Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Google Street View Birding: Antarctica Part II: South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands

The adventure continues!

We are a third of the way though our epic, vicarious journey to Antarctica, stowing away with the crew of Google Street View.  We've just left the Falkland Islands, which dazzled us with winged splendor, introducing us to hordes of penguins, weird geese, and even a tiny, endangered wren. A great first stop, indeed.

But we must move on. Our next stop across that cold southern ocean is the wild South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

There isn't much human history on the South Sandwich Islands, save for a handful of whale-butchering operations operated on the largest island, South Georgia, in the early 20th century. This was messy business, according to my intensive research (cough cough Wikipedia cough wait why am I typing all this out), and occasionally involved some downright frigging disgusting things: "A rotting whale could fill with gas to bursting, ejecting a fetus the size of a motor vehicle with sufficient force to kill a man." Great!

Well, lucky for us, the whale carcasses are gone but the birds remain. Let's check it out.

The first stop in the South Sandwiches is a small island off the coast of South Georgia, and it's a doozy. It's called Prion Island (good start), and it's heavily protected by the small South Georgia government because of all the cool creatures that live there, like South Georgia pipits and burrowing petrels. And like these penguins:

Gentoos are the ones with the white dots on their heads (most of them) and up in the top right are some Kings.  

Elsewhere there's a cool Brown Skua:

Nearby are some big petrels, which are likely Southern Giant Petrels:

Kinda hard to see, but they're the dark birds just hanging out on the beach with a bunch of penguins and Antarctic Fur Seals.

Fur seals are everywhere in South Georgia, and frankly, they awesome. Check out this awesome dude on the boardwalk that leads up into the island. He is NOT thrilled about being chased off his platform.

Haha lookout you little scamp!

Where is this boardwalk going? Great question. OH, NOWHERE, JUST TO SOME WANDERING ALBATROSS NESTS. Yeah. The bird with the biggest wingspan of any living bird, right here nesting in your computer box.  Not a bad site, either.

Yowza. Not much I can add to this lovely scene. Let's move on.

I wasn't able to find much in the old whaling village of Grytviken, famously (I guess?) the burial spot of Antarctic explorer and guy-who-got-his-boat-stuck-in-the-ice Ernest Shackleton's.  I managed to spot this little guy, an Antarctic Tern:

And one good shot of a Petrel.

There is quite a bit of Street View coverage at Grytviken, but I couldn't find any other birds, so I just kept wanderGAH! LOOKOUT!

Scamps, I say! Let's get out of here!

Next top in the South Sandwich islands is Hercules Bay, where the Street View guy took a cool inflatable boat ride around the harbor.  I'm not really sure what they were looking for out there - there were some cool waterfalls - but there were just a few birds, including these Antarctic Shags (look for the black and white necks):

And these lovely King Penguins against a cool waterfall backdrop:

And this unidentified petrel-looking bird:

Onto our last stop, a place called Right Whale Bay. It was a little easier to figure out why the trip stopped here.  Penguins, lots and lots of penguins.

Thousands and thousands of King Penguins. Look at them all up there on that hillside! Very cool.

I had looked at some eBird checklists for Right Whale Bay to see if there might be other birds around, because there was one I was looking for.  It's a crazy-ass bird called a Snowy Sheathbill, an omnivorous scavenger that's been known to eat, according to its Wikipedia page, tapeworms and poop. And that's just there in the Wiki page! Can you imagine what the sheathbill lobby managed to get out of the Wiki page? Lord!

Well, I couldn't find any. But then I found a YouTube video about the making of the South Sandwich trip, and squeezed out this screenshot:

See that little fella on the left? I think that's a Snowy Sheathbill! Huzzah! A nice cap to stop #2, stay tuned for the final stop on Big Snowy itself, Antarctica.


IndianWildlifeClub said...

Very interesting project indeed!

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