South by Southeast late 2018 - early 2019 travel blog

 

 

 

albatross chick

Rockhopper penguin

feeding time

the rookery

Rockhopper penguin

albatross chick

albatross

rockhopper

 

 

albatross

soaring

 

Falklands flag

 

 

Magellanic penguins

 

 

 

 

 

 

hungry

rockhopper penguin


The Falklands have 700 uninhabited islands besides the two main ones. West Point has two residents, so I guess it counts as inhabited. The Napier family has owned West Point since 1879 and these days rent it to a couple who entertain the occasional small cruise ship. When you cruise in the Caribbean, ships often spend a day on a private island for a beach day. You couldn't get more private than West Point. The family has a pleasant home and a few outbuildings and raises some sheep. The main reason we came here was to see the 500 breeding pairs of rockhopper penguins with their crazy hair-dos and 2,100 pairs of albatrosses nesting in a natural amphitheater overlooking the sea. We hiked a long, gentle rise to the rookery and balanced on muddy rocks hanging onto the tussock grass that the family replanted to hold the soil as well as me. We got amazingly close and the birds seemed OK with it. It was a thrill to be there in their midst.

Albatross are huge birds with a wingspan of 11 feet. They are not great fliers; gliding is their skill. Today we saw them hurling themselves off the cliff and soaring over our heads. It didn't look like they had anything in mind except entertaining us. They had built themselves little nest platforms where they had incubated their eggs, which can take up to 80 days to hatch. Like the penguins they eat fish, squid and krill and regurgitate this bounty for their hungry chicks. These huge birds need to be fed about half a year until they are ready to soar into the sky on their own. They usually mate for life, spending the procreation and parenting season together before heading out into the sea to solitary lives. They return to the spot where they came from, vocalize to find one another again and raise more babies. The oldest known albatross mom has raised 37 young to adulthood over the years. Well done!

The island has a beautiful sand beach equal to any we've seen in Florida and Magellanic penguins nest above it and run into the water to fish. They live in burrows dug into the earth, so we had to walk carefully lest we inadvertently crash into or on one of their homes. A squad of penguins cavorted off shore. An idyllic spot.

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