This entry is part 11 of 47 in the series British Antarctic Survey

This week has crazy to say the least. I have no idea how many miles I have walked but it’s quite a lot; however, it was worth the blisters!

Giant Petrel patrolling colony

Giant Petrel patrolling colony

One of the best parts of my job is that it gets me out and about to different areas and peninsulas in order to carry out observations on various different species and colonies. This week was the turn of the Giant Petrels at Harpon and the Greene Peninsula, both of which involved substantial amounts of walking over spectacular scenery. Fortunately for other members of the team here, most of these locations are outside the single person travel limit and they get the lucky job of accompanying me without actually having to do any work!

The team making our way over one of the many snowy passes to Harpon

The team making our way over one of the many snowy passes to Harpon

Team making the much appreciated descent down to Harpon

And the much appreciated descent down to Harpon – not a bad view!

As for the Giant Petrels, although these guys are slightly prehistoric looking, they are awesome! The noises they make are incredible, the size and power of their bills is ridiculous and, a little weird I know, they smell pretty good as well (if you avoid letting them throw up on you!). And…. although the birds tend to nest in boring tussock, they always seem to have a spectacular backdrop behind them, as demonstrated by this Southern Giant Petrel at Harpon.

Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus, in front of Lyell Glacier at Harpon

Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus, in front of Lyell Glacier at Harpon

We are lucky enough to have two species of Giant Petrels here – the Northern and Southern. They breed at slightly different times of the year and usually in separate colonies so whilst I was carrying out egg censuses for the Southerns, I could also monitor if the Northerns had any chicks and they most certainly do!

Northern Giant Petrel, Macronectes halli, with chick on the Greene Peninsula. This chick should take 110-120 days to fledge

Northern Giant Petrel, Macronectes halli, with chick on the Greene Peninsula. This chick should take 110-120 days to fledge

Its not easy to distinguish these guys (the Southerns and Northerns) but the easiest way to do so is by the colour of the bill, as illustrated by these pictures. The Northerns have the reddish bill whereas the Southerns have a paler head and a greenish tip to the bill.

Close up showing the reddish bill colour of the Northern Giant Petrel, Macronectes hall

Close up showing the reddish bill colour of the Northern Giant Petrel, Macronectes halli

Picture showing the distinct bill colour of the Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus

Picture showing the distinct bill colour of the Southern Giant Petrel, Macronectes giganteus

They are the scavengers of the Antarctic. Having seen their bill up close during the census, I was soon able to appreciate its purpose when a young elephant seal died close to base. The seal, probably 100kg in weight, was stripped to skin and bones within 24 hours by these guys. It was absolutely amazing watching the birds’ display and compete for first place in the pecking order.

Giant Petrels feasting on an unfortunate elephant seal pup! Note the posturing and fighting for a place in the queue

Giant Petrels feasting on an unfortunate elephant seal pup. Note the posturing and fighting for a place in the queue

After we had finished with the census, we did get time to play and the incredible Steph found me my first ever chinstrap penguin, chilling on the beach. Named after their characteristic mark on their chin, these guys are rare visitors to Cumberland Bay; although there is a small colony on the south eastern tip of the island, on the whole they tend to breed further south than South Georgia.

Rare visitor to Cumberland Bay