Follow me as I embark on my third austral summer of adventures in penguin counting and research in the Antarctic Peninsula, Falkland Islands, and South Georgia! (OK, so not all adventures will be south of 60, but all will involve penguins...fair enough?)
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
At home at the end of the world
It is always a treat when things in one's life come full circle.
About 10 years ago I travelled out of the United States for the first
time with a group of students from the UNCW Honors Scholars Program (now Honors
College). Dr. Kate Bruce and Dr. Mark Galizio took approximately 14
college students on a life-changing trip to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador;
I was so fortunate to be one of the students on that trip. I am sure my
parents remember that phone call, all of these years later, of me saying
excitedly, “Hi! I need a check so I can go to the Galapagos Islands. Now!” And
perhaps they will recall their response of, “Who is this?” [Which continues to
be their response when I call to ask for monetary donations to this day.]
It was in large part because of Kate, Mark, and that trip that I
was bitten (or rather stricken) by the travel bug. And as most of you
know, I do love to travel...and am willing to go quite a distance to see the
most beautiful places on Earth. To that
end, I have been sharing my adventures in Antarctica over the past two years
with Kate and Mark every chance I get. Both avid birders and world
travelers, I have always felt that theyjust
HAD to come to Antarctica.
Well, apparently I was just convincing enough—I am so excited that they
will be travelling to the Antarctic aboard the Ioffe with me this year! In
fact, we will set sail later this afternoon!
Andean sparrow, all poofed up while preening
Yesterday I met up with Kate, Mark, and their daughter Annie
for a birding adventure in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. I had been to the park two years ago, on my
first trip to the Antarctic and was really keen to return. Most of this desire stemming from the fact
that the Magellanic Woodpecker evaded me last time and I really wanted to see this bird!
I knew Kate and Mark would enjoy the hunt as well. So with binoculars, cameras, and spotting
scope in hand, we took off through the woods to track down this bird. After checking off a fair number of common
species in this area (and Mark threatening all Andean sparrows with extinction
should they continue to trick us into thinking they were something cooler) we
heard a single, loud KNOCK. Any one who has ever hiked with a birder (my
apologies to you as you likely thought you were actually going on a “hike”)
knows that moment in which we stop, dead in our tracks, turning our heads just
so to wait for that next sound to key in on where that bird might be. This also involves “shushing” of the rest of
the hiking party; after all, you
might scare the bird. And here we stood
for a few minutes, waiting for any hint as to where this bird might be, for
there was no mistaking this knock, it could only be from a very large
woodpecker, THE woodpecker that has
haunted my dreams. Eventually the bird moved and we followed its flight path
ultimately getting a fantastic view of the Magellanic Woodpecker. We watched it preening for about 10 minutes
before it took off. Fist bumps were
passed around and we continued on, walking along various trails in the park to
see as many species as we could.
Female Upland goose and goslings
Male Upland Goose
It was so wonderful to be out birding with Kate, Mark, and
Annie. It felt like I was home, yet we
were hiking at the end of the world. For
the first time in the 10 years that I have know them, I get to be the local
expert and show them what I consider to be the most beautiful place in the
world. Full circle indeed.
It is now time to board the Ioffe and set sail for the Antarctic Peninsula. I will post about our trip when I get to Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands on December 29!
Our bird list from Tierra del Fuego National Park: