Magellanic Penguin (Steve Dolberg)
One day later, however, we were on the east side of East Falkland, at Stanley, where we were able to spend the entire day on shore. In the morning we did a wonderful hike, led by several locals in addition to the ship's expedition staff, and had our first penguin experience. There were numerous Magellanic Penguins nesting along the coast, and we encountered adults and chicks. We also came across numerous other species that were new to me. The Falkland Steamer Duck is endemic to the Falklands. Others - Magellanic and Blackish Oystercatchers, Long-tailed Meadowlarks, Two-banded Plovers, Crested Ducks - are more widely dispersed through southern South America, but the furthest south I had been previously was to Iguazu Falls. The path of the hike was bounded, in certain areas, by fences that were marked with signs warning of mines still left from the 1982 war between Argentina and Great Britain over possession of the Falklands. The locals told of a cow that had had the misfortune of stepping on a mine several years earlier, and there was a team from Zimbabwe clearing mines elsewhere on the island. And there was a wonderful road sign that said: ''SLOW: Mine Field.'' To me ''fast'' would have made more sense. Still.
In the afternoon we went on a very rough off-road journey to a beach where we had our next penguin encounter. We spent a couple of hours watching and being watched by penguins, mostly Gentoos but a there was a small colony of King Penguins as well. This was February, near the end of the breeding season, so many of the chicks were as large as the adults and in their adult plumage while others were still wholly or partly covered in down and a few looked as if they had only recently hatched. The area where we humans were permitted was marked with cones, to prevent our approaching too close to the penguins, but no worries - if we sat still, the penguins approached us. It was a wonderful expedition.
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