2 Apr 2018

2 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Five: South Georgia Pipit

Prion Island is another of the approved landing places for Expedition ships in South Georgia & lies within the Bay of Islands so it has the benefit of only being a short distance from Salisbury Plain. While we were having lunch after the morning at Salisbury Plain, the Plancius was moving location so it would be able to land us at Prion Island.
Sailing through the Bay of Islands: From the warmth of the observation lounge
A better close up
The South Georgia conservation team have constructed an excellent boardwalk through the vegetation from the beach, to minimise the impact that visitors have on the habitat. Once we landed we were told to walk quickly to the boardwalk & not to leave it, till we were at the bottom again & the Expedition team were ready to load us into the next zodiac. Another condition at Prion Island is there is a limit to the number of visitors who can be on the boardwalk at any time. Therefore, the plan was they would land the Petrels group, including myself, first & then carry out a zodiac trip with the Albatross group. At the end of the Albatross zodiac cruise, the zodiacs carrying the Albatross parties would go to the beach and land them & we would get into zodiacs for our zodiac cruise.
There was an excellent boardwalk through the vegetation towards the top of a nearly hill: This minimised the impact of people on the vegetation, but also to the large number of Antarctic Fur Seals which were in the Tussock Grass
The view from the boardwalk
As we were walking back to the beach, we found a couple of South Georgia Pipits feeding in the wet, bare stream bed next to the boardwalk. They were totally unfazed by our presence & happily carried on feeding allowing plenty of photo opportunities at only a couple of metres distance. It was good to see them well, given my views at Salisbury Plain were fairly brief.
South Georgia Pipit: They are the only Passerine on South Georgia, apart from any vagrant visitors
South Georgia Pipit: Not surprising they are endemic to South Georgia
South Georgia Pipit: Most of the South Georgia Pipits were only found on the offshore islands, due to the impact of introduced Rats on the mainland
South Georgia Pipit: Bath time
South Georgia Pipit: Now Rats have been eradicated from South Georgia, it is encouraging to see that South Georgia Pipits were returning to the mainland
South Georgia Pipit
Morton Jorgensen photographing one of the South Georgia Pipits: Just after this it walked under the boardwalk & headed off into the Tussock Grass. Morton was a passenger on the Odyssey, but switched to become the Expedition Leader for the West African Pelagic
Rat & Mice clearance on these isolated Seabird islands is so important. I would recommend anybody who wants to donate some money to conservation considers donating to removal of these introduced predators. One of the next projects will be to clear Mice on Gough Island in 2019 - people can find more information & donate here.
We needed to get going down the boardwalk as zodiacs were arriving to swap people over
One of the zodiacs arriving to drop some of the Albatross passengers off & collect us for our zodiac cruise
I was pleased to have had prolonged views of a couple of South Georgia Pipits. What I hadn't expected was I would see at another sixteen on the zodiac cruise as every little inlet within the rocks had at least two South Georgia Pipits feeding on the rocks.
Entering one of the inlets
South Georgia Pipit: Showing the habitat. I was nervous to get my main camera out in the zodiac, so switched to the SX60 which does have the disadvantage of not being as sharp & enhances the yellow/green colours in the photos
South Georgia Pipit: It's behind you feeding at the tide line
South Georgia Pipit: They were totally unworried by a zodiac next to us. On a couple of occasions, they flew off the rocks to hover over an approaching zodiac in curiosity
South Georgia Pipit: One of the things I got used to on the Odyssey was seeing the few Passerines in habitats that European Birders would not generally expect them to be. Most European Pipits tend to be open grassland species, albeit Rock Pipits would be fairly comfortable in this habitat. I guess given the limitations of food sources on a small island, mean they have adapted to take advantage of every food source
Mike Deverell pointing something out to Glenn Overington: I hadn't met either before before, but both became firm friends & we spent many enjoyable evenings in the observation lounge having a drink (albeit only tea in my case)
Zodiac cruise over it was time to head back to the Plancius