Quiet on the Blog Front... / by Jerry

...but not in real life. Quite the opposite in fact, and the two are linked. Since my return to Bird Island in late January I have been busy as anything, but I finally have a bit of time to write up the last couple of months. An update on the wildlife will follow but first - what's been happening on base?

Travelling down with me were a few technicians (Alun, Dale and Barry) who had been employed to fit a fancy new bulk fuel system to the base. This will eliminate our need to refuel with barrels every year and all the associated risk of spills posed when moving them around. Along with Rob and Paul, who were already here, they worked some long, long hours in some very wet and dirty conditions to create a very fancy looking and, as far as I understand it, efficient and failsafe system. With time against them as boat schedules changed they got it all fitted in time to walk us through how it'll work and give it a test fuel pump.

They haven't been the only hard workers though as the Base Commander, Adam, was also out in all weather packaging up a seemingly endless supply of scrap metal and wood that is being sent off for reuse and recycling.

The other Zoological Field Assistants and I have been working non-stop too, but I'll cover that in further blogs. Instead I'll mention here some of the exciting events and relaxing evenings we've enjoyed.

Darts match

Following last year's close game against Signy we accepted a rematch despite not putting in any practice in the intervening 12 months. Instead we had a few ringers in the shape of Dale, Cous and Alun. With all the internet activities on base turned off except one computer we were able to get text updates and the occasional video stream from their base further south. As with last year the losers were to buy the winners a case of beer, and as with last year it was a close 2-1, though victory to us this year!

Darts night, with the competition on the big screen.

BBC visit

A BBC team filming Deadly Pole to Pole with Steve Backshall visited in mid-February for a few days. We accompanied them looking for some of Bird Island's deadliest wildlife, although unfortunately it wasn't quite the right time of year for the angriest male Fur Seals. The skuas too are surprisingly relaxed at the moment. They got some great footage of a Giant Petrel feeding on a seal carcass, the Wandering Albatross displaying and the Macaroni colony at night so I hope they can do the island justice. It was interesting having them around and they were a really nice team. We celebrated the end of filming with a big barbeque on the beach.

Deadly / Bird Island team photo. (Adam's photo).

Nights off base

When the weather's settled it's nice to get away from base and I've done this more in the last month than at any other time. Whether it's camping out near the Wanderers so we can watch them displaying late into the evening and then get woken up by Geeps trying to eat the tent, staying in Fairy Point Hut with incoming or departing winter teams or finding a dry patch on a misty night in the cave they all feel like great experiences. The hut especially has been very cosy since the heater was fixed and staying there we got some good views of the stars and of the burrowing Prions and Petrels returning at night.

The Love Shack with a rare clear sky and either aurora australis or high clouds.

Swimming with puppies

One of the most funnest things I've done while here was to don one of the thick wetsuits and get in the sea with the Fur Seal Puppies. They seem to be having so much fun learning to swim, chasing each other around in the shallows and fighting with kelp that we wanted to be a part of it. With us bobbing around they came over to investigate. A bold one would come closer than the others, have a bit of a sniff, decide we weren't worth eating or fighting and dive away, swimming back to its friends. We weren't in long before the cold got the better of us but it was a lovely sunny day and we rushed back to find the others eating sandwiches on the back step, so joined them with a big mug of tea.

Fur Seals. Less interested in us than we are of them. (Steph's photo).