Friday, April 21, 2017

Fortuna Bay, S. Georgia

      I have experienced a lot of windy places, and even been in a hurricane once, but the strongest wind I have ever been in was at Fortuna Bay on S. Georgia Island.  My husband slept in, and I headed to the landing site on my own.  This proved problematic, because on this particular landing, there were a lot of large fur seals.  Every time I tried to sit or lay down to get some photos of penguins from a low angle, a fur seal came after me, and I had to scramble to my feet.  (Once again, I was really grateful that they bark to warn before attacking).  It would have been good to have someone to play defense.
    Shortly after landing I came across two Arctic terns.  They were trading a bug back and forth.  I'm not a birder by any means, but I stayed and watched them for awhile, with their unique red webbed feet. These two were cheeky.
     I spent a lot of time with King penguins. There were lots of them swimming along the shore ready to come ashore and walk to the colony. There were several groupings here and there I spent time trying to photograph, despite the attacking fur seals.  There was a river or stream of water that had been frozen and penguins were breaking the ice and trying to cross, a few at a time.  It was very cold and windy most of the time, with some snow flurries.  I walked a long way - especially challenging in the heavy polar boots. 
King penguins getting ready to come ashore
I tried to get a very short video of the birds coming ashore - though I'm terrible at video.
     I don't know whether the water was a stream or river, salt water or fresh, but it varied in width and depth and was a challenge for me to cross as well as the penguins.  I caught a small video of a molting penguin, with the funny mohawk look.
This is my favorite photo from this landing
     Someone always has to go first - I never did decipher their selection system.
      This is one of two leucistic penguins, with unusually pale coloring, I saw during the trip. 
      When I was far away from everyone else, way at the end of the beach, I started to head back.  It was tricky, as I mentioned previously, as every 5 feet or so was a territorial fur seal.  At one point, a wind gust literally picked me up and blew me a couple of feet into a fur seal, who barked and also ran at me.  This was the only time I was attacked where I had to raise my hands, stand my ground, and seriously hope.  My heart was really pounding and he stopped less than a foot from me.  I slowly backed away, and all was well.  I didn't take a photo of the one that attacked, but this photo is of a similar fur seal.
     One more layer of depressing stuff this trip: reindeer antlers - here is an example.  Apparently at some point some moron decided to introduce reindeer (what could possibly go wrong with putting an invasive species on an isolated island?)  The result was destruction of tussock grass, and eventually, many, many years later (bit not many before I arrived) the reindeer were exterminated.  Yep, all the innocent reindeer, imported long ago and surviving peacefully ever since, to the detriment of endemic species, were murdered, and the evidence they were there remains.  In the end it is for the best they are no longer there, but it is still terrible they had to die as they did, all because of stupid human error.
     Eventually, the weather changed, and instead of snow there was some sun.  I laid on the freezing rocks of the beach for as long as I could stand it, watching the penguins go out into the ocean to feed and come back in to return to the colony, talking to each other all the while.
     Every landing had its elephant seals.  I liked this big male, lounging among the tussocks to the right of the landing site.  He snoozed the entire time I was at Fortuna Bay.
     This big male had a small harem he was keen on protecting.  I didn't see any fighting here among the elephant seals though - there seemed to be enough space and enough females for everyone.
     Overall it was a pleasant day, but a bit stressful with the constant fur seal warnings, and always having to be on guard.  I also found the cold and wind draining, so I was glad to get back to the ship when I decided to call it a day.  If I had been with someone else I would have liked to stay longer, but I was exhausted with constantly getting up and down trying to take photos yet not get bitten by the fur seals.

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