Bird Island Diary – September 2003

30 September, 2003

Skiing and pirates!?!

I am going to start with a big `HELLO` to all my family and friends at home or abroad.

This month has absolutely flown by. It has been unusually mild although we did get a sizeable dump of snow.

Our work continues as usual

The month kicked off with the monthly Wandering Albatross chick count. The island is divided into four portions and you go round with maps and check off the chicks, noting any dead or missing. I really enjoy this, as it is a nice day out, even if the weather is a bit manky. You get to see adult birds feeding their young, which I tend to think of as my `flock`. The young birds are quite comical and have their own characters; they also carry out repairs and sometimes even build a new nest.

September is a month when birds and mammals start returning to the island to breed

The skuas were first to return, followed by Grey Headed Albatross, Black Browed Albatross and Fairy Prions, which were observed when we had a stopover and meal at the loveshack [a small hut on the western side of the island which overlooks two penguin rookeries].

The return of the White Chinned Petrels also marks the start of noisy nights as they trill away all through the twilight into the early hours.

The Giant Petrels have started laying eggs; these are really comical birds, which remind me of the dodos out of Alice In Wonderland.

Elephant seals have been showing more and more with a female giving birth to a pup on the 28th on one of the beaches by base. The males are huge and they prevent the females from leaving a beach once ashore. They also have a loud, deep, resonating call, which really carries.

On the last day of the month I saw a Chinstrap Penguin which was great as I had not seen one before, it was a great time. There were loads of Gentoo Penguins porpoising through the water to reach the shore, and a lot of Fur Seals too which were occasionally spooked by the penguins as they leapt out the sea. There was also a huge male Elephant Seal watching the proceedings. The penguins were quite funny as they launched themselves out of the sea, sometimes landing well, other times doing full body slams into sheer rock walls.

After work is done we get some time to ‘play’!

I won a cake bet from Chris, which came in the form of a bakewell tart, this involved me going for a month without chocolate, cakes, sweets, and sugar; which I managed. I found the hardest times were film nights when I had to sit and watch the other three eat copious amounts of film goodies [including my portion]. No sugar in tea and coffee was also a bit hard at first, but now I am converted!

In the middle of the month we had a fairly sizeable dump of snow, which heralded the start of a couple of days of skiing. The skiing is quite good fun as it involves skiing down streambeds which are sometimes used by fur seals as roadways to their tussock haunts. Sometimes they get a bit playful and have a halfhearted chase as you go whizzing by. We found some fairly good `seal free` runs as well around the base of La Roche. Chris, who had not done much skiing, became quite good in the two days considering he was wearing plastic mountaineering boots.

We also had a ship visit, the first since I arrived here at the end of May. This went very well and we enjoyed the different company, for the brief time they were here. They were taken to visit a Wandering Albatross, which they seemed impressed by. This also meant fresh fruit and veg, and some mail. It felt a bit strange hearing different voices, noticing the accents from other parts of the UK.The next ship visit will be first call next month and one that I will start my journey home on. We also received a crate of beer from King Edward Point, South Georgia for a darts match we won. Thanks for that guys we were running on empty!

On the 19th saw Pirate day where we had a bit of a laugh dressing up and taking pictures for a comical cartoon type strip. The day went well seeing lots of grog consumed, a few hearty swordfights, and the final walking of the plank. No treasure was found!

Annual maintenance chore completed

We also cleaned out all the water tanks on base ready for the coming season, once this was done; one was seconded and utilized as a bathtub for the evening. It was the first time in a bath for quite a while for Ben and Nico who enjoyed it immensely!

Of the skuas that come to the island one in particular has become quite friendly, I have called it Archie, the gloves are to stop him from eating my fingers but apart from that he is great.

On a final note I would like to say another big `HELLO` to all my family and friends at home, I will see you in November!