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Day 22, 23 and 24 – Whilemina Bay, the Drake and the Beagle Channel

Day 22, 23 and 24 – Whilemina Bay, the Drake and the Beagle Channel

We woke this morning to Monika’s announcement that there were humpbacks breaching around the ship. I shrugged on my Gortex jacket and pants over my pjs, grabbed my camera and beanie and I was out the hatch.  No gloves, very few extra layers, but I wasn’t missing this.

Luckily my camera habits meant that I had a memory card ready to go in camera and the batteries were fully charged.

The visibility was sub optimal (snow / rain / low light) but it was a wonder to see.

Cold hands and a lack of action from the whales eventually drove me indoors to dress properly and have breakfast.  Everyone was a bit of a buzz.

After breakfast Monika informed us that there was ‘a bit’ of weather between us and where we were heading next, that being South America.  And the bit of weather being a cyclone. Rather than barge our way through it the captain was going to hang back in sheltered waters until a predicted (relatively) clear path would allow us to slip through, bypassing the worst of it.  Seeing all the scary colours on the weather map we were all in agreement, and reaching for our sea sickness meds in preparation.

Before things got too rough we had another Photoshop session with Alex in the dining room.

Winds of 50 knots meant no excursions while we were waiting so we had to just sit back, crack out our laptops to start sorting through photos, and enjoy the scenery from the comfort of the ship.

There were a few lectures from the staff to keep people entertained, although some passengers used the comforting voices to lull them off to sleep.

Before we went to dinner everyone was instructed to head below and make sure everything was ship shape and securely stowed as the night ahead was likely to be rough.

And it was. The following day we were allowed a late start, and many people decided to milk that and stay in their cabins until the afternoon. Even some of the staff seemed a little queasy.

Even so, I never felt unsafe and the rocking and the rolling was fine as long as you weren’t trying to perform any complicated tasks, like showering.  Of moving around. Kingsley devised a way to wedge himself into his bunk with life preservers to reduce the amount of movement in the night.

We managed to get out on the rolling deck and enjoy the magnificent sea birds, including a huge flock of sooty shearwaters,

and beautiful black-browed albatross (who are much more elegant on the wing than they are taking off or landing),

The next day went much the same way, but with less wind and slightly calmer waves.  It takes time after the big winds for the swell to die down.

As we entered the Beagle Channel the dolphins arrived to give us a show.  They are mighty fast, and quite daring, getting right up close to the nose of the ship and using its power to launch themselves sideways.  Their colouring is quite different to the indo-pacific bottle nosed dolphins that make up the swan river population. I think they were dusky dolphins, but I’m happy to be corrected.

Because they were so close it was another ‘wrong lens’ moment, so most pictures are only part dolphins. Being a bit of a dolphin tragic it was just so very exciting to see it.  I don’t know if any of the WA Dolphin Watch team have been out this way but I’m sure Delphine would have been thrilled to see this behaviour.  I know I was.

 Kingsley also caught them on video so you can see just how fast and agile they are.

Once we all came inside the crew presented us all with certificates to commemorate our journey. The first person called was Kelly, who went round and hugged every member of the crew present, setting the precedent for everyone else, with only a few notable exceptions. It was really lovely. Angela acted as staff photographer for the event – thanks Ang! They also played us a lovely video with picture form our trip and some information about the fantastic staff we’d had helping us out.

The dining room guys got a huge round of applause, which was well deserved.

And dinner was a special treat as well.  As the Pilot had just came aboard to guide us through the Beagle Channel, the good news for the Captain was that he got to come down  with his key staff and join us for the farewell dinner. It was by far the nicest meal we had aboard ship.  Maybe the captain eats like that every night….  The wait staff wore fancy waistcoats as well and looks very flash.

And then we all trooped off to our cabins, packing our bags in readiness for out disembarkation in Ushuaia the next day.

My mark of a good holiday is this, if money were no object, would you go back there again? For Antarctica the answer is a don’t-stop-to-think-about-it-for-a-second YES!!!! If you get the chance, go.  If you can’t afford it, start saving, or look at ways of getting employed there or on a boat going there.  This trip was an experience I will never forget and will be talking about in all the traditional cliches for decades to come.

Day 21 – Flandres Bay Paradise Bay, Orne Island and Wilhemina Bay

Day 21 – Flandres Bay Paradise Bay, Orne Island and Wilhemina Bay

Last night a few of us had a mini session with Alex going through some of her common Photoshop edits.  The thought process behind them was, for me, the most interesting part. The art rather than the science so to speak and a peek inside someone else’s thinking process. I hope she doesn’t find that creepy…

The science of how to make the edits I’m more familiar with, although I tend to use Lightroom for the basic things I do rather than Photoshop.

In retrospect, with the morning that was to follow, I wish I’d asked questions about how to focus through snow.  That might have been unfair as this was out Fearless Leader’s first falling snow experience, but I’m sure rain poses the same challenges.  I’m going to message her now and ask… (the best part of doing a trip with an expert is the opportunity to ask follow up questions.  And Alex is very good at mentoring her former students. Best thing).

The night was a little like a roller coaster ride.  For those of us on the lower decks we got a solid back massage as the boat rolled and pitched.  In the fancy cabins on the upper decks Ang and Sue had the ocean banging on their window. The crew told us the next day the winds got up to 185km / hour.

Having weathered the winds in our sturdy little icebreaker we awoke in Flanders bay, and it was still and beautiful.

No wind meant we could get out and about in our zodiacs, cruising icebergs and getting snowed on as it turned out. We saw a crab eater seal launch itself out of the water and onto the ice.  The power required to do that when you weigh that much boggles the mind.

 

Cruising around as the snow softly fell on us was just a little bit magic.  Oh and it was a little bit cold too.

The colour of the ice was exquisite, and we got to watch sea ice forming on the surface. Did I mention it was cold?


 The guys who came back and  went out after us got a real treat, seeing a leopard seal lazing nonchalantly on the ice. Having seen their enviable pictures his smug expression reminded me most of the puppet Randy of Sammy and Randy.  We didn’t see him so no pictures – sorry.

We did see the beautiful Snow Petrel flying about.  Very tricky to photograph a fast moving white bird on a white background so I was happy with what I got. Realistic expectations after all.

We also got to watch the butterfly like birds feeling on the surface.  They were entrancing, but I’ll need to ask Fiona what they were called. *Wilson’s Storm Petrels.


Our final landing of the trip took as to Orne Island.  The chinstrap penguins there seemed grottier than the Gentoo ones we’d seen. There was something a bit Oliver Twist about them, although I’m sure they were well loved and cared for.

The parents did show us a lot of pebble nest building and some acrobatics.


 
We also got to see an iceberg tip over (they do that from time to time) and we got rained on a bit.

And once the rain had got all over my lens, we found the two tiny skua chicks and their parents. Rain on the lens!!!  Well the main thing to remember is that I got to see them, and they were very, very cute.

These were our last footsteps on Antarctica and I wish I’d taken more of a moment to farewell it. I know this was meant to be a trip of a lifetime, but maybe that just means I’m meant to go back again one day.

In the evening we were given a show by a number of humpback whales as the light dimmed. No great whale tail photos, but I will have to compare those with the ones I have off the Australian coast to see if there are any matches.

Day 19 – Antarctic Continent

Day 19 – Antarctic Continent

We started the day watching humpback whales breach  in the Gerlache Strait.  It’s a hard life.

After breakfast we arrived in a small harbour names for a whale factory ship that used to operate here.

The only person unhappy with the weather for our first steps on the Antarctic continent was our fearless leader, Alex. As we should all know beautiful blue skies and sunshine does not make for perfect penguin photography conditions. It does make for a unforgettably magic experience and views.

Having been shuttled to the shore across glassy water we landed near a  Gentoo penguin colony and we were able to watch the art of home maintenance Gentoo style. Pebbles are the main building material of choice.  There isn’t much else on offer actually. The challenge is that your neighbours often feel free to take the pebbles you’ve used to make your nest to beautify their own so it’s an ongoing activity to keep up with the Joneses.

We made our way up hill over the flawless snow for a view from the top. We’d all donned our various layers before setting out, but halfway up the hill we stopped and started to strip off,  to the point where I ended up in short sleeves, no gloves and no hat. Simply balmy at 5 degrees c and no wind at all.

Towards the top of the hill we heard an unforgettable sound from the glacier, and
saw a small part fall away. Not large enough to create a new iceberg it
did create an amazing wave. There was more rumbling and groaning form
the ice but no calving.

On the top of the hill we got a sneak peek at a Skua family. If you’re ever in a situation where you’ve gotten too close to a Skua and it decided to have a go at you, the tactic we were told was to loosen the fingers of your gloves and wave them over your head, allowing the birds to attack something other than your flesh. Better yet, apply common sense and give wildlife the room they need to feel comfortable and unthreatened.

After marveling at the view for some time we started back down. Under guidance to prevent disappearing down any hidden crevasses some passengers decided to take the easy way down and slid.

On our way back to the shore Pablo spotted a Weddell seal having a relax in the snow. 

There were plenty of chicks in the rookery and it takes some getting used to to see them spread out like there has been some kind of penguin massacre.  They seem to be able to sleep in the craziest of positions.

After lunch (I swear they are trying to fatten us up for something Hansel and Gretel style) we made our second stop of the day at  Cuverville. We got to see a functioning penguin highway, channels worn in the snow used by the penguins used to traverse the steep slopes.

Many of the penguin chicks here were of an age that they were quite active, and very funny to watch as they went running after mum or dad seeking food.

Here you can see the backward facing bristles on the penguin tongue which helps keep the fish, squid and krill in when fishing.


There was one penguin still sitting with its egg. There is a good chance that late hatchlings won’t make it.  The penguin chicks rely on being part of a creche, a group of chicks under the general supervision of one or two adults while the rest go out to sea to fish. Later chicks will be fewer in number and more vulnerable to predation.

While waiting for our ride back to the boat we watched a bit of drama start to unfold. A penguin chick had slipped down part of a rocky slope away from its parents and was being approached by a pair of skua. By this age penguin chicks are often able to hold their own, but the skua often try to tire the babies out, or try to get them to fall off the edges. By the time we left the little one was steadily making his way back up the rocks.

Watching these kinds of things in nature is quite challenging.

Our ride back to the boat included a zodiac cruise, allowing us to get up close and personal with the crab eater seals. As a general rules they would raise their heads to look at us as we approached, before deciding we weren’t really that interesting and going back to sleep.



Seeing the icebergs at sea level is just incredible.You always kind of think those photos will all the blue are photoshopped to look that way, but those colours are real and quite unearthly.

Our evening meal included a toast by the crew to celebrate our landing on Antarctica proper.

Day 15–Drake Passage aboard MV Ushuaia

Day 15–Drake Passage aboard MV Ushuaia

Overnight we have been piloted through the Beagle Channel and have started our way over the Drake Passage. The roll of the ship took a little getting used to in our cosy bunks but so far I have been pleasantly surprised and think we are doing very well in terms of a calm journey.

According to Wikipedia the passage is 800 kms wide and covers the area between Livingstone Island and Cape Horn. The volume of water running through it is approx 600 times that of the Amazon river. having never seen the Amazon that probably doesn’t give me any context, but from looking at at the seemingly endless ocean I can tell you there is a lot of water out there.  I don not have that number in Olympic sized swimming pools or Sydney harbours so don’t ask.

Crossing of the Drake can be very rough, youtube shows some amazing footage which you should check out if you have the time and inclination. This is my favourite (not our video, not our trip but this is the ship we were on).

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There are others on board who would disagree with my assessment of a nice gentle crossing and many people have been knocked about with serious sea sickness. That would normally keep the ship’s doctor, the petite Colombian Dr Grace, busy enough, but we learnt this morning that one poor lady met with misadventure overnight, and to prevent a slip in the shower grabbed a door jam just as the heavy door swung closed. Partial thumb amputation by ships door is not a ideal start to an Antarctic voyage. We will be changing our plans a bit and steaming towards the nearest airstrip, on the South Shetland Islands, to allow her to be flown back to civilisation for further medical treatment. So far she is doped on on pain meds and members of our tour have medicated her husband with contraband chocolate.

As mentioned previously, In our min group most travelers opted to go with the Scopoderm sea sickness patches. I’ve never been sea sick before, but there are times when there is no point taking chances so we ordered our patches on the internet from New Zealand.  They aren’t available in Australia. Some others are using anti-nausea wafers and other pills and poultices.  Poor Brigitte seems to be copping the worst of the sea sickness in our group, and Kirsty has brought a nasty cold with her form Disney World and is tucked up in her cabin with the small pharmacy of drugs Todd has stashed away.

While we are on the open ocean there isn’t terribly much to do aboard ship apart form get used to the movement and bird watching on the upper decks. Fortunately this is am amazing experience for me. We have a range of sea birds, albatross, petrels, shearwaters and the much maligned skuas who, for whatever reason, love to glide about the stern of the ship. And they get unbelievably close. So close in some cases that my 70-200 lens couldn’t focus, and it has a minimum focus distance of 95 cms…
This is an uncropped portrait of a skua hovering just above my head and clearly trying to figure out what I was up to.

