Monday, January 18, 2010

Sea Lion Island

This past Saturday we headed off to Sea lion Island after being fortunate enough to get a helicopter flight. John had to work in the morning so was unable to come but he had been lucky enough to head out to the island the day before. We were all up very early which was hard for me as we had been out to dinner the night before and I had consumed more alcohol than I thought!! The kids were quite excited about going in a helicopter again and the girls dug out their ear defenders especially for the trip. Ellie beamed her way through the flight and I was chuffed to get this picture of her.

Sea Lion Island lies 10 miles south of Mount Pleasant and it took us just under 40 minutes to get there. We flew in a Sikorsky S-61N which is operated by British International. These helicopters are used for most of the island hopping and troup movments. There are three types of helicopter on the base, the ones above, Search and Rescue Sea Kings and Lynx.

When we got to the islands we were given a quick run down of what we could see and where to find it by Jenny. Unfortunately we only had three hours on the island so we were unable to make it out to the Rockhoppers as it was a 6 mile walk and we couldn't be sure to make it back in time. The helicopter does not wait for late arrivals. It literally touches down, picks you up and leaves. We headed out to Elephant Corner first so we could see the massive population of Elephant Seals that breed here. They are huge creatures many of which you could mistake for rocks and boulders as they lie so still and blend in with their surroundings. This is the first time I have seen elephant seals and I was not disappointed by their grandeur.

They are called Elephant Seals on account of their noses. They were fairly active on the day we visited and many of them were squaring up to each other and fighting. They pull themselves up to almost standing height and front up to their opponent. They make huge bellowing sounds and roar at each other. You can physically see their breath as they do this which the kids were rather vocal about. They then basically batter hell out of each other biting and thumping themselves together.

This particular seal was laid away from the main group in the seaweed and kelp towards the front of the beach. It was having a rare old time rolling around in the seaweed and burying its head under the mounds of kelp. It wasn't at all phased by me stood taking pictures but kept an eye on me never-the-less.

Their flippers are amazing, they are almost human like in the look and movement. You can also see the power in them. They use these flippers to haul themselves up onto the beachs. Sometime you will find them up amongst the tussac grass and you have to be vigilant when walking in these areas not to step on them. I can assure you that you would not want to be within striking distance of one of these creatures.

Euan soon got bored of watching the seals and started to forage for sticks and rocks to mark the sand with. He spent lots of time climbing up the rocks and launching himself off of them. The girls had started to get rather cold as the wind was biting so we decided to head a little further inland and look at the penguin colonies.

There are three distinct colonies of penguin on the island. Firstly, there are the Gentoo below who had lots of beautiful young. They were so cute waddling around with their little fluffy coats. I couldn't help but smile every time I looked at their legs, as they reminded me of a small boys baggy pants.

As I sat down to take pictures of the babies one of the penguins got rather inquisitive and siddled up towards me. He got so close I found I couldn't focus my long lense on him. I did manage to shot a picture of his feet though as I find them really interesting. I still cannot get over the bright colour of them or their size in proportion to the body.

Alot of the babies were led down in the mud fast asleep. When I first saw one I thought it was dead as it's head was flat out on the earth and it looked lifeless. There are no nests or mounds for them to sleep in, just the odd divot to huddle into. They are starting to loose their downey fluff and will be ready to go to sea by late March.

As we were watching the penguins a striated caracara flew over and tried to pick off one of the other visitors. It was so close to sticking its tallons in the poor persons head. Apparently this particular one is renowned for doing this especially if the person is wearing red! This one seemed very happy to be close to humans and came within two feet of me as I was taking its photo.

The Gentoos were making an almighty racket as it was trying to steal the last few remaining eggs. It was walking right up to the penguins and pulling at their feathers in order to get it of the nest.

The second type of penguin is the Magellanic which is also known as the Jackass penguin on account of its braying call. They are quite comical and they have these funny little head movements were they tilt their head completely from one side to the next and almost look at you upside down. The Magellanic penguins breed in burrows arriving in late September and leaving again by April. They are very protective of their young and it was very difficult to get a picture of their babies above ground. Their bellies are filthy where they scoot in and out of their burrows. We found the burrows all over the islands even in the tussac grass.

This particular one was on the beach and wandered up to me as I was taking pictures of the seals. The girls had pretty much had enough and were getting rather cold after two and a half hours so we head back into the lodge to have a cup of tea and a much needed warm up.

Back on the flight it was Maddie's turn to sit in front of the window and I think this shot sums up our morning best, windswept but content and happy with another wonderful adventure.
I hope to be back again in the next day or so with a post about our adventure to Cape Pembroke. Lets just say it involves a brand new car, a very large puddle and a rather scared family. Love to all Helen x

1 comment:

  1. Hi Helen, I've just logged onto your blog to see how you're doing - sounds like a you're having a few different days out than you would in Crudwell!. I've saved your blog as a favourite now - not stalking you or anything!!
    Take care and have fun. Pam