Category

Falklands

Stock Photo Gallery: Penguins!

Antarctica, Falklands, Galleries, Penguin, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean

Stock photography of Penguins

I’m gradually revisiting my website galleries and improving them, removing images of lesser quality (unfortunately a lot of those!) and updating existing galleries with new material. If you enjoy penguins please take a look at my collection of Penguin Photos. With one exception**, all of these penguin photos were taken on a single long trip I made to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and the Antarctic Peninsula (see my lengthy PDF trip journal if you want the deets, or you can view the same info as a series of blog posts). I was thrilled, nearly everyday of my trip to the Southern Ocean, to see penguins in the wild, sometimes in vast numbers, and I cannot wait to return to those places again. Within a few months of returning, one of the images was selected as the cover and inside spread in Nature’s Best, which was a real treat as I had not had an image published in that great magazine in some years. Thanks for looking!

Stock Photos of Penguins

King penguin colony. Over 100,000 pairs of king penguins nest at Salisbury Plain, laying eggs in December and February, then alternating roles between foraging for food and caring for the egg or chick.

** The exception is the Galapagos Penguin underwater photo which was made in, you guessed it, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

Surfing Penguins

Falklands, Penguin, Southern Ocean

Last year I got to cross off one of my bucket list items: surfing penguins. I was fortunate to see surfing gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) on New Island in the Falkland Islands. After hiking around some of New Island for most of the afternoon, visiting a couple of penguin and cormorant rookeries, I found myself at sunset on a gorgeous, long flat sand beach. The light was warm and gold, there was no wind and it was warm enough to wear just a light sweatshirt. All the others on the M/V Polar Star had left to return to the ship and I had the beach to myself, with penguins coming ashore from their foraging excursions in small groups. The gentoo penguins would ride the waves in at top speed, skizzing** across the shallow water and quickly flipping upright to land on their feet. Quickly they would shuffle across the beach and walk up onto the adjacent hills to find their nests and settle in for the evening.

Gentoo penguin coming ashore, after foraging at sea, walking through ocean water as it wades onto a sand beach.  Adult gentoo penguins grow to be 30" and 19lb in size.  They feed on fish and crustaceans.  Gentoo penguins reside in colonies well inland from the ocean, often formed of a circular collection of stones gathered by the penguins, Pygoscelis papua, New Island

Gentoo penguin coming ashore, after foraging at sea, walking through ocean water as it wades onto a sand beach. Adult gentoo penguins grow to be 30″ and 19lb in size. They feed on fish and crustaceans. Gentoo penguins reside in colonies well inland from the ocean, often formed of a circular collection of stones gathered by the penguins.
Image ID: 23830
Species: Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Location: New Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

**another invented word, my third this year. Skizzing is like “skimming” only much better.

Photography Expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands

Antarctica, Downloads, Falklands, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean, Wisdom

I’ve finally gathered blog posts and select images into an informal report of my trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands in January 2010, which is available along with my other articles, reports and downloads. This trip was so much fun, and so rich in wildlife and photography possibilities, that I am already planning two more trips to southern waters to see more. The blog posts from which this article originates are filed under “Southern Ocean“.

En Route to South Georgia Island

Albatross, Falklands, South Georgia Island, Southern Ocean

En Route to South Georgia Island, Wandering albatross in flight

Sunset clouds create a colorful arch, spanning the heavens from horizon to horizon, over the open sea between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island

Sunset clouds create a colorful arch, spanning the heavens from horizon to horizon, over the open sea between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island.
Image ID: 24073
Location: Southern Ocean

It is a three day sail from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia Island. Day 1 dawned with leaden gray skies that soon clear, at which time the weather can only be described as great, with following seas, light winds and very little swell. I spent the day on deck trying to photograph and identify seabirds and spot whales. Sunset was stunning, with an arch of red and orange clouds that required a 180-degree fisheye lens to capture in its entirety. Day 2 brings my first Wandering Albatross (Diomedea exulans), enormous and elegant birds that soar over the open ocean swells, arcing and diving to take full advantage of the updraft created by each passing wave.