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In addition to my friendly Skua+ we spotted Black-browed Albatross, White Chinned Petrel, Cape Petrel, Giant Petrel and Wandering Albatross, Our daily lecture delivered by Pablo, one of the three biologists on-board, talked a bit about these pelagic birds. It was very interesting to learn that only some birds have a well developed sense of smell; vultures, kiwi and pelagic seabirds like the albatross, shearwaters and petrels.

+This skua photo was actually taken closer to the Shetland islands, but I hadn’t reset my camera dates to the new time zone. Stay tuned for a lessons learned post later this week.

We started on the first full day of the breakfast, lunch and dinner regime. Breakfast consists of toast, fruit croissants, cereal, yoghurt, scrambled eggs, bacon, tomatoes, cheese, ham etc buffet style. The coffee is pretty ordinary, but it is served to you by some of the funniest, friendly people alive so that is forgiven.

Note: Seeing as I am finishing off these posts after the fact I am going to cheat a little bit and include some information I didn’t know at the time where it makes sense to do so..

The serving staff in the dining room are, in no particular order were;

Fabian, who advised us to  walk-like-a-penguin to avoid losing your balance aboard ship. He also demonstrated the technique to us and Kingsley spent the day practicing. Fabian and Lorri and having a competition to see who is the smiliest person in the universe.  Fabian has the edge only because Lorri is a little green around the gills.

Alvaro, who reminded me of the genius Alexei Sayle, is a man of a thousand and one facial expressions. Working with people who all have different languages means that being able to express yourself using your body language and facial expressions is a great skill, and this man is the master.
Carlos, who came around the dining room every meal to see who was opting for the vegetarian option each day (believe it or not this varied more than you might think). For some reason he would look at me every day as if expecting me to choose the vegetarian option. I didn’t, and can’t help feeling that I disappointed him.  Something about me must look vego for some reason. Carlos has eyebrows that speak volumes.

Over the course of the trip the vegetarian dishes went from the basic to the out and out weird. The corn and white sauce lasagne was perhaps the one that stood out most in my mind.  I wish I’d had the forethought to take pictures of each dish for reference.

Maria Jose played the straight man) to Curly, Larry and Mo. I don’t think she has been on the Ushuaia as long as the others, but she is equally lovely and helpful.

Lunch and dinner are three course affairs, aimed at giving people something to do as much as a attempt to provide a balanced and nutritious diet I think. Edible but not a gastronomes delight would be my summary.. The best thing about the food  were the lovely soups, all served with mountains of fresh bread. Sadly after the last two weeks I have had both bread and cheese up to the eye teeth. Still, no chance of going hungry as there is plenty of food on offer.

Being a captive market I expected the bar prices to be high, but we have been pleasantly surprised.  A very generously poured glass of the house red or white is $5 USD, a bottle of wine ranges between $20 and $40 USD and a cocktail $10 USD. Soft drinks come in at about $3 USD and the tap water is drinking standard, though may start to taste a bit sub standard once the ship has to start processing its own.

Our bar tender for the trip was Alejandra. We quickly discovered that the trick to having drinks with dinner was to purchase them in the bar beforehand and then take them with you to the dining room. Otherwise poor Alejandra was running backwards and forwards from the bar at one end of the ship to the dining room at the other for 88 passengers, all the while keeping one hand for the ship and one for the beverages and glasses. While I’m sure that kept her fit it was also time consuming and you could get to dessert before getting something to wet your whistle..

The bar runs on a chit system, where you bill is accrued during the journey and you pay in cash (USD) at the end or by part payment by credit card two days before return to Ushuaia. This system worked fine, but you need to keep an eye out on the dodgy Australians who try to put your cabin number down instead of their own. 

Day 8 – Iguazu Argentina to Iguassu Brasil and back again

Day 8 – Iguazu Argentina to Iguassu Brasil and back again

Here is the picture of the giant, ponderous rat I promised you. Capibara by name and super cute by nature.

On Day 8 we spent the day being driven around by the lovely Sergei so we could see the Brazilian side of the Iguazu Falls.. He made the trip quick, simple and fun.

He picked us up at the hotel at 7:30 as requested, which turned out to be ideal timing both for setting out and for our later return as all the traffic was going the other way.

Our itinerary for the day was the Brazilian side of the falls, a helicopter ride over said falls for Kingsley in a Bell Jet Ranger (the same model of helicopter that we had sitting in our driveway for a month or so), the bird park and finally a tour of Guira Ora, the wildlife rescue centre back here in Argentina.

