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Bird Island Diary — September 2011

The final Wanderer chick survey for the season kick-started September. The vast majority of chicks survived the constant batterings handed out by the squalls and blizzards that regularly accompany life on Bird Island during Winter. Quite a few of the chicks had parental company with their high-pitched squeals being rewarded with a lovely hot feed of regurgitated fish & squid. Most of the chicks looked in the peak of fitness and seem to be on cue for fledging from early-November onwards.

Much of the fieldwork is temporarily impeded by the occasional blizzard blitz that can be both troublesome and exhilarating. It is difficult to draw the enthusiasm and motivation to head out into the weather every day. However, once we are out there traipsing the landscape observing the animal’s antics, there is no better place to be than Bird Island.

Fur seals in a blizzard. (Photo: Mick Mackey)
Fur seals in a blizzard. (Photo: Mick Mackey)

The Leopard Seals continue to frequent our shores and patrol our coastal waters looking for Gentoo Penguins and Fur Seals for their suppers. Analysis of a young male lep’s scat revealed an unusual diet of Diving Petrels — these big beasties never cease to surprise us. Their sleepy gentle, demeanour when hauled out on the beaches belie their athletic agility and ruthless killing ability when they are in their watery environment. They will continue to appear on our beaches until early November, when all their coastal pit-stops will be filled with Fur Seals — territorial males and breeding females.

Leopard Seal. (Photo: Mick Mackey)
Leopard Seal. (Photo: Mick Mackey)

While Mick has had his hands full with multiple lep-sightings, both Jenn and Ruth began their respective molly and Giant Petrel surveys for the upcoming Spring-Summer. Jenn observed the first returning Grey-headed Albatross on September 3rd, with the earliest sighting of an adult Black-browed Albatross occurring on September 26th. The Light-mantled Sooty Albatross are not due to arrive until early October. Ruth has noted a steady increase in daily Giant Petrel egg production, with a peak of 30 eggs in the study area in late September.

Grey-headed albatross on their nests. (Photo: Mick Mackey)
Grey-headed albatross on their nests. (Photo: Mick Mackey)

The wintering team of Ruth, Jenn Paul and Mick have spent the early weeks of September contemplating the end of their relative solitude, as they prepared for the delivery of three fresh faces. Andy Wood, Jaume Forcada and new Albatross Field Assistant, Jenny James, duly arrived in the final week. They brought with them the first fresh food re-supply and mail drop since last March. An assortment of goodies were also provided by former BI occupant, Stacey Adlard and South Georgia local celebrity, Sarah Lurcock — our treat-starved taste-buds thank you both.

The month was rounded off nicely with the great news that Mick’s beloved Geelong Cats won the Australian Rules Football Grand Final in Melbourne. All on base were forced at cross-bow point to wear Geelong paraphernalia and support the Boys from Kardinia Park to their third Premiership in five years. Go on you lovely Pussies!!!

Bird Island Cats. (Photo: Mick Mackey)
Bird Island Cats. (Photo: Mick Mackey)