Back home (via a few more penguins) / by Jerry

14th December

It's grey and wet outside so I'm sat in drinking mug after mug of tea. It's almost like being back on Bird Island. No, I can't fool myself. I'm finally back home after over two weeks of travel.

My final day in Stanley was terrific. After a morning stroll into town the weather cleared up and I headed out for a walk toward Gypsy Cove. As I headed toward the coast it got warmer and sunnier, until I was more worried about getting burnt than rained on.

The Lady Elizabeth, still fairly intact but kinda rusty.
Heading round past a variety of wrecks, some historic some not so much, I crossed over a headland and saw the vast expanses of white sand. Delightful as it looks though it's all out of bounds. Although it has been cleared of mines there remains a danger that those on the beach could have been washed out and could return at any time. The little bay at Gypsy Cove looked beautiful, with pristine beach and amazing sea, but I was quite happy with the lack of access as it enabled a group of Magellanic Penguins to relax their undisturbed.

The stunning Gypsy Cove.
Yeah, I probably won't be going to play in the dunes then.
Magellanic Penguins enjoying the sun.
With the large penguin group resting on the sand and several joining a few Gentoos in the shallows, there were still a few up near the path heading for their burrows where they will be incubating eggs out of the glare of the sun. For a long time I was the only human there and as I sat and ate my lunch of a fresh apple and some salad (still enjoying the novelty of crunchy green rather than soggy brown lettuce) I thought about the differences between these penguins and the ones I've been studying.

Unlike the Gentoos and Macaronis I'm studying, the Magellanics nest in burrows.
Enjoying the shade of a burrow. I don't normally photograph birds like this (I've seen far too many photographers shoving lenses down the burrows of stressed puffins) but this one, taken with a long lens, was sat there for ages seemingly enjoying being out of the hot sun.
Although fairly calm today, these ones had had to learn to deal with people and many more dangerous land predators while the BI ones have the odd skua or geep to fear. They duck nervously down their burrows while those in my study areas have to barge their way into the colony past a crowd of snapping beaks.

Snipe hiding in the grass.
Two-banded Plover.
Heading back I felt happy that I'd seen a few beaches and a few birds and I was looking forward to being back home. Before that though I had a whole day of flying to get through – a 5.30am start then a seven hour followed by a nine hour flight. This was broken up by an hour in 'the cage' at Ascension Island. That was great though – over 20C at night, sitting out in t-shirt and shorts, eating an ice cream in the dark. I was tempted to try and leg it off into the night and try and stay there awhile.

Eventually we got back to the UK. Under-slept and over-full of cheese toasties I was met by my parents and driven home for a cup of tea in the grey and wet north west. It's nice to be back and I'm trying not to think of all the excitement I'm missing on Bird Island.

This is something I've not had on Bird Island - crunchy, fresh veg and bursting cherry tomatoes.