Since 2011, I have been spending November to April each year working for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) on Signy Island in the South Orkney Islands, Antarctica. I work as a Zoological Field Assistant on the penguin and seal long-term monitoring programme. Before this, I spent 2.5 years on the sub-Antarctic island of Bird Island, South Georgia, in the South Atlantic.

This blog gives readers an insight into my day-to-day life in the Antarctic, from my first trip south in 2008 to the present day.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

End of January/Early February.

Since I last wrote there has been lots of work going on here. We've been busy collecting diet samples from both Gentoo and Macaroni penguins, which is then followed by a couple of days in the lab, sorting through the samples to determine what the penguins have been eating (usually fish, krill or other crustaceans). This data is important as it shows us what the adult birds are bringing back from the sea to feed to their chicks and highlights any problems of food shortages. The South Georgia Government can take this into consideration when setting fishing quotas for the following season to ensure wildlife does not suffer at the cost of commercial fishing.

The Gentoo penguins have struggled this season, but the chicks that have survived this far are looking healthy and are moulting their soft down, for feathers. The Macaroni penguin chicks appear to be doing better, and are also moulting well, many supporting weird and wonderful hairstyles as the down moults away in patches, leaving random tufts and stripes.

We've also been busy with the weekly check of all the Giant Petrels in the study area, checking each nest for failure. The last of the Southern Giant Petrels have now hatched so both species are now feeding chicks. Some of the Northern chicks are almost as big as their parents, and are feathering nicely. Also this month, everyone on base helped out with the monthly fur seal pup weighing (to compare pup size with previous years at this time of year) and the monthly albatross nest census (we have over 800 wandering albatross nests on the island and monitor each nest individually for success).

Although it's continued to be pretty busy for us here, things are finally starting to tail off a bit with work and there has been a bit more time for things like playing with kites and cameras and exploring new bits of the island. We celebrated Burns night in style, dressed in tartan and starting with Highland games, which involved tossing the haggis and welly-wanging. Then we went inside for a full Burns night feast, done in traditional style, with our resident Scotsman in his kilt recited the full Ode to a Haggis poem from memory. It was a good evening.

We've had some days of rain and gales when it's been hard work outside, but we've also had some stunning sunsets, and a few lovely snow showers. Sadly nothing as exciting as you all have at home, but I'm sure there will be more than enough when winter arrives here.

Wandering Albatross nesting on the meadows.

Displaying Wandering Albatrosses.

Adult grey-headed albatross on nest.

Grey-Headed albatross chick.

Adult grey-headed albatross.