Friday, 22 March 2013

Albert Ross and friends

Until a few weeks ago, I'd never set eyes on an albatross of any kind. OK, that's fairly normal for a UK birdwatcher, because other than the occasional bird that strays into our waters from time to time (I'm pretty sure one of them became known as Albert Ross), we don't get them.

Still, it feels very strange to go, in the space of a day, from seeing none to having seen literally thousands. On our first day on Carcass Island, we could see reasonable numbers of Black-browed Albatrosses offshore, and 24 hours later, on West Point Island, we were able to see the colony they were coming from.

Black-broweds aren't anything like the biggest of the family, belonging instead to the group of albatrosses known as mollymawks, but they're still pretty big, to be honest. Near the colony, I settled down for a good long wait in an attempt to film them in flight. A constant stream of the birds dropped in on the same downdraft, turned sharply, then landed. As they passed just a few feet overhead, they made a sound exactly like when a glider goes over low.

On the ground, they're much more clumsy, and they used little downhill grass runways to waddle along to get back into the air. Once there, though, they're every bit as graceful and effortless as you'd imagine. A flap of the wings becomes a very noteworthy event. It was worth noting, too, that they didn't necessarily need those runways - they took off from the sea easily enough when they needed to.

They're pictured below along with swimming Rockhopper Penguins - there might be the odd Kelp Gull there too.

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