Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Penguins, Great Characters of the Falkland Islands

It is impossible to meet the penguins who spend the summer on the Falkland Islands without being anthropomorphic about them. They are all such characters, displaying human-like behaviour and emotions, and all four species are very different. It is just so fortunate that during the whole of the Falklands conflict, they were far away and at sea. It is also very fortunate that being birds, penguins are light in weight, and are in no danger from land mines.
Gipsy Cove

When my wife and I visited the Falkland Islands, we first met penguins at Gipsy Cove, not far from Stanley. Since the conflict, it has not been possible to enter Gipsy Cove because of the danger of mines. However, a fenced footpath passes above the Cove that has regular posts warning of the danger of the mines (much of this has now been cleared I gather). The path runs straight through a Magellanic Penguin colony, and far from the fence being a protection from humans, several penguins nest within two or three feet of the path. We were introduced to one very special character who is affectionately known as Harold. He has been coming back to the same burrow for several years. He stands proudly at the entrance, perhaps three feet from his human admirers, and periodically announces his presence, and probable importance, with a racket that seems impossible to be produced from such a little fellow. He puts his head back, his flippers out and brays just like a donkey (a close relative of Magellanic Penguins that lives in South Africa is called the Jackass Penguin).

Harold standing proudly in front of
his burrow
Harold braying
That was fun, but haven’t we got dirty tummies
– hope no-one will be cross!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Plants of the Falkland Islands

A group of king penguins in a field of sea cabbage, Senecio candidans
A few years ago, my wife and I visited the Falkland Islands at the beginning of January. Although the human population is extremely British in both origin and speech, there are considerable differences between the way of life in the Falkland Islands and life at home. Although approximately at the same latitude as London, the lack of a Gulf Stream makes the weather much colder. The islands are greatly affected by strong winds coming up from the Antarctic. Quite naturally, the land is treeless out in the country. The Falklands are divided into farms rather than districts or villages. In order to access farmland other than by accepted public footpaths, it is necessary to contact the farmer who owns the land. Casual entry into a piece of countryside that looks interesting for plants is not possible.