Friday, March 14, 2008

Falkland Trip: Sea Lion Island

Silver Teal
Sea Lion was an incredible place to end our trip. Be prepared to walk everywhere on this island... we were able to hitch a ride to the end of the island and walk back on one day but the rest of the time we hoofed it (no offense to the sheep). It really helps you decide what photo equipment is REALLY necessary when you know you have to carry it over uneven tussac and spongy peat bogs. The best day I had, I slung my 300mm on my back and threw an extender in my pocket with a few spare cards and headed out. I overheard a few guests saying that they weren't going to bother with the other end of the island because there was so much going on by the lodge. I feel sorry for them because I know they missed a lot.

The first afternoon my friend Jeff and I hiked cross country (well, he hiked; I stumbled, tripped, swore and twisted my ankle more than once - staying on top of those little tussac mounds is trickier than it sounds) to Long Pond. Along the way we found an insanely cooperative snipe... I mean really... a head shot of a snipe???!!! When we got to the pond it appeared to be empty with the exception of a few upland geese resting by the shore. Appearances are often deceiving.
The Crazy Snipe

When we arrived at the far shore I saw my first silvery grebe, then another and another. They were so tiny I had missed seeing them with my cursory scan of the lake. Chiloƫ wigeon, speckled and silver teal and Patagonian crested duck were also hiding in the reeds around the lake.
Southern Giant Petrel
At the far end of the island are some amazing cliffs where you can watch the giant southern petrels fly past at eye level. They look prehistoric to me and HUGE.

The island has quite a few two-banded plovers (named for the two black bands on their neck and chest) and I was lucky enough to find a nest with a chick and an egg. Mom sat on the nest while I ate my lunch nearby and seemed more annoyed with the tussac birds than with my presence.

Two-banded plover on the beach

Back at the lodge we found more southern elephant seals, gentoos galore, a juvenile king penguin, skua and magellanic penguins. Another woman in our party found a rock cormorant colony and I explored a petrel colony though I kept quite a distance from the petrels as they will often abandon their nests if disturbed.

Yet again, I found myself wishing for more time (and a stronger set of knees) on this amazing island. I am dreaming of going back and know that someday, somehow I will get my week pl
us in each of these locations and many more that I didn't get to visit. Pebble, Bleaker, the Jason's are all out there and calling to me. I'm told that the South gets under your skin, one trip is never enough and I believe them.
Reeds at Long Pond

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