Bird bonanzas in the Beagle

Thursday 9 February 2023

Day 11 – 27th Jan, Second day of the Drake Passage and the Beagle Channel

After a long and bumpy night (thanks to the ~8m swells) we were surprised to find we had almost finished crossing the Drake Passage. Luckily most of the group was not suffering from seasickness and surveys could be completed without issue. Although the weather had improved slightly – only slightly – the morning surveys passed much as the previous day with whales refusing to make an appearance.

Sunshine in the Beagle channel (by Kelly)

Excitement came as we entered the Beagle Channel and brilliant sunshine appeared. Masses of birds became visible with over 4000 sitting on the water as we sailed past. Sooty shearwaters covered the sea and proved a challenge to count for the seabird surveyors on duty. Black Browed Albatross also tried to upstage the masses of Sooty shearwaters, with hundreds of individuals counted within the survey periods.

Sooty shearwaters making the bird team’s survey effort tricky (by Kelly)

Black browed albatross in their hundreds in the Beagle channel and one comes in for a close look (both by Kelly)

Spirits picked up for the marine mammal surveyors as well, when pods of Dusky dolphins rode the bow of our ship. The few Humpbacks and Sei whales we spotted were also much appreciated after their disappearing act as we crossed the Drake.

Sei whale (by Kelly)

Dusky dolphins bowriding and breaching around the ship (both by Kelly)

During dinner (thanks to Mel’s negotiations with the amazing waiting staff) we surprised Sonja and Kelly with a cake to thank them for everything they had done to make the trip successful, as well as for looking after all of us of course. Especially at the beginning when we could not tell the difference between an Albatross and a Gull, or a Fin whale and a Humpback! I would just like to reiterate how much all of us appreciate all the work that was put in for us to have this opportunity and we cannot thank you enough.

After a revitalising day of surveys, in the evening we endeavoured to finish all our data collation and inputting. We all succeeded in entering all the data, bittersweet with the knowledge that there would be no more surveys. Some interesting methods were used to supply missing data and explain the positions of Penguins that were surveyed.

The day ended after we came into port in Ushuaia, almost a day earlier than originally planned, and the ship came to what felt like an unnatural stop. Tomorrow we will have land’s strange steadiness to contend with.

Written by Imogen (center)

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