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Antarctica

Chinstrap Penguin Pygoscelis antarcticus ©Adam Riley Website

Antarctica used to be thought of as a frozen wasteland where nothing lived or grew and which was too cold for anything to survive. Now it is recognised as one of the last great wildernesses which needs protection from exploitation or its very delicate eco-systems will topple. The cold waters abound with micro-organisms and tiny crustacea such as krill that attract higher animals. The bird life can be impressive and abundant in places and, of course, the penguins are a sight to behold. The following introduction was supplied in February 2002.

Introduction:
Most people know Antarctica as a bitterly cold wasteland with nothing but rock and ice. Antarctic however, has a rich and diverse spread of animal life, the best known of which are the penguins and whales. The cold Antarctic waters provide a nutrient rich environment which sustains a long and complex food chain, the basis of which is plankton and krill.

Getting there:
Antarctic was less then 200 years ago, and getting to Antarctica remains a challenge today. The two main gateways to the frozen continent are Ushuaia, Argentina and Christchurch, New Zealand. Ushuaia is the closest with a distance of 1000km from the Antarctic Peninsula. Due to its proximity and the wealth of animal life in the Peninsula, Ushuaia is Antarctica's biggest tourist hub. Being in the Tierra del Fuego makes it a good spot for birders to start spotting.

Birding:
A typical tourist voyage to the Antarctic Peninsula involves a ship voyage in the open sea from Ushuaia down the Beagle Channel and across the Drake Passage (2 days). This part of the voyage is lost to most visitors, but to birders it is a great opportunity to spot species like kelp gulls, terns, shearwaters, cormorants, petrels, prions, albatross (mainly Royal, Wandering, Black Browed and Grey Headed); fulmars etc.

Once in the Peninsula, one can get up close to several of these species particularly during landings to various islands or the continent itself. Penguins colonies are particularly popular with tourists allowing one to get to within 3 meters (IAATO rules) of the animals. The most commonly sighted species of bird sighted by tourists during landings are penguins (Adelie, Gentoo, Chinstrap, and sometimes Emperor, rockhopper and Macaroni); Sheathbills and Skua.

Other Animals:
Other animals that one should look out for are seals (Leopard, Weddel, Crabeater etc); and whales (Fin, Humpback, Killer, Minke, Southern Right etc).

Tour Information:
Since Antarctica is given special environmental protection by international law, tourism is a topic of much debate. Tourism in Antarctica is overseen by Members of IAATO who comply to strict rules and standards which are aimed at making tourist visits to Antarctica as environmentally friendly as possible. You can find information various tours to Antarctica with relevant info about the tour and operators, here.

Contributor

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Useful Reading

A Field Guide to the Wildlife of South Georgia

By Robert Burton (Editor), John Croxall (Editor) | 200 pages | 368 Colour Photos | 1 Colour Map | WildGuides | Paperback | 2012
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9780691156613

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Antarctic Birds

by David Parmelee FIELD GUIDE ? 1991 ? HARD COVER ? 203 PAGES

Antarctic Birds: Ecological and Behavioral Approaches (Exploration of Palmer Archipelago)

by David Freeland Parmelee University of Minnesota Press 1992

ISBN: 0816620008

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Illustrated Checklist: Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica

Martin de la Pena Paperback - 224 pages (September 1997) HarperCollins Natural History

ISBN: 0002200775

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds (HANZAB)

Currently into 7 volumes…

Useful Information

Facts

47 Bird Species; 1 Endemic.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Birding Ecotours

Tour Operator

Please contact us for details of Antarctic and Arctic birding cruises. Birding Ecotours aims to provide world-wide birding experiences of superb quality, while contributing to environmental conservation and disadvantaged communities. Please contact us for detailed information, queries and quotations as we are happy to help you in every aspect of planning your birding holiday.

International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO)

Tour Operator

IAATO is a member organization founded in 1991 to advocate, promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic…

Rockjumper

Tour Operator

South African company with a worldwide remit offering trips to Antarctica…

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2006 [03 March] - Moira & Graeme Wallace - New Zealand; the Sub-Antarctic Islands of N.Z. and the Ross Sea in Antarctica

Report

The trip was a great success, on the Sub Antarctic/Antarctic leg recording 8 species of penguin including an extraordinary encounter on the sea ice at 78¢ª South with a group of 40 Emperor Penguins, preparing to start the long march to their breeding grounds . We landed by zodiac on the sea ice and watched in wonder as, braying and trumpeting , they waddled and tobogganed across the ice to within a couple of metres to check us out. We also saw12 species of albatross, both snow petrels, the strange endemic flightless teals on Campbell and the Auckland Islands. Leopard Seal cruising the sea ice at Cape Royds and Adare and several pods of Orca were among the mammalian highlights…

2006 [12 December] - Nigel Voaden

Report

Pdf

2010 [01 January] - Trevor Hardaker - Antarctica, The Falklands, and South Georgia

Report

…Our trip across to the Falkland Islands was a great introduction to the fantastic array of seabirds that inhabit these southern oceans. It gave us the opportunity to get to know the subtle differences between Northern and Southern Giant Petrels, enjoy the spectacular Cape Petrel as well as Great Shearwater and Slender-billed Prion, and to pick out the minute Wilson’s, Black-bellied and Grey- backed Storm Petrels over the vast ocean surface…

2014 [01 January] - Andrew Whittaker - Antarctica, South Georgia & Falklands

PDF Report

Our 2014 cruise to our planet’s final frontier, Antarctica, was absolutely outstanding! I was thrilled to return to this magical continent and two spectacular islands (after almost 20 years). Topping this, though, was being able to share this mind-boggling experience with a fantastic group of people....