This final destination was the most interesting. Our guide spoke both English and Spanish so commentated the walk in both. We we the only English speakers but felt included the whole way round.

It was fascinating to hear that they get animals and birds in not only from road accidents and general misadventure, but also surrendered animals from people who have taken native animals as pets but have discovered that the little things that was cute as a wee thing is now trying to savage them (now illegal here) , from seizure or confiscation by authorities and as a result of injury from trapping or hunting.

These included some native cats, porcupines, toucans with missing wings or legs, monkeys and the biggest otter I have ever seen in my life.

The birds and animals that form the tour for visitors are those that have no prospect of re-release. Those that are blind, have had feet or wings amputated or have been kept in captivity as pets and would not know how to fend for themselves in the wild. The animals that will be rehabilitated are kept away from the public which is as it should be.

We learnt that the largest of the toucans is like a pelican in that it can be car versus, devouring the chicks of other birds. That sweet and open demeanor is just a cover. Beware birds bearing large beaks.


In contrast I felt a bit iffy about the bird park in Brasil. Most of the enclosures were relatively roomy and full of stimulation, but I didn’t get the feeling that it was about conservation as much as tourism. The butterfly house was lovely, but they don’t stay still any longer the than in the jungle.

The border crossing, as I mentioned yesterday (well of day 7 seeing as I’ve posting this very late), was the first I’d done on land. As I’m sure all of you already know that me at first going through Argentinian immigration (very slick) and then Brazilian ( looks like it was slick once but now not so much). Sergei took care of it all for us. At the Argentinian border then is a fast lane for tourists and you pass your passport over form the car. We had to slide open the door so the guy in the booth could see us, but it all took about 3 minutes and we were on our way.

On the Brazilian side Sergei just took or passports into a little office then about 15 minutes returned with them stamped and processed. If you recall we had our visas sorted in advance. The return journey worked the same way, except that we needed to show our reciprocity tax receipts at both.
The rain gear came in handy again as we did the other side of Garanta del Diablo.

The other side of the falls is more panoramic. You arrive at the visitor centre then jump on a bus that takes you out to where the water is. This is one we wouldn’t have wanted to walk because it is too far, not all that interesting and there is no pathway. The bus is a double decker so you can look at the rain forest from up high. E most interesting thing to watch on the bus was the very sweet little girl and her loving dad on the the seat in front of us. She was loving the ride and the most beautiful smile. It was a reminder to enjoy the simple things like the feeling of wind on your finger tips.

I may expand on this if I have time, but we check out of the hotel with the very slow internet very soon and I want to get this done, so here are some pictures of the beautiful creatures who live in this part of the world, and one of Kingsley. We did see wild toucans while at the hotel and they look pretty silly when flying.

Rainbow Bee-eater

Rainbow Bee-eater

I saw my first Rainbow Bee Eater at the Broome Bird Observatory in 2013. I was astonished to learn that they are regular visitors to Perth, making the journey down around Mid October each year, before heading back north. I assume they don’t like the wet season in the Kimberly any more than anyone else does.


There are a lot of birds with names that make you wonder what recreation drugs the person naming it might have been taking.  This bird, however has exactly the right name.

It looks like a flying rainbow, and it eats bees.  Originality 0, accuracy 10 out of 10.

Rainbow bee-Eaters burrow. They pick a nice sandy bank, or in Broome, the side of the road and they excavate a nice deep hole in which they will lay eggs.

They are supreme aerial acrobats.  Some of them have a favourite branch, where they can be found day after day, from which they launch themselves into the air, do a few loops and sweeps and return with a tasty insect in their beak.

Being smart little bee-eaters they will then wipe a bee or wasp against the branch to get rid of the hurty bits before enjoying the meal.

Despite having lived in Perth for almost all my life, this year was the first I have ever seen one of these in the area.  That says far more about me than it does them.  When you know what to look, and listen for, they are practically everywhere (well at lots of the best parks and reserves in the North West suburbs anyway).

There are a number of other bee-eaters worldwide, most of them quite beautiful.

More information
Family: Meropidae

http://creagrus.home.montereybay.com/bee-eaters.html
http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/rainbow-bee-eater

Osprey

Osprey

The Osprey is a bird that makes me think of family.  Not because they are family oriented birds, but because every summer when I was a child we’d take our family holiday on Rottnest island, and there was always at least one pair of osprey nesting somewhere.

I was suprised to learn that our Ospreys are actually Eastern Osprey.

