Monday, 1 October 2012

Chickens, and penguins, come home to roost....

Magellanic Penguin amongst the tussac grass.
Happy Peat-Cutting Monday!   Today is a Bank Holiday in the Falkland Islands, where I am living for a couple of years (at least), and marks the day when residents can take time off from their normal jobs and cut peat, which will then dry and provide fuel for the year.
Hazy sunset
 However, as you might imagine, few people heat with peat, these days.  The peat-fuelled stoves may enjoy free fuel, but they need some looking after.  In fact, almost everyone returns home for lunch, a tradition based on the need to make sure the peat fire didn't go out, as it was a pain to try to restart!

Neat peat bank
The weather has been dry for months so the peat harvest should be good, for the handful of families who still cut it.  Unfortunately, some of the peat banks around Stanley are now in minefields, sown by soldiers of a certain South American country.  Many of the minefields have no detailed maps, so large swathes of peat bog are fenced off.

Obviously, being a Bank Holiday, the weather reverted to type at the weekend and was very "dreich" .
Cloud level was about 200 feet, and we could watch the Air-Sea Rescue helicopter fly low in the harbour, below our kitchen window.
Unusual birds seen in the garden this week
There's been some newcomers to these shores this week.  I noticed some chickens exploring their new environment from their new home along the street.  Any tips on how I can get them to lay in my garden?
Any identification?
 I don't know the species or breed of the hens, but I do know a bit more about penguins.  This week has seen the return to land of the Magellanic penguins, which come ashore to breed and moult between September and April, before heading off to the ocean to feed.  The penguins are quite plump now, but they may have to live on their foodstore for a while.
Penguin looking for a burrow
It's hard to give precise numbers, as these penguins live in burrows, but I've seen about 50 in a bay a few miles from Stanley.   I regularly take Nordic Walking groups around the coast, and last week we noticed some fresh penguin poo!  The early arrivals were discovered by their trait of cleaning out their chosen burrows of the old leaf litter and debris.  
Just inside the fence
Part of the coast is fenced off to allow the birds some peace, but they do come up to, and through, the fence.  And some people ignore the signs asking them not to climb over the fence.  
Checking a new nest....
Once the nest site is chosen they can get down to breeding and raising a new generation.  Find a partner, and    give them a little preening on the hard-to-reach parts of their bodies. (Well, it works for me....)
The penguins are also known as "Jackass" due to their loud, braying call.  Walking along the cliff and in the dunes, you could be forgiven for thinking a herd of donkeys was on the rampage!

"Ee-aw, ee-aw"
The first cruise passengers arrive towards the end of October, so it's quite special being able to wander round the very quiet coves and beaches, as the days begin to lengthen in the Austral Spring.
Might need a wash before attracting a mate.
 On more mundane matters, there's been no great shortages in the shops recently, other than the usual fresh fruit.  Apples were 62p each last week, and bananas were 90p.  But during a shopping expedition I found some interesting ingredients.  Ham hocks are very cheap, and I found a recipe for them - simmered in Ginger Beer for 3 hours and then roasted.  I'll let you know how it tasted, later.

I also found tins of haggis to remind me of Scotland, and a commemorative Golden Syrup tin, to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

It's like an episode of "Ready, Steady, Cook".   A fertile imagination is needed to produce varied meals!
"Happy & Glorious" Golden Syrup!  A healthy store cupboard....

"You'll have had your tea!", as they say in Scotland!



  1. Now that is an interesting larder - sadly nothing too strong.
    Ham hocks and lentils are some of the tastiest foods around - not sure about the ginger beer though.

    1. I've found its better to stock up, in case you don't see the item again. I haven't seen couscous for months, and there have been no pears for about 2 weeks.

      The ginger beer did make it a bit sweet for me, or it might have been the orange marmalade glaze. But they were succulent.