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, 14 February 2017

Fledglings and greenery.

The weeks continue to fly by, spoiling my best intentions to update my blog on a weekly basis.  Since I last wrote the Adelie penguins have been keeping me busy.  All except the youngest few have now gone.  Here is one of the colonies just before they started to leave.  Most of the fluffy down has fallen out, leaving the blue/grey and white feathers underneath.

It always amazes me how the fledglings know what to do when the time comes to leave.  None of them have ever been near water before yet they hop down to the water, hang around for a while, then simply jump into the sea, flap around for a couple of seconds, dive underwater and vanish completely.  That is the last we see of them.  These three were about to leave- you can still see small amounts of fluffy down on top of the head of the middle one.

The adult adelies have also gone, heading South, down towards the Antarctic continent, where they will moult their worn feathers on the ice and grow new ones ready for the winter.  The colonies are very quiet without them.  The chinstrap colonies are still very busy and noisy.  The chinstrap chicks are now enormous balls of fluff, creched together for protection while both parents are at sea collecting food for them.  It will be a couple of weeks yet before they fledge.

It has been a warm summer this year, and most of the snow and ice has melted from the lower valleys and slopes.  This gives the mosses, lichens and algae a change to grow.  Some areas are suprisingly colourful and somewhat un-Antarctic looking!  Here are a few pictures from a sunny trip earlier in the week, to show that Antarctica isn't always a black and white frozen landscape.

A picnic in Three Lakes Valley

An assortment of mosses and lichens (I will not pretend to know which species they are)

A waterfall

And to finish, the Orwell Glacier in the sunshine