarctica, South Georgia, & The Falkland Islands: January 5-24, 2010
Exclusive charter with Debra Shearwater
Only 3 cabins available

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Howdy, Birders,

On my mail run today, I made a few ramblings around San Benito County (SBT). The most significant find was 529 LONG-BILLED CURLEWS on Quien Sabe Road (N3648/W2115). They were using both sides of the road, circling flights of flocks as small as 33 birds, and as large as 380 birds, calling as they flew. They would settle down, feeding on the ground. I did count each bird. Apparently, this area is extremely important to them, as I have seen flocks of hundreds here in past years, too. This location is just beyond the intersection of Quien Sabe Road and Santa Anita Road— a wonderful grassland area, studded with oaks. At that intersection last June, I saw a badger. Bobcats are regularly seen there, too. After venturing just a short distance up Quien Sabe, I turned around and headed for Santa Anita, again. A Burrowing Owl has been hanging around the same area as the curlews, but I did not see it today. 

As I made my way down the road, I noticed a commotion of Turkey Vultures, Ravens, Yellow-billed Magpies, and an adult BALD EAGLE. So, I stopped the car and turned the engine off since I was sure that they were all on some sort of kill. I did not want to disturb the feeding process. Eventually, I saw the eagle fly to an oak tree, where it perched, shredding some sort of guts. Magpies and ravens were jostling on nearby branches for bits and pieces. 

Had a nice drive down Santa Anita Road, with no particularly unusual birds. A GREAT-HORNED OWL was sitting on a nest in a eucalyptus tree. This is a great road in the spring! California Poppies and lupines were in bloom along the roadside. In another 10 days, it will be hopping with migrant kingbirds, I suppose.

Speaking of kingbirds— quite a few CASSIN'S KINGBIRDS have been around in the county-- mostly on Santa Ana Valley Road. I saw one today at mm 4.42. This is not too far from the ranch where twelve years ago, Al de Martini, Dave Shuford and I confirmed nesting Cassin's and Western Kingbirds in the euc trees. A soaring COOPER'S HAWK was being dive-bombed by two BARN SWALLOWS in Santa Ana Valley. A few days ago I saw 600+ VIOLET-GREEN and TREE SWALLOWS soaring over the fields at the edge of the mountains. SAVANNAH SPARROWS dotted the fences. 

On John Smith Road, at the newly created pond at Guerra Vineyards, a male MERLIN was perched in a small tree while a Coot swam in the pond. 

Spring is coming--

Debra Shearwater
Shearwater Journeys, Inc.
PO Box 190
Hollister, CA 95024

**Antarctica, South Georgia, & The Falkland Islands, January 5-24, 2010* 
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