In late November 2105 I lead a seven day extension expedition for a small group of photographers to the Falkland Islands after we completed the 2015 South Georgia Expedition. The Falkland Islands are well known amongst birders and bird photographers as one of the best places in the world for observing many different species in such a small area (many of them at close proximity). Our intention, was to visit two of the world’s best hotspots for photography – Saunders Island (the Neck) and Sea Lion Island. We also payed a visit to one of the local areas (Gypsy Cove) in Stanley on our last evening in the Falklands.
Access to these two islands is only obtained by first flying into Mount Pleasant near the capital Stanley and then taking a much smaller B-2 Islander plane out to the smaller Saunders and sea Lion Islands. The weather around the Falklands is a constantly changing variable and as such flights to these islands are never assured – everything is a weather dependant. Our first stop at Saunders Island was roughly a forty five minute flight from Stanley. We were touch and go for this flight due to very low cloud and fog in the area, but in the end we made it by flying under the cloud and super close to the water. I knew we were low when I looked out the window at the passing cliffs and saw a flock of sheep looking down on us.On arrival at Saunders Island we made the 45 minute drive by 4-wheel drive out to the ‘Neck’ area which would be our home for the next few days. The Neck is a remote part of the island with only basic self contained accomodation. The wonderful thing about this location however is the sheer plethora of bird life literally right outside the window. The Neck is really a very special area and we certainly got our moneys worth with changing conditions and amazing wildlife. In addition to Gentoos, Magellanic and Rockhoppers there was also a group of King Penguins out here, as well as one pair of Macaroni Penguins in the Rockhopper colony. The Caracaras (Johnny Rooks) and the Turkey Vultures were also very active here and there were a great many small birds including Meadowlarks, Black Throated Finches, Plovers and more. In addition there were Oyster Catchers, Gulls and other sea birds. Some of us also made the trek out to two of the remote ponds where we were able to photograph Black-headed Swans and the beautiful Silver Grebe. At the Rookery we enjoyed the Rockhoppers and also a huge number of breeding Black-browed Albatross in spectacular landscapes. I know of no other place in the world where you can photograph Black-browed Albatross in flight with a wide angle 16-35mm lens!
When we had finished at the Neck we took another small plane ride to Sea Lion Island where we spent three more days photographing Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins and also Rockhoppers and Cormorants a short drive from the lodge. In addition we had some fantastic shorebirds, Caracara, Blue Eyed Cormorant as well as several different species of the wetland birds found in the Falklands (several of them endemic to the islands). One of the highlights for me personally was the short-eared Owl which I spent the better part of two days to locate and photograph.The Falkland Islands is a world class location for bird photography and is a remarkable location for any wildlife photographer to spend time. With so many of the birds being approachable the photographic opportunities are extensive. As yet I have only had time to process a small handful of the photographs I made in the Falkland Islands, but hope to find time to work through many more over the course of this year. I am also looking forward to returning to the Falklands for a future workshop.