Argentina part 4 – The Valdez Peninsula and Punto Tombo   Leave a comment

This the fourth update from Argentina and covers our time on the Valdez peninsula and at Punto Tombo a short distance to the south.

IMG_2845 Whale watching - Copy

We arrived at Puerto Piramides on the Valdez peninsula mid afternoon on the 28th and straight away boarded a whale watching boat similar to this.

IMG_2814 Southern Right Whale - Copy

There are two large sheltered bays on the Valdez, both are calving and mating grounds for large numbers of Southern Right Whales (so called because being slow and floating when dead they were considered the right whales to hunt).  The whale watching boats only operate in the southern bay, the whales often approach the boats quite closely allowing great views.

IMG_2819 Southern Right Whale - Copy

We had at least four whales close to the boat including two calves and at about 25 were seen throughout the bay.

IMG_2821 Southern Right Whale - Copy

The head and upper jaw of the Southern Right Whales are covered with areas of thickened tissue known as callosities which are even present on the young calves.

IMG_2850 Mark & Jim on boat - Copy

We were on a boat with about 30 other tourists (thousands of tourists visit the Valdez each year to see the whales) our leader Mark and participant Jim climb to the lookout platform ….

IMG_2854 Mark Pearman

…. but the captain neglects to tell them that he was returning at speed so they have to hang on for their lives.

IMG_3059 Valdez

The following day we drive around the rugged coast of the Valdez.

IMG_3028 Valdez

Unfortunately the wind was very strong, at least F7 probably gusting to F8 and it was impossible to stand in the most exposed places let alone use binoculars or a scope.

IMG_2912 Elephant Seals

We were able to see this haul out of young Southern Elephant Seals on the south east corner of the island but it was so windy that we beat a hasty retreat.

IMG_3048 Puerto Tombo

We continued north but ……

IMG_3042 Valdez

…. conditions weren’t much better.

IMG_3051 Valdez

Again only a brief visit was made to this lookout ….

IMG_2960 Valdez

…. however we had more success at this sheltered bay. Good numbers of Elephant Seals and a few birds were seen here, however last year the tour watched a party of Orcas (Killer Whales) and one took a seal pub by beaching itself as seen on Attenborough documentaries- no such luck this year.

IMG_2954 Giant Petrel

There were a number of Southern Giant Petrels in the area, major scavengers, they can often be seen around seal colonies.

IMG_2948 Patagonian Yellow Finch

In spite of the vicious wind, this Patagonian Yellow Finch perched nicely in front of us

IMG_2908 Darwin's Rheas

A little inland we saw lots of Lesser (or Darwin’s) Rheas …..

IMG_3069 Mara

….and these Pacas, large hare-sized guinea pigs with white mini-skirts. Unfortunately I was unable to open the window of the bus by my seat and getting in and out was a nightmare due to the wind blowing the door out of your hands, so this photo and that of the rheas had to be taken through the glass.

IMG_3157 Punta Rasa

The following day we left the Valdez and drove south to Punto Tombo, a reserve near Trelew.

IMG_3142 Magellanic Penguins

Access through the colony is by means of a boardwalk, this allows the penguins to waddle underneath in places, so it is possible to get very good views without getting in their way …. well that’s the theory.

IMG_3167 Magellanic Penguins

Although there are a million penguins in this colony they are spread out over a huge area and not packed together like some of the Antarctic species.

IMG_3164 Magellanic Penguins

As Magellanic Penguins are hole nesters they have to nest at well spaced intervals.

IMG_3152 Magellanic Penguin

Yet another Magellanic Penguin.

IMG_3232 underwater penguins

You can even watch them swimming underwater.

IMG_3242 Chubut Steamer Duck

One of the prime targets in this area was the Chubut Steamer Duck, a flightless species known only from this small part of the Argentine coast.

IMG_3258 Chubut Steamer Duck

Note the yellow spur on the carpal joint of the (rather stubby) wing of this female.

IMG_3212 Brown Skua

A few Brown Skuas, close relative of our Bonxie, patrolled the penguin colony on the look out for unguarded eggs or chicks.

IMG_3187 Chimango Caracara

…. as did the ubiquitous Chimango Caracara.

IMG_3138 Sharp-billed Canastero

Other birds included Sharp-billed Canastero ….

IMG_3112 Patagonian Mockingbird

…. Patagonian Mockingbird ….

IMG_3195 Dolphin Gull

…. and the only Dolphin Gulls of the trip.

IMG_3102 Guanaco

Both the Valdez and the Porto Tombo area are strongholds of the Guanaco, the wild ancestor of the Llama.

IMG_1194 Guanaco

…. although usually wary, here they fed close to the paths ….

IMG_3266 Guanaco

…. and allowed close approach …..

IMG_3159 cavy

…. as did this tiny Southern Mountain Cavy (which was nowhere near the mountains) ….

IMG_3132 Hairy Armadillo

…. and this remarkable Larger Hairy Armadillo.

IMG_3297 flamingos

The day ended with a visit to a rather unsavoury water treatment (= sewage) works, where we had good views of thesse Chilean Flamingos along with a variety of other waterfowl.

IMG_3305 BN Swan

We stayed overnight in Trelew, the capital of this formerly Welsh speaking part of Argentina. Before going to the airport of our flight to the south we visted a lake in the city where we had good views of Black-necked Swans ….

IMG_3319 Silvery Grebes and Lake Duck

…. and this pair of Silvery Grebes and a Lake Duck.

IMG_3328 WT Grebe + chick

In typical grebe fashion, this White-tufted Grebe carries its chick on its back.

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