The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Antarctica & The Subantarctic

ANTARCTICA: IN SEARCH OF THE EMPEROR PENGUIN

Visit the Weddell Sea in a ship with helicopters!

Friday 19th November – Monday 29th November 2021

Leaders: Mike Watson and a second Birdquest leader, Oceanwide Expeditions leaders

11 Days Group Size Limit 24
Tierra del Fuego Extension

Wednesday 17th November – Friday 19th November 2021

3 Days Group Size Limit 24

ANTARCTICA: IN SEARCH OF THE EMPEROR PENGUIN: OVERVIEW

 

Antarctica Birding Tours: Wonderful as they are, most Antarctica bird watching and wildlife holidays visit only the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula, where no Emperor Penguins can normally be observed. This special Antarctica birding and wildlife expedition explores the Weddell Sea, where this remarkable species breeds, and where there is a very high chance of success with finding Emperor Penguin. Not to mention all the other seabirds and marine mammals that make a trip to Antarctica so splendid.

This special Antarctic cruise is all about seeing Emperor Penguins! An Emperor Penguin rookery is situated south of Snow Hill Island in the Weddell Sea, on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula. The captain of the vessel will do his utmost to position the vessel close enough to Snow Hill Island in order to enable the expedition team to offer ship-to-shore helicopter transfers to approximately 45 minutes walking distance from the Emperor Penguin Rookeries. If we succeed, this will be an amazing experience. Even if the ship cannot get close enough for a colony visit (which happens over 50% of the time) a great deal of effort will be made to find Emperor Penguins on the sea ice and the success rate so far is 100%!

A visit to Antarctica is like no other journey on earth; it is indeed about as close to visiting another planet as any of us are likely to get. We can say without hesitation that this is the ultimate wildlife adventure, a wilderness experience that is truly uplifting and really does make the heart sing with the joy of being alive. If you ever have the chance to go to Antarctica then take it, for you will surely never regret it!

Antarctica is the last frontier on our ever-shrinking planet, a place that every traveller longs to explore but so few ever see. An uninhabited continent of more than twelve million square kilometres almost entirely encrusted with ice – an awesomely silent but starkly beautiful frozen world. Here some of the most magnificent scenery of all can be seen under the cleanest skies on earth. Towering volcanoes, stark mountain ranges, lowering headlands, icebergs like floating cathedrals – all are enhanced by the peculiar quality of the light, which lends an ethereal beauty to the savage grandeur of the landscapes.

This is a land of superlatives, at one and the same time the coldest, highest, windiest, driest, most barren and least known area on earth. Some 90% of the world’s freshwater is locked up in Antarctica’s icecap, which if it were to melt would cause sea levels to rise over 200ft (over 60m), drowning much of the world’s arable land and hundreds of major cities.

One of the strangest features of this lost continent is the fact that Antarctica is surrounded by the richest oceans of all, thronged with marine life ranging from tiny krill to seals and whales, and supporting enormous numbers of seabirds. The tameness of Antarctica’s seabirds and sea mammals is legendary and this remarkable journey will not only provide numerous opportunities to see albatrosses, petrels, penguins and seals at sea but also see us wandering right amongst their breeding colonies, accepted without question by creatures that have learned no fear of man. Whale-watching is a feature of Antarctic cruises and we may enjoy some spectacular views of these leviathans breaching and sounding right next to our ship.

Our journey starts at Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world, situated on the windswept but spectacularly beautiful shores of Tierra del Fuego. Here we join our ship and sail out into the Southern Ocean en route to the Antarctic Peninsula.

The sea crossings from South America to Antarctica offer some of the best pelagic birding experiences in the world, with no fewer than five species of albatross routinely encountered (Black-browed, Grey-headed, Light-mantled, Wandering and Southern Royal) and several others possible, as well as both Southern and Northern Giant Petrels, Cape, White-chinned and Blue Petrels, Slender-billed and Antarctic Prions, Great Shearwater, Wilson’s, Grey-backed and Black-bellied Storm Petrels, and Common Diving Petrel. We can also expect some cetaceans, including some large whales.

