Giant Petrels / by Jerry

I finished my last blog with us just arriving. So much has happened since then it would take me a few days to write it all up, but in summary:

We spent two long, hard days unloading all our supplies from the JCR. This ranged from food (all fresh veg to be checked for damage and invasive insects) to fuel (180 drums) to more general science kit, clothing, household objects (24 wine glasses). The biggest and most challenging bit was a load of big wooden timbers and three huge bulk fuel tanks that had to be landed directly onto the beach. It was a testing time but so many people put in hard shifts that it passed without too much incident. Since then we've been straight into work; trailing the winterers around, hoping some of their vast knowledge will rub off on us.

Most of my work thus far has been with the Giant Petrels, known here as Geeps. It's getting toward the end of their egg-laying period but we still need to do daily rounds to check for any new nests, any failures and trying to get the ring number of every breeding adult in the study area. Like most of the work here, this is a long-term monitoring project that has been going on for decades, looking at changing population dynamics.

 Northern Giant Petrel with chick.

The Geeps are really charismatic birds. Generally very calm when you're near them, they're the vultures of the area and can be quite brutal when you witness them ripping apart a dead seal or penguin.

 Giant Petrel in the snow, looking through rare clear skies to Willis Island

Going out doing the Geep round has allowed me to see a good chunk of the island in a whole variety of weather conditions, often within a few hours. It also leads me past several pairs of Wandering Albatross that are starting their amazing courtship dance and juveniles that are not far off fledging so are jumping and desperately flapping their huge wings.

 A rare view across to South Georgia, with one of the Fur Seals that has climbed really far up the slope in search of a bit of breeding space.

Other jobs have included preparing a set of geolocators for further science work, testing the penguin weighbridge and helping with a Black-browed Albatross census, but all that will have to wait for a different blog.

Wandering Albatross spreading it's wings in hope of getting a bit of air.