8 Feb 2024

Antarctic Expedition. Part 2. Ushuaia

Leaving the heat and dustiness of Buenos Aries I crossed the city to the domestic airport and caught my flight to Ushauai - a three and a half hour flight down to the very tip of South America where this southern most town (often called the end of the world) lies alongside the Beagle Channel. This is where I'd be picking up the ship but I had a couple of days birding ahead of me so after dumping my bags I went for  little exploration. I'd been told there was a small nature reserve at the edge of town so I headed there. The weather was pretty miserable with heavy rain making birding hard so I went back to my hotel and had an early night. 

Ushuaia is a strange place. Lots of large cruise ships dock here so theres lots of tourist shops yet the place is very run down. According to all the signs everywhere Ushuaia is the capital of the Falklands (Las Malvinas) and there are memorials to the Falklands war everywhere. Mainly proclaiming the British illegally invaded and took back the Falklands from the rightful ownership of the Argentinians and the fact that the brave Argentinian forces were overwhelmed and out numbered. I know a lot of the history surrounding the Falklands war and had friends who fought there and it didn't make me feel comfortable

Next day was hardly better weather wise and during the night the Sapphire Princess cruise ship had docked with Allan Conlin and Peter Sutton on board. Al is guest lecturer aboard the ship and we arranged to meet just after breakfast at the local reserve. Unbelievably we live 20 miles apart and I hadn't seen him for quite a long time so meeting him at 'the end of the world' was quite a surreal experience.

The reserve is tidal and separated from the main channel by a  with very few passerines although I did pick up a Dark-bellied Cinclodes foraging among the kelp on the foreshore.

Dark-bellied Cinclodes

Walking along the seafront to get to the reserve also added Dolphin Gull, Turkey Vulture and my first Southern Giant Petrel of the trip.  Dolphin Gulls are visually stunning but like all gulls that frequent seaside towns they're not adverse to scavenging a bit of your lunch! There was also a very photogenic pair of Kelp Geese alongside the wrecked ship in the photo above.

Southern Giant Petrel
Kelp Geese

Turkey Vulture

The reserve itself is a tidal flood basin surrounded by rough grassland. There are viewing platforms and information boards explaining what birds you and is a good location for a few hours mooch checking out the wildfowl and a few waders - including Magellanic Snipe and Southern Lapwing. ( I also had Bairds Sandpiper, Blackish Oysterctcher, Magellanic Oystercatcher and White-rumped Sandpiper here later in the day when the tide had dropped).

Southern Lapwing

Magellanic Snipe
It wasn't very species rich but the wildfowl were very photogenic and I saw birdds here in the wild that I'd only ever seen in wildfowl collections back home! 
Night Heron

Chiloe Wigeon

Chimango Caracara

Crested Ducks

Red Shoveler 

South American Tern

Upland Goose

Yellow -billed Pintail.

With the weather closing in there was just time for a quick touristy type photo with the Ushuaia tow nsign before Al and Pete departed for their floating palace whilst I made my way back tp othe hotel to dry out before venturing put again later in the afternoon. After dinner in the hotel I had an early night as the following day was going to be a busy one. I'd arranged a guide to show me some oof the birds in the nearby Tierra Del Fuego national park where I'd hoped to see some of the specialities including Magellanic Woodpecker and Great Grebe. He was then dropping me off at the docks to get aboard the mv Plancius for the start of my Antarctic odyssey proper.

No comments :