Polychaete research in the Falklands by Teresa Darbyshire - mean birds
This morning I got up at 6am to go and watch for Killer Whales that often patrol the nearby Elephant Seal beach. Unfortunately last night the wind blew up (even more than usual) and was still going this morning making the sea on that side very choppy. Apparently the Killer Whales don’t like wind and choppy seas – wimps! So no joy there. The Elephant Seals however are much more active at this time of day and I got to see them fighting (photo 1) each other (not very seriously) and making lots of noise.
Having walked one side of the island yesterday today I made the obvious choice and walked the other side, always on the hunt for more potential sampling sites. Also no joy. The north coast of the island is mostly cliffs that drop off to the sea or solid rock with no way down. Further down towards the west end there are large, rounded clean rocks embedded in a loose clean sand, that rarely has much in, or more solid rock. At the east end, which I visited on my way back last night there is lots of open white sand and sand dunes, very much like Surf Bay where I also didn’t find anything. In this wind the whole area also becomes a sand-blasting site where if you stop for more than a few seconds one side of you gets coated in an inch of the stuff.
So back to the same sites I did yesterday, on the south side, which wasn’t such a bad thing. The effects of the wind were very evident on this side as the waves crashed in all along the shoreline (photo 2). No Elephant Seals followed me today, but the caracara, annoyed at being denied yesterday came back and attacked me. Yes, actually attacked me. It watched me do my sampling, pacing back and forth on a nearby rock, flexing it’s talons, and then as I started to leave and head back up the beach something hit me on the head - the caracara. Luckily I had my woolly hat on (highly protective) but this bird really didn’t want me to leave the beach and hovered inches above and/or in front of me when I tried. Eventually, the oystercatchers, also upset by its presence, flew at it and ran it off giving me just enough time to make my escape from the beach.
So on to the other site. After some more slate-splitting I returned to my bag, which I had left on a dry rock, to find the caracara sitting on the rock next to it. And it had brought a friend (photo 3). Not that I’m feeling freaked out by this bird at all but I really do think it’s following me, and those talons and beak do not look nice. This time though I was merely watched as I packed up and left, casting nervous glances behind me.
They are definitely going on the risk assessment form next time!