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, 17 December 2017

Something different

At present I am very busy with fieldwork with a lot to squeeze in between now and Christmas.  This season, in addition to the usual long term monitoring work, we are conducting a whole island Chinstrap survey.  Although approximately 1500 birds are monitered every single year as part of the standard monitoring, in addition, every 10 years every bird on the island is counted.  This year we are also conducting this survey using a drone to investigate its potential for surveying inaccessible places in the future.  It is keeping us busy, but is fun to do.

The survey gets us out and about all over the island, to the little nooks and crannies that we don't usually visit.  We still have some pretty ice around.

Whilst out and about on the chinstrap survey, it has actually been the Adelies who have been the most photogenic as the chinstraps are just sitting dutifully on their eggs.  There is much more activity in the Adelie colonies.  The chicks are already suprisingly large!


This pair is almost too big to fit underneath its parent.  It is good to see many nests still with two chicks- in a really poor year they can only find enough food to rear one.


Whilst out surveying we came across something quite special.  Spot the odd one out! 


This Adelie is leucistic, meaning it has a pigment disorder resulting in a partial loss of pigmentation in its feathers.  This form of leucism is known as Isabellinism- where the bird has a uniform reduction in the pigment melanin all over, giving it a honey colour everywhere that should be black.  It has brownish toenails and an almost red beak.  It is not an albino, which would have no colour at all and pale eyes.


It looked perfectly happy with its fellow colony buddies.


Finally to finish, here is some more ice in the bay.


On base we are starting to prepare for Christmas.  We put the Christmas tree and decorations up yesterday and my Christmas cakes are maturing, waiting to be iced.  The temperatures are hovering around minus two- probably warmer than the UK at present!

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