Bird Island Diary — December 2013

1 December, 2013

December was a busy month for the team with the base’s new additions, Adam, Jess, Cian and Rob, getting happily settled into the Bird island way of life.

Early December saw Jerry, the penguin Zoological Field Assistant (ZFA), heading home for a well-earned break. He will be returning to the island to carry on with his penguin work for the winter of 2014. Before he left we gave him a nice Bird Island goodbye with a barbecue on Freshwater Beach.

Our resident albatross ZFAs, Jess and Steph, had a busy month checking on all the albatross nests across the entire island. This was in addition to heading up to the Wanderer Ridge study colony every day to take measurements of all of the colony’s newly laid eggs. They are also keeping a close eye on the grey-headed and black-browed albatross colonies, where the hatching of new chicks is well underway.

The penguin breeding season is now in full swing, so the scientists also spent a day counting new penguin chicks at Big Mac and Little Mac, two of the island’s macaroni penguin colonies. Skuas have also been under the spotlight this month – Adam , our Base Commander, conducted a skua census for the entire island and Steph and Jess surveyed the skua study area and took measurements of all eggs. The petrels have been busy as well – all of the northern giant petrels’ eggs have hatched and are already being left unguarded while the adults head off to find food.

Our resident seal ZFAs, Hannah and Cian, have been busy over at the Bird Island seal study beach, recording and monitoring the numbers of new seal pups and checking the numbers of breeding females. They have spent many afternoons on Freshwater beach deploying transponders on some female seals, allowing them to track the animals’ locations and determine whether they are on the beach cuddling their pups or feeding out at sea.

On the technical side of things, Rob has been busy keeping on track with his day to day maintenance jobs and has also serviced the generators and boilers. Manos, our resident IT man, has been putting in some long hours doing maintenance on the base’s main server.

On Christmas morning we woke up to the smell of a full English breakfast cooked courtesy of Adam and squeezed in a traditional Christmas film before heading out for the day’s work. Some hours later we were all dressed in our finest and sitting down to a beautiful Christmas dinner. Later in the evening we had fun with some party games and a good game of twister, and then we had a lovely Christmas disco which included a surprise visit from Old Saint Nicholas himself, who (by the way), can pull off some cool dance moves. A great day had by all.

We saw in the New Year Bird Island style with an excellent meal followed by a fancy dress evening. On the stroke of midnight we hailed in the New Year with Auld Lang Syne sang at the end of the jetty, with an accompaniment laid on by the fur seals.

The Bird Island weather generally includes four seasons in one day, but we’ve been spoilt over the last week with some stunning days of blue skies and sunshine, as we usher in January and 2014!