Hello, and welcome back to the worst blog on the internet.
Today brings another installment of Google Street View Birding, where I sit at my desk in the dark, my pasty face squinting at the screen, and surf around Google Street View looking for birds. This installment is my favorite yet, and takes us to a place with very few species of birds, but many excellent Google Street View looks: Antarctica.
|Gentoo Penguins on Petermann Island, Antarctica|
As those lucky enough to have visited Antarctica (not me) know, most trips don't go straight to the continent. Stops at a couple of archipelagos along the way are common, especially the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. As it happens, it appears that the Street View team also stopped at these islands on their way south, and they've got some images to share.
The Falkland Islands are a British Overseas Territory off the coast of Argentina probably most famous to us as the site of a brief armed skirmish in the early 80s. The Google crew joined a trip from Lindblad Expeditions in October 2014 and took Street View shots at nine locations, including two stops in the Falklands: Carcass and New Islands.
The expedition stopped at this small island off the coast of West Falkland island and the Google Street View guy did a big lap around. The island is apparently run as a sheep farm, but it's also an Important Bird Area, for reasons that will soon become clear.
Birds started showing up as soon as these folks got to shore:
At the end of this dilapidated pier - if you could pan around you'd see landing boats and lots of people milling around getting ready to hike - are some cormorants. They're Rock Cormorants (aka Rock Shags aka Magellanic Cormorants). But look on the rocks to the left of the pier - see that little guy? - I think that's a Black-crowned Night Heron! Off to a great start!
From the beach, the guy hikes up a hill. At the top of this hill something awesome happens.
Back in 2008 I emailed a guy named Jonathan Meiburg, a singer and musician for the bands Shearwater and Okkervil River (and solo stuff - I particularly love this version of the Kinks' "Strangers" he guests on with Wye Oak for the AV Club Undercover series), because I'd read somewhere that he was into birds. He responded, and allowed me to interview him about his connection to birds and birding on the road. He was fantastic, and it was a real thrill to talk to someone I respected for this dumb blog.
Anyway, in that interview Meiburg talked a lot about his experience helping out British ornithologist Robin Woods on a survey for Striated Caracaras in - where else? - the Falklands. He became enamored with these Caracaras (as did Darwin), and loved birds ever since. Can you guess what was hanging out on top of that hill?
A Striated Caracara. Unbelievable. I don't think I've ever seen clearer images of a raptor in Street View. I found another bird later on:
The Street View hiker continued on past the Caracaras into what I assume was the major point of interest for the tour group: a huge penguin colony.
There are two kinds of penguins found on Carcass - Magellanic (with a white "c" on their face) and Gentoo (with a white dot). And, well, here they are, just as you've always imagined penguins: standing on a big plain of green grass.
|mostly Gentoo Penguins|
|Magellanic Penguins with some Gentoo in the top left|
Crossing the island from the penguin colony, the Street View hiker passes a number of white-and-gray geese feeding in the grasses, called Upland Geese.
On the other side of the island, Street View Guy walks a long a beach. It's a good beach. There are some waterfowl around, including:
South of Carcass Island but still off the west coast of West Falkland is New Island, named by the famous cartographer Joseph Lazyass. It should be called Rad Island.
Starting with the small stuff, the Street View hiker walked along a real nice beach and had some cool encounters. Here's a Turkey Vulture (ah, good to be back in standard Street View Birding territory):
Brown Skuas! That bottom image was snagged by Samuel Jolly of The Birder's Conundrum. Sorry for ruining your life, young man.
Look closely at that image again, though, see those white spots on the beach? They're Kelp Geese, and they're all over the island. Lovely birds.
The beach was great, but it wasn't the reason the tour stopped at New Island. Nope, it was this:
Just your standard everyday albatross and penguin colony. No big deal. Those are Black-browed Albatross and Rockhopper Penguins. The little gray albatrosses are chicks. ALL THIS FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR LIVING ROOM.
That concludes the first stop on our tour to Antarctica. Falkland Islands, you set a very high bar. What will we see in our next stop, at the Sandwich Islands? Stay tuned.
P.S. Although he didn't take these Antarctic images, a guy named Dan Fredinburg did a lot of GSV's more extreme stuff on tall mountains and at the Great Barrier Reef. Sadly, Dan Fredinburg died in Nepal after the recent massive earthquake and subsequent avalanches that occurred there. Here are a list of approved charities accepting donations to help the relieve effort in Nepal.