As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Falklands penguins that would not explode

7 May 2017

The minefields laid in the Falkland Islands were intended to kill or maim British soldiers, but over the last 35 years they have become de facto nature reserves for penguins. For better or worse, however, the time has now come for their home to be demined, reports Matthew Teller.

I'm following a crunching gravel path leading up over a headland.

To one side stretches a sweeping curve of white sand, backed by tussocky dunes, the coarse grass mixed with a low-growing plant bearing tartly sweet red berries that the locals call diddle-dee.

But it's the sound that startles. Overlaying the booming ocean is a comical honking noise coming from thousands of Magellanic penguins. One, guarding its burrow beside the path, stretches its neck up at me, then lets out an ear-splitting, wing-waggling bray of displeasure.
The beach, also dotted with waddling clusters of Gentoo penguins, looks tempting, but between me and the birds stretches a barbed-wire fence marked with signs warning of danger.

This is Yorke Bay, just outside Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands. Once a popular leisure beach, it was here, at 04:30 on the morning of 2 April 1982, that Argentine naval commandos landed, marking the start of a full-scale invasion.

By the time British forces retook Stanley 74 days later, 907 people had lost their lives, most of them Argentine conscripts.

During the occupation, one of the Argentine military's first actions was to lay tens of thousands of land mines across the uncultivated countryside to slow a British counter-attack - especially a seaborne attack via the beaches around Stanley, including Yorke Bay.

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