Bird Island Diary – April 2006

30 April, 2006 Bird Island

What a month it has been. The first day of April bought the start of this year’s Wandering Albatross chick census, with the eight members of base all taking to the hills to count what will grow to become magnificent birds of the southern oceans but for the moment are balls of down mostly nesting under the shelter of their parents. This census will be carried out on the first day of each month over the winter period to monitor just how well these little fellas are getting on. That evening saw the last Saturday night summer meal with Sarah, Xander and Zac three of the soon to be outgoing people creating a feast fit for kings.

A few days later saw the arrival of the James Clark Ross and the last ships call of the summer season. So after a few days of frantic packing especially by Sarah and Zac the two outgoing winterers it was time to head to the jetty and meet the two inflatable ribs that would take the four people due to leave away and leave the four strong wintering team behind. After some fond farewells we returned to base to get the place into winter mode and get used to all the extra room.

The Bird Island 50th anniversary took place this month. A sign of the ever changing times and the progress of modern technology as a live web link was set up between Bird Island and the reunion in Cambridge, emphasizing just how far communications between Antarctic stations and the rest of the world have progressed in such a short time. We were able to see, and at some points nearly talk to a steady stream of people from both the past and the present who had at one time or another enjoyed spells on this endearing island.

This month has seen the construction of numerous walkways around the new main building both in Steel and timber. The steel walkways were completed just before the departure of the James Cark Ross and the timber walkway has been ongoing throughout the month of April. It has been quite a large job made easier with the most grateful help of Donald, Helen and Rob the three wintering Scientists.

There have been a few slow but very noticeable changes that have taken place this month. There has been a steady decline in the number of fur seals about as they start to head back to sea for the winter period. This does make getting around the island a little easier, there will still be small pockets of these very interesting creatures around throughout the winter months until the start of the next summer season when they will once again descend on the island en masse to breed.

As the fur seals have slowly left the shores in front of the base, the room they have vacated is now been taken up by Gentoo penguins who arrive in force most evenings and stay throughout the night before heading back to sea again at first light. There’s also been the sighting of a most unusual visitor to the island this month. A solitary Heron briefly landed near to the base before heading skywards again.

The slow change from summer to winter can be seen in the wildlife, the islands Skuas are now starting to head North for the winter and the ducks that frequent the ponds are starting to make their way towards the sea where they’ll be foraging for food during the winter months. The Macaroni penguins have all left their colonies, what was a month ago bustling colonies of thousands of penguins is again just barren rock for another winter.

As we settle into winter the evenings are being filled with numerous activities. The Monday night bridge club is now well established with some quite high pressure games and some very erratic bidding going on. The weekly woodwork workshop has started in earnest, and as we start to get closer to midwinters week, the workshop will become a hive of activity as people work on their various midwinter presents.

That just about wraps things up for April just leaving me to say hello to all those who know me and send my love to my Ma and Karen.