Wandering albatross in flight, over the open sea.  The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird, with the wingspan between, up to 12' from wingtip to wingtip.  It can soar on the open ocean for hours at a time, riding the updrafts from individual swells, with a glide ratio of 22 units of distance for every unit of drop.  The wandering albatross can live up to 23 years.  They hunt at night on the open ocean for cephalopods, small fish, and crustaceans. The survival of the species is at risk due to mortality from long-line fishing gear, Diomedea exulans

Wandering albatross in flight, over the open sea. The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird, with the wingspan between, up to 12′ from wingtip to wingtip. It can soar on the open ocean for hours at a time, riding the updrafts from individual swells, with a glide ratio of 22 units of distance for every unit of drop. The wandering albatross can live up to 23 years. They hunt at night on the open ocean for cephalopods, small fish, and crustaceans. The survival of the species is at risk due to mortality from long-line fishing gear.
Image ID: 24071
Species: Wandering albatross, Diomedea exulans
Location: Southern Ocean

Wandering albatross have the largest wingspan of any living species of bird, over 11 feet from tip to tip. When one wandering albatross passed alongside the boat very close I was able to hear the wind as it parted and passed over the wings of this magnificent bird. The wandering albatrosses glide almost the entire time they are in sight; their aerodynamics are so remarkably efficient they rarely need to flap their wings. Most excellent. I am glad to have been able to see this species of albatross out here in the middle of the ocean, where it is so obviously at home and I am so obviously not. The oft-quoted ornithologist Robert Cushman Murphy said it well upon sighting his first Wandering Albatross in 1912: I now belong to a higher cult of mortals, for I have seen the albatross!

Sunset viewed through the window of my cabin on the M/V Polar Star, somewhere between Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island

Sunset viewed through the window of my cabin on the M/V Polar Star, somewhere between Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island.
Image ID: 24097
Location: Southern Ocean

At one point a storm of prions and other small seabirds gather aloft behind the boat, dipping the beaks into the water as they flit and hover above the ocean’s surface. It seems to me they are feeding. Simultaneously we spot our first whales. The fact the two species are present here is no coincidence — we must be in an area of food, perhaps krill. Much guessing among my shipmates ensues as to what species of whales they are. I refuse to speculate early on, as I have learned from many hours spotting whales that I need to see at least the dorsal ridge or fluke, preferably both, to hazard a guess. Gradually I decide that they are all fin whales, based on the manner of their round out and dive, the shape and color of their rostrums and their dorsal fins, and their blows. The flock of small birds and our whale sightings eventually lessen, indicating we are leaving the feeding zone (if that is indeed what it was). As the day wears on, periodic individual wandering albatrosses are seen soaring around the M/V Polar Star, always angling and turning to best use the updrafts of the swells to glide. Since the wandering albatrosses tend to stay at a distance from the boat, I needed my longest lens and a teleconverter (500+1.4x), a heavy combination to handhold on the deck a rolling boat. I took a lot of photos and was lucky to manage a few sharp images. I go to bed wondering what South Georgia Island will look like when we arrive tomorrow.

Wandering albatross in flight, over the open sea.  The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird, with the wingspan between, up to 12' from wingtip to wingtip.  It can soar on the open ocean for hours at a time, riding the updrafts from individual swells, with a glide ratio of 22 units of distance for every unit of drop.  The wandering albatross can live up to 23 years.  They hunt at night on the open ocean for cephalopods, small fish, and crustaceans. The survival of the species is at risk due to mortality from long-line fishing gear, Diomedea exulans

Wandering albatross in flight, over the open sea. The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of any living bird, with the wingspan between, up to 12′ from wingtip to wingtip. It can soar on the open ocean for hours at a time, riding the updrafts from individual swells, with a glide ratio of 22 units of distance for every unit of drop. The wandering albatross can live up to 23 years. They hunt at night on the open ocean for cephalopods, small fish, and crustaceans. The survival of the species is at risk due to mortality from long-line fishing gear.
Image ID: 24092
Species: Wandering albatross, Diomedea exulans
Location: Southern Ocean

Next: Approaching South Georgia Island
Previous: Steeple Jason, West Falklands
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Steeple Jason, West Falklands

Albatross, Falklands, Southern Ocean

Photos of Steeple Jason Island and Black-browed albatross, West Falklands, Falkland Islands

Steeple Jason, one of the Jason group of islands, is to be our only landing today. There has been quite a bit of anticipation for this visit. It is considered one of the major landings of the trip, the location of one of the world’s finest natural spectacles. Lots of mention has been made already of how superlative this place is. A couple people who have been here before suggest that it is one of the world’s “top 10” wildlife scenes. Morning dawns for us on the southwest side of the island, with myriad birds flying about and cacophonous sounds — an enormous bird rookery — coming from the island about half mile away. The breeze brings with it the scent of the colony. I love that scent! To my dying day, the distinctive briny odor of a shore covered in centuries of guano, borne on a fresh ocean breeze, is something I will always associate with remoteness, wildness and the sea. It is the smell of a vast number of seabirds. I have smelled it in the Galapagos Islands, at tiny Rose Atoll, at Cocos Island, in the Sea of Cortez and now in the West Falklands. It is the smell of life, huge amounts of life, life that is intrinsically bound to sea and air.

