A Travellerspoint blog


Day 11: Bye Antarctica!

Deception Island, Antarctica

snow 34 °F

Today, our itinerary took the Coral Princess along Deception Island, which is actually an active volcano along the Shetland Islands just northwest of the Antarctic Peninsula. Following Deception Island, the ship began its track north through the Drake Passage for our next stop in two days: Ushuaia, Argentina — the southernmost city in the world! Before we approached Deception Island though, the Irish birders and I spotted several birds from outside the boat, such as these BROWN SKUAS:


When in Antarctica, expect a freak blizzard!

We were therefore afforded sub-par views of Deception Island, as well as a total dearth of birdlife due to the the bad weather conditions:

And as we were pulling away from the island, CHINSTRAP PENGUINS abounded, of which millions reside on Deception Island.

Bird-of-the-day to the Black-browed Albatross: I count myself lucky any day I see an albatross!

So a slower day today due to rain and fog, but hopefully tomorrow on the open sea will bring some wonderful pelagic birding!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1049 species (no life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 13:20 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Day 10: Gerlache Strait


semi-overcast 37 °F

Alright, let’s try this again! Earlier I accidentally hit to “publish” button for this post.

Today was our final major southward movement of our journey: last night we traveled to Admiralty Bay in order to make our morning destination: Gerlache Strait and Paradise Harbor, located on the northwestern (Pacific) side of the Antarctic Peninsula. (wifi in Antarctica is very spotty and that’s why I tried to simply include the bare minimum of photos in this post. Trust me, I took SO many)

Boy is it spectacular!

I raced to the front of the ship when the captain announced that he had Orcas in front of the ship, and sure enough, I was afforded a few brief glimpses:

BROWN SKUAS were numerous this morning:

There were a few WILSON’S STORM-PETRELS along, too.

And Paradise Harbor was breathtaking.

Antarctica is essentially covered by one large glacier, and every single bit of ice & rock forming the continent is stunning. One of my favorite things is spotting the vivid blue colors that can be seen in many ice patches, partially due to minerals and partially to reflection, I believe.

One of the more common penguin species, GENTOO was around in numbers.

Then, a BLUE-EYED CORMORANT flew by!!! Awesome — life bird!!!

I spotted a few very distant ADELIE PENGUINS at one point:

And at one point, I had the three common penguin species in one view: GENTOO, CHINSTRAP, & ADELIE.

This part of Antarctica is home to both BROWN & SOUTH POLAR SKUAS, both of which were seen today, and differentiation between them can be very tricky given varying light conditions. This skua appears to be almost sand-tan which means that it is 100% SOUTH POLAR SKUA (Brown Skuas are a deep chocolate brown), so this was a great bird to see down here! The two species have even been known to hybridize in the area, too.

Oh, and did I mention that it is beautiful here?!

At least 200 Humpback Whales put on an amazing show for us mid-afternoon! It was BREATHTAKING, like nothing we’d ever seen before!

Bird-of-the-day goes to my one life bird seen today, Blue-eyed Cormorant!

Stay tuned — tomorrow the cruise heads north for a morning arrival at Deception Island, Antarctica, where I am hoping to find some Snow Petrels and other nesting birds!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1049 Species (1 life bird today: Blue-eyed Cormorant)

Posted by skwclar 14:00 Archived in Antarctica Comments (1)

Day 9: Penguin Trifecta!

St. John’s Island, Antarctica

all seasons in one day 34 °F

Antarctica. The land of icebergs. The land of whales. And the land of penguins.

Immediately, icebergs proved themselves to be absurdly common along our circuitous route which weaved around the Antarctica Peninsula.

My first life bird of the day was from my stateroom window: SNOW PETREL! One of the birders confirmed that he had seen one exactly how I described it at the same exact time of my observation, so it was gratifying to nail down this ghostly-white bird! Unfortunately, it was too quick for photos.

CAPE PETRELS were still around in small numbers, trailing the ship and occasionally disappearing behind a rogue iceberg.

They were greatly outnumbered, though, by the most common petrel of Antarctica: SOUTHERN FULMAR.

Then, I spotted my life-bird ADELE PENGUIN (the one with a black face) along with three CHIN-STRAPPED PENGUINS resting on an iceberg, which can be great places for spotting penguins...

...as well as, SNOWY SHEATHBILL!!!!! I was out of my mind to find this white, pigeon-like bird because although I had seen one yesterday, it was from a great distance and went unphotographed. This was probably my #1 target for Antarctica because ever since I saw this bird in my Antarctica/S America bird guide, I was mesmerized.

And we had a FANTASTIC look at a SOUTH POLAR SKUA, a bird I have seen only a handful of times before.

At one point, our cruise ship circled around an iceberg that seemed to be so gigantic it could have very well landed a Boeing 747 on top! It was incredible and everyone was out on their balcony snapping photos.

Third penguin species for the day: GENTOO! Thus, a penguin “trifecta” (three species in one day)!

A nice BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS wandered by at one point.

And then, one of the other birders named Tom spotted its much more uncommon cousin which was just a lifer for me yesterday: LIGHT-MANTLED ALBATROSS! So, so awesome!

Humpback Whale, one of a number seen today:

ANTARCTIC TERN, another life bird just yesterday:

Some CHIN-STRAP PENGUINS as we approached St. Paul’s Island.

As well as an adult and juvenile BROWN SKUA:

The views of the Island were simply mesmerizing.

And best of all, it was home to so many ADELE PENGUINS:

And “so many” is an understatement: there were thousands, clustering up and down the hillsides:

I even spotted someone surveying the massive distant nesting colony:

Some GENTOOS were also in the area, foraging and bathing in the bay water:

Bird-of-the-day to the many Adele Penguins, with runner-up to the Snowy Sheathbill. Some AWESOME Antarctic birding and nature-viewing, and it’s just going to improve from here!

Stay tuned — tomorrow we will voyage even further south along the Antarctic Peninsula to the Gerlache Strait. Some target birds will be Blue & Antarctic Petrels, as well as some of the more uncommon penguin species (Emperor, Macaroni, etc) if we get lucky.

Good birding,
World Life List: 1048 Species (2 life birds today: Snow Petrel & Adele Penguin)

Posted by skwclar 17:00 Archived in Antarctica Comments (0)

Day 8: The most beautiful place in the world


snow 28 °F

Today, the Coral Princess completed her final approach to the outer Antarctic Islands. I was out birding around 9am, and like most days, found that there was a decent turnover in the pelagic species. Most of the Giant Petrels had left, and in their place were dozens of CAPE PETRELS:

And my life bird LIGHT-MANTLED ALBATROSS gave absolutely stunning views. These can be separated from the similar Sooty Albatross by their contrasting pale coloration on the back:

Icebergs are becoming more and more numerous as we continue to plug south, closer to the heart of Antarctica! But wait...what are those dots on the berg? Hmm...

Why, of course CHIN-STRAPPED & GENTOO PENGUINS! Classic example of Antarctica’s birdlife! The Chin-strapped were lifers for me!

They “porpoise” through the water, swimming underwater and then diving out in short spurts that are fickle for photographers trying to capture their playful character.

And oh, the scenery. Like NOTHING I’ve ever seen before. Possibly the most beautiful in the world:

Lifer #3 was the SOUTHERN FULMAR, many of these were seen today:

And #4 was the ANTARCTIC TERN:

One amazing sighting today was of my life bird SNOWY SHEATHBILL, a pigeon-like bird that I saw through one of the other birder’s scopes on the far cliffs. I was SO happy to see this bird nevertheless — it was one of my goals for this trip! Unfortunately, no photos of that beauty!

Bird-of-the-day to the Light-mantled Albatross with runner-up to the Snowy Sheathbill: some amazing Antarctic specialties!!!

Warning: during the next few days, wifi may be extremely patchy due to limited satellite coverage, so you may or may not be hearing me during the next few days. (that is also why I included so few photos)

Good birding,
World Life List: 1046 Species (5 life birds today)

Posted by skwclar 15:15 Archived in Antarctica Comments (3)

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