Jeff Clarke Ecology

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Updates and photos from around the world on my travels both through pleasure and work

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A recent journey, along the Humboldt Current, brought home to me, just how little is really known about species distribution in one of the world’s most important biodiversity rich areas. As the frigid waters of the Humboldt power north, along the immense coastal fringes of Chile and then on to Peru, they are loaded with a maelstrom of nutrients that get dragged from the depths of the ocean abyss, up the continental slope and into the sunlit surface waters. This mechanism is the engine for a food production process that has few equals anywhere else on the planet. As a result, the Pacific Ocean in this region seemingly brims with fish, fish-eating birds and marine mammals. Even so the total number predatory animals exploiting the Humboldt Cur...
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24-26/02/17 – Journey to Paracas and Callao - Peru Click on the images to enlarge to full size. Our final full day at sea would prove to be an absolute stormer. The Continental Shelf on this leg was almost non-existent and the sea floor sloped away steeply, with lots of folds and trenches along the way, creating an underwater maelstrom bringing rich upwellings to the surface waters that teemed with seabirds and cetaceans. Ringed Storm-petrels were still the dominant species but there was also a fair sprinkling of Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels playing second fiddle. Sooty shearwaters had only been present in moderate numbers since passing Chiloe Island but now they were back in force. Our track northwards must have been slightly clo...
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23/02/17 Arica, Chile Click on the images to enlarge to full size. Arica, set in the heart of the Atacama Desert would be our last port of call in Chile. Russ and Emma had been made a recommendation for guiding whilst in Arica and this proved to be an excellent option. We met up with our guides Jorge Abarca and Jorge Figueroa from Birding Arica. They spoke very little English and we spoke hardly any useful Spanish and yet somehow we got along really well and were able to make ourselves pretty well understood. We were immediately whisked up to the Molinos area of the Azapa Valley. We had barely exited the vehicle when I noticed Andean Swifts careening across the clear blue sky. I was delighted as this was a species I’d really wan...
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21-22 /02/17 Two Days at Sea -  Heading North for Arica Click on the images to enlarge to full size. If our wildlife expectations had been met so far in the tour, they were about to enter another dimension of superlative. Dawn was still breaking, on our first day since Coquimbo, when I made it out on deck. It was immediately obvious that things were afoot. There had clearly been a significant attraction of seabirds to the ship overnight. I quickly rescued a couple of stranded Buller’s Shearwaters and put them over the side. I kept coming across early rising passengers with bloodied hands, who had done something similar, but hadn’t reckoned with the powerful ripping hooked tips to their bills. Lesson 1: Don’t mess with an indign...
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20/02/17 At Sea and Coquimbo Click on the images to enlarge to full size. We awoke early to take advantage of the half day at sea before arriving at Coquimbo, particularly as I also had to squeeze in my 4th lecture at 11.00am. A quick pre-breakfast loop of the decks revealed the presence of a couple of landbirds. They rarely settled, probably due to regular disturbance by the maintenance crews and passengers. One proved to be a Seaside Cinclodes, but the other was something much more unexpected, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher, a species with only a handful of records for Chile. I managed a passable in-flight record shot; useful if verification is required. Fork-tailed Flycatcher at sea © Jeff Clarke It was a distinctly hazy mor...
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