Bird Island Diary – September 2002

30 September, 2002

Spring is in the air

Welcome once again to another month at Bird Island. September seems to have brought a considerable amount of change. With winter rapidly heading towards its end, there has been a definite hint of spring in the air this month. The days are now getting noticeably longer and the dawn chorus of Pipits in the mornings makes for a nice start to the day.

The last wandering albatross chick census of the winter was completed on the first of the month. A cold clear day made for a fine day out counting the many fat fluffy chicks that are dotted around our little island. Some of them are now nearly fully fledged. The going was particularly good after a long cold spell, the many bogs of eternal stench that litter the island had been completely frozen making the tramp round the island far easier than normal.

During the course of the month there has been a substantial temperature increase. We’ve experienced some huge thaws, the snow turning to numerous streams. The Island is looking considerably greener at the months end. The disappearing snow, although not particularly welcome by the base members seems to be good news for the increasing bird population. The various seal corpses of last summer, which have spent the winter frozen and entombed in snow and ice, are now (as the temperatures rise and the snow ablates) once again exposed, providing the birds with a fair meal of vintage seal.

September has also seen the return of some of the birds that headed north during the winter months. The skuas were the first to return, they are now massed in groups around the island. There are quite a number on the beach in front of the base, the weekly disposal of food scraps off the end of the jetty now causes complete chaos amongst the resident skuas as they mob around the weeks bin person in hope of a few morsels of food.

The month has also seen the return of the Greyheaded albatross. Over at one of their colonies Ben keeps a close eye on the new birds coming back to mate and nest. Come rain, sleet, snow or shine, he makes the journey over to colony ‘E’ everyday to watch their progress. One of this months building projects was to build a hide / equipment store for a project based at colony ‘E’ which will commence this coming summer. There are still various seals about, the ever present fur seals play in groups on the beaches. There have also been a number of sightings of elephant and leopard seals this month. We’ve also had a few King penguins roaming aimlessly around the beaches.

The usual tradition in disposing of the off cuts of wood from the chippy shop has continued with vigour this month. There’s been a number of BBQ’s throughout the month. The biggest of these coincided with the first ever Bird Island “Talentless Night”. Enough food was prepared for three courses. After three hours of munching on an array of burgers, kebabs and various other charcoaled delights, the base complement retired to the base for the evenings entertainment. It was a sterling effort by all involved, two hours of various acts. First off was Nico “the clown” Warren, who delivered a top performance of juggling to music. Other acts of the evening included, a very dodgy Neil Young impression by Matt “Not so Young” Jobson. Jane “Hendrix” Tanton performed two acoustic guitar solo’s, as well as a fine reading of some of her own poetry. Ben “Smooth lead balloon” Phalan sang a traditional Irish tune (without musical accompaniment)….as well as treating us to the delights of his tin whistle. A duet from a couple of dubious looking Hobo’s brought the evening to a close.

Jane made the most of the ample snow that graced the island at the start of the month by digging herself a snow cave in one of the many snowdrifts that form in the banks of the streams. One Saturday evening, she loaded up a paulk sledge and headed off to spend the night off base in her cave. She was woken in the wee hours by the three remaining base members who decided she was probably feeling lonely and would welcome being woken in the middle of the night by the sound of a serenading guitar. Ben also spent a night off base, deciding to bivvy out over at Farewell point, the most eastern point of the island. There have been numerous Saturday gourmet delights over the month. Janes curry night was of epic proportions, the duck curry was particularly eye-wateringly hot. The month has also seen the introduction of the card game “Presidents” to BI. Not quite as civilized as the Monday night bridge club, but very entertaining all the same.

Love to My Ma and Karen and hello’s to everyone else.