Somehow I seem to have been here a month already! At this time of year (midsummer, and therefore peak breeding season for most of the wildlife) we're outside collecting data/monitoring/checking nests of penguins and giant petrels every day, so there is little time for doing things like updating blogs or wondering where the time is going! The other field assistants on base are equally as busy with the albatross and seal work. There is certainly no time to worry about being bored or wanting to go home!
The base is situated on a flat beach in the middle of a breeding Antarctic fur seal colony. As the weeks have passed, we have watched the males come in from the sea and select territories on the beaches. The females follow a short while later, coming ashore to pup, joining one of the male's harems on the beach. In the last week, the number of new pups has dropped dramatically and the females are now all returning to sea, returning only every few days to feed their pups. The base is now surrounded by hundreds of small black angry pups. The males are still defending their beach spots, but the peak breeding is definitely over. The males fiercely defend their territories and we watched many fights between rival males as each attempted to establish its own territory.
The wandering albatrosses are settling down well and are just passed the peak laying period. There are still a handful of last year's chicks that have yet to fledge. These can be seen running up and down the meadows trying out their enormous wings, before they will finally take off and head out to see. Wanderers only breed every 2 years, so the birds returning to breed this year are not the parents of the chicks that are still to fledge. The stunning Grey headed albatrosses already have chicks, and the Black-browed albatrosses are incubating eggs which should hatch any day now.
My work is to monitor the giant petrels and the penguins and check on a few other species such as the blue-eyed shags. The macaroni penguin chicks started hatching this week; the Gentoo penguins had their chicks before I arrived. The young Macaroni's are like tiny grey balls of fluff and are very cute. The gentoo chicks are getting quite big now. The Northern giant petrel chicks are also getting big now, and are usually seen without the parent birds. The Southern giant petrels are just beginning to hatch. The giant petrel chicks are very cute from a distance, but vomit stinking fishy oil all over you if get too close.
That was just a quick summary of what's going on- I was meant to be writing about Christmas so I'll stop with the wildlife for a bit there!