After a huge breakfast featuring homegrown rhubarb with homemade yoghurt and porridge with homemade cream I spent a little time out in the garden on the swing, before getting a lift back down to the airstrip with the guests who were leaving on the first flight. I collared the poor pilot and told him that I’d be heading out on the next flight and that he’d be my friend for life if he was able to save me the front seat!
Having seen the plane off I wandered over to the beach where the island’s main population of elephant seals can be found. I got distracted by the birds before I even reached the beach, but as I approached I could hear the telltale sounds of elephant seals snorting and huffing. There is quite a bit of tall tussac grass at the beach, so I could hear the elephant seals long before I could see them. The tussac grass is over 6 feet tall in most places so you really had no idea when approaching the beach whether you were about to find yourself in the middle of a group of seals, so caution was required! When I approached the beach two of the seals caught sight of me and headed straight for the water and further up the beach, a couple of young males were tussling with each other. The seals were scattered all along the stretch of beach, making walking the beach quite difficult if you didn’t want to disturb them (or if you’re nervous of getting trampled by an over-enthusiastic pair of sparring males).
Southern elephant seal
I took a walk along the beach to a small point where there were about 30-40 magellanic oystercatchers and a large number of kelp gulls.
All the islands I’ve visited have been littered with bones from birds and sheep, but this beach also had the remains of a whale to be seen.
There were a huge number of birds around both on the beach and in the grasses. I spent quite a bit of time trying to photograph the small finches which flitted around from bush to bush, and most exciting of all, the magellanic snipe which were very well hidden in the long grass and would suddenly take to the air with a loud cry when I approached them. But for that I wouldn’t have known they were there. Trying to get photos of them was well nigh impossible as they were mostly gone before I had time to press the shutter, and those that did hang around were very well camouflaged in the grass.
Black-throated (canary-winged) finch
By lunchtime the wind was getting very strong and I set myself down by a small pond to watch the ducks and eat my lunch in a small bit of shelter.
The plane was due in some time after 1pm so I made my way back to the airstrip and sat against the fire fighting equipment whilst I waited for the other passenger and the plane to arrive. By this time the wind was getting a lot stronger and I was cold enough to wear my woolly hat for the first time this trip! It seemed like all the sheep of the island had congregated in the area and once they arrived with the rover we had to chase all the sheep off the airstrip. There’s almost always something that has to be chased off the airstrips, mostly sheep or geese.
When the plane arrived I was in luck, the front seat was mine! We had a good flight, albeit a bit bumpy in the strong winds, with a short stop at Port Howard. When we crossed the Falkland Sound between West and East Falkland we could see all the squid jiggers taking refuge in the relative shelter there. They don’t stop work for much so it was a sign that the weather was really deteriorating. Approaching the airport we flew right past town and I managed to finally spot Kay’s B&B where I am staying.