Black-browed albatross in flight, against a blue sky.  Black-browed albatrosses have a wingspan reaching up to 8', weigh up to 10 lbs and can live 70 years.  They roam the open ocean for food and return to remote islands for mating and rearing their chicks, Thalassarche melanophrys, Steeple Jason Island

Black-browed albatross in flight, against a blue sky. Black-browed albatrosses have a wingspan reaching up to 8′, weigh up to 10 lbs and can live 70 years. They roam the open ocean for food and return to remote islands for mating and rearing their chicks.
Image ID: 24145
Species: Black-browed albatross, Thalassarche melanophrys
Location: Steeple Jason Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Steeple Jason is steep and rugged, with jutting serrated seacliffs that raise the ramparts of the island high above the ocean. Sections of lush green tussock grass are mixed with broad areas of reddish brown, shorter vegetation. Around much of the island’s western perimeter a white collar marks the seabird colony that lines the coast. Surf pounds the edge of the island, tossing spray high in the air. With a little tectonic nudge, Steeple Jason could easily be two islands. As it is today, the north and south portions are linked by a thin, lowlying isthmus that offers two landing sites, one on each side.

Straited caracara, a bird of prey found throughout the Falkland Islands.  The striated caracara is an opportunistic feeder, often scavenging for carrion but also known to attack weak or injured birds, Phalcoboenus australis, Steeple Jason Island

Straited caracara, a bird of prey found throughout the Falkland Islands. The striated caracara is an opportunistic feeder, often scavenging for carrion but also known to attack weak or injured birds.
Image ID: 24125
Species: Striated caracara, Phalcoboenus australis
Location: Steeple Jason Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Soon after dawn the freshening wind and swells cause us to move to the other side of the island where we will land at the more sheltered of the two locations, one with thick stands of bull kelp and macrocystis kelp. I admire the lush kelp forest lining the shore and wish I could dive here. In spite of some trepidation on the part of the staff responsible for getting us safely onto the slippery rocks, the landing is not a problem. Within minutes after starting to hike around the north half of the island I see a caracara take a penguin chick. I feel like Marlin Perkins.

Striated caracara feeds upon a gentoo penguin chick it has just killed, Phalcoboenus australis, Pygoscelis papua, Steeple Jason Island

Striated caracara feeds upon a gentoo penguin chick it has just killed.
Image ID: 24086
Species: Striated caracara, Gentoo penguin, Phalcoboenus australis, Pygoscelis papua
Location: Steeple Jason Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

I have switched from my waterproof muck boots to my hiking shoes for the easy one-mile walk to the colony of black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys). It is warm and sunny, with a few clouds – a great morning for a walk. The trail is several hundred feet above the ocean, which boils down below along the rocky coast. I pass a pair of striated caracaras on some rocks. They are comfortable with my presence so I sit and watch them closely. This seems unusual for raptors.

Black-browed albatross colony on Steeple Jason Island in the Falklands.  This is the largest breeding colony of black-browed albatrosses in the world, numbering in the hundreds of thousands of breeding pairs.  The albatrosses lay eggs in September and October, and tend a single chick that will fledge in about 120 days, Thalassarche melanophrys

Black-browed albatross colony on Steeple Jason Island in the Falklands. This is the largest breeding colony of black-browed albatrosses in the world, numbering in the hundreds of thousands of breeding pairs. The albatrosses lay eggs in September and October, and tend a single chick that will fledge in about 120 days.
Image ID: 24078
Species: Black-browed albatross, Thalassarche melanophrys
Location: Steeple Jason Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

