Antarctic terns
       
     
Antarctic Tern
       
     
Blue-eyed shag
       
     
Antarctic terns
       
     
Antarctic terns

A few pairs of Antarctic terns (Sterna vittata) nest on Bird Island, mainly on the rocky slopes high up the hills. They are more commonly seen in winter, feeding on dislodged crustaceans and scraps from where the shingle and seaweed has been thrown around or remnants from leopard seal kills.

These two were part of a group that were resting on the shore in very stormy conditions. Mostly facing into the wind to make themselves streamlined, some preening and the rest sitting it out with grim determination. Seeing such fragile-looking birds coping on a shore that was so cold the waves had frozen over the rocks and there was ice covering the seaweed was a reminder of how this is their environment rather than ours.

 

Location: Bird Island, South Georgia. Date: 22nd August 2014. Camera: Canon 7D with 300mm Canon lens. 1/500 sec, f/5.0, ISO 100.

Antarctic Tern
       
     
Antarctic Tern

Antarctic Terns (Sterna vittata) are more frequent visitors to Bird Island in winter. When storms hit the shore, mixing up the nutrients, ripping up seaweed and shaking the marine crustaceans free of their safety we often see terns out there, hovering above the water before plunging in to pick off some tiny morsel.

When they hit the water their head and bodies dip completely under but with their wings held upright they have enough in that one downward flap to lift them out and clear.

 

Location: Bird Island, South Georgia. Date: 20th July 2014. Camera: Canon 7D with 300mm Canon lens. 1/800 sec, f/4.0, ISO 100.

Blue-eyed shag
       
     
Blue-eyed shag

The blue-eyed shag (Phalacrocorax atriceps), also known as the imperial shag, is widely distributed between the Antarctic peninsula, up to South America and across to the islands around South Georgia. There are many shag subspecies found all the way around the sub-Antarctic.

Like European shags they develop a crest at the start of the breeding season, but both sexes also boast this vibrant blue skin around the eyeball and the large yellow carbuncles on the top of the beak. The size and boldness of colour are thought to be indicators of health and serve an important role in sexual selection.

 

Location: Bird Island, South Georgia. Date: 19th October 2014. Camera: Canon 7D with 70-200mm Sigma lens @ 200mm: 1/250 sec, f/5.0, ISO100.