King Edward Point Diary – January 2014

18 January, 2014

Hello! It’s me Daniel, the Zoological Field Assistant. Let me tell you something about King Edward Point, from a base member’s point of view, this month will be filled with cruise ships visits, visiting scientists, reindeer eradication teams, boating around the peninsulas, and some lovely walks in the hills. Interesting, but you can refer to any of the other diaries if you would like to read about what life is like at KEP. My job includes working with gentoo penguins and Antarctic fur seals, counting them, weighing them, looking at their diet, listening to their problems, probably seeing more of them than any person. So with that, this month I’ll focus more on other animals than humans.

More than any of the jobs on South Georgia, mine entails lots of climbing through thick slopes of tussock grass. Hazards of this activity are bumping into the many hidden fur seals asleep amongst the grass, but one of the great bonuses, especially in January, are coming across all the breeding birds nesting in the tussock and on the rocky cliffs. The place is a chorus of the peeps of the new chicks, and the bleats of the fur seal pups. Rustling through the tussock dozens of bewildered fur seal faces will pop up, I say ‘Good morning!’ to them. They are the first thing to notice, but for the nesting birds, you have to look more closely. Walking quietly to the sheltered spots amongst the tussock grass there are skuas, giant petrels, and pintail ducks. In their tight knit pungent colonies are the gentoo penguins, and consequently, several nearby skua nests. And protected on the steep cliffs are the sooty albatross and cape petrels. All with very different parenting techniques and all with incredibly charismatic chicks, that is, the ones that don’t spew on you.

The chick and fledgling periods of the seabirds are fairly brief, so I thought I would give them their dues before the human dominated months of the autumn and winter. I hope you have enjoyed the fluff. Till next January!

Daniel Johnston

Zoological Field Assistant