After a short while I reach my first view of the colony. It is a fantastic assemblage of black-browed albatross extending along several miles of coast, ringed by tussock grass and shadowed by a lush green ridge above. It is the principle black-browed albatross colony in all the world. Light winds are fostering much flight activity this morning as parents leave or return to the nest, taking turns caring for their chick and foraging at sea. Constant and loud — but not unpleasant — albatross vocalizations are heard, a mix of croaking, high-pitched screeching and subtle clucking. Some of the larger chicks are left alone. Striated caracaras are constantly on the prowl for such easy prey and over the course of a few hours relaxing at the colony’s edge I see a couple of caracaras carrying away a meal. Eventually, most of our group makes the hike and arrives along the edge of the colony. We all stand in the waist high tussock, enjoying the incredible array of life spread out before us. Eventually I have had enough sun and feel it is time to hike back around towards the island’s isthmus where we landed, to see what else there is to find. In a cove there is a constant stream of gentoos returning from the sea (and some departing), leaping out of the water onto rocks. Back at the gentoo colony that I saw first this morning, the parent of the same dead chick still guards her offspring, keening occasionally and charging the caracara that continues to try to pick off a piece of the chick’s carcass. It is a sad scene. The fortitude of the gentoo in the face of such inevitable and foregone tragedy is astonishing.

After some hours ashore I am now pretty hungry, and eat three sandwiches that the crew has brought ashore to the landing as I sit beside the ocean and realize how fortunate I am to be on this spectacular island. I shoot some videos of the rocky coastline before returning to the boat. I realize that, photographically, Steeple Jason is one of the richest settings I have ever seen. I could easily have used every lens I own, from 15mm fisheye to my longest telephoto. As the M/V Polar Star motors away from the island, black-browed albatrosses and giant petrels fly alongside. After sunset I stand on the deck and photograph them with a flash, making some interesting images. We are now on our way to South Georgia Island, a three day sail.

All of my photography from the trip is linked to the location where the images were taken. If you have Google Earth, you can see all of my photos from Steeple Jason overlaid at the exact location they were taken.

Next: En Route to South Georgia Island
Previous: Carcass Island, Falkland Islands
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Carcass Island, Falkland Islands

Falklands, Southern Ocean

Photos of Carcass Island and Gentoo penguins, Falklands

Following our cloudy, drizzly, wet morning on the highlands of Westpoint Island, the weather transitioned to sunny, breezy and warm as the M/V Polar Star made its way to Carcass Island. I was curious about the ominous-sounding name, envisioning dead animals and stench. In fact, the island is named for the HMS Carcass which surveyed the island in 1766. (Why that ship was named for a dead body is beyond me.) We landed in Dyke Bay, across from the island’s only settlement which we could just see in the distance. Our direction, however, was the opposite way, across a low-lying isthmus to Leopard Beach. We walked perhaps a third of a mile across the isthmus, passing several ponds (brackish? salt water?) alongside which upland geese (Chloephaga picta) were meandering.

Upland goose, male, beside pond in the interior of Carcass Island near Leopard Beach, Chloephaga picta

Upland goose, male, beside pond in the interior of Carcass Island near Leopard Beach.
Image ID: 24011
Species: Upland goose, Chloephaga picta
Location: Carcass Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Reaching a sand dune rise on the far side of the isthmus and looking over the top, we were greeted with the beautiful sight of long Leopard Beach below. The waters fronting the beach looked tropical, with light emerald shallows and deep green water further offshore.

Visitors watch gentoo and Magellanic penguins on beautiful Leopard Beach, coming ashore after they have foraged at sea, Carcass Island

Visitors watch gentoo and Magellanic penguins on beautiful Leopard Beach, coming ashore after they have foraged at sea.
Image ID: 23973
Location: Carcass Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

This gorgeous beach, one of several we were fortunate to visit in the Falklands, was host to throngs of Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) and Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) which were coming from and going to sea. The Magellanic penguins gather in burrowing colonies, living underground in what looked like big gopher holes. The gentoos, on the other hand, gathered in exposed circular colonies made of small pebbles, set a few hundred yards in the interior of the island. A long sand dune, covered in tussock grass, offered some small protection from onshore winds, but really what it constituted was something of a barrier to the penguins as they walked to and fro between the ocean and their colonies. Paths through the tall (overhead to the penguins) tussock grass were obvious, testament to the continual passing of the penguins.

Gentoo penguins walk through tussock grass.  After foraging in the ocean for food, the penguins make their way to the interior of the island to rest at their colony, Pygoscelis papua, Carcass Island

Gentoo penguins walk through tussock grass. After foraging in the ocean for food, the penguins make their way to the interior of the island to rest at their colony.
Image ID: 23970
Species: Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Location: Carcass Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Eventually I made my way down to the sand to admire the penguins coming ashore. I spotted a Magellanic oystercatcher (Haematopus leucopodus), some Steamer ducks and kelp geese (Chloephaga hybrida), and on the way back to the boat, one of the many LBB’s I failed to identify on the trip.

