Bird Island Diary — April 2007

30 April, 2007

April Diary

Hello from Bird Island. It was great to finally arrive after doing a stint at Halley this summer, and a brief stay at Signy. I thought I would enjoy a posting at an Island base as it is certainly different way of life, I’ve been here now for two months and I am Bird Islands wintering technician, I will try and summarize Aprils news and throw in some of my own observations as a new-comer.

I was lucky enough to have a brief visit for a day back in November last year so I can recall the numbers of seal which were around base then and how careful you had to be with them. This is not the case at present as they have mostly left but I can recall some great moments along with Don catching some of the pups to tag them, they are exceptionally wriggly and a firm grip is the order of the day as there can get a bit “nippy”, and these were only weighing about 20lbs I cant even imagine what its like trying to restrain a large bull, (probably very “nippy”).

April began I remember with Don coming back from the hills with a dead duck, he was in rather a quandary with what to do with it, should it be kept in the lab for a autopsy or served for tea, well the obvious solution soon presented itself to Robbo’s surprise when he found it in his bed that night being April 1st.

The weather in April saw some high winds of around 60 knots and a few snow falls at the end of the month which was great to see the contrast and what is due in the near future and coming in from Halley you do miss the snow!

Going out looking for Albatross’s and observing the Penguin colonies is great fun and a good strategy is to follow behind Robbo and Don and whenever they fall down a dirty bog you can just side step and have a little chuckle, and obviously when you eventually get caught out your self the art is not to make to much noise and they wont notice your own demise. On our brief snow falls the terrain gets more fun and although at present the hills are all green again I think we are all awaiting the winter’s charm.

I have been trying to assist Robbo on a couple of occasions when he has been taking vomit samples of the albatross and I fear my biggest mistake on one outing was to put my green rucksack down in the grass which was also green, (whilst he was looking for albatross I seemed to be spending most of that afternoon looking for my bag!).

Another learning curve presented itself to me when we had the wandering albatross census. I was given a fairly easy catchments area and still came back in last, its amazing that with a map at hand and each bird nest marked you can take a while to see them as they are white in the snow which is also white! (Although I think the others were cheating with their GPS equip as well!).

Base life is nice and social and we have been known to have a late night game of cards once in a while, our favourite at the moment is Uno and Fabrice (whose new alias is “la Pink Panther” due to a miss-adventure with the washing machine and someone’s red jumper) is showing good form in this pursuit, and we have started a few games of bridge of late.

Our base had a visit by the Commissioner and party for South Georgia, we managed to scrub down the outside of the base a little which came up looking quite nice, and we hope they had a good day with us whilst out walking upon the hills. It is always a pleasant view over the island and I remember the weather opening up, this day being just after a storm the day before. A full report care of Robbo in the South Georgia news letter.

We also had a visit in the last week of April by Andy Chase the electrician from KEP our nearest neighbours, to check out our electrical services, thanks Andy we hope you had a good week here with us and we all thought you were great on the piano, sorry about the rest of us that night if we weren’t in good tune. Andy’s return back to KEP base marked the last ships call and from here on we are isolated from the outside world in terms of visitors.

Other recent activities have involved duck catching (to ring them). This is a nighttime pursuit (in more ways than one), and I must admit I forgot to pack my duck whistle when this posting came up. We are not entirely sure whether boot polish on the face has any real enhancement in the duck catching game, but it is good for moral.

Written By Rob Dunn wintering technician, Bird Island, April 2007.