Birding Near Land Mines at Gypsy Cove in the Falkland Islands

January 4, 2017

As our group exited the short bus ride from Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands, to Gypsy Cove, our guide wasted little time in warning us about was the landmines in the area. For those not paying attention, a prominent sign greeted vistors warning that although the area is believed to clear of mines, it is possible that a mine may be washed ashore from a nearby minefield. The sign asks people to "please be careful". There is a low wired fence, beyond which is considered "off limits". Needless to say no one from our group considered testing their luck by entering the area; not to mention the heavy fines for such offenses. The land mines are a remnant from the Falklands (Argentines refer to it as Islas Malvinas) war back in 1982 between Britain and Argentina, mostly laid by the Argentine forces. Today there may be as many as 25,000 remaining land mines despite efforts to clear the area.
Magellanic Penguins breed here and shown below are a few of them strolling along the beach in Yorke Bay. Fortunately the penguins are not heavy enough to set off any land mines. The scenery overlooking the crescent-shaped beach is amazing. From the cliff tops, I could see Rock Shags, Black-crowned Night Herons nesting in the cliffs. I've included some of those photos later in this post.

Magellanic Penguins along the beach at Yorke Bay
Magellanic Penguins
Hard to believe land mines may still remain in this area

Magellanic Penguins nest mainly on beaches, sand dunes or clay hills and they forage inshore. Studies in the Falklands show that squid is a major prey for this species (HBW Alive, 2017). For obvious reasons, the penguins shown in the two photos above are not disturbed by humans.

The penguin below was busy preening just off the walking trail at the top of the cliff when I made this picture.

Magellanic Penguin
Spotted along a cliff top above the beach

Rock Shags breed on cliffs, a few of which are shown here from my vantage point atop a cliff overlooking Gypsy Cove.

Rock Shags nesting along cliffside
Rock Shag sitting on its nest

Although I've seen Black-crowned Night-Herons in my home area, I've never had the opportunity previously to see any in breeding plumage or at nesting sites. They breed from late-October onwards on the Falklands, so it was a real treat to observe them in breeding plumage along the cliffs here. Breeding birds have two long white head plumes, which stand out as seen here.

Black-crowned Night-Herons
Breeding birds have two long white head plumes

The Falkland Ruddy-headed Goose population is virtually sedentary, usually less than 5 km, although they have been recorded up to 90 km. Their natural habitat is open country including coastal grassland.

Ruddy-headed Goose
Flock in flight over open grassland
Ruddy-headed Goose
Smaller but some similarities to female Upland Goose

The White-bridled Finch is seen here foraging along the ground. Females and males are very different in plumage, much like female and male Yellow-bridled Finch are very different. I'm not sure if it's eating a Diddle-dee berry, which is a tiny, red, bittersweet berry endemic to the Falklands, but that's what I'm going to run with.

Female White-bridled Finch
Feeds on ground taking mainly fallen seeds

The Grass Wren is known as Sedge Wren in North America. I jumped at this photo opportunity as its stood atop a gorgeous yellow bush singing loudly. I love the colours in the photo below.

Grass Wren
Known as Sedge Wren in North America

The Correndera Pipit prefers large areas of coarse white grass in wet areas of the Falklands and that pretty much describes where this one was found (HBA Alive website, 2017)

Correndera Pipit
Typical habitat for this species in the Falklands

Magellanic Snipe nests in tussocks of tall grass, usually close to water. Although seen here quite well, you can imagine that it typically would be well camouflaged in this habitat.

Magellanic Snipe

New Gallery Photos Added                       Special Projects Gallery

Magellanic Penguin                                     Falkland Islands - Gypsy Cove

Rock Shag                                                     Falkland Islands - Gypsy Cove

Black-crowned Night Heron                       Falkland Islands - Gypsy Cove

Ruddy-headed Goose                                 Falkland Islands - Gypsy Cove

White-bridled Finch                                     Falkland Islands - Gypsy Cove

Grass Wren                                                   Falkland Islands - Gypsy Cove

Correndera Pipit                                           Falkland Islands - Gypsy Cove

Magellanic Snipe                                         Falkland Islands - Gypsy Cove 

 

Happy Birding,

Claude

 

References:

Carboneras, C. & Kirwan, G.M. (2017). Ruddy-headed Goose (Chloephaga rubidiceps). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/52832 on 4 January 2017).

Martínez, I., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2017). Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/52471 on 4 January 2017).

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