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Bird Island Diary — April 2011

The whole base (all 4 of us!) turned out on the 1st of April to conduct the Wandering Albatross chick census. The aim is to provide information on the number of Wanderers breeding on Bird Island, and their breeding success. This can be compared with previous counts to assess population trends. 666 chicks were recorded on this survey which is more than the same time last year but the overall trend is for decreasing numbers, unfortunately. The nests will be re-surveyed on the 1st of every month throughout the winter, until September, to monitor their breeding success. The eggs hatched during March, and by the start of April there were already a few chicks being left unguarded on their nests. They look far too small and vulnerable to be left out alone but they soon fatten up and look perfectly at home despite some terrible weather.

Most of the Wanderer chicks are left unguarded on their nests now, but a few are still safely tucked under a parent (Photo: Jenn Lawson)
Most of the Wanderer chicks are left unguarded on their nests now, but a few are still safely tucked under a parent (Photo: Jenn Lawson)

There has been lots of surveying all over the island this month as we also did the annual census for the Black-browed chicks before they fledge and go to sea for a few years. The Isabelline (light brown) chick at one of the black-browed albatross colonies is looking well now that it has lost its down.

The light brown 'Isabelline' chick (left) and a 'normal' black-brow chick being fed (right) (Photo: Jenn Lawson)
The light brown 'Isabelline' chick (left) and a 'normal' black-brow chick being fed (right) (Photo: Jenn Lawson)

Ruth and Mick were both busy finishing the last of the summer field-work before the summer breeders left. The fur seals have been gradually leaving us throughout the month and the beaches that were full of mothers and pups at the start of the month are now almost empty. While the Macaroni penguins finished their moult and all left en-masse with their usual promptness between the 20th–22nd, leaving the once noisy colonies empty and deserted.

Paul (our wintering techie) has also been busy preparing the base for the coming winter. He took advantage of a spell of bad weather (and plentiful water supply!) to clean out our water tanks. We normally collect rainwater to supply all the water needs for base but sometimes (if we get a dry spell…) we have to collect it from a nearby stream. Here he is in action…

Paul gets stuck into our water tanks (Photo: Jenn Lawson)
Paul gets stuck into our water tanks (Photo: Jenn Lawson)

Despite our isolated location Ruth ensured we didn’t miss out on the Easter celebrations.

Ruth's hot-cross buns and Anzac day cookies (Photo: Jenn Lawson)
Ruth's hot-cross buns and Anzac day cookies (Photo: Jenn Lawson)

April is another month of transition here and that has certainly been reflected in the weather we’ve had strong wind, beautiful sunshine, snow and ice and torrential rain. A week of bad weather with a few days of very heavy rain resulted in a landslip on one of the steep slopes across the other side of the bay from base. Lawson’s Scar, as it has been christened, may even be visible on the webcam between the two peaks — if you can catch the webcam during a sunny spell.

Perhaps May will bring us better weather…?

Lawson's Scar above Evermann Cove (Photo: Jenn Lawson)
Lawson's Scar above Evermann Cove (Photo: Jenn Lawson)

Jenn Lawson
Albatross Assistant