Bird Island Diary – February 2015

3 February, 2015

February has been a pleasant and productive month for the humans and animals of Bird Island. The beaches have quietened down enough for us to get out and about along the shores again, now that the territorial fur seal males have left. This was good timing, as one of the big jobs for the seal team this month has been tracking down the pups born on the study beach (SSB). By now they’ve scattered far from the beaches where they were born so we had a lot of fun tracking them down, both in the shallow waters and high up in the hills. The whole base was great at getting involved and helping the seal team, and we called on their help once more to catch and weigh 100 pups on the 10th of February, which was as muddy and as fun as ever.

The whole base again mucked in to help Jerry and Al weigh 100 Gentoo and Macaroni penguin chicks which are nearly fully grown now. The Mac chicks were also tagged in the hopes of recognising them when they return to the colony in future years. It took us a couple days to get the smell of penguins out of our noses after this one.

The albatross team are currently very excited as the wandering albatross eggs, which have been incubating since mid-December, have finally started to hatch. If you’re lucky at this time of year you can hear the chick calling to its parent from inside the egg. They still have a long way to go before they fledge the nest and leave Bird Island in November, but it will be a treat to soon see so many of the island’s nests occupied with little chicks. Then the incoming winter team will have the pleasure of watching them grow from a bird that can sit in the palm of your hand to the world’s largest flying bird in a matter of months.

Even without the wildlife, life on base has been busy this February. The RRS Ernest Shackleton stopped in for a mid-season ship call, bringing with it cargo, post, new personnel, fuel, and some freshies (including one delicious pack of cherry tomatoes which were immediately devoured). The bulk fuel system, which was installed last season, was refuelled from the ship for the first time, and much to everyone’s satisfaction it went off without a hitch. The days of rolling barrels up the Bird Island jetty are now a thing of the past. Once the ship had left, our tech Robbie was able to take some well earned rest after working all hours in preparation for the big day.

We’ve all taken the chance to unwind when possible this month, by transforming the lounge into a disco, and holding a music-themed fancy dress and quiz night. On top of this, we’ve all been keen to get out and about in the sporadic spells of nice weather and have been rewarded with a few spectacular whale sightings, one rare sighting of swallows, a handful of gorgeous sunsets, some beautiful night skies, and even a little sunburn for good measure. As I only have a couple months left on BI, I hope to fit in much more of the same.

Cian Luck

Zoological Field Assistant – Seals