Andrew James is a freelance journalist and photographer. He writes regularly for market-leading photo magazines and is a partner in FotoBuzz - an exciting online community for photographers. He also leads and assists in photography workshops and holidays in the UK and abroad.
PERCHED precariously on the edge of a cliff that plunges alarming towards the boiling sea, I sit and watch black-browed albatross surfing the wind as they soar effortlessly both above and below my position. In The Falkland Islands, large colonies of black-browed nest on the imposing rugged coastline of the numerous islands. There is something about these birds that is endlessly fascinating. Quite large and cumbersome on land, as soon as they lift off they are free to spin, turn, and pirouette like ballet dancers of the sky. Even though they are less elegant on land, being able to sit within a few feet of them and watch their courtship rituals is a real privilege. Couples clash beaks and peck aggressively - always with that angry look in the eye that's accentuated by the dark brow after which they are named. So fascinating is the comings and goings of a colony that it's easy to forget the driving rain and chilly wind that's cooling me to the core. What's a little coldness compared to the magic of nature performing right in front of my eyes?
About black-browed albatross
The Black-browed is a medium-sized albatross with dark grey saddle and upperwings that contrast strongly with its white head, backside and belly. They have a yellow beak with a slightly more 'orangey' tip and both male and female birds look remarkably similar.
They are found in places as varied as subtropical to polar waters. The annual breeding population in the Falkland Islands was estimated at 500,000 pairs (in 2010) and although the worldwide population has rallied in recent times, they are still a species that is to some degree, under threat.
They spent most of their life flying across the oceans but return to land each year to breed in large colonies along cliffs. The rugged coastline found in The Falkland Islands is ideal habitat. They build dome-shaped nest from mud, often in exposed positions on the cliff edge, as you can see in the image right.