Magellanic penguin, juvenile, coming ashore on a sand beach after foraging at sea, Spheniscus magellanicus, Carcass Island

Magellanic penguin, juvenile, coming ashore on a sand beach after foraging at sea.
Image ID: 23969
Species: Magellanic penguin, Spheniscus magellanicus
Location: Carcass Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

All of my photography from the trip is linked to the location where the images were taken. If you have Google Earth, you can see all of my photos from Carcass Island overlaid at the exact location they were taken.

Next: Steeple Jason, West Falklands
Previous: Westpoint Island, Falkland Islands
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

Westpoint Island, Falkland Islands

Falklands, Southern Ocean

Photos of Westpoint Island and Rockhopper Penguins, Falkland Islands

Morning finds us at Westpoint Island. We can only see about 200’ up into the rolling green hills; heavy cloud cover obscures everything above that. It looks wet in the hills. Our zodiac lands on a small boat ramp, one of the few “dry landings” we will have during the trip. We are told we have the option of hiking 1.5 miles to the albatross rookery, or we can hitch a ride on a Land Rover. I opt for the latter. The countryside is pastoral, lush and soft and would be difficult for most vehicles, but the sturdy Rover has no problems.

Colony of nesting black-browed albatross, rockhopper penguins and Imperial shags, set high above the ocean on tussock grass-covered seacliffs, Thalassarche melanophrys,  Eudyptes chrysocome, Phalacrocorax atriceps, Westpoint Island

Colony of nesting black-browed albatross, rockhopper penguins and Imperial shags, set high above the ocean on tussock grass-covered seacliffs.
Image ID: 23935
Species: Black-browed albatross, Rockhopper penguin, Imperial shag, Thalassarche melanophrys, Eudyptes chrysocome, Phalacrocorax atriceps
Location: Westpoint Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

The “road” is somewhat ambiguous. We roll by some old wooden gates, a few windmills and some sheep. It is foggy and drizzling. I feel British. Soon we reach a colony of black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys), Imperial shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps) and rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome) dramatically set on bluffs high above the sea. This is our first bout with tussock grass. It is rumored to be awkward to walk through, but at this spot the waist-high maze is fairly easy to navigate.

Western rockhopper penguin, standing atop tussock grass near a rookery of black-browed albatross, Eudyptes chrysocome, Westpoint Island

Western rockhopper penguin, standing atop tussock grass near a rookery of black-browed albatross.
Image ID: 23932
Species: Rockhopper penguin, Eudyptes chrysocome
Location: Westpoint Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

The edge of the colony abuts the tussock so that we can stand just a few feet away from the birds but still be behind large tufts of grass. The sounds are wonderful: wind, penguins vocalizations, clucks by the albatrosses. I brought a long lens and immediately realize it is overkill. I return to my bag and pull out my widest lens so that I can shoot some video of the colony.

Black-browed albatross, adult on nest with chick, Thalassarche melanophrys, Westpoint Island

Black-browed albatross, adult on nest with chick.
Image ID: 23946
Species: Black-browed albatross, Thalassarche melanophrys
Location: Westpoint Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

I change locations on the periphery of the colony a few times, photographing and shooting video. At one spot, some rockhoppers march to a small creek to bathe and groom. After a few hours it is time to return to the landing, in the Land Rover again. Such a smooth ride, I must get one of these. We are offered tea and bisquits at the settlement cottage at the landing. I feel British some more. We return to the boat for lunch, and reposition to Carcass Island.

All of my photography from the trip is linked to the location where the images were taken. If you have Google Earth, you can see all of my photos from Westpoint Island overlaid at the exact location they were taken.

Next: Carcass Island, Falkland Islands
Previous: New Island, Falkland Islands
Trip Index: Cheesemans Antarctica, Falklands and South Georgia
All “Southern Ocean” entries

New Island, Falkland Islands

Falklands, Southern Ocean

Photos of New Island, Falkland Islands

Tall seacliffs overlook the southern Atlantic Ocean, a habitat on which albatross and penguin reside, New Island

