With about a week to go until the new
staff arrive on Bird Island I thought I'd try and squeeze in a quick
blog while our internet isn't too busy. With first call imminent
we've been rushing round cleaning and tidying, making space for
deliveries and packing up waste and recycling to go off. Rooms and
kit have been prepared so the incoming guys can get straight up to
speed and we're enjoying the last few days of just the four of us.
Craig will have a two-day changeover with the new technician and then
head off down to Rothera, so this really is time to enjoy on the
Typically this business coincides with
my busiest few weeks of the whole year, although I have now managed
to get a bit of breathing space. In the last week I have finished off
the nesting count of Gentoo penguins – two or more of us have been
out to all the different colonies and counted the number of active
nests, that is those containing penguins sitting on eggs. There's
some small sections which are quite simple, and some areas of several
hundred where we've had to agree on imaginary bisecting lines to
split them into more manageable chunks. Then repeatedly count the
nests within until we agree on a figure.
|Wading through mud and crap to count Gentoos at Square Pond.|
The other penguins, the Macaronis, are
back in full force and can be heard all over that side of the island,
arguing away over nesting territories. We've been weighing
individuals as they come ashore, a simple test of how well they've
been feeding over the winter.
|Sleek-looking Macaroni Penguin, fresh from the sea.|
|Observations being made by both parties.|
|Standard Bird Island weather - a million shades of grey with penguins as far as you can see.|
My work with the Giant Petrels
continues. The Northerns have all laid and the Southerns, who operate
about a month behind them, are in the middle of doing so. I've met a
few calm old birds who were ringed as chicks before I was born, which
is always a little humbling.
|There's two of these rare white-morph Southern Giant Petrels in my study area of around 140 pairs.|
|A more normal plumaged pair of Southern Giant Petrels with the female sitting proudly in her mossy nest.|
Many of the smaller petrels have also
started returning and I've started checking their burrows, looking
for individuals who have been carrying tiny geolocator devices over
the winter. These have been tracking the birds movements and will
help identify key feeding areas, hopefully leading to greater
protection for them.
|While most White-chinned Petrels land and head straight for a burrow, this one sat up on the tussoc, calling away.|
|Retrieving a GLS from a returning White-chinned Petrel while trying to avoid it's ripping beak and tearing claws (Craig's photo).|
Blue-eyed Shags are starting to build
their nests so I've started keeping an eye on the small colony near
|Very smart looking Blue-eyed Shag. Like shags in the UK that crest is only prominent at the beginning of the breeding season.|
We've all been out helping Steph with
some albatross surveys. First up was the ten-year census of the
Grey-heads, which took us all over the island counting some huge and
some tiny colonies of these beautiful birds. Soon we'll have to
repeat our rounds of the areas counting the far more numerous
Black-brows and the much rarer Light-mantled Sooties.
|Black-browed Albatross colony on one of the more remote |
The Wandering Albatross chicks are
close to fledging, with the best developed individuals now carrying
very few downy chick feathers. I gave Steph a hand finishing off the
ringing of them, barring a few left for the new albatross assistant.
|Will this be the last time this Wandering Albatross family all see each other together?|
The beaches are quickly becoming
dangerous places to go as the male fur seals haul their way up and
pick a spot where they will try and get a harem of females together.
It's still early so there's been no fighting yet, just a few growls.
The majority of the big guys are just sleeping, well aware that there
are hard times coming up with a few scraps and little time for
napping or feeding. Over on Landing Beach the two elephant seal pups
are enjoying each others company as their mums head out to sea.
|The younger Elephant Seal pup enthusiastically shouting in his neighbours ear.|