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.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Mid February

It's already mid February and I'm trying to work out where the season has gone to!  It is now only 7 weeks til the ship comes, and we close down the station for the winter and all head off for the Falkland Islands, then onwards to the UK.  The ship visit is much later this year, in previous years we would only have had about 4 weeks left- I am glad that we get some extra time at the end of the season this year as it is normally such a rush.

The summer season is drawing to a close for the wildlife.  Already the last of the Adelie penguin chicks have gone and the colonies are empty.  Many places seem strangely quiet without them.  Here is the big Adelie colony that I've shown pictures of throughout the season, taken a few weeks ago- you can see that the chicks have wandered out of the pink nesting areas and are all over the place.  Today it is completely empty and the rain we have been having is slowly washing away all of the pink poo. 


When the above picture was taken the chicks looked about like this:


From there, it is only a week or so before they look like this, and are ready to leave.

It's suprising how quickly they change from a ball of fluff into a very smart looking little penguin!  It is always a little sad to see them go, having watched them all grow up, but this year the Adelies did very well and produced high numbers of fat healthy chicks which is great to see. 

The chinstrap penguins are still around, and their chicks are getting enormous and fat and fluffy.  Below is a picture of them earlier in the season. 


Today they are much bigger- some are already losing their down, and starting to show their adult feathers underneath.  On some, you can see the see the chin strap pattern which gives them their name, just starting to show.  They will be with us for another 4 weeks yet, before they too head for the oceans.     

With other species, the chicks are growing well too.  Here is one of the young snow petrel chicks, old enough to have been left by its parents who will be out foraging for food to feed it.  The snow petrels nest in tiny cracks in the cliffs so the chicks are well protected from the weather and predatory skuas. 

The weather this season has been very variable, and the latter part of the season has been very mild, wet and windy.  This makes working outside not much fun.  I much prefer it to be cold and snowy.  However, today is sunny which makes a nice change and I am going to head across to Gourlay to start moving my 150 numbered nest marker bricks back to the huts.  These are no longer needed now my penguins have gone, and all have to be cleaned in the pond by the hut and then left in the hut over the winter (to protect them from the winter weather) ready for next season.  With the adelies gone, my workload has eased a little, although I will be busy with fieldwork for another 3-4 weeks yet, as there are still all the giant petrel chicks to count, all the seals to count, and chinstrap chicks to weigh.  


Saturday, 7 February 2015

Signy scenery

For the last couple of weeks on Signy the weather has been very mild, foggy and rainy.  This does not help with taking very good photographs!  However, here are a few of the nicer weather moments on Signy so far this season.

 
Me on a day out to the West coast to count Giant Petrel nests.


Sunset at Northpoint.


Sunset with rainbow (which I've never seen at Signy before), just behind the research station.


Sea ice at Signy.


A whale skull on Signy (with me for scale!)- remnants from when Signy used to have a whaling station.