Tall seacliffs overlook the southern Atlantic Ocean, a habitat on which albatross and penguin reside.
Image ID: 23809
Location: New Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Today is New Years Day, an appropos date on which to land at New Island in the Falklands, our first landing of the trip. Set next to the ocean in a small bight is New Island Settlement, a picturesque set of cottages at the edge of the bay above a sandy beach. We depart from the boat in zodiacs for the shore, leave our dry bags and life preservers in a pile on the beach, and begin an easy walk over wet, grassy hills to a rockhopper rookery. Flightless steamer ducks, kelp geese and upland geese mill about on the sand and through the tall grass. The weather is quite mild so I only need shorts and a light fleece under my foulies. The rockhopper colony is located at the top of seacliffs several hundred feet above the ocean, in a small bowl-shaped depression. Black-browed albatross and imperial shags (cormorants) are mixed in and around the colony as well. To the right of the colony, cut through the cliffs, is a gully that runs steeply down to the water. It is a thoroughfare for rockhoppers, a way for them to pass from the sea to their colony above. Clean penguins coming from the sea pass up the gully to their nests, while muddy penguins descend. I make my way down the gully carefully, eventually reaching the rocky shore. Many rockhoppers are scattered on the rocks, coming and going to sea. A South American sea lion bull patrols the rocks, presumably hoping to catch an unwary penguin. Some of us sit on the rocks and just watch, taking pictures and admiring the rockhoppers.

Photographer Al Bruton, photographing Magellanic penguins on grasslands above the ocean, New Island

Photographer Al Bruton, photographing Magellanic penguins on grasslands above the ocean.
Image ID: 23799
Location: New Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Sand beach at New Island Settlement, with zodiac ashore and shipwrreck

Sand beach at New Island Settlement, with zodiac ashore and shipwrreck.
Image ID: 23800
Location: New Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

After a few hours, it is time to make our way to the second landing. Rather than return to the big boat, some of us choose to motor straight there by zodiac. Others opt to hike there. We land on another sand beach, with green hills above. The overcast conditions have lifted and we now are favored with blue skies, scattered clouds and some breeze. The objective is to walk to three locations about half mile apart from one another and the beach we are on now: an albatross colony, a gentoo colony and a white sand beach known for surfing penguins. The first thing I encounter on my walk are a series of Magellanic penguins burrowing in the grass. They are cute, standing at the entrances to their small dirt caves. I stick around for 45 minutes checking them out. I don’t see the main group of people so I head off in the direction I think they are, eventually coming to a broad plateau atop the island littered with strange flat, weathered rocks.

Interesting rock formations on plateau atop New Island

Interesting rock formations on plateau atop New Island.
Image ID: 23802
Location: New Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Continuing through the rocks, my walk takes me to a long line of high sea cliffs offering spectacular views, with albatrosses nesting in many places. The wind is blowing but it is quite warm. I sit for a while, take some photos and admire the view. I am quite alone here, not able to see anyone else at the moment. I have this section of cliffs to myself, but for the birds. I make some photos. Eventually I hike over a couple promontories to reach the others at a dense colony of penguins, albatross and shags, also atop sheer seacliffs. There are more animals here but the setting at my previous spot is far more impressive. I take only a few photos, but shoot some videos trying to capture the sounds of the bird life.

Gentoo penguins coming ashore, after foraging at sea, walking through ocean water as it wades onto a sand beach.  Adult gentoo penguins grow to be 30" and 19lb in size.  They feed on fish and crustaceans.  Gentoo penguins reside in colonies well inland from the ocean, often formed of a circular collection of stones gathered by the penguins, Pygoscelis papua, New Island

Gentoo penguins coming ashore, after foraging at sea, walking through ocean water as it wades onto a sand beach. Adult gentoo penguins grow to be 30″ and 19lb in size. They feed on fish and crustaceans. Gentoo penguins reside in colonies well inland from the ocean, often formed of a circular collection of stones gathered by the penguins.
Image ID: 23831
Species: Gentoo penguin, Pygoscelis papua
Location: New Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Gentoo penguin colony, set above and inland from the ocean on flat grasslands.  Individual nests are formed of small rocks collected by the penguins, New Island

