Bird Island Diary — August 2009

31 August, 2009

This month we have been treated to some gorgeous weather, which is such a rare treat on Bird Island. We have had full days of blue skies and sunshine and a week with no wind at all. It makes such a nice change to be able to sit outside and feel the warmth of the sun.

As a result of the nice weather, we all got very busy. One calm night we played cricket on the beach, then had a BBQ. Another day, we climbed La Roche and admired the view of South Georgia and Bird Island in the sun and snow. On the way back down we dug snow tunnels, before returning to base for dinner, with slightly sunburnt faces.

At the start of the month, we took part in a 48-hour film festival, with other bases around the Antarctic. We were given a set of criteria to fulfil, and then only 48 hours to produce a 5-minute movie. It was great fun to make although the novelty was starting to wear off at 5am on the morning it had to be submitted when we were still editing sounds and movie clips! Later in the month, we enjoyed watching the movies produced by the other bases.

One night we went camping in the little cave on Bandersnatch the hill behind base. We melted snow to make hot chocolate and sat outside watching the snow falling (although the wind meant most of the snow was going upwards rather than falling downwards!). The snowdrift in the entrance meant we had to dig our way in, and the small size of the cave gave us a very cosy night. No one complained it was cold!

One night we played darts via web cam against the BAS base at Halley. Unfortunately they beat us in the end, but it was a good match with a close finish.

Despite all of the fun, we did actually do some work this month. We spent some time doing jobs around base, including cleaning and disinfecting the entire water system and servicing the generators. Jose continued to be busy with his deployments on wandering albatrosses, and on grey days, the rest of us made a start on our annual reports. The monthly wanderer survey which we did at the start of the month, revealed no chicks to have failed since last month, which was good to see.

This month we were visited by large numbers of snow petrels. These birds are usually seldom seen here, but at times we recorded up to 15 birds feeding together in the bay. It has been lovely to see these creatures so close, and we have all spent some time out with our cameras.

Recently, there have been frequent sightings of chinstrap penguins, which make a nice change from the usual gentoo penguins. On a more disturbing note however, there seems to be unusually high numbers of dead gentoo penguins washing up along the beaches. We have also started finding aborted fur seal foetuses on the beaches. We hope these are not indicators of a bad breeding season to come.

By the end of the month, the giant petrels had started settling down on nests, ready for the start of the breeding season. It will not be long before they start laying eggs and the breeding season begins all over again.

Stacey Adlard, Zoological Field Assistant