On 28th January we headed off from Stanley’s public jetty to a small island slightly to the north of the town. Kidney Island is uninhabited, by humans, and is an unusual island as it is a ‘pristine’ environment, this means that there are no rats and this is quite unusual. In turn this means that ground nesting birds can live here very safely. The reason for visiting the island is to witness the return of the Sooty Shearwater’s to their nests at sunset. This species of bird are not (currently) very well researched and what they do all day away from their nests is not clear. The colony that lives on Kidney Island is one of the largest and it is thought that a similar colony of the American coast might have inspired Hitchcock’s film ‘The Birds’.
We originally planned this trip (well, a colleague did and we jumped on board) at the end of November but it was cancelled due to poor weather conditions. Somehow on our re-arranged date we lucked on a beautiful evening,you couldn’t have booked a better one. The boat trip was about 45 minutes over calm seas and then a short ride in a Zodiac to be landed on the beach.
The island is only small but is completely covered in Tussac Grass, this has been mentioned previously in our Elephant Beach visit post. It is believed that this grass covered most of the coastline of the islands until it was grazed by the imported sheep. On Kidney Island the Tussac grows to 2 and 3 metres high and getting between the stands of it is hard energetic work. Once we were all landed we traversed the island passing the small hut that was built as a shelter for Tussac cutters but has also been used as a shelter for those doing bird surveys.
Crossing the island bought us to the cliff where a colony of Rockhopper penguins live alongside a colony of Cormorants. This was where we saw, what we initially thought was our first Macaroni penguin but on closer inspection was a hybrid Rock-a-roni., cross between a Rockhopper and a Macaroni, brighter yellow hairdo that a Rockhopper but not as long and exuberant as a Macaroni.
We then headed back to the beach to settle down ready for sunset and the Shearwater’s return. We arrived onto the beach to the welcome of a family of 6 sea lions who were very interested in us and played around in the water for a long time in front of us, a joy to watch!
The Shearwater’s arrival was nothing like what you would expect from a very large group of birds, there was no noise whatsoever, it was eerily quiet and still. They cam very close to heads but did not crash into anyone and settled into their Tussac based nests without a fuss.
It was a picture perfect evening and a great experience for all of us.