Falkland Islands – Day 11 – Saunders Island

In the afternoon, the winds miraculously died down again just enough for us to be able to do our last excursion to Saunders Island – still part of West Falkland.  It was the wettest of all our zodiac rides but even then, not too bad.  Apparently, that kind of wetness is fairly standard on an Antarctic expedition so we have been very lucky indeed.

Gentoos on beach at Saunders Island - Falkland Islands
Greeted by more Gentoo Penguins on the beach at Saunders Island. The Vavilov waits patiently offshore. Actually several of the Russian crew joined us on this excursion

Landed on a beach with tons more Gentoo Penguins (they really are everywhere) and then headed up over the spit of land to see the very small King Penguin colony – our 6th species of penguin for the trip.   They were cloistered in with the Gentoos, but behave very, very differently. 

They are very upright and regal birds and walk like slightly distracted old men – as opposed to the frantic waddling of the other penguins.    They are really very beautiful and we were all so excited to see them.

King Penguins - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands
King Penguins are so regal

Oh – and although it wasn’t clear whether they had eggs or newborn chicks, there was this guy – a 1-year-old chick – who should be just about to lose his brown plumage and head off to the ocean.  

King Penguin 1-year-old - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands
A 1-year-old King Penguin chick. He should be just about ready to molt and leave the colony

Walking further over the spit we arrived at a long beach with tons of penguins on it.   Including our 7th species for the trip – the Magellanic Penguin.   I’d seen these guys in Chile before, and they seemed to be much more timid than the other penguins we’d encountered.

Also, unlike other penguins, they build their nests in burrows, so we had to be very careful where we walked to ensure we didn’t put a foot through one of them.

Magellanic Penguins - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands
Magellanic Penguins use burrows for their nests

We visited a large Rockhopper Penguin colony as well

Rockhopper Penguins - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands

And then headed up the hill to watch the Black-browed Albatrosses in another colony.

This colony also had loads of Rockhoppers co-exsting, as well as a slightly different type of Blue-eyed Cormorant than what we saw on Day 8.  

Blue-eyed Cormorant - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands

It was just beautiful sitting there watching the Albatrosses soaring so close – we stayed for probably an hour just enjoying that view alone.

Then, on the way back to the zodiacs, I came across this Brown Skua that had successfully managed to get to one of the Gentoo chicks.

Brown Skua - Saunders Island - Falkland Islands
Unlucky Gentoo chick – eaten by Brown Skua

Brilliant final excursion, even though I was coming down with the flu pretty badly.  Glad that has happened at the end of the trip!


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