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Bird Island Diary — July 2012

With the island looking very sparse in terms of animals the month began in the same usual way with the all island wandering albatross chick census, and I am pleased to report that there were only 2 failures despite several storms the previous month. July has also seen a drop in temperature and the odd morning we have been treated to pancake and grease ice in the bay. The Antarctic terns seem to love it as it brings them out in droves.

Antarctic tern (Photo: Rob Lord)
Antarctic tern (Photo: Rob Lord)

My role as the services technician means I take care of the general, electrical and mechanical works around base. This includes weekly refuelling, general repairs, generator maintenance and care of the water plant. The recent drop in temperature means that the dam, our regular source of water, is now frozen and water has to be pumped once or twice a week from a stream in North Valley some 40m away. A hole is made in the ice covering the stream and water is pumped through a hose pipe into the main tank.

Rob Lord pumping water from North Valley stream (Photo: Jen James)
Rob Lord pumping water from North Valley stream (Photo: Jen James)

The penguin and bird ZFA’s work has suddenly now become more lab based with Jen and Ruth analysing krill, otoliths and squid beaks. Jon continues walking the coastal lep round daily and my work is much the same year round; fixing everything broken by the scientists.

Leopard seal (Photo: Rob Lord)
Leopard seal (Photo: Rob Lord)

An exceptionally nice day proved the perfect opportunity for the Bird Island winter trip in which we downed tools and readjusted microscope-focused vision for a trip to the south side of the island. Our trip took us over the beaches of Main Bay, through the meadows of Dank Fen and eventually to Johnson Cove.

The winterers on the stack overlooking Johnson cove (Photo: Ruth Brown)
The winterers on the stack overlooking Johnson cove (Photo: Ruth Brown)

Later on in the day we were able to watch the Gentoo penguins return from their daily foraging trip. This is arguably the best spectacle on the island. We were also lucky enough to spot a lost chinstrap penguin, a rare visitor to the island.

Gentoos returning after a day's foraging (Photo: Rob Lord)
Gentoos returning after a day's foraging (Photo: Rob Lord)
Chinstrap casually blending in with the Gentoos (Photo: Rob Lord)
Chinstrap casually blending in with the Gentoos (Photo: Rob Lord)

The return leg of the trip took us over Top Meadows and we were able to see the sunset, normally obscured by the North Cliffs of the island, before commencing the brisk walk down North Valley back to base.

Sunset (Photo: Rob Lord)
Sunset (Photo: Rob Lord)

Towards the end of the month our winter base commander Ruth decided we should conduct part one of the Bird Island Search and Rescue Training. This involved familiarising ourselves with the field medical and rescue equipment.

Jon in a Neil Robertson stretcher (Photo: Rob Lord)
Jon in a Neil Robertson stretcher (Photo: Rob Lord)
Rob in a basket stretcher (Photo: Jen James)
Rob in a basket stretcher (Photo: Jen James)

The summer saw an unusual visitor to the island. The Bobcat is usually more suited to the warmer climes of North America but a lost individual was enticed here by the recent building works. Due to its inability to adapt the cold weather this particular visitor needs constant attention.

Rob fixing the Bobcat (Photo: Jen James)
Rob fixing the Bobcat (Photo: Jen James)

Rob Lord
Bird Island Facilities Technician