1 Apr 2018

1 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Four: At Sea From Ushuaia To South Georgia - Macaroni On The Menu

After leaving the Shag Rocks we were still Birding keenly, as we were within a day from South Georgia with the hope of a few of the breeding South Georgia species putting in an appearance.
Fishing Boat: I wasn't expecting to see this fishing boat as we left the Shag Rocks given we were inside South Georgia waters, where fishing is tightly controlled
Fishing Boat: Even less expecting to not be able to figure out the boat's name
The highlight of the rest of the day was our first Macaroni Penguins & Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses of the trip.
Macaroni Penguin: I saw them on two of the three days in South Georgia, but it's always good to see a new Penguin. Penguins can be tricky to see far out to sea & this one was no exception: it quickly dived. I also saw a handful of King Penguins & Gentoo Penguins, but all escaped the camera
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross:
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross: A cracking Albatross
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross: They breed throughout the Subantarctic islands & range as far North as 35 degrees South
Light-mantled Sooty Albatross: The Albatrosses, Petrels & Shearwaters book by Onley & Scofield state that moult isn't well understood for the Sooty Albatrosses, but in line with other species that breed biannually, then they probably moult the inner primaries in one year & the outer primaries in the following year
Northern Giant Petrel: Adult. As they get older they become whiter. The grey cap and white lower face which contrasts with the mottled underparts helps to confirm this as a Northern Giant Petrel
Northern Giant Petrel: Adult. Additionally, the darker bill tip confirms the identification (Southern have a uniform pale greenish bill). I've noticed a number of the Seabirds have drips of water on their bill which is how they remove excess salt
Kerguelen Petrel: Good to see more of these Pterodroma Petrels
Kerguelen Petrel: Upperwing shot
Fairy Prion: At last a decent Prion photo. The well defined M shape on the wings, broad tip to the tail, white underwing & pale grey sides to the breast that gently merge into the rest underparts help to identify this species
Fairy Prion: Not a sharp photo, but it does show the underparts
Common Diving-petrel: Diving-petrels are not easy to identify in this part of the South Atlantic, but I think this one is a Common Diving-petrel. In fresh plumage, South Georgia Diving-petrels have while scapulars & white fringes to the secondary coverts & a contrasting pale upper collar which contrasts with the greyer supercilium. The collar & facial pattern is more uniform on Common Diving-petrel
Common Diving-petrel: All photos are of the same individual. The strong bill & protruding feet also point towards Common Diving-petrel
Common Diving-petrel: This looks to have a dusky grey patch on the upper sides of the breast again pointing towards Common Diving-petrel (whereas South Georgia Diving-petrels have less of a grey patch on the sides of the upper breast). South Georgia Diving-petrels are also expected to show a cleaner white underwing
Wilson's Storm-petrel: The all dark belly & pale crescent wingbar identify this as the world's commonest Storm-petrel
Wilson's Storm-petrel: The white rump extends around the sides of the body to the edge of the vent and the long legs again help to identify this species
South Georgia Shag: It was no surprise to see another South Georgia Shag towards the end of the day
There were a couple of mandatory briefings in the afternoon: the zodiac & biosecurity briefings. The zodiac briefing was fairly quick & focused on getting in & out of the zodiacs safely & only moving quickly in & out of the zodiac when we were told to do so. We were also told to ensure that we had both hands free, but it was surprising the number of people who thought hands free still allowed them to carry a large camera in their hands.
Iceberg: This very large iceberg was my first iceberg. Even at over a couple of miles away it looked very long. The photo doesn't do it justice, but it extended to the right hand side of the photo
Iceberg: Close up of the edge. We would have liked to get closer as sometimes Snow Petrels or other Antarctic Seabirds can hang around these big icebergs, but this wasn't possible this time
Biosecurity is taken very seriously in South Georgia & Antarctic to ensure that anybody going ashore doesn't carelessly take any seeds or other plant material ashore. Fruit & other similar foods were also banned from being taken ashore. So it was good to see a thorough biosecurity briefing. This also included how to behave when ashore & not to get too close to the wildlife or stress it. Afterwards, we were called to the observation lounge in groups so we could vacuum clean any clothing or bags we were planning on taking ashore, to ensure there was no plant material attached to them. All the South Georgia landings were expected to be wet, but as the ship had supplied us with insulated wellies for the landings, that wasn't expected to be a problem. In preparation for the trip, I had bought a dry-bag rucksack from Overboard which was excellent. I could get my 7D Mark II and 100-400mm lens, along with the little SX60 in my 15 litre rucksack: an excellent investment & I was hands free. The South Georgia landings were all landing into shallow water, but there is always the chance of a rogue wave or falling over as you get out of the zodiac. More likely was as the zodiacs were moving then waves were thrown up fairly often. Salt water is a killer of camera as one of the other Birders found out to his cost, when he forgot to shut his bag & later found water had been got into the bag. We were ready for our arrival at South Georgia in the morning & looking forward to getting ashore after four days at sea.