Birding in Antarctic waters

Birding in Antarctic waters by Jonathan Björklund (Website | Instagram):

With the on-going discussion about the future of Nikon, let’s not forget that the current cameras and lenses are great tools. I surely hope Nikon gets back on the right track, and in the meantime I spend my time out in the field with my fantastic Nikon gear, you should too! Anyhow, long story short.

Over the past three years I have been to Antarctica two times. One time as a photography tourist, on board the smallest vessel operating in Antarctica, and one time as an expedition guide and photographer, on board the biggest vessel operating in Antarctica. Before embarking to Antarctica, I have visited both south Argentina and Chile.

Southern Argentina and Chile are a birders paradise. You’ll find species like the Magellanic Woodpecker, Patagonian Sierra-finch, Upland Geese, Long-tailed Meadowlark and many more. They are found throughout the different landscape surrounding the Andes mountain range, from old forests, across open plains and into the mountains themselves.

To get to Antarctica you either sail from Punta Arenas in Chile, or Ushuaia in Argentina. When the ship set sail you sail through South American fjords towards the Drakes passage. Before crossing the Drakes, if the weather allows for it, you try to land on Cape Horn, South America’s most southerly point. Here lies a Chilean Navy station, and a Chilean family lives here for a full year until the next family release them.

Crossing the Drakes can be a rough experience, and the sailing typically takes 1,5-2,5 days depending on the size of the ship. The weather conditions holds typically strong winds and high waves. Luckily for me there have been good weather on both my visits to Antarctica. After the Drakes you first reach the South Shetland Islands and locations like Deception Island, Half Moon Island and Livingston. If you sail even further south you will pass the Antarctic Circle and enter the true Antarctica. Above or below the Antarctic Circle you go here for two reasons: landscapes with ice, and penguins!

There are four species of penguins in Antarctica: the Gentoo, Adélie, Chinstrap, and Emperor penguins. On these trips you typically don’t see the emperors. But the ones you see are cute but peculiar creatures. You should always keep a good distance from the penguins (minimum 5 metres), but they are curious and might eventually walk up to your side and stay there for a while. There are some major traits for the penguins: Gentoo penguins has a red beak, Adélie penguins has a white ring around their eyes, and the Chinstrap penguins well they have a black line on their chins.

It is fun to observe the behaviour of the different Antarctic species, and you will see a lot of different behaviour. The penguins will fight for nest spots and they steal pebbles from each other’s nests. The most fascinating behaviour I saw, and captured a picture of, was the so-called food chase. When the penguin chicks have grown large enough the parents make the chicks run after them for as long as possible before giving food to the chicks. This is done to make sure the chicks become fit enough before they need to enter the oceans after the nesting season has ended.

Penguin activity invites scavengers like the Antarctic Skua and the Giant Petrel. They will feed on dead penguins, penguin eggs, and penguin chicks. When the penguins go into the water they have to be on the lookout for Leopard seals and Orcas. During the Antarctic summer different species of whales come down to the Antarctic waters to feed. We saw a lot of Humpback whales, feeding, playing, and jumping out of the water.

When sailing from one location to another you get to see majestic icebergs, and if you go out of bed early or go to sleep late you can get colourful sunrises and sunsets too. If the winds are strong enough there will be albatrosses flying around the ship.

On my latest trip to Antarctica we visited the Falkland Islands on our way back to Chile. The Falkland Islands are home to several species of penguins but also albatrosses. We had a great landing at New Island and visited the Black-browed Albatross colony as well as a Southern Rockhopper penguin colony.

The trips are typically 2-2,5 weeks long and it is not nearly enough to capture everything you see. I think I will have to go back again 🙂

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

This entry was posted in Other Nikon stuff and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • jeffp3456

    Thank you, that was an amazing article with incredible photos. Nice to see articles with actual photos instead of minute analyses of gear.

  • Ande Notos

    These are actually amazing! Like, all of them! Great stuff.

