Listeners who are listening will remember that we took part in the summer wader count, six months or so ago, involving a long walk to the end of Anthony's Beach near Stanley. Well this weekend was the less-desirable winter wader count and I was allocated to the other end of the same beach.
Anthony's Beach, looking west
Given her cold, the weather and the length of the walk, Jeannie declined the invitation, so I met up with another birdo and we had a pleasant enough day, even though we had to start a bit early (well, 7.45). Generally we expect far fewer birds in the winter, given that most of them have sensibly headed for Siberia and Alaska, but we do get one weird "lateral" winter migrant, the double-banded plover, which breeds in New Zealand and then flies across the Tasman to spend the winter with us (no doubt getting away from that endless Kiwi fixation with rugby). And we found a happy little band of 300 or so, which made the walk worthwhile.
But the walk was interesting for other things, and significantly shorter that walking the other way, so Jeannie was keen to do it too. I was happy to go again, so we went back again today and this is what we saw.
The beach was very flat and a recent storm has cut fiercely into the dunes. And huge drifts of tiny shells (a little mussel, I think) have been washed up, along with lots of other shells, and flotsam of all kinds (except, mercifully, plastic: we only saw two or three pieces on the whole beach).
Billions of little mussels
Gorgeous pheasant shell
An exotic clam
A few months ago a pod of whales stranded not far away on Perkins Island, but the storm had re-floated several of these and their rancid remains were scattered along the beach. The carcasses were just blubber, but ribs, vertebrae and a couple of skulls were also lying about. I thought they were supposed to be sperm whales, but the skulls showed no signs of teeth. The Icelandic phrase for a happy chance event is "a stranded whale", but I think they must have found them at an earlier stage than the ones we saw today.
Better stand upwind
We pottered our way to the end of the beach, picking up specimen shells and then discarding them for a better one. It would have been well nigh perfect but for the @#$%! trail bikes and 4WDs that drive the length of the beach, apparently just because it's there. They managed to drive off the plovers just as we were getting close to them, but a few stayed to give Jeannie a look at their smart, but fading, breeding plumage.