Steaming ever further south, we come at last to our ultimate goal, the Antarctic Peninsula, an icy finger of land pointing towards South America and first seen by human eyes only last century, and the rugged South Shetland Islands, home to millions of penguins and petrels. Here we will encounter Weddell, Crabeater and Leopard Seals, penguins and whales amidst the ice floes, visit Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguin rookeries, experience the awesome scenery of the ice-choked Antarctic channels, watch pure-white Snow Petrels and piebald Antarctic Petrels soaring around icebergs, and visit the shores of the Antarctic continent itself. On this special cruise, the legendary Emperor Penguin will be our ultimate quarry.

From the Antarctic Peninsula we sail northwards, back across the deep waters of the Drake Passage to the southernmost tip of South America, where the turbulent waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific meet at lonely Cape Horn, before very reluctantly returning to ‘civilization’ at the port of Ushuaia with memories that only a lucky few can ever hope for.

The great advantage of taking this particular Antarctic cruise is, of course, the very high chance of seeing the much sought-after Emperor Penguin. You will also see many other Antarctic birds and sea mammals in all their glory. The itinerary and day to day schedule are strongly wildlife-orientated and concentrate on the Weddell Sea (the only part of the Antarctic Peninsula where Emperor Penguins occur). Oceanwide Expeditions always have at least one experienced birder/ornithologist amongst their expedition leaders.

Furthermore, at least one Birdquest leader will accompany our group and a second Birdquest leader will be added if numbers exceed 15.

Birdquest has operated Antarctica birding and wildlife tours since 1990.

Why is travelling on a smaller expedition ship and in a smaller group so important for birding and wildlife-orientated visitors to Antarctica? Many people are unaware that the tightening environmental regulations in Antarctica mean that it is no longer possible to land more than 100 passengers at a time at the great majority of landing sites.

This means that if you go on a ship that takes well over 100 passengers, either landing durations per person will be greatly reduced compared to those available with the smaller ships, or there will be fewer landings (either because not all passengers can go ashore at any given landing or because the ship will need to book two landing slots, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, at each location, leaving half the passengers on board during each landing slot).  Sadly the trend in Antarctica is for larger and larger expedition ships, and there are now very few ships left that take fewer than 150 passengers and some that take 500 or more! This makes economic sense for the cruise companies, but is a huge step backwards for wildlife enthusiasts in our view. The whole point of going all that way and spending all that money is to have lots of time ashore in this magical part of the world!

Another important aspect to bear in mind is that all expedition ships have limited space at the bow and at the stern. These are the best places for birding during the sea crossings, at least in normal weather conditions. Even the bridge, where you have to look through glass, can only hold so many. If you go in a huge group of birders there will inevitably be frustrations, in our opinion, as too many people want the best observing spots and as communication weakens so good birds are missed. On a ‘normal’ cruise we often have the bows and stern to ourselves or share them with a few others. Most folk on these cruises are not interested in sustained seawatching, thank goodness.

Birdquest would never, ever consider taking a huge group on a ship holding 200 passengers or more. The greatly reduced number and variety of landings and the lack of space for pelagic birding would not be in the best interest of our clients and would spoil the whole experience, in our opinion.

What is the only reliable way to see Emperor Penguin on an Antarctic Peninsula expedition-cruise? The first thing to say is that the chances of seeing an Emperor Penguin on any conventional expedition cruise in the Antarctic Peninsula are very low at any time of the season. The only way to have a high chance of an encounter is to take a dedicated Emperor Penguin expedition with helicopters on board your ship (a rare offering).

The only reliable expedition cruises for seeing Emperor Penguin, indeed the only cruises that have more than a 5-10% chance or less, are those that use ship-borne helicopters to at least find one or more Emperors on ice floes in the vastness of the Weddell, and guide the ship as close as possible. Sometimes these cruises can get close enough for passengers to visit the actual Emperor Penguin colony at Snowhill Island (this happens on about 30% of these cruises). To date, this expedition has never failed to find at least one or more Emperor Penguins!

