Friday, 26 November 2010

Bird Surveys in the Falkland Islands

King Penguins at Volunteer Point
OK, this one is not 100% work.  I'm a conservationist by heart, and believe in volunteering.  When I was living in the UK, I was a volunteer nature reserve assistant, working with my local wildlife trust.  It is also good to ground oneself in back to basic conservation work, so myself and my wife Celine volunteered to conduct some bird surveys for the Falklands Conservation.
Camping on Saunders Island
Basically the Falkland Islands, though a biodiversity hotspot, are under researched.  While penguin communities, as flagship species, are well documented, detail about other bird species, as well as important data concerning substrate, kelp cover and so on is lacking.  So we agreed to help out by conducting a series of kilometre long coastal transects at various locations throughout the islands, recording bird species, their ages and activity; substrate at mean high tide; kelp cover out to sea; slope and vegetation mix on land, and any other important features spotted, such as rubbish (and if possible identifying features) and marine mammals.

Juvenile Gentoos are very inquisitive
 For those unfamiliar with the islands, they are about the size of Wales with a population of 2,000 (plus around an extra 1,000 military personnel) mostly based in Stanley, the remainder spread amongst remote settlements on different islands.  Transport is difficult, often there are no roads or tracks and real off road driving is needed, as is flying by eight seat aircraft and landing on grass strips.  It's a remote and harsh landscape, so most of the time we're camping using heavy duty equipment to stand up to the high winds.

Commerson's Dolphins in Weddell Island  Harbour
Some of the highlights included visiting King Penguin, Gentoo, Magellanic and Rock-hopper penguin colonies (each species is vastly different in their behaviour and fascinating; seeing Albatross nesting sites, and seeing Commerson's Dolphins playing in Weddell Harbour, as well as visiting some wild and remote places that otherwise would be almost impossible to visit.  Oh yes, and flying in the Islanders and digging the Land-Rover out of a peat-ditch.   Thank you all at Falklands Conservation, Dolphin Point, Saunders Island and Weddell Island for your hospitality!

Click here for pictures.

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