Continued from Page 1
Sunday 7 November (cont)
We had stayed on the decks well into evening, with many passengers joining us to see this wildlife display. Dinner was postponed, as was the recap session. John Sparks, one of the lecturers aboard, had photographed an odd albatross that had been part of a lunchtime debate (see WhichAlbatross.html)

Monday 8 November
….the town of Arica lay ahead. We had left Peruvian waters.

….the museum. There were trees and scrub vegetation here and we had the chance of some birding! There were many Oasis Hummingbirds around the flowers but the speciality, Peruvian Sheartail, took a lot more effort, At the eleventh hour, just as we were about to leave for the ship, the whole group saw a fully-tailed male feeding on Bougainvillea.
  
….We would be at sea for the next few days. Afternoon birding from the deck was much slower than the last couple of days but we did see three Black Skimmers, an unusual 'at sea' record as these are usually coastal birds. We had more Salvin's Albatrosses, our first Cape Petrel and there were a number of sightings of Fin Whales, probably about twenty animals involved.
Left - Salvin's Albatross
Tuesday 9 November
We were at sea all day. Early morning on the bridge deck and we had the first good views of Buller's Albatross. These birds were to be seen throughout the day with more than a hundred counted. It was interesting to note that the Salvin's seem to have disappeared this morning, all the albatrosses being Buller's. Most of these were in active wing moult, showing pale patches on the upperwing, the inner webs of the exposed feathers being clean and white and not bleached.

Late morning and bird numbers had really decreased but, by now, most of the group had caught up with all the various species ranging from the small storm-petrels to the large albatrosses. A bonus though, we were lucky to see two Peruvian Terns. This species has become endangered and many traditional breeding sites are now deserted - for example in Peru there are only two known sites where it still breeds. It tends to feed close to the surf so to have these two about thirty miles from land was a nice surprise.
We were getting accustomed to the Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters, the Wilson's and Markham's Storm-Petrels, the two phalaropes and more. My favourite seabirds were to start appearing today - the gad-fly petrels, the Pterodromas. These are truly dynamic seabirds, and when seen always send the adrenalin rushing, and we know so little about most of the species belonging to this genus.

During the afternoon the wind increased to Force 7 Beaufort, classified as ‘near gale’. This was unusual for the Humboldt at this time of the year, and there were many 'white horses' at the crests of fifteen-feet waves. The ship was going into a head wind, but rode the waves well.

The De Filippi's Petrels came past as singles, the flight fast with some banking and arcing into the air. I noted though this Pterodroma flew more direct than most members of the genus. What magical birds these were! We were now sailing into the range of this species and over the day, maybe thirty were seen. Early evening, just as dinner was called, another Pterodroma species was spotted also, this one darker on the cap and the outerwing, and with a distinct gleaming-white forehead (a key field-mark) - this was Stejneger's Petrel and was observed by just a lucky few of the group.

Wednesday 10 November
This morning there was some unusual and most unexpected weather for the Humboldt Current. It was grey and overcast and worse there was a strong wind, often Force 7. This created a swell, which made for difficult birding (and for some an uncomfortable ride). We were to be at sea all day so the ship had arranged lectures, one on seabirds and another on volcanoes. There were films showing in the Observation Lounge and birding was on offer from the bridge deck.

There were fewer albatrosses today but the Salvin's now reappeared after yesterday's absence. A couple of birds were seen gliding along the starboard side and could be watched for minutes. Buller's Albatrosses were in lower numbers and a few Black-browed, all juveniles, were around.

A juvenile giant petrel came to inspect the ship and was certainly a 'Northern' - unexpected, as this record was higher up the Chilean coast, in latitude, than the books show. Another interesting record was a White-bellied Storm-Petrel, this bird was assumed to be from the breeding population of the Juan Fernandez Islands.

As the weather was not too kind the Captain decided to take the ship closer inshore. We saw on the charts that we would pass close to some small islands that looked ideal for penguins and, right on cue, Humboldt Penguins appeared, bouncing around on the sea.

Yet more De Filippi's Petrels today, and in the strong winds many came past at the speed of bullets. ‘Pterodroma’ was always shouted aloud, so they could be studied, but only one more Stejneger's Petrel was identified.

Thursday 11 November
At 0730 the central Chilean city of Valparaiso lay ahead. Along the promenade we found Chilean Seaside Cinclodes, Austral Thrush and Chilean Mockingbird.

….the Polar Star was underway. The birding became first-rate again - inshore we saw Humboldt Penguins, diving at the ship’s approach, and three Peruvian Diving-Petrels, one seen taking flight to ‘crash’ into the sea and disappear underwater; their classic escape manoeuvre.

Once offshore we were passing through rafts of Sooty Shearwaters. Occasional Salvin's and Black-browed Albatross would cruise effortlessly across the bow. During the afternoon more than fifty De Filippi’s Petrels were counted and Pink-footed Shearwaters exceeded one hundred in just a few hours. Flocks of phalaropes were still around; these amazing hardy migrants had travelled south from arctic latitudes.
Left - De Filippi's Petrel
Friday 12 November
Early morning, we were sailing south, and there was mist and rain. The visibility was poor and birding from the bridge was difficult. We saw our first 'Great' albatross, a 'northern' Royal that impressed everyone by its huge size and graceful flight. By the time lunch was called the mist had lifted and the horizon could be seen again.

In front of the Polar Star we saw another boat, a trawler. Through binoculars we could make out thousands of birds following it. Possibly the crew had been gutting fish. As we drew nearer to the trawler a White-capped Albatross (another of the Shy Albatross complex) came across joining us, but it was the sheer number of Black-browed Albatrosses, which was amazing - hundreds upon hundreds came from the wake of the fishing boat, now to check us out. The first Westland Petrel was picked out in this multitude on one character, wing moult (the very similar White-chinned Petrel has a different timing to their moult).
Further on, and we came close to another fishing boat, again having a cloud of birds following it. Salvin’s, and another two Royal Albatrosses, joined the abundant Black-broweds and the assortment included Giant Petrels.

We could see Isla Mocha in front of us, and there was a change of species as hundreds of Pink-footed Shearwaters accompanied the ship. We were to land on this small island and were ferried across to a pier by zodiac. The island was lush and had good stands of Antarctic Beech (Nothafagus spp.) woodland that covered the hillsides. The birding was enlightening as we had no idea what to expect, and the ship had never stopped here before. We found Black-chinned Siskins to be plentiful and surprisingly large flocks of Chilean Pigeons – this species was once considered highly threatened and nearly became extinct in 1954 when Newcastles Disease struck the population. Two Red-backed Hawks soared and hovered over a distant valley and a fine White-tailed Kite was a surprise find. As we walked a few hummingbirds shot past us, no doubt Green-backed Firecrowns.

As we returned to the ship the shearwaters were beginning to gather offshore, in hundreds of thousands. Pink-footed Shearwaters breed on Isla Mocha and this was obviously an important colony. Many passengers stayed on the decks at sunset to watch the extraordinary scene as the shearwaters congregated before heading inland to their nest burrows.