Which makes me think back to family again when it comes to their nest building habits.  We have an uncle who lives near BisVegas. He started building his ‘nest’ when his lovely wife was pregnant with the first of their four girls. With each successive breeding (and non breeding) season he has added to the ‘nest’ so that it now spans four floors. Interestingly enough all four former fledgling return often to the nest with their new partners. This may be where I stretch the analogy too far.

The point I am trying to make far too verbosely is that like the Osprey, Uncle L has added to the nest making it bigger, better and more impressive every year, which is exactly what an Osprey pair often do with their nests.

The nest above is the nest at West End, Rottenest Island. As you can probably tell there have been ospreys nesting here for as long as I can remember, which presumably means they are not the same pair as Osprey only normally live to 20-25 years of age. And I’ve been around a bit longer than that…

On my cycle to work in the morning I am often lucky enough to see a pair of these amazing birds perched at the tip top of a pine tree that stands on the banks of the Swan River, just south of Kings Park. It is a reminder that, like us, many birds are creatures of habit.

And then, just to keep you guessing you’ll find them somewhere new.

In this case, resting at low tide with the gulls, swans and ducks just south of Claisebrook Cove.

 But pretty much you’ll find them in all sorts of places along the river and along the coast.

 Osprey are fish eaters and it is an amazing sight to see
them plummet into water in pursuit of their prey.  On this occasion the
Osprey came up empty.

This is what he would have looked like if you replaced the stick with a fish.

Being a raptor does not make you immune to the taunts of the ravens.  Hardly a suprise I know.  The way of the world seems to be that Willy Wagtails and Ravens will take on anyone, anywhere, anytime.

After much huffing and puffing both the ravens and the Osprey took flight and were off.

More information

Pandion cristatus
Family: Accipitridae

http://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/eastern-osprey

Zebra Finch

Zebra Finch

Zebra finches are the trend setters of Western Australia, following a boom and bust breeding cycle to take advantage of rain rather than iron ore.

Unlike the ‘youth of today’, Zebra Finch nippers are out of the house at 35 days of age (days that is not years Gen Y), and are soon having families of their own.

These little beauties were freely flying in and around the Armadale Reptile Park when I was there last year.

From his chestnut cheek patches you can see this is a male.

These finches are like many modern (heterosexual, stereotypical) couples. 
She’ll pick the property, he’ll run up to Bunnings to get the building
material, then she’ll make decisions about how the nest should look. They both look after the eggs and the bubs when they come along, but let’s face it, 35 days…

More information

 Zebra Finch (Taeniopygia guttata)
Family Estrildidae

http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/zebra-finch

Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen

The Purple Swamphen is a common bird around Australian waterways. In New Zealand they are known as Pukeko.

An interesting fact about the Purple Swamphen is that it is a good swimmer, even though it doesn’t have webbed feet, and can actually fly quite well too. Despite both of those things, when I see them they are almost always wandering around on the grass or in the shallows.

Beneath their good looks the Purple Swamphen has a slightly darker side. They are known to steal and eggs, and the occasional chick of other species.

When it comes to their own families, all family members help to sit on the eggs, including their older brothers and sisters.

Like the Coots and Dusky Moorhens, the chicks have red heads at the early stages of life. They seems to lose them as they age, and it is finally replaced by the adult red crown.

The Purple Swamphens pictured here are from Herdsman Lake, Lake Monger and Lake Bungana. These are great places to watch water birds as they are reasonably used to people walking past and there is a good range of species. Watch out for snakes and swooping magies of course.

More information

Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)
Family  Rallidae

http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/purple-swamphen
http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/page-rallidae-family.html

Blue-billed duck

Blue-billed duck

It’s tricky to imagine how a blue bill has an evolutionary advantage, but these ducks are making it work for them in WA.

If there is a duck that really enjoys a good bath, I’d say it in the Blue-billed duck.  They like them so much they rarely leave the water at all.

When I watched this young gentleman splash about I couldn’t help thinking of Ernie and his Rubber Ducky song.

First a quick rinse to test the water.

Gargle.
 

 

 A quick check of the feet.

 Sing a little song, cos we all do that in the bath.

 Are you watching me?

Nothing to see here.

The female blue-billed duck, well, isn’t.  Blue-billed that is. In her own way she is a nicely speckled duck, and apparently looks very like a female Musk Duck. Easiest to identify by who she hangs out with.

More information

Blue-billed Duck (Oxyura australis)
Family: Anatidae


http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/blue-billed-duck