Monday, 16 January 2012

New Island - Sat 14th

New Island
Penguins! Our first landing was on New Island; one of the Falkland’s smaller chunks of quartzite rock. The archipelago’s most westerly inhabited island, New Island lies to the far east of West Falkland and is home to unique wildlife and an astounding rookery of rockhopper Penguins, black-browed albatrosses and Antarctic Shags.
Rockhoppers at New Island: First landing on Spiritr of Shackleton  Antarctic cruise

Stepping off the M/S Expedition for the first time, we travelled to the shore via Zodiac, and made a wet landing alongside a rusting wreck, guarded by rooks. We ambled across to the windward side of New Island, stopping where the cliffs gave way to a rocky amphitheatre, populated by hundreds of rockhoppers. The squat little penguins glowered as we approached, fixing us with their fierce red eyes – if it wasn’t for their ridiculous, yellow spikey hair-dos and hilarious two-footed hops up and down the rock-face, they would have seemed almost menacing. The rockhoppers’ fluffy grey chicks squawked loudly in their pebbly nests and, at just 5 weeks old, they were close in height to their parents but their fuzzy coats and downy wings bore little resemblance to the white torsos and black wings that characterise the mature rockhoppers.

Chilled-out Chick: New Island 

Sharing the same cliff-face were one the Antarctic’s biggest birds; the black-browed albatross have a wingspan of around 2.5 metres, which they enjoyed displaying as they made a big show of flying over our heads and crash-landing by their nests. Alongside the rockhoppers and albatrosses were a few hundred shags, characterised by their electric-blue eyeliner and golden-yellow face markings. But as we watched the shags nibble their young in conical nests, the penguins hop and squabble along the cliff face and the albatrosses swoop and soar above them, a menacing and uninvited guest lurked on the fringe of the rookery; bloody-faced and beady-eyes, the skua is a keen enemy of nesting birds. Active predators of eggs and chicks, these dirty-golden slayers have frequently capture penguin chicks, despite weighing in around 5 times less.

Albatross' nest alongside rockhoppers and shags at New Island
This blog-post forms part of a series of adventures experienced on-board the M/S Expedition in January 2012, whilst on an Antarctic Cruise - The Spirit of Shackleton - courtesy of Gadventures

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