Birding the Falkland Islands – A week on the Falkland’s

11birdPhotographer: Barry Walker

The Falkland Islands lie 450 kilometers off the Argentine coast and are one of the most interesting and unusual South American birding destinations. During the Austral summer (October to March) the islands are inhabited by hundreds of thousands of seabirds that mass in great flocks This spectacle of penguins, albatrosses, cormorants and terns is reason enough to visit the Falklands. There are colonies of Elephant Seals, South American Sea lions and Peale’s Dolphins patrol the harbors. Visits are made to large King, Gentoo, Magellanic, Rockhopper colonies as well as Black-browed Albatross colonies. The scenery is often reminiscent of the Scottish islands, but there is a mix of familiar and unfamiliar. In many ways, the islands are essentially British in character but the South Atlantic exerts its own influences and the sight of huge Elephant Seals hauled out on sandy beaches, or Southern Giant Petrels and Dolphin Gulls gliding along the Stanley shoreline and bathing endemic Falkland Steamer Ducks, indicates that the birds and wildlife has more affinities with Antarctica! Black–browed Albatross. Formerly difficult to visit except by expensive cruise ships, the weekly LATAM flight makes this an easy and economical addition to our Chilean Endemics tour. Still remote, the construction of Mount Pleasant airfield and the 2-hour flight from Punta Arenas, combined with the provision of comfortable tourist accommodation on a number of islands, has made the Falklands accessible. Magnificent sandy beaches, the equal of any in the tropics, are invariably deserted except for loitering Elephant Seals or Sea lions, Trees are scarce, but ubiquitous thickets of gorse add a vivid splash of color to each settlement and offer a safe nesting place for Austral Thrushes. Target land birds include Striated Caracara, Blackish Cinclodes, Black-throated Finch and Cobb’s Wren (endemic).

Day 1: The weekly LATAM flight from Santiago or Punta Arenas in Chile arrives and departs at Mount Pleasant International Airport every Saturday. We’ll transfer overland to Stanley, the islands capital, for one night’s accommodation at the Malvina House Hotel. The hotel offers facilities expected of a modern hotel, including an excellent restaurant where the chefs utilize local produce and offer inspirational menus to make your mouth water. There is a Sauna and Jacuzzi facility to aid relaxation and an Internet station for those who need to keep in contact. We’ll see our first Upland Geese, Rufous-chested Dotterel, Long-tailed Meadowlarks and maybe the local race of Correndera Pipit. Having dropped off our bags we’ll take an afternoon boat trip to the nearby Kidney Island. This is a two hours offshore boat trip “chumming” for seabirds. Black-browed Albatrosses should be the first to appear in droves with lots of Southern Giant Petrels and some White-chinned Petrels. Great Albatrosses are always a possibility along with the smaller Mollyhawks. Southern Fulmars are possible and possibly some deep ocean seabirds such as Cape Petrel and Wilson's Storm Petrel. We may find big rafts of Sooty Shearwaters and Great Shearwater is a possibility. Falkland Islands Flightless Steamer Duck. Kidney Island is roughly kidney-shaped, as its name suggests, and lies about 0.5 km off the coast of East Falkland, at the southern entrance to Berkeley Sound. At least 34 species have been recorded breeding on Kidney Island since 1960. The most numerous is the Sooty Shearwater, which was apparently confined to the western headland and steep north-western slopes in the 1930’s, but now burrows around the coast and well inland. Kidney Island has one of only three known Falkland breeding colonies of White-chinned Petrels. It is also the only definite breeding site for Great Shearwater outside the Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island group in the South Atlantic. Grey-backed Storm-petrels breed, but are very difficult to count. Common Diving Petrels traditionally bred but have not been found nesting in recent years. Night Malvina House L.D
Day 2-3: To-day we take an internal flight to Saunders Island –population 5! We shall base ourselves at “the settlement” that is reminiscent of a bird observatory in the 1950’s. Saunders Island is around an hour’s flying time from Stanley, three miles off the north-west coast of West Falkland. The ruins of Port Egmont, the first British settlement in 1765, are a 30-minute walk away. We will be warmly welcomed by the owners David and Suzan Pole-Evans and enjoy their superlative Island hospitality and excellent home cooking. It is one of the Falklands supreme wildlife sites, with Gentoo, Rockhopper, Magellanic and rare sighting of Macaroni penguins. Since 1980 a small breeding colony of King Penguins has become established. Four species of raptors, King and Rock Cormorants, Black-necked swans and many other shorebirds are easily accessible from the settlement or at the many and varied wildlife ‘hotspots’ around the island. However, the attraction to the wildlife enthusiast is undoubtedly the Black-browed albatross colony which stretches along the north coast from The Neck, so named because it is a narrow sandy isthmus between two high parts of the island is about an hour’s 4-wheel drive away and we’ll spend the balance of one day here observing the amazing seabird and Penguin colonies. The northern beach is covered in stunning white sand pounded by majestic surf. The wildlife colonies continue along the north coast to Rookery Mountain. The “shower” formed by fresh water running down over the cliff and used by the Rockhopper Penguins to preen their feathers makes for great photographs. On rare occasions Fin and Sei Whales have been seen off the island. In all cases amazing photo opportunities abound, and Saunders Island is the perfect place to escape from the pressures of urban life. There are varied habitats, including wetland and permanent lakes, areas of dune formations and extensive steep cliff slopes particularly towards the northern and western coasts. There are more albatross and penguin colonies to the north and east of Rookery Mountain and we shall visit this site as well. B: L: D
Day 4-5: Short FIGAS flight to Carcass Island. We’ll spend two nights here. Carcass Cottage Islander Rob McGill and his wife Lorraine are the present-day hosts on Carcass, offering visitor’s superb hospitality and food a plenty! Home grown vegetables, organic meat and dairy produce are prepared in true "camp" style. Home baked cakes and biscuits for "smoko" and thick fresh cream and scones. Accommodation is comfortable and homely - all rooms are en-suite with showers. Carcass is easily explored by foot at leisure. In over 100 years of habitation, Carcass Island, named after HMS Carcass, has had three environmentally conscious owners who have avoided the introduction of rats and cats. This care and freedom from predation has made a difference that is immediately evident and needs to be experienced rather than described. Magellanic Penguins nest around the settlement and a Gentoo Penguin colony is a short walk away. There is also a large colony of Striated Caracara, a small Elephant Seal colony, King Cormorants and Black-crowned Night Herons to be found on the Island. Other birds we’ll look for include Ruddy-headed Goose, Blackish Cinclodes, South American Snipe, Black-throated (White-bridled) Finch and the endemic Cobb’s Wren. Kelp Geese and Flying Steamer Duck should be in evidence too. We’ll take a day excursion to West Point Island. We take to the seas on the MV Condor (capacity 10) which takes you across to West Point journey time is approximately 1 hour. We’ll be on the lookout for dolphins and sea birds on the way and we should be able to see Slender-billed and Dove Prions and Common Diving Petrels. Marshy areas should hold Yellow-billed Pintail, Chiloe Wigeon, Silver and Speckled Teals. Once at West Point we can explore the settlement and surrounding areas, such as Devils Nose Cliffs where wildlife includes Rockhopper Penguins, Black-browed Albatross and much more B: L: D
Day 6: Morning on Cracass Island and Internal flight to Stanley - transfer to Malvina House Hotel for 2 nights. A walk along the Stanley waterfront from our comfortable hotel will produce Rock Cormorants as they fly to their nests on an old shipwreck in the harbor, Crested and Falkland Steamer Ducks dabble in the shallows, and Southern Giant Petrels squabble with Kelp and Dolphin Gulls over tidbits discarded from fishing boats. We should see South American Tern. Stanley, situated in the North East of East Falkland, with a population of approximately 2,115 (2006 census) which is 85% of the overall population of the islands, (2478), is the most remote and smallest capital in the world. Despite its relatively small size, Stanley offers all the amenities and interests expected of a capital. A small, tidy and colorful town with a museum, war memorials The hospitality of the town's people is well known, B: L:
Day 7: A day excursion from Stanley to Volunteer Point is sure to rank among the tour highlights as we visit the King Penguin colony at the point. Falkland Steamer Ducks, Blackish and Megallanic Oystercatchers and Brown-hooded Gull will be around. Comical young King Penguins wearing their coats of thick down will be just the first of many indelible memories to take home from these extraordinary South Atlantic islands. Named after the ship Volunteer, Volunteer Point is part of the Johnson's Harbor Farm which covers around 36,000 acres. Volunteer beach is a 2-mile-long white sandy beach, bordered by high grassy banks that provide ideal habitats for three species of penguins: Gentoo, Magellanic and King. The Volunteer Point King penguin colony is the largest in the Islands, with around 1,300 adults, rearing 400 chicks each year. Over 1,000 pairs of Gentoo penguins are resident all year round at Volunteer Point, and many other bird species have been recorded in the area, such as several breeding pairs of Antarctic Skua who target penguins for eggs or young. B: L:
Day 8: Morning free for some souvenir shopping and then transfer to Mount Pleasant International Airport for your return LATAM flight to Punta Arenas and Santiago and connections home B:
Does not include air Santiago/Punta Arenas – Mount Pleasant – Santiago/Punta Arenas but we will do this on request – the price depends on when we get your full name, deposit and passport numbers – you can check current prices at www.LATAM.com and would be best booked as part of your air within Chile.

THIS CAN BE TAKEN AS AN EXTENSION TO THE CHILE PATAGONIA OR ALL CHILE TOUR

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Thanks for the trip report. We truly had a great tour with superb organization and expert guidance.

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