Category Archives: Skua Survey

Dirty Penguin

Its all very well taking photos of beautiful landscapes with blue skies and wonderful black and white penguins with fluffy chicks but this doesn’t really show the reality of living on a tiny island with thousands of birds and animals.  The paths out of base are in reality a litter of sharp rocks interspersed with moss banks and patches of old snow.  On the rare cold, dry days the air is crisp and the ground hard though more often you’re squelching through penguin guano in the sleat with the smell of the colony getting stronger as you approach.  So with that in mind heres a collection of the less lovely side of getting to live with these animals day in and day out.931A3802 Fairly standard look for a Chinstrap penguin.  Probably off to wonder aimlessly around or steal rocks from another birds nest931A3843Adelie chicks are not lovely and fluffy – usually they are rather bedraggled looking and covered in each others poo.
931A3868-2The best mullet I’ve seen in a while.  Many of the Adelie chicks are getting close to fledging.
931A3869 Chinstrap penguin creating Art.931A3901-2 Land of life and death.  Two skuas pulling apart a chinstrap chick.931A3996 Tim and a Skua eyeing each other up.  It can be hard to spot the Skua nests but you know when you’re getting close as they start to dive on you.931A4020

Skua nest with chick.  Skuas are fairly brutal in their persecution of the penguins but they remain one of my favourite birds reminding me a lot of the Ravens you see in the mountains.

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Lovely day to be a penguin.  We walk down to the Gourlay peninsular every two days to count the Adelie and Chinstrap chicks and eggs.  Some days are nicer than others!

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Lovely day to to be a BAS employee.  As well as counting the eggs and chicks every two days, Tim and I diet sample six penguins every four to five days.  The pinky orange stream flowing down the slope is penguin guano from the few thousand birds in the colony above us as we wait for some volunteers to come ashore to diet sample.

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Prawns tonight anyone? We aren’t meant to share anything about the diet sampling – its not a particularly pleasant process but currently the only way to record how penguins diets are changing as the world changes around them.  The penguins mainly eat Krill – this is a sample from one bird.

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Antarctic Tern on a blue sky day.  Along with the Skuas these are another of my favourite birds though they are really hard to photograph especially when its cloudy.  Along with these super fast fliers are the Prions and the Wilsons Storm Petrels which all love zipping around base in the evening.  Hopefully more photos of these soon.

Also posted in Adelie Penguin, alastair rose, ali rose, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, Signy, Signy Research Station Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Finlandia Foothills and a Skua Survey

The news was broken to me at Halley that I was the only person flying back to Rothera with Olly the pilot.  My dreams of alternating between napping and reading my book in the back while someone else did co-pilot duties were shattered!  As the plane was so light we flew direct from Halley to Rothera in just under seven hours with me still managing to get a bit of a nap and some reading done.  In reality it was a fun trip feeling much more like a road trip than normal with just Olly and I chatting away and me occasionally doing a little bit of flying to give Olly a break.  On the way out of Halley we flew over the RRS Ernest Shackleton doing relief on the Brunt Ice Shelf 40km from the Halley base.

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The “Shack” doing relief with lots of cargo sledges and vehicle lined up to take the cargo back to base.
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By the time we got to Rothera it was grey and overcast.  Flying from Halley to Rothera directly does mean that the last bit of the journey has some interesting views as the route cuts across the peninsular.

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Back at Rothera Julie and I had a bit of planning and packing to do before the input to the Finlandia Foothills for our final short project of the season.  It wasn’t until after Julie had flown in to establish our camp that I was shown this excerpt from the previous field party in the area in the early 80’s.  Needless to say Julie and Pete were on the ground for five days waiting for the weather to improve for the rest of us to fly in.931A6473

Julie walking away from camp with the Wilson range behind.  The team of six of us were in the Finlandia Foothills on Alexander island in the hope of establishing an Antarctic Special Protected Area (ASPA).  An area of the foothills had shown promise via satellites and four scientists were expecting a higher than normal density of biological matter and some birds. (Basically bird poo, birds, moss and lichens).  (Fossil Bluff is also on Alexander Island which at BAS is often referred to as being the same size as Wales.  I recently learnt that it is also the second largest uninhabited island in the world)

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On our first afternoon we headed up on the screes above camp looking for moss and lichen931A6490

Pete hard at work collecting Lichens931A6499Gearing up to leave camp.  On this day we decided to head down to our main objective just over 6km away.  Note the bird net Richard is carrying.931A6503

Julie and the two Pete’s skiing away from camp.

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What a lot of Lichen!  After three hours of glacier travel on skis and foot we reached the site to realise that there was…. just a few bits of Lichen and no sign of birds, bird poo or moss.  We had expected the sample collections at this site to take three to four days!
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Scientists in the mist.  While at the site Kevin wanted to collect a series of DNA samples making him and Richard look particularly strange wandering around in the mist.  Needless to say it was quickly decided that the site was not worthy of ASPA status!
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The neighbours – It was great to be in a field camp as a large group again as once we had discovered the site was not what we wanted we had to wait a few days to be picked up.931A6538

Julie and the Petes being told the planes wont arrive tomorrow.

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After eleven days for Julie and just six for me we flew back late afternoon over some amazing chunks of sea ice and the RSS James Clark Ross doing relief at Rothera.

931A6555JCR on the Rothera Wharf.

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Skua survey.  After a brief couple of days at Rothera it was straight back out with my tentmates from Finlandia, Kevin and Richard, to carry on a skua survey on the islands near Rothera.  The flags on Kevin and Richards bags are to give the skua’s something to go for rather than your head when you’re peering into their nests.931A6577

Skua chick.  While Kevin outlined survey areas and Richard counted nesting pairs I tried to count nest contents.  Despite the skuas clearly showing you where their nests are by swooping you more and more aggressively the nests are surprisingly hard to spot.931A6613

Our salubrious accommodation on Anchorage island.  Salubrious until I pulled the door off the hut within minutes of our arrival!   931A6617

More Skua chicks.931A6620

Inquisitive Weddel seal.  I’ve spent barely any time on the islands around Rothera so doing the Skua survey was a great excuse to wander around and get some photos on both Anchorage and Leonie Island.
931A6682Incoming! Despite being assured by Richard that the skuas were not that aggressive and would only go for the flag some of the birds were extremely persistent I did get a few good hits to my head by some of the more adventurous ones.

One more week in Antarctica before heading home to Scottish winter which appears to be shaping up nicely.

Also posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Anchorage Island, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Rothera, Rothera Research Station, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |