Bird Island Diary — May 2003
Bird Island Newsletter - May 2003
We spent the first couple of days of May on Bird Island, counting birds believe it or not! The first day was reserved, as is customary on every first of the month through out winter, for our Wandering friends and their small chicks. The island was divided into four according to the area covered and the numbers of nests; Ben, Chris, Kevan and I all disappeared for a few hours to each one of our areas with our maps of nest locations. I was to head east.
The next day, as I said, we were out again, but this time visiting colonies of Grey-headed albatrosses (GHA). This smaller albatross with a wingspan of "only" 2 metres, nests in colonies of varying size from tens to thousands of pairs around South Georgia on tussock covered cliffs. We were out to count the breeding success rates i.e. how many chicks had survived from egg to this stage in the season.
Anyway sitting on this cliff edge, I admired all the different seabirds passing me by - some flying by like the cormorants or terns, others swimming by like the penguins. It was interesting to observe the giant petrels and the grey-headed albatrosses following the same wind currents, and although of similar wingspan and both highly adapted to a marine way of life, the giant petrel could not rival the albatross in the use of wind currents, as it had to flap its wings several times while the grey-head just glided.
Halfway through the month, Chris organised a night over at the Loveshack, one of our field huts on the west side of the island where during the summer, he studies Macaroni penguins. In winter the colonies are empty the Macs spending the season at sea. The hut is however a very nice and cosy venue for all of us to spend a night at. He prepared a delicious three-course meal with the little facilities this hut has to offer i.e. a single stove. If I was to be truly honest, I would add that organised as he is, he had prepared some of the items he served up while at base.
Another person on base concerned with the ice surrounding the jetty and filling the bay was Kevan. Kevan was hoping to return to the UK at the end of May after 18 month spent at Halley and nearly three months amongst us. Getting excited to head back, he experienced the ice with mixed feelings. On one hand you could see him come back from Fresh Water Beach, with diverse tales of curious gentoos walking up to him to investigate, ferocious leps being chased off the ice by persistent sheathbills (little white birds that like poo and pecking on seal flippers) and on the other you would observe him hitting the ice from the jetty with a long pole testing its strength and planning alternative options for his departure. The day before the ship was due to arrive, Jordan Cove was three quarters full and the ice was packed solid. We were investigating other possible places to land from Landing beach to Main Bay (our surrounding beaches). Fortunately during that night the temperatures rose and the wind shifted north, drifting some of the ice from Fresh Water Beach but not enough for the transfer to take place from our jetty. Transporting Kevan's personal gear to the boat and collecting the personal effects of our newcomer, we had to get our feet wet!
As Kevan departed, Adrian arrived....ever changing faces! Adrian is an electrician who has worked at Rothera last summer and is here to join us for the rest of the Winter. We hope he enjoys his time amongst us.
Lots of love to my family and friends.
Above: The Boys (from left to right: Nick, Kev, Ben and Chris). Click the image to enlarge it.