The plan for our third and final full day on Pebble Island was to be fully guided by Riki. Our holiday was a land based wildlife trip, however, there is no escaping the fact that one of the first things that comes to mind, especially as a Brit, when you think of The Falklands, is the 1982 war. Before we headed out Riki asked if we were interested in seeing war related stuff as well as wildlife. We were and it wasn't long before we made our first stop at the remains of a blown up Argentinian airplane just off of the grass runway that we had arrived via just a couple of days earlier, and just 5 minutes later we were at the site of a fighter plane that had been shot down.
Thursday 30 March 2023
Monday 27 March 2023
On day 2 of our stay on Pebble Island, the plan was for Riki to provide a drop off pick up service, we decide where on the island we want to go and get dropped for a few hours. This must be a bit of a pain for Riki as the island is not small and travel can be slow due to the off road terrain, so he'd have to spend a lot of time just driving about after us. After breakfast Riki said he had a suggestion for us, why don't we take vehicle for the day and do our own thing. We loved that idea, another adventure for us. Within 30 minutes we'd loaded up the vehicle, including the lovely packed lunch prepared for us and headed out.
We started off back at the white sand beach, using the car as a hide, getting up close to Two Banded Plovers and White Rumped Sandpipers.
Saturday 25th March had a great session out with Andy and Shaun in Kent. The plan was to start at Elmley to try and see long staying Penduline Tits, a species I have not seen for around 10 years.
The windy conditions weren't in our favour but we persevered. After an hour or so we could hear regular calls from the large reed bed in front of us, however, seeing them was another matter. Over the next hour the calls appeared to be coming from closer to us, and then eventually, after about 2 hours 3 Pendulines gave themselves up, providing good flight views on and off and they flitted about the tops of the reeds, not too far away. Great views of numerous Marsh Harriers were also had.
While waiting for the Pendulines to show news came through of an Alpine Swift showing sell at Dagenham Chase, literally 5 minutes drive from my house. Virtually every local birder we knew had connected with it so Shaun and I were a tad jealous. We considered our options but due to large amounts of road closures in Kent we decided to head back to Essex to twitch the swift. As we neared the Dartford Crossing, Shaun saw that an Alpine Swift was being reported at Darenth Lakes, which was literally 1 mile from where we were. We diverted and within 5 minutes we were in place and quickly picked it up hawking over the lakes.
Tuesday 21 March 2023
We were up early for a 7am flight from Stanley to Pebble Island. The flight, in a six seater prop plane takes around 40 minutes.
The grass air strip is just minutes away from the lodge/settlement, and our host Riki was there to meet us. We had a very comfortable ensuite room and stayed on a full board basis, with the food really good. Pebble Island is big and even with a 4x4 it cannot be done in a day. We had one day pre-planned as fully guided, another with a drop off/pick up service and the remainder of day 1, Riki said he'd take us out locally so we can get our bearings.
Julia opted to unpack and relax but I was immediately out. There were birds all around the lodge and just 100m from the front of the lodge was the shore line. I was back by lunch time having already racked up a decent number of birds for the trip list.
1. Long Tailed Meadowlark (called Robin or Military Starling by the locals), 2. Giant Southern Petrel, 3. Black Crowned Night Heron, 4. Black Browed Albatross, 5. Rock Cormorant, 6. Imperial Cormorant, 7. Ruddy Headed Goose, 8. Falkland Skua, 9. Upland Goose, 10. Kelp Goose, 11. Dolphin Gull, 12. Patagonian Crested Duck, 13. Falkland Flightless Steamer Duck (endemic), 14. Turkey Vulture, 15. Crested Caracara, 16. Pied Oystercatcher, 17. Dark Faced Ground Tryant, 18. House Sparrow, 19. Dark Chinned Siskin, 20. Black Throated Finch.
After lunch we headed out with Riki in a 4x4 to a long white sand beach about 1 mile away. There are no roads or paths, so a jeep type vehicle is required, ideally with 4x4 just in case. As we climbed over the dunes to get on to the beach the site that greeted us was amazing. It was stunning. We were the only people on the beach, which appeared to be a few miles long. We spend the next hour or so on the beach watching Black Browed Albatross and Giant Petrels fly low overhead whilst Commerson's Dolphins darted between the waves close in to shore. We drove the far end of the beach so Riki could show us where to exit it, if we needed to.
One of many hundreds of Black Browed Albatross seen on the Falklands
Riki then suggested he drop us at Big Pond, that he said was good for grebes and duck, and less than a mile walk back to the lodge. So we spent the next hour or so there before heading back to the lodge to freshen up before dinner.