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.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Mid Season

Its got to the time of year where work takes up most of my waking hours.  Hence the lack of posts on the blog since Christmas!  Time is racing on- Tuesday is mid-season for us, half way through the 21 week season that we have at Signy.  At this time of year things are happening fast.  It may only be half way through the season for me but this is way past mid season for some of the wildlife. 

The Adelie chicks are the most advanced.  They are a month older than the chinstrap chicks.  The chicks are now big enough to defend themselves, and need a lot of food to sustain them.  This means both parents now spend the day at sea, catching food, returning in the evenings to feed them.  A few chicks have already started to moult their grey fluffy down, revealing their blue-grey feathers underneath.  It will only be a couple more weeks before the first chicks leave the colonies and jump into the sea for the first time, where they must learn to survive and hunt for themselves.

The gentoo chicks are also pretty big, and again are unguarded by their parents.  They are quite funny to watch as they run around in big mobs, falling over eachother and frightening themselves with anything that moves.  On snowy days, they usually end up filthy.

The chinstrap penguins have now finished hatching.  Some seem to have grown suprisingly fast this year and already look almost too big to fit under their parents; others are still very small.

Probably the most notable addition to Signy since Christmas are the Antarctic fur seals.  These arrive in ever increasing numbers from early January.  By late January they cover most of the low lying areas of ground.  They are nearly all young males, and come ashore to moult, spending their days lounging around and play-fighting with eachother.  Fur seals are rather like large angry dogs, and can move very fast.  They make walking around the island quite tricky because when sleeping they do a very good impression of being a rock, and it is easy to almost fall over them without noticing them.  Their reactions are very fast and they are capable of giving a very nasty bite.  Walking anywhere therefore now requires paying attention!  

The brown skua chicks have also hatched, although some of them are still quite small.  Skua chicks are very mobile, roaming around and exploring their surroundings from the day they emerge.  Their parents are never far away, and defend them fiercely from rival skuas and other predators. 

I've had very little time for taking photographs in the last couple of weeks, so most of todays photographs are kindly donated by Iain, our techie.