  • Great stuff – makes me want to go to Antartica 🙂

    • T.I.M

      Hurry before it’s all melted !

      • peter w


        (At Antarctica you might still see a bit of snow and ice the next couple of centuries. It’s a bit different from the other pole.

        Howwever, hurrying would speed things up. Not going to Antarctica might save Antarctica a century.

        Within about twenty thousand years, glaciers will get back all over Canada, Siberia and Northern Europe.)

  • Coastalconn

    Thanks for documenting the Antarctic! Before long images will be all that is left of this amazing ecosystem.. Fantastic images!

  • Eno

    A wonderful article and images!

  • animalsbybarry
  • fanboy fagz

    WOW! looks like an amazing memorable experience. I know that its about antartica surroundings but saw this and immediately thought of the top gear Patagonia special. just amazing vistas and there was one scene when they docked on a beach and setup camp and the mountains in the distant was just amazing. eating grilled beaver haha goto the 1:36 mark.

    a bit off topic, but I do have to say that IM CERTAIN they purposely got those license plates to sting the Argentinians. they deserved the stoning they got.

    • fanboy fagz

      looking at the image with the whale tail doesnt give a scale of how huge the mountains are and how immense everything is there. the size and grandness of the whole scene must take your breath away trying to absorb it all.

  • Photobug

    Very nice photos and a great article.

  • Bob Thane

    Beautiful shots, thanks for sharing and nice write-up.

  • EcoR1

    Really nice article and wonderful pictures. I’m hoping to visit southern part of Argentina some day too.

  • Chewbacca

    I love it. The guest posts are really fantastic. They should be featured more often because it’s what it’s all about in the end. Getting out and using Nikon gear and inspiring others to do the same. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Allen_Wentz

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  • Fly Moon

    Very nice. Thanks

  • TheInfinityPoint

    Antarctica – the continent that got effed because it wandered too far south 😛

    Really though, really awesome photos! Great job!

  • Graham Blaikie

    Some breathtaking photos here. I am curious to know what lenses you were using. Might hazard a guess on a 80-400 for many of them?

  • Rooster

    Fantastic article backed up with stunning pictures. Re-charging all my camera batteries as we speak. Thank you for the reminder.

  • Viktor

    Great article and wonderful photos 🙂

    Yes, you are right, Nikon manufactures great cameras and eventhought of what some off us (including me 🙂 ) wrote in the discussions, we are all mainly Nikon users (therefore following this site 😀 ). I do also wish Nikon all the best to its future and I hope they will overcome the current problems and people will be using their gear at least for other 100 years 🙂

    Article is great, just please as this is mainly a gear site, could you tell us what gear you had in your bag on this trip?

  • Pat Mann

    Absolutely beautiful, all of it. Thanks for sharing with us all.

  • Thank you all for the nice comments!
    All shots are taken with a D800e.
    The lenses used varies between Nikon’s 200-400 f/4, 70-200 f/2.8 & 14-24 f/2.8. Most shots are taken with the 200-400 🙂

    Antarctica is a truly wonderful place to visit!

  • Knut-Sverre Horn

    I joined the author of the above post on his first travel to Antarctica. I didn’t follow his every footstep, though. Not all Scandinavians are pure-bred vikings.

    • Allan

      Canadians love watching Scandinavians go into freezing water.

      Many years ago, the Canadian government put out a commercial stating that the average 65-year-old Scandinavian was in better physical shape than the average 25-year-old Canadian. It showed a naked 65-year-old Scandinavian running through a forest in winter, and then jumping into a hole that had been cut out in a frozen lake. Canadians loved this commercial. There was a national outcry when the commercial was taken off air. Canadians love their beer and back bacon; it’s a different way of dealing with the cold.

  • Allan

    Jonathan, thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures.

  • Kyle Medina

    Any information about tour companies to look into?

  • Kyle Medina

    Thank You!

  • milkod2001

    great set

  • Back to top