Our many visitors to Bluff Cove Lagoon know it is a peaceful unspoilt wildlife habitat, teeming with penguins at the rookeries and on the long white sand beach. It is home to over 1,000 breeding pairs of Gentoo Penguins. One of the most magical experiences is when the inquisitive Gentoos come up close while you are sitting quietly watching them! We also have a small but growing breeding colony of King Penguins, presently with ten breeding pairs, their chicks and several juveniles. Magellanic Penguins visit throughout the summer from their nesting burrows on nearby East Island. Occasionally Rockhopper and Macaroni Penguins come to moult later in the season.
Skuas, gulls, Turkey Vultures and Snowy Sheathbills hang around the rookery, hoping to take eggs or chicks from unwary penguins. Upland Geese, Ruddy-headed Geese, Magellanic Oystercatchers, Giant Petrels, Logger Ducks and many other birds nest nearby. Southern Sea lions from East Island sometimes patrol the beach hunting young penguins. We have the occasional visiting Elephant Seal. Peale’s and Commersons’s Dolphins like playing in the surf. Near by there is a colony of Kelp Gulls, with Dolphin Gulls and South American Terns nesting amongst them. Around the café are lots of smaller breeding birds including Two-banded Plovers, Black-throated Finches and White-rumped Sandpipers, scuttling in amongst the sea cabbage.
Flora at the Lagoon
Sea Cabbage (above) surrounds the Café, growing by the beach. It has soft woolly silvery leaves and clustered yellow flowers which usually appear late December. Early sailors ate the leaves to ward off scurvy as good source of vitamin C.
Teaberry (left) grows in damp heath areas, it has straggling stems that lie on the ground making the berries fiddly to pick. Look out for them on the way to the Lagoon. The pinkish white berries ripen in March and have a delicate scented flavour. They are delicious and used regularly in baking in the Islands. Also good seeped in gin and, my favourite, teaberry icecream. Many locals like the berries served straight up with fresh cream! The name originates from the late 1700s when sealers and whalers used the leaves as a substitute for tea.
Diddle Dee (right) shrubs are easy to spot and grow along most of the track to the Lagoon. The bright red berries often cover the small shrubs and so are easier to pick. We use them to make our famous Diddle Dee jam which we serve on scones in the Sea Cabbage Café. Upland geese also enjoy these berries and they are an important part of their diet.
Pale Maiden is a perennial herb that grows in amongst the white grass and Diddle Dee. They bloom in November and have pretty white bell-like flowers that nod in the breeze and have a wonderful scent.
Other flora to look out for on the way to, and at the Lagoon are: Scurvy Grass (edible), Small Fern, Tall Fern, Vanilla Daisy, Wild Celery, Wild strawberry (grows in the stone runs), Stone run plant, Falkland Thrift, Mountain Berry, Pig Vine, Yellow Daisy and Spiky Grass.
On the beach look out for seaweeds, particularly Kelp, the name Kelper (Falkland Islander) derives from the abundance of Kelp around our shores.
Bluff Cove Lagoon Wildlife Journal
This season our guests have again had some great wildlife sightings at the Lagoon.
Leucistic penguins are rare. They are ostracized by their penguin kin due to their unusual colouration - they are partially albino. Few reach adulthood.
Our Leucistic Gentoo penguin (above) is 8 years old. It was a white fluffy chick in the Lagoon rookery and came back to the rookery, found a normal coloured Gentoo mate and has successfully raised two chicks every year since.
We also have had many sightings of a Leucistic Magellanic penguin (right) from East Island, that came back and forth and stayed to moult.
Rockhopper penguins sometimes visit to moult amongst the Gentoos. We have had a Macaroni penguin visiting to moult at the rookery too, and two Southern Right whales spend the morning very close in the bay near the Café, which was greatly enjoyed by our guests. It is wonderful to see the big whales returning.
We are presently de-ratting East Island (below), close to the Lagoon, which will help the ground-nesting birds there, including the rare Cobbs Wren, which we hope to see at the Lagoon soon. It should be a favourite visiting site for them, once re-established on East Island.
Toby now enjoys photographing the penguins. Recently he has hosted two very special guests at the Lagoon; TV wildlife presenters Steve Backshall (above), filming BBC’s Deadly Pole to Pole, one of Toby’s favourite programmes, and Nigel Marven (left), who Toby went swimming with in the sea, yes it was cold.
Toby’s favourite place at the Lagoon is still the rocky northern perimeter of the beach, where he can climb the rocks and explore the pools.
Here he has found Stone King crabs which burrow into the sand to avoid being eaten by gulls and Spider crabs scuttling along in the rock-pools.
He also likes foraging in the seaweed left on the beach after a storm, finding molluscs attached to the kelp. The beach is a great hunting ground for him, with its many pretty colourful shells.