2014 [04 April] - Simon Cook

PDF Report

...The long journey to Tristan da Cunha via Stanley, Falkland Islands* (Cattle Egret, Magellanic Penguin, Turkey Vulture, Southern Caracara and Variable Hawk) brought many more seabirds, including our first Sooty, Atlantic Yellow-nosed and Tristan Albatrosses, Great, Sooty and Sub-Antarctic Little Shearwaters, Slenderbilled Prion, Atlantic, Soft-plumaged, Grey, Spectacled and Great-winged Petrels, Broad-billed Prion, South Polar Skua, White-faced and White-bellied Storm-Petrels plus Long-tailed Skua. Marine mammals included Hourglass, Dusky and Peale’s Dolphins...

2014 [12 December] - Kristian Stahl & Roger Holmberg

PDF Report

A since long planned trip to the Antarctic finally starts. We are all in all eight Swedes from various parts of the country who decided to make this trip. Due to private reasons, one of the original eight did not participate. Roger and myself start the trip to Ushuaia...

2015 [01 January] - Markus Lilje

PDF Report

...The port of Ushuaia is the southern-most city in the world and usually used as a base for ships travelling to the Antarctic Peninsula. From the ship itself we were able to find South American Tern, Flying Steamer Duck and Chilean Skua....

2015 [02 February] - Andrew Spencer - The Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica

Report PDF

2015 [04 April] - Simon Cook - Atlantic Odyssey

Report PDF

Once out in the Drake Passage the first of many species of seabirds were seen, such as Wandering, Southern Royal, Black-browed, Grey-headed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross, Southern Fulmar, Sooty Shearwater and Blue, Cape and Mottled Petrel.

2015 [12 December] - Wildwings

PDF Report

The Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula

2016 [01 January] - Michael O'Brien

PDF Report

Our January 2016 cruise to the end of the earth was an exciting adventure, full of amazing wildlife sightings, some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world, incredibly informative and entertaining lectures by a talented Zegrahm Expeditions staff, and a cheerful bunch of fellow travelers. As can be expected with such an ambitious cruise, there were a few bumps in the road, resulting in an altered itinerary, but the trip was an amazing success by any standard...

2016 [02 February] - Peregrine Rowse

PDF Report

It has been a dream of mine to go to the Antarctic for longer than I can remember. It owed more to Scott than Attenborough. The ‘we’ in this report is my wife, brother, sister in law and me. They are civilians; I was the only birder. There are of course many reports, mainly from bird tour companies, covering this route but I hope the comments below may be helpful to you in deciding if to go, when to go, where to go and how to go...

2016 [03 March] - Simon Cook - Atlantic Odyssey

PDF Report

...Very good weather meant a very productive time at South Georgia. Several landings were made and birds included Wilson’s and Black-bellied Storm-petrel, Antarctic Prion, Antarctic Tern, White-chinned Petrel, SG Pintail, SG Pipit and SG Shag. Colonies of King, Macaroni, Gentoo and Chinstrap Penguin were seen, as were nesting Wandering, Grey-headed and Black-browed Albatross but Light-mantled Sooty Albatross was only seen in flight. Both species of Giant-Petrel were seen at very close range ashore; as was Pale-faced Sheathbill and Brown Skua...

Organisations

British Antarctic Survey

Website

The Antarctic is an extreme environment for any organism to survive in, yet both marine and terrestrial habitats of the Antarctic, contain wildlife which has adapted (in some cases uniquely) to the extreme conditions and which effectively utilise available resources.

International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO)

Website

IAATO is a member organization founded in 1991 to advocate, promote and practice safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic…

Museums

Goleta Natural History Museum

http://www.air-and-space.com/Natural%20History.htm

Bit of a cheat this really as it is is on the net so should be regarded as a virtual museum…

Reserves

Antarctic wildlife

Website

Blogs

Jim Wilson

Blog

This winter [2007-2008] I will be spending six weeks in and around the Antarctic Peninsula. I will be joining the cruise liner Marco Polo on the 11th December as the expedition Ornithologist.

Other Links

Antarctic Birds

Website

There are 6 species of flying birds nesting in the vicinity of Dumont d`Urville…

Antarctic Birds

Website

Systematic List

Antarctica Wildlife

Website

Snow Petrels Pagodroma nivea

Website

Snow petrels are pure white birds with black beaks and eyes. They are the size of a pigeon and arguably the most beautiful of all the Antarctic birds…