20 May 2018

27 Mar 18 - The Estancia Harberton Cetacean Museum

I visited Estancia Harberton in my first trip to Argentina in 1998. At the time the museum wasn't open to visitors. However, it has since opened its doors to the public. Glenn had been saying one of his friends had visited the museum & had been impressed, so we decided to give it a go after the Beagle Channel cruise. It would have been a lot quicker had we been able to get off the boat for an hour on the cruise to look around the Estancia, but that wasn't possible. So having got back to Ushuaia, then I was happy to return by car for the late afternoon for a quick visit.
The original Estancia phone
The museum is dedicated to the study of stranded Cetaceans, other marine Mammals & Birds from the Argentinian Tierra Del Fuego area. It was set up by the late Natalie Goodall, who was the wife of the Estancia manager. It contains the skeletons of 2700 Cetaceans & marine Mammals, as well as, 2300 Birds. There is a small team of staff who work on preparing future skeletons (from stranded corpses by slowly & naturally cleaning up the skeletons) and showing visitors around the museum. Apparently, the museum gets a number of scientific visitors who which to spend more time studying the skeletons as it is such an extensive collection. I thought it was well worth a visit. Before entering the museum, we had to visit the main building to buy an entrance ticket & check out the chocolate cake (good choice).
An old storage bottle from C&E Morton, London
Sperm Whale head: One of the exhibits that is too large to house in the current museum space
Sperm Whale head
Sperm Whale lower jaw
Sperm Whale teeth
Baleen Whales: Can't remember which ones they are
Cuvier's Beaked Whale: One of the most widespread of the Beaked Whales & species I'm still to see
Cuvier's Beaked Whale teeth
False Killer Whale: With an Orca for comparison
Spectacled Porpoises
Burmeister's Porpoise
Southern Right Whale Dolphin: with a Bottlenose Dolphin head
Commerson's Dolphin
Peale's Dolphin
Southern Sealion
Magellanic Penguin
King Penguin: with photo-bombing Crab
All too soon it was time to pick up Geoff & Josh on the approach road & head back to Ushuaia. I had to return the car before the airport closed. A small lake on the approach road held a few Ducks.
Crested Duck
Bahama Pintail
Having been unable to get into La Campana National Park in Chile at night, I still needed Rufous-legged Owl & there was an Owl trip planned for that evening. While we did see Rufous-legged Owl, I cannot recommend anybody else to go with local guide Marcelo, who is the worse person I've even been owling with. I've spend a lot of time looking for Owls in the tropics & have a pretty good success rate of seeing them well if they respond to tapes. If Owls have come in close, then it is often possible to find their silhouette before turning on the torch. Failing that then it is often possible to work out where they are calling from before turning on a torch. Marcelo approach involved putting his torch on far too quick & then wave it around randomly as soon as he heard a close calling Owl. This was not helped by not listening to directions from people who were telling him where it was sitting. All this random torch waving resulted in the inevitable result of the Rufous-legged Owl rapidly disappearing. We did get a few brief additional views as a result of the same random torch waving technique, as surprisingly it carried on calling. All in all, it was very amateur-ish in my opinion given he is suppose to be the top Ushuaia guide & the price per person was over-inflated. There was another trip into the National Park the following day, which I didn't go on given my lack of good impressions of the Owl trip.

19 May 2018

27 Mar 18 - The Penguin Parade

After two or three hours cruising down the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia we finally reached Estancia Harberton. For those with more time, it is possible to stay at the Estancia which would be an interesting option, however, we didn't have the time to get off the boat this time with the Atlantic Odyssey starting the following day.
Estancia Harberton: The Estancia is another few minutes in the boat beyond these sandier cliffs
Arriving at Estancia Harberton: The Estancia is the oldest farm in the Argentinian part of Tierra Del Fuego having been build in 1886. It was declared an Argentinian National Historical monument in 1999
Estancia Harberton: Most of the buildings are old wooden original buildings with a lot of character. The Estancia is a mixture of a farm & tourist resort. There is also an interesting museum within a few minutes walk of the quay
Whale bone entrance gate: While this appears to be harping back to an earlier decade when whaling was regular, these may be from a stranded whale corpse (as the museum is dedicated to studying Cetacean & Seal strandings in the Argentinian part of Tierra Del Fuego)
Ringed Kingfisher: This is the stellata subspecies which occurs in Southern Chile & Argentina as far North as NE Argentina. It is replaced by the nominate subspecies in the rest of South & Central America which just sneeks over the border into Texas (but don't tell Trump that)
Having dropped a few people off at the Estancia who were staying there, we headed onto one of the other attractions on the Estancia, the Penguin parade. There is a colony of Magellanic Penguins with a smaller number of breeding Gentoo Penguins in it. The boat slowed approached the beach before just pushing the bows up onto the beach. Again something the Penguins are well used to & they seemed at easy.
Gentoo Penguins & Magellanic Penguins on the beach
Gentoo Penguin: The Gentoo Penguins were hanging around in one large party on the beach (with some Magellanic Penguins burrows behind)
Gentoo Penguin: This is the nominate subspecies which occurs outside of the Antarctic Peninsula & South Sandwich Islands
Gentoo Penguin: Nearly finished moulting
Gentoo Penguin
Gentoo Penguin: This one still has some way to go
Magellanic Penguin burrows: Magellanic Penguins prefer to nest in burrows. Gentoo Penguins nest on the surface: they occur further south where presumably it would be much harder to dig burrows
Magellanic Penguin: The welcome committee weren't ready for out arrival
Magellanic Penguin: At least this one was ready
Magellanic Penguin: Penguin couch potato
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin
Magellanic Penguin: This juvenile was one of the more advanced individuals on the beach. Presumably Magellanic Penguins breed later than the Gentoo Penguins as there weren't many youngsters on the beach
Magellanic Penguin: Most of the juveniles seen were still losing their downy fluff
Magellanic Penguin: Penguin homage to one of the sketches in Life of Brian
Magellanic Penguin: My approach to getting in the sea
Magellanic Penguin: A bit more adventurous than me
Magellanic Penguin: This one is also cautious
Magellanic Penguin

18 May 2018

27 Mar 18 - Cruising In The Beagle Channel

In the last Post I covered the highlight of the Beagle Channel boat trip to Estancia Harberton which was seeing Blackish Cinclodes. However, the rest of the trip down to Estancia Harberton is really good. Soon after leaving Ushuaia the boat stopped just off the first of several small rocky islands. We stopped at several islands for a few minutes & each island had a good selection of Seabirds & Southern Sealions on them. It looks like most islands get at least one visit during the tourist season & the Birds didn't seem stressed by our close approach.
One of the small rocky islands
One of the small rocky islands: Space was at a premium
We weren't the only boat that morning
There was a good selection of Seabirds and other wildlife on the rocky islands.
Black-browed Albatross
Black-browed Albatross
Black-browed Albatross
Black-browed Albatross: I saw over a hundred Alberts with several large groups sitting on the water
Southern Giant Petrel: The pale greenish tip is hardly visible on this individual, but it would be a pastel-red colour in Northern Giant Petrel
Antarctic Fulmar
Antarctic Fulmar
Antarctic Fulmar: Not a hard species to pick out in the Southern Oceans for European Birders
Antarctic Fulmar 
Rock Shag: Adult. A deceptive photo as it doesn't show their white belly
Rock Shag: Immature. Rock Shags are also called Magellanic Shags
Imperial Shags were the commonest of the Shags on the rocks
Imperial Shag
Imperial Shag: This is the nominate atriceps subspecies which is found in Argentina & Chile. The other subspecies occurs on the Falklands
Imperial Shag: Showing the extent of the white on the upperwing
Imperial Shag
Flightless Steamerduck: The grey body feathers, thicker bills and obviously short wings confirms these are Flightless Steamerducks. This photo can be compared to the Flying Steamerduck photo in the On The Waterfront Post
Snowy Sheathbill: This species occurs from Southern Chile & Argentina, the Falklands & South Georgia & down to the pack ice
Rufous-chested Dotterel: Some of the 25+ roosting individuals on one of the islands
Chilean Skua
South American Tern: The common Sterna Tern in Tierra Del Fuego
Southern Sealion: There was a significant number of Sourhern Sealions on one part of the island
Southern Sealion: I like the postures of the left hand two individuals
Southern Sealion
Southern Sealion: Not quite sure why all the odd head positions, but guessing it is to expose different parts of the head to the sun
Southern Sealion: One of the local bulls
Southern Sealion: Trying to look like a Porpoise
Southern Sealion: But it gives itself away in the next second
Argentinian mountain: I would how many pairs of White-bellied Seedsnipe there are in this photo
Argentinian mountains: The guide on the boat was saying the glaciers in the last ice age were about a km deep, resulting in the mountain tops being exposed. This explained the jagged, weathered mountain tops compared to the smoother lower tops
A Chilean Skua flies over the lower, rounded Argentinian mountain tops
Argentinian mountain
Beagle Channel with Chile in the background
Patrol Boat OPV-83 Marinero Fuentealba patrolling the Chilean side of the border: some bow-waving Dolphins would have been good