When is the best time for a birding and wildlife expedition-cruise in the Antarctic Peninsula? This is not a simple question to answer.

Laying aside the Emperor Penguin issue covered below, the easiest thing to say is that late southern summer/early autumn (late February into March) is definitely not the best time for a visit unless your main interest is cetaceans (which typically peak at this time), as most penguin colonies are winding down and the weather is no longer at its best.

During the early ‘ship season’, in November, the weather averages a bit colder and more unsettled than in December-early February, but more importantly, there can be issues in some years with sea ice blocking access to certain landing sites (this is particularly true of getting to Adelie Penguin colonies, for example). Furthermore, cetaceans are fewer in number at this time of year. On the other hand, the penguin colonies in Antarctica are less soiled.

During December to early February, the weather reaches it’s optimum, cetaceans become increasingly abundant, more sea ice melts or disperses, allowing more reliable access to some interesting areas, and most penguin species have endearing chicks.

Cruises to Antarctica from late December through to mid-February cost more than those at other times of the season because this is the peak demand period for Antarctic travellers in general.

Accommodation & Transport: We shall be sailing on the MV Ortelius, a converted, ice-strengthened former Dutch naval vessel of 4575 tons and over 91 metres in length operated by the well-respected Oceanwide Expeditions, who are based in the Netherlands. Ortelius is nowadays one of the relatively few smaller (100 or so passengers) ships available. While significantly more comfortable and more modern than the old Russian expedition ships, this is still not a ‘cruise ship’ in the traditional manner and is designed for exploring wild places and enjoying wild nature, rather than enjoying luxurious surroundings and ‘black-tie’ dinners with the officers.

Ortelius can accommodate a maximum of 108 passengers in 52 passenger cabins, all with private toilet and shower. Cabins consist of quad cabins with a porthole and two lower single beds and two upper, triple cabins with a porthole and two lower single beds and one upper, twin cabins with a porthole and two lower single beds, twin cabins with a window and two lower single beds, somewhat larger deluxe twin cabins with a window and two lower single beds and superior twin cabins which are almost 50% larger than a standard twin, with at least one window and one queen-sized bed. Cabins have ample storage space and an outside view.

Public facilities include a restaurant/lecture theatre, an observation lounge/bar with panoramic views, a library and a small shop. Food is plentiful, of good quality, waitress-served and prepared by experienced chefs. Both ships carry a small complement of expedition staff who, as well as guiding excursions ashore and zodiac cruises, double up as guest lecturers and give informal talks on the environment, wildlife and history of the areas visited. The bridge is normally open to all (except when the ship is docking) and provides a great viewpoint whenever it is too breezy to stand comfortably outside.

Much of the sailing is done at night (or what passes for ‘night’ in summer in high latitudes), thus maximizing opportunities for going ashore and enjoying the harsh but beautiful landscapes of Antarctica to the full. Landings are carried out using a fleet of zodiacs/naiads, the rugged, fast-moving type of inflatables first developed by Jacques Cousteau for expedition work which allow safe landings on remote coastlines in all types of conditions.

Further information about the ship is available on the Oceanwide Expeditions website: https://oceanwide-expeditions.com/our-fleet/m-v-ortelius.

Walking: The walking effort during our Antarctica birding tour is mostly easy, but there are a very few optional harder walks.

Climate: Quite mild at this season (and a surprise to many visitors, who imagine extreme cold is a year-round feature of Antarctica). In the Antarctic Peninsula and surrounds the shade temperature is generally a little above freezing point. On sunny days it can feel relatively warm if there is no wind (often the case in Antarctica proper). In contrast, it can feel distinctly cold when windy at sea or on land. Sunny spells are interspersed with (often longer) overcast periods and some rain or snow are to be expected. In Tierra del Fuego conditions are typically cool, but considerably warmer than further south.