Gentoo penguin colony, set above and inland from the ocean on flat grasslands. Individual nests are formed of small rocks collected by the penguins.
Image ID: 23806
Location: New Island, Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Soon I leave to hike over a low saddle in the island to reach the third spot of the afternoon, another beach. On the way there I pass several gentoo penguin colonies, set high on the grasslands above the water. The squacking and clicking is loud and raucous, and constant. I sit and listen for a while. After a while I continue down the grassy hills to the surfing beach and arrive there late. Clouds have stolen the sunshine just as I arrive. The others are all departing, photographers included, so I get the sense I have missed the surfing penguins. Eventually, the last of the passengers and staff head back to our originally landing spot, reminding me the last zodiac off the island is in 90 minutes. However, luck is with me and the clouds soon back off, leaving me alone on a beautiful, wide, white sand beach in late afternoon light. Gentoo penguins are coming ashore, splashing in the surf as they do so, making their way to their nearby rookery. I try to photograph them in action in the surf zone but have a hunch I did not stick any really good shots, we’ll see. I spend some time away from the camera, just watching the penguins as they do their thing, and listening to the sounds of the surf, wind and the clucking of the birds. There are large gentoo colonies on a rise above the beach 100 yards away making a constant, low buzzing sound. I am loathe to leave this idyllic spot, and wait until I only have about 15 minutes to hoof it the mile back to the landing in my goofy muck boots and heavy backpack. Time for a workout! I am sweating but happy when I reach the last zodiac and head back to the boat for a shower and a well-earned meal. After dinner I spend some photographing the birds – mostly giant petrels and a few albatross – that follow the boat as we motor to Westpoint Island. I light them with flash, producing a bright sharp bird against a darker sky, pretty neat. What a day. The trip has barely just begun yet I have seen so much already.

All of my photography from the trip is linked to the location where the images were taken. If you have Google Earth, you can see all of my photos from New Island overlaid at the exact location they were taken.

Next: Westpoint Island, Falkland Islands
Previous: Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus, Southern Ocean
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Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus, Southern Ocean

Falklands, Seabird, Southern Ocean

Our trip began with a two-night crossing from Ushuaia to the Falklands. During that middle day, as we sailed north-east though the Southern Ocean, we had some good bird watching, including albatrosses, prions (tiny little rocket birds I am not qualified to photograph), small petrels and the larger and more impressive giant petrels. I spent a lot of time on the back deck, admiring the birds and trying to get photos of them when they came close to the ship. (I typically shot birds from the big boat with 300mm f/2.8 lens with 1.4x converter on a full frame body, which was the perfect setup.) We were on the very stable 270′ ship M/V Polar Star, and had very calm seas for our crossing, so standing on deck and shooting was a breeze.

Southern giant petrel in flight.  The distinctive tube nose (naricorn), characteristic of species in the Procellariidae family (tube-snouts), is easily seen, Macronectes giganteus

Southern giant petrel in flight. The distinctive tube nose (naricorn), characteristic of species in the Procellariidae family (tube-snouts), is easily seen.
Image ID: 23681
Species: Southern giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

This day, the birds I photographed the most were the giant petrels, there were just so many of them. They are quite bold, coming alongside the boat often and soaring smoothly, making it easy for even a non-bird-photographer such as myself to get some keeper shots. As for identification, it was not clear to me which species of giant petrel I was seeing. Recently, I consulted with two staff member from our trip, Dave Shaw (Fairbanks, AK) and Jim Danzenbaker, both of whom are skilled at bird identification and educated us during our trip about seabird natural history. Dave is blogging about the trip too, and has had some great posts recently. Did I mention that the staff on our trip was tops? Thanks Dave and Jim. From them I learned that most of the giant petrels I photographed crossing to the Falklands were Southern Giant Petrels (Macronectes giganteus), but after moving south to South Georgia I ended up photographing mostly Northern Giant Petrels (Macronectes halli). Does that sound bass ackwards? Their ranges do overlap considerably.

Southern giant petrel in flight.  The distinctive tube nose (naricorn), characteristic of species in the Procellariidae family (tube-snouts), is easily seen, Macronectes giganteus

Southern giant petrel in flight. The distinctive tube nose (naricorn), characteristic of species in the Procellariidae family (tube-snouts), is easily seen.
Image ID: 23682
Species: Southern giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

All the birds in this blog post I believe are Southern Giant Petrels. I’ll post about Northern Giant Petrels when we get to South Georgia Island. In appearance the two species are quite similar to one another which, combined with their range overlap, can make separating them difficult. Dave Shaw suggested that I lookfor a green bill tip (for Southern Giant Petrels) versus red bill tip (Northern), as well as eye color (pale is more common in Northern, darker eye in Southern). About the only sure thing for identifying giant petrels is the white morph, also known as a “white nellie”; the white morph is only known to occur in the Southern Giant Petrel. The Southern Giant Petrel measures up to 39″ long, with a wingspan of up to 81″. Adult males weight 11 lb. while females weight up to 18 lb. My hunch is that the large size for females is an adaptation to reproductive demands. Giant petrels range throughout the Southern Ocean, including Antarctica. The Southern species has a range which is centered somewhat south of that of the Northern species. When in the same location, the two species exhibit temporal separation in their breeding, with Northern giant petrels breeding some six weeks earlier than Southern giant petrels. As of 2009, there are estimated to be 46,800 nesting pairs and the species is listed as “least concern”, an improvement over counts and status of a decade ago. The giant petrel, like many pelagic birds, is at risk of injury and death from longline fishing equipment. Giant petrels are members of the tube-nose order (Procellariiformes) and display the characteristic tubular snout above the bill.

