January 8, 2015, The Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego -- Transiting at sea all day between the Falkland Islands and Argentina, today was pretty much sacrificial for new birds. I did add one species to my year list, a Chilean Skua, which, at least mathematically, is infinitely better than zero!
I spent most of the day on the ship's bridge, watching a variety of graceful seabirds I'd already seen earlier this week between Antarctica and the Falklands: Black-browed and Royal Albatrosses, Great and Sooty Shearwaters, Wilson's and Gray-backed Storm-Petrels, White-chinned and Cape Petrels, Slender-billed Prions, and a few seagoing Magellanic Penguins. I was joined throughout the day by various passengers and staff, many of whom have shown an incipient interest in birds during this trip, and it was fun to point out these creatures to fresh eyes. A little inspiration goes a long way!
The evening was given over to toasts, speeches, a voyage recap, a Kleenex-worthy slideshow, and a dressy dinner with borscht and a charmingly accented address by our Russian captain. This is the last night on board the Akademik Ioffe before everyone disembarks tomorrow morning in Ushuaia. After dinner most folks retired happily to the ship's bar, where I found myself trading Irish car bombs with a Silicon Valley software engineer who launched his own satellite this year (he showed me a picture it took of the Earth from space, pretty cool). Then someone killed the lights and things dissolved into a hula hoop dance party. I got out-danced by an 86-year-old grandma. Enough said.
It was nice to have a breather today before I step onto the South American continent tomorrow morning, though I'm getting itchy for birds. I will spend the next four and a half months in Latin America, birding every single day. Antarctica was an amazing place to kick off this year, but, with only 54 species in the first week, I now have some catching up to do!