Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ON BOARD PLANCIUS: October 25, 2010

TO: debi@shearwaterjourneys.com

FROM: Debi Shearwater Cabin 602

OCTOBER 25, 2010

Howdy, Birders,

On tap for today, we again have three different landings scheduled. In
the morning wake up call, Troels announced that the full moon was just
about to set! We began our day's activities with a landing at Ocean
Harbor. This site is one of the sunniest and warmest areas on the
island. It certainly was so for us! The broad sandy beach is backed by a
large expanse of level ground on a glacial outwash plain. Here, REINDEER
were grazing amongst the small braided streams lined with bright green
moss. Remains of the 1920 whaling station could be found on the plain.
The wreck of the Bayard, a steam locomotive and a handful of graves were
also visible relics. The decks of the Bayard are now covered with tussac
and support a breeding BLUE-EYED SHAG colony, several pairs of ANTARCTIC
TERNS and KELP GULLS. The beach was covered with elephant seals of all
ages, including several very large bulls.

Mid-morning, we landed at nearby Godthul, 6 km north. On shore, small
groups of elephant seals and a scattering of fur seals greeted us. Many
in the group hiked up the tussac hillside where a small GENTOO PENGUIN
colony was observed. A very few folks who had previously visited this
landing, hiked up the tussac slopes in search of LIGHT-MANTLED SOOTY
ALBATROSSES, who would be prospecting for their nest sites at this time
of year. Considered by many seabird lovers to be one of the most
dreamily beautiful of all albatrosses, the LMSA as it is affectionately
called, breeds in small colonies on high rocky ledges. The white,
half-moon shaped eye arc of feathers above the eye and long,
wedge-shaped tail give this species an unmistakable silhouette. Their
extremely graceful flight is even more pronounced as courting pairs
duet-fly. Their mournful calls ring and echo across the narrow, rock
walls of the harbor. Indeed, Don returned to the ship with absolutely
stunning images of this lovely albatross!

After a hot lunch, our Expedition Leader, Troels, prepared us for a
landing at Cobblers Cove about 2 km northwest of Godthul. This site is
named after the White-chinned Petrels, also known as the "shoe maker"
due to the sounds they make, which nest here. Forewarned that it would
be a very, very wet Zodiac landing, we packed up our cameras in our
waterproof bags. The objective of the this landing site was to hike to
the large MACARONI PENGUIN colony on the other side of the landing site.
It was a very, very steep hike to the top of the saddle. Some waited up
here, while REINDEER (introduced to the islands) passed in herds and
giant petrels scouted for nesting sites. But, most of the folks hiked to
the 4 km down to the Macaroni "colony." As it turned out, only ten
individual penguins were present! It is early in the season, and they
had not yet arrived. Nevertheless, these few Macaroni Penguins were a
delight to find. Hiking down the scree slope to the Zodiac landing, many
of us opted for the easy route, and slide down the snow covered gully on
our butts! Completely soaked on our return Zodiac ride to the ship, we
welcomed a hot shower. Recap and dinner followed. We also received an
update on the mountaineering group informing us that they were doing
quite well in their progress to Fortuna Bay.

LMSAs forever,
Debi Shearwater
On board Plancius; South Georgia Exclusive Voyage

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