White nellie, the white morph of the southern giant petrel.  Southern giant petrel in flight, Macronectes giganteus

White nellie, the white morph of the southern giant petrel. Southern giant petrel in flight.
Image ID: 23678
Species: Southern giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

I often photographed the giant petrels at sunset, hoping to put them against a pastel sky and light them with a little flash. The results were most pleasing for albatrosses, but I did get some nice images of giant petrels zooming over the water after dark. I liked this one best:

Southern giant petrel in flight at dusk, after sunset, as it soars over the open ocean in search of food, Macronectes giganteus

Southern giant petrel in flight at dusk, after sunset, as it soars over the open ocean in search of food.
Image ID: 23680
Species: Southern giant petrel, Macronectes giganteus
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

See more photos of Southern Giant Petrels, Macronectes giganteus photos.

Next: New Island, Falkland Islands
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Black-Browed Albatross at Sunset

Albatross, Falklands, Southern Ocean

One of the unexpected joys of the trip for me was the albatrosses. Before this trip, the only albatrosses I had seen were Waved Albatross in Galapagos (but only sitting on nests) and some distant albatrosses as we motored at sea to Guadalupe Island. Now that I have had a chance to really see them, soaring as they do over the open ocean, I love these birds. On this night we had just left the enormous rookery of black-browed albatross at Steeple Jason Island in the Falklands, on our way to South Georgia Island. While eating dinner I noticed out the dining room window how the sky was growing pink, and I could see albatrosses occasionally flying by the window. I rudely chugged my wine and gobbled the rest of my dinner, made some weak excuse to my dining companions that I would be right back, and quickly made my way to the stern with my camera setup. I stood out there in the fading light and fresh air making a set of what I think of as “painterly images” of albatrosses and petrels.

Black-browed albatross in flight, at sea.  The black-browed albatross is a medium-sized seabird at 31-37" long with a 79-94" wingspan and an average weight of 6.4-10 lb. They have a natural lifespan exceeding 70 years. They breed on remote oceanic islands and are circumpolar, ranging throughout the Southern Oceanic, Thalassarche melanophrys

Black-browed albatross in flight, at sea. The black-browed albatross is a medium-sized seabird at 31-37″ long with a 79-94″ wingspan and an average weight of 6.4-10 lb. They have a natural lifespan exceeding 70 years. They breed on remote oceanic islands and are circumpolar, ranging throughout the Southern Oceanic
Image ID: 23962
Species: Black-browed albatross, Thalassarche melanophrys
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

I used a Canon 1Ds Mark III camera with a 300 f/2.8 lens and 1.4x converter. The light was growing faint making it easy to match the available light of the waning dusk with the artificial light from the camera’s flash. It was about an hour after sunset, a time when the pastel colors in the sky become quite saturated. I popped a little flash on this beautiful seabird and dragged the shutter to give the shot some blur. I shot several hundred of these images and managed many keepers, each using the fading colors in the sky as a canvas ranging from pink to purple to yellow depending on which direction I pointed my camera.

Another one, about 20 minutes later, color is different since this was aimed higher and in a little different direction:

Black-browed albatross in flight, at sea.  The black-browed albatross is a medium-sized seabird at 31-37" long with a 79-94" wingspan and an average weight of 6.4-10 lb. They have a natural lifespan exceeding 70 years. They breed on remote oceanic islands and are circumpolar, ranging throughout the Southern Oceanic, Thalassarche melanophrys

Black-browed albatross in flight, at sea. The black-browed albatross is a medium-sized seabird at 31-37″ long with a 79-94″ wingspan and an average weight of 6.4-10 lb. They have a natural lifespan exceeding 70 years. They breed on remote oceanic islands and are circumpolar, ranging throughout the Southern Oceanic
Image ID: 23965
Species: Black-browed albatross, Thalassarche melanophrys
Location: Falkland Islands, United Kingdom

Next: Sunset Arch, Southern Ocean
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