By Peter Ryan, onboard scientist, expert in general ornithology, seabird-fishery interactions, evolutionary ecology, marine debris, solid waste management, biology of oceanic islands.

Leg 3, The first two days…

Welcome to all the newbies on Leg 3! The birding team of Fabrice and Peter will be on deck while the ship is steaming and we welcome company if you want to learn a bit about seabirds and other beasts (best if you have binoculars). So far on Legs 1 and 2 we have counted more than 22,000 seabirds from 76 species and 2,100 marine mammals from at least 22 species in close to 12,000 km of transects.

ACE departed Punta Arenas late on the evening of 25 February, delayed by having to wait for high tide to leave the shallow mooring. As a result we missed steaming through the Straits in daylight; dawn on 26 February found us exiting the Straits, with oil/gas platforms on either side of the vessel. However, we were still close enough to shore to see coastal species such as South American Terns, Magellanic Penguins and Commerson’s Dolphins. There was a rush of shearwaters mid-morning on the 26th, but thereafter it has been pretty quiet with prions and diving petrels dominating in terms of numbers, although the albatrosses and giant petrels visiting the ship have been most obvious to the casual observer. The bird and mammal list for 26 and 27 February was:

Slender-billed Prion 260 180 Sooty Shearwater 98 11
Common Diving Petrel 74 0 Antarctic Prion 10 50
Black-browed Albatross 36 11 Wilson’s Storm Petrel 38 1
White-chinned Petrel 28 5 South American Tern 31 0
Soft-plumaged Petrel 0 22 Southern Giant Petrel 18 3
Diving petrel spp. 12 4 Great Shearwater 13 0
Wandering Albatross 0 9 Manx Shearwater 8 0
Southern Royal Albatross 4 3 Magellanic Diving Petrel 4 0
Magellanic Penguin 3 0 Northern Giant Petrel 1 2
Grey-backed Storm Petrel 2 0 Grey-headed Albatross 0 1
Black-bellied Storm Petrel 0 1 Chilean Skua + 0
Commerson’s Dolphin 10 0 Peale’s Dolphin 8 0
Hourglass Dolphin 0 3 South American Fur Seal 2 0
South American Sea Lion 1 0 Southern Elephant Seal 1 0

Kelps were abundant on the 26th (32 per 100 km), decreasing to 6 per 100 km on the 27th. Only two litter items were seen, both in coastal waters on the 26th.

The most interesting thing photographed on leg 3 so far – the eclipse on 26 February