Bird/Sea Mammal Photography: Opportunities during our Antarctica birding tour are truly outstanding.

Landings & Itinerary:  Adverse weather conditions may prevent landings on exposed coasts. It is, however, very unusual for more than a few intended landings to have to be called off during a cruise, and there is usually an alternative landing site available on such occasions. The information given about possible landing sites should be taken as a general indication about what is likely to be achieved during any given tour: every Antarctica cruise is different, being dependent on the amount of time available, sea and ice conditions, and the weather, and so it is likely that some of the sites visited on your particular tour will be different from those described.

Getting to Ushuaia in good time: Owing to the possibility, however small, of a severe airline delay, we would recommend that all participants on our Antarctica birding tour have at least one hotel night at the cruise start point prior to the tour and preferably two. Kindly note that in the event you do not arrive in time, the ship will not wait and neither the cruise operator nor the tour operator can make a refund in such circumstances. Arriving early also has the advantage that your luggage could still catch up with you, should it go astray. We can make hotel bookings for you on request, both before and after the tour. There is also the option to join our Tierra del Fuego Pre-Tour Extension.


PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

Deposit: 20% of the relevant twin-share cabin price (plus 20% of the relevant single supplement if you are taking a single occupancy cabin).

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates and deposit amount)

 

2021: For Ushuaia/Ushuaia arrangements:

Precise dates and prices are provisional:

£8000, $10560, €9600 in a quad-berth cabin with porthole and private bathroom
£8540, $11270, €10250 in a triple-berth cabin with porthole and private bathroom
£9120, $12040, €10950 in a twin-berth cabin with porthole and private bathroom
£95400, $12590, €11450, in a twin-berth cabin with window and private bathroom
£9910, $13090, €11900 in a twin-berth deluxe cabin with private bathroom
£10500, $13860, €12600 in a superior cabin with private bathroom

Tierra del Fuego Extension: £790, $1040, €950 Ushuaia/Ushuaia.

Gratuities for the expedition staff and crew are not included in the tour price. The level of gratuities is entirely a matter for personal discretion. The staff and crew work very long hours to make such cruises a success, and we understand that most passengers on these cruises give gratuities of between US$200-300.

Single Supplement: Single occupancy of twin-berth cabins can be obtained in return for a 70% supplement on top of the relevant twin-share cabin price. Extension: £150, $190, €180.

Please note that if you are willing to share but no cabin-mate is available you will not have to pay the single occupancy supplement aboard the ship.

This tour is priced in Euros. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

ANTARCTICA: IN SEARCH OF THE EMPORER PENGUIN BIRDING & WILDLIFE TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Day 1  Our expedition to Antarctica begins this afternoon at Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world, which is situated on the south coast of Tierra del Fuego, the ‘toe’ of South America, at 55 degrees south.

If it is clear during the flight south across Argentina to join the tour, you will be able to see the vast, arid landscapes of Patagonia far below and eventually the ice-clad spires and vast snowfields of Tierra del Fuego. Named by Magellan after the warning fires that the now-extinct Ona Amerindians lit when they saw his ships, Tierra del Fuego lies at the extreme southern tip of South America and is a wild land of grassland, windswept moors, stunted Nothofagus beech forests, snow-capped peaks and glaciers.

This afternoon we will board our ship before setting sail early this evening. We will spend the next 18 nights aboard. As we sail eastwards along the Beagle Channel, Magellanic Penguins, Black-browed Albatrosses, Southern Giant Petrels, Imperial and Rock Shags, Chilean Skuas, Kelp Gulls, South American Sealions and with a bit of luck one or two diminutive Magellanic Diving Petrels will be on show, but they are only an appetizer compared to the seabird glories of the subantarctic and Antarctica that still lie ahead.

Days 2-3  The sea crossing to Antarctica can often be a highlight of the voyage. As we travel ever further to the south we shall pass from the warmer sub-Antarctic waters that surround southern South America to the cold waters of the Antarctic. The line of demarcation between these two water masses is quite strongly pronounced and is known as the Antarctic Convergence. Here the upwelling currents create conditions ideal for plankton and the rich feeding attracts numerous seabirds and often cetaceans.

As we watch from the decks we will see an endless succession of seabirds following the ship, or sailing indifferently past, including Black-browed and Grey-headed Albatrosses, the graceful Light-mantled Albatross, enormous Northern and Southern Giant-Petrels, Southern Fulmar, Cape, Soft-plumaged and White-chinned Petrels, Wilson’s, Grey-backed and Black-bellied Storm Petrels, and Brown Skuas. We shall check the Slender-billed and Antarctic Prions for Blue Petrels, but the star of this ever-changing spectacle will be the greatest seabird of all, the Wandering Albatross, with its remarkable wingspan (up to 3.5 metres!). As we watch these huge birds gliding low over the sea between waves and then circling high into the air without even the slightest movement of their wings we will be witnessing one of nature’s ultimate creations in action – a bird which is in total harmony with its environment. We will also come across the confusingly similar Southern Royal Albatross amongst the Wanderings and be reminded just how difficult it is to separate some seabirds!

As we get closer our excitement grows and we shall keep a careful lookout for strikingly-patterned Antarctic Petrels amongst the much more common Southern Fulmars and Cape Petrels.

We also have a good chance of seeing whales, especially when we cross a bank where the sea depth decreases from over 4000m to under 200m, producing an upwelling that creates a plankton swarm highly attractive to whales: the most regular species here being Antarctic Minke Whale, Fin Whale and Hourglass Dolphin. If we are lucky we will encounter Gray’s Beaked Whale or Southern Bottlenose Whale. As we voyage southwards we will have a chance to listen to some fascinating lectures on the Antarctic environment and its wildlife or visit the bridge to learn about the many complex navigation instruments in use on our ship.

Days 4-7  As we pass through the Bransfield Strait, passing icebergs of immense size and awesome beauty, some white, others tinged blue-green by algae, we will watch out for the huge flukes of sounding Humpback Whales, the high dorsal fins of Killer Whales slicing through the water and the unobtrusive Antarctic Minke Whale. Here the silence is profound as the sun glows on ice floes dotted with Crabeater, Weddell and sinister-looking Leopard Seals whilst beyond is an endless vista of icebergs and distant, snow-coated mountains.

We will try to sail into the Weddell Sea through Antarctic Sound. If the passage is accessible and the ice does not prevent us from sailing further, we might see the huge tabular icebergs that announce our arrival on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

During these days we will use the helicopters in our attempts to find individual Emperor Penguins. During our previous voyages we were always able to locate Emperors. We will also offer scenic flights and, providing the conditions allow us, helicopter landings on tabular ice-bergs and locations otherwise inaccessible so early in the season.

Possible landing sites include Brown Bluff, probably the most scenic spot in the entire northern tip of the Antarctic Continent. With steep canyon walls and tumbling boulders, an ice-cap looming above, and beautiful volcanic creations, the extraordinary scene is completed by the thousands of Adelie Penguins nesting on the slopes, and a few Gentoo Penguins mixed in for fun.

Helicopter flights are a great contribution to the voyage, for example on the west side of Antarctic Sound, an area usually only rarely seen from the air. The scenery is stunning with landscapes of layered sandstone, lava flows, glaciers tumbling into the sea and icebergs and pack-ice as far as the eye can see.

We should be able to observe individual Emperor Penguins on the ice floes, as well as Adelie Penguins. Cape, Snow and Southern Giant Petrels fly high in the sky, while Kelp Gulls, Brown and South Polar Skuas and Wilson’s Storm Petrels scavenge down below us. The landscape is dominated by jagged mountains piercing through the ice-caps and huge ice-falls.

A beautiful helicopter flight over huge blue icebergs and fast ice can also be made close to View Point in Duse Bay. We land on a rocky hillock close to an old refuge hut overlooking the bay. There will be still a lot of snow and ice, but much of the intended walk on the Antarctic continent will be over a beautiful frost-shattered rock, almost entirely covered with the most fascinating lichen of all shapes and colours.

If the ice-situation allows us to go further into the Weddell Sea area, we will visit Devil Island and Vega Island with its large colony of Adelie Penguins and a magnificent view for those hikers who can make it to the top of the hill. Melting ice sometimes provides spectacular waterfall from the cliffs close to point ‘Well-Met’. Further south, we may also visit Seymour Island, where many fossils can be found.

On our way north through Antarctic Sound we might pay a visit to the Argentinean station Esperanza on the Antarctic Continent. We will continue to look out for Emperor Penguins on the ice-floes. In the afternoon we may visit Gourdin Island, with three penguin species; Chinstraps, Gentoos and Adelies.

The alternative program for Days 5-6, if the route to Snow Hill Island is free of multi-year pack-ice (around a 30-40% chance) is:

The use of helicopters has a great advantage and can support us in our goal to reach the Emperor penguin colony, but the itinerary is ruled by the forces of nature, ice and weather conditions. If the conditions are favourable, we intend to spend these two days visiting the Emperor Penguin rookery. The helicopter flight duration is approximately 15 minutes. The helicopter can accommodate 6 passengers per helicopter flight. The landing point of the helicopters will be carefully chosen and we will make sure that the Emperors Penguins are not disturbed or stressed by helicopter noise. Therefore, after arrival, we will continue their expedition on foot. After a walk of approximately 45 minutes, we will experience an amazing rendezvous with the magnificent Emperor Penguins. Keep in mind that we are in the world’s most remote area and there are no guarantees, including a specific amount of helicopter time. Conditions may change rapidly, having its impact on the helicopter operation and passengers should understand and accept this. Safety is our greatest concern and no compromises can be made.

Day 8  Colonies of Chinstrap and Gentoo Penguins can be found throughout the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetlands. We will likely make a landing at Half Moon Island in the South Shetlands, or at other very similar bird colonies elsewhere. Here, Brown (or Antarctic) Skuas will try to drive us from their territories by sweeping in low over our heads and breeding Wilson’s Storm Petrels zigzag over the talus slopes where Antarctic Shags nest. Wildlife photography opportunities are brilliant, with penguins pottering through the snow as they file down to the water’s edge, whilst others head inland to greet their mates at the nest

, display wildly to their fellows or steal stone’s from their neighbours’ nests. We may also come fairly close to saturnine-faced Weddell’s Seals hauled out on the ice.

The entry to Deception Island, through the aptly named Neptune’s Bellows, is just wide enough for our ship to navigate and here we will be accompanied by some of the numerous Cape Petrels that nest fulmar-like on the surrounding cliffs. Our anchorage is at Whaler’s Bay, an abandoned whaling station, inside a volcano whose cone caved in to be filled by the sea.

There is traditionally a chance to go for a (rather quick!) Antarctic swim here, in an area with some natural geothermal heating, but birders may prefer to concentrate on the bathing skuas or the nesting Cape Petrels.

Day 9  To the north of the Antarctic Peninsula lies the thousand kilometres (600 miles) of the Drake Passage, separating the Antarctic Peninsula from the curving tail end of South America. Crossing this historic waterway, named after the great English seafarer whose expedition almost came to grief in these wild waters, is an exciting experience and gives us our last chance to enjoy a host of albatrosses and petrels which have become so familiar to us during our Antarctic journey. Our second crossing of ‘The Drake’ will provide a fitting finale to our time in the great ‘Southern Ocean’.

Day 10  In the afternoon we should see the steep, rocky, greenish-grey headland of Cape Horn looming to the west whilst Sooty Shearwaters circle and dive, and Black-browed Albatrosses glide effortlessly down the troughs between the breakers. Here we have a good chance to see the rather uncommon Magellanic Diving Petrel.

This southernmost point of South America, named by the Dutch navigator Schouten after Hoorn, his birthplace in the Netherlands, has earned a reputation as one of the wildest places on earth. Here, at the meeting point of the Atlantic and the Pacific, the ferocious winds can whip the waves into a frenzy of spray, although in the southern summer it can sometimes be flat calm!

Day 11  This morning we return to Ushuaia. Here we will very reluctantly disembark from the ship we have come to know so well and which has brought us so many unforgettable memories. The tour ends on disembarkation.

 

 

TIERRA DEL FUEGO EXTENSION

You ought, as a sensible precaution in case of travel delay or lost luggage, have two nights in Ushuaia prior to the departure of the ship, so why not join our optional 2-nights extension and go birding in Tierra del Fuego?

Day 1  The extension begins at Ushuaia on the island of Tierra del Fuego, where we will stay for two nights.

Day 2  Ushuaia is situated at 55 degrees south and is the most southerly city in the world. Although the bird diversity at this latitude is low, the quality is outstanding.

During our stay at the veritable ‘End of the World’ we will, explore both the immediate vicinity of Ushuaia and nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park, a spectacular region of seacoasts, forests, lakes and snow-capped mountains on the Chilean border.

Specialities of southernmost South America we should encounter amidst the wonderful scenery of the Ushuaia area include the attractive Upland, Kelp and Ashy-headed Geese, the bulky Fuegian (or Flightless) and Flying Steamer Ducks, Chiloe Wigeon, Imperial and Rock Shags, Great Grebe, the handsome Black-faced Ibis, Blackish and Magellanic Oystercatchers, Southern Lapwing, Dolphin and Brown-hooded Gulls, South American Tern, Chilean Skua, the huge Magellanic Woodpecker (usually positively easy to find and get close to in this area), Austral Parakeet, Chimango Caracara, the localised White-throated Caracara, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, White-throated Treerunner, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Chilean Elaenia, Fire-eyed Diucon, Austral Negrito, Chilean Swallow, Austral Thrush, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Black-chinned Siskin and the handsome Patagonian Sierra Finch.

Other, more widespread, birds that we may well encounter include Crested Duck, Yellow-billed Teal, Black-crowned Night Heron, the splendid Andean Condor, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Variable Hawk, Kelp Gull, Southern Crested Caracara, Ringed Kingfisher, House Wren, Correndera Pipit and Rufous-collared Sparrow.

Day 3  After some final birding around Ushuaia this morning, we will embark this afternoon on our Antarctic adventure.

White-bellied Seedsnipe Option: If there are participants who would like to extend the extension by an extra day (so involving a third night at Ushuaia, immediately before the start of the extension proper), we can also include a visit to a spectacular high mountain area to search for two more restricted-range specialities, the uncommon and sometimes rather elusive White-bellied Seedsnipe and the smart Yellow-bridled Finch, as well as Buff-winged Cinclodes and Dark-fronted and Ochre-naped Ground Tyrants.

We can operate this extra seedsnipe option with just two people minimum, but you do need to inform us at the time of booking the extension that you want to do the extra day. The cost will depend on the number of participants and you can decide whether you want to confirm your place once informed.

The hike up to the seedsnipe area is fairly demanding (it takes between 1.5-2 hours and is ‘off trail’, being steep in places) and once up there the seedsnipe can take anything from 1-5 hours to locate, depending on the day, so this extra day is only for those who are fit enough. The hike into the mountains is weather dependent. Occasionally there is too much rain or snow.

ANTARCTICA, FALKLANDS & SOUTH GEORGIA TOUR REPORT 2018

by Mike Watson

View Report

ANTARCTICA, FALKLANDS & SOUTH GEORGIA TOUR REPORT 2016

by János Oláh

View Report

Other Antarctic, Subantarctic and Arctic birding tours by Birdquest include:

Spectacled

North America & The Caribbean

ALASKA

Wandering

Antarctica & The Subantarctic

ATLANTIC ODYSSEY

Siberian

Europe & Surroundings

FINLAND & ARCTIC NORWAY

Harlequin

Europe & Surroundings

ICELAND