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Bird Island Diary — January 2008

All our own celebrations aside for the turn of the year, life pretty much carried on as normal here at BI. The multitude of wildlife never broke stride from their daily activities and therefore our own observations and studies very much kept pace with them.

BI Research Station with Roche Peak in background
BI Research Station with Roche Peak in background

There were 11 of here for the first part of the month after Bens stay was extended so that he could finish up some work on our IT equipment. One of our new arrivals Ewan W was the only birthday of the month, which was celebrated in true BI style with a nice big cake! Fabrice, Robbo and Ewan W made an ascent of Roche Peak on the 8th, where they were rewarded with some stunning scenery after low cloud came in.

Robbo, Ewan W and Fabrice at top of Roche Peak
Robbo, Ewan W and Fabrice at top of Roche Peak

We conducted a SAR (Search and Rescue) exercise, which involved Robbo disappearing off one afternoon and pretending to have a bad fall. It was great to run through the process of finding him then attending to his injuries and finally carrying him back to station. The scenario involved all on station and showed that it’s not an easy task to rescue someone here. However it is comforting to know that we do have the necessary skills to assist each other if an accident were to happen, by far the best lesson of the day is to ensure we take care when out and about and avoid the need for rescue.

SAR Exercise
SAR Exercise

January is again another very busy month on the science front. The bird team of Derren and Robbo have continued to mark out Wandering Albatross nests where eggs have been laid. This culminated with all of us here completing the island wide Wanderer census at the end of the month. This was to get an accurate figure of how many nests were still successful. (e.g. Adult still incubating an egg.)

Wandering Albatross on nest
Wandering Albatross on nest

The seal team of Ewan and Don have been able to relax a little more as the month has worn on. Now that the majority of this seasons seal pups have been born, there is no longer the need to make the twice-daily trek over to the SSB to record numbers. Most of the big males have now given up their precious territories on the beach and headed back to sea. The young pups have become more inquisitive as the month has passed and have begun to explore their surroundings and venture further inland. It certainly adds to the challenge for the seal mums who after returning from their foraging trips have to trek around the place to find their own pup. In as far as my untrained eye can tell this is done mostly by sound and confirmed by smell.

Antarctic Fur Seal Pups hanging out next to base
Antarctic Fur Seal Pups hanging out next to base

Fabrice has been busy keeping up to speed recording all the penguin activities over the month. The chicks have been growing fast and we’ve been monitoring the adults as they head off on their daily foraging trips to keep up with the demands of their hungry chicks.

Gentoo Penguin and Chicks
Gentoo Penguin and Chicks

Recently arrived Ewan W spent the daylight hours of the month up at the Black Brow Albatross Colony J. Ewan is studying the Black Brows as part of his PHD and is interested in tracking them when they go foraging. It’s amazing to hear how some of the birds can be away for up to 2 weeks and can travel from hundreds up to thousands of miles in that time.

Flying Black Brow Albatross
Flying Black Brow Albatross

Back on station our technician Flea has been working away with the continual maintenance tasks that are required to keep a research station running smoothly. He is happy for us to help him out and it’s great to see and learn how all the different parts of the station work.

Don cleaning the top water supply filter
Don cleaning the top water supply filter

Well that’s all from BI this month, best wishes to all the folks at home.

John