Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Falkland Trip: Carcass Island

Black-throated finch were abundant on Carcass

Carcass Island definitely spoiled me for the rest of the trip. We stayed at the home of Rob and Loraine McGill who own the entire island. I soon discovered that the island was not named for some sinister dead bodies but rather the HMS Carcass which surveyed the island in 1766. My room was anything but grim and came complete with a set of Hardy Boy books which made it so cozy and inviting. We had amazing breakfasts, they packed us excellent, albeit HUGE lunches, afternoon tea and cakes were always around and warm, filling dinners. It was hard to tear myself away from the charm of our hosts to go out and photograph. Luckily there was an amazing variety of birds to draw me out.

Female kelp goose on rocky beach

Before breakfast there was always time to catch the beautiful morning light on the beach. Kelp geese, speckled teal, Falkland steamer ducks, black oyster catchers, tussac birds, snipe and night heron wandered the each without a care in the world. After breakfast Rob piled us into the trusty Land Rover and drove us to the other side of the island where we were delighted to find a large king cormorant colony (also known as an imperial shag).

King cormorant coming in for a landing

Another day we explored the rocky shore near the landing strip. There I found a mad, dive bombing skua, a colony of kelp and dolphin gulls complete with adorable fluffy chicks, Magellanic Penguins and my favorites... Southern Elephant Seals. I watched the juveniles sparing in the water, practicing the skills they would need as they get older.

Southern elephant seals sparring

A short boat ride took us to West Point Island where we spent the day in the largest Black-browed Albatross colony in the Falklands. Interspersed with these huge birds were the tiny and comical rockhopper penguins. As I huddled in the tussac grass to get out of the wind that threatened to blow me off the cliff face, I was literally run over by more than one of these silly birds. They alternated between being curious and just down right indignant. As we crossed back to Carcass Island we watched the sea boil with Albatross, Petrels, Cormorants and dolphin as they all fed on the abundant fish. I could have stayed right there for two weeks and not seen everything or explored every nook.

Instead, after a few days we moved on to Saunders Island... we were not disappointed with what we found there!

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