From the National Geographic Explorer in the Falklands

Nov 11, 2012 - National Geographic Explorer

Imperial shag with nesting material on New Island
Flightless steamer duck male with ducklings on Carcass Island

Falkland Islands

It was all about blue skies, light winds, sunshine, and birds, really. Our first full day on land revolved around the abundance that makes the Falkland Islands legendary. Peale’s dolphins guided the National Geographic Explorer into the calm waters of New Island this morning. This robust dolphin is highly coastal; and is frequently sighted in breeding groups around the islands.

We made our first landing on New Island, the most remote of the western inhabited islands and a protected wildlife reserve. Here 41 of the 61 known species in the archipelago breed regularly. Black-crowned night heron, Falkland thrush, long-tailed meadowlark, and dark-faced ground-tyrants were taking advantage of the spring weather as we walked from the sloping grassland to the western rugged sea cliffs.

Black-browed albatross soar along the vertical cliffs. Rockhopper penguins returning from the sea must scale these same steep walls. Imperial shags breed in close-packed colonies overlooking the sea. Prime breeding real estate is coveted by all three species, and your neighbor may not look at all like you. What a nice way to live. All the while, skuas, caracaras and gulls patrol, notorious for swooping attacks on unprotected eggs and chicks.

The afternoon at Carcass Island brought birds of a different feather. Magellanic and gentoo penguins, kelp and upland geese, flightless steamer ducks, tussacbirds, blackish and Magellanic oystercatchers, and even the diminutive Cobb’s wren were sighted here. But the bird who stole the show was definitely the striated caracara. This highly inquisitive bird is locally known as the Johnny Rook. This charismatic member of the falcon family investigates anything unusual that it finds, (including us) on the chance it may be edible. All the locals warn that any small items left unattended will be “Johnny Rooked.”

English tea served to be the perfect end at the farmhouse owned by the McGills, longtime friends of Lindblad Expeditions.

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