1 Mar 2024

17 Jan 23 - The Antarctica Trip - Leaving Port Stanley, Falklands

It was time to leave Port Stanley. Personally, I would have liked a full day around the area. But the distances meant if we left at lunchtime, we would be able to enjoy two landings on the first day in South Georgia, whereas, a full day in the Falklands, would mean losing a landing in South Georgia. It's always a compromise in planning landings in the Southern Oceans, before the ship has to plan for any adverse weather. Another factor is the landings need to be booked months in advance with the South Georgia authorities to ensure that there wouldn't be two expedition ships looking to land passengers at the same location on the same day. Only one hundred passengers are allowed to be ashore at any time, which was fine as that allowed all our passengers to land together. But some of the larger ships have twice that number of passengers and their landings have to be staggered and shortened. The logistics of having two ships at the same location would be far more complex to manage and most importantly there would be a bigger impact on the wildlife.
One of the outer bays in the channel leading to Port Stanley: I was scanning all the bays and beaches as we left Port Stanley, in the hope of a Commerson's Dolphin. One of the Peale’s Dolphins is just visible in front of the beach
As we sailed out of the bay leading to Port Stanley, I picked up a pod of distant Dolphins. They were near to the beach (in the previous photo) and they clearly did not wanting to come & check out us. Initially, all we could see were they had prominent dorsal fins. There are several potential Dolphin species in the Falklands: Risso's Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Dusky Dolphin, Hourglass Dolphin, Peale's Dolphin, Southern Rightwhale Dolphin and Commerson's Dolphin. The first two species are right on the edge of their extensive world range.
Peale's Dolphin: All it is possible to say on this view is it is either a Dusky Dolphin or a Peale's Dolphin
Very quickly most of these species can be eliminated. The colouration and shape rules out a Risso's Dolphin. The lack of a distinctive beak and the patterning rules out Bottlenose Dolphin. Hourglass Dolphin can be ruled out as they don't have the well-marked patterning on the sides of the body. Southern Rightwhale Dolphin is very distinctive black and white marked species and it doesn't have a dorsal fin. Finally, Commerson's Dolphin has a very broad-rounded dorsal fin & looks more like a Porpoise, than a classical Dolphin. This just leaves Dusky Dolphin or Peale's Dolphin as the only likely species.
Peale's Dolphin: The dorsal fin shape looks different as it starts to go under
Peale's Dolphin: Further into the dive
Peale's Dolphin: Another individual came up at the left hand side of my view through the camera. It seems to have a pale stripe behind the dorsal fin
Finally, one of the Peale's Dolphins jumped out of the water and it was possible to see the dark facial pattern which confirmed this was a Peale's Dolphin.
Peale's Dolphin: The dark facial pattern, pale sides to the body and lack of a pronounced beak rules out the other candidates
Dusky Dolphin: One of the Dusky Dolphins from the first evening in the Beagle Channel which shows the short beak, but the pale stripes that continue through the face (14 Jan 23)
We didn't see any other species of note until we reached the open sea. Here we were greeted some large feeding flocks of Sooty Shearwaters.
Sooty Shearwater: A large feeding flock of Sooty Shearwaters
Sooty Shearwater: Another party of Sooty Shearwaters on the sea just before we reached them
Sooty Shearwater: About one hundred thousand pairs of Sooty Shearwaters breed on the nearby Kidney Island. They also breed on the temperate & Subantarctic Islands from South Chile & the Falklands to South Australia & Tasmania, Macquarie & the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands
The numbers of Seabirds quickly dropped off as we left the coastal parts of the Falklands, but we stuck it out on deck anyway.
Southern Royal Albatross: Southern Royal Albatrosses can be separated from the similar looking Northern Royal Albatross by the narrow white leading edge to the wings
Southern Royal Albatross: A second individual. This is the nominate epomophora subspecies of Royal Albatross according to Clements. The other subspecies is Northern Royal Albatross which IOC split and is another future armchair Tick when I switch to IOC taxonomy
Southern Royal Albatross: A third individual. This is an immature & I think it's a 1st year individual. Adult Southern Royal Albatrosses have a white band on the inner secondary coverts which narrows as it reaches the bend in the wing: this area remains black in Northern Royal Albatrosses
Southern Royal Albatross: The third individual. Southern Royal Albatrosses breed on the Campbell & Auckland islands and Northern Royal Albatross breed on Chatham Islands & New Zealand's South Island. Both Royal Albatrosses range throughout the Southern Oceans
Snowy Wandering Albatross: This is a Snowy Wandering Albatross and it is the nominate exulans subspecies which breeds on South Georgia. Clements lumps all the Wandering Albatross subspecies, whereas, IOC splits Wandering Albatross as Snowy Wandering Albatross, Antipodes Wandering Albatross, Tristan Wandering Albatross & Amsterdam Wandering Albatross. This is a third cycle which I think corresponds to second (Southern) summer based up the more commonly used UK moult terminology
Soft-plumaged Petrel: We saw the first Soft-plumaged Petrel of the trip & one of my favourite Pterodroma Petrels
Soft-plumaged Petrel: This monotypic species breeds on the subtropical to subantarctic islands including Tristan da Cunha & Gough Islands, Marion, Crozet, Kerguelen & Amsterdam islands in the South Indian Ocean, to Maatsuyker Island, to the South of Tasmania and Macquarie & the Antipodes Islands to the South of New Zealand
We would have two more full days at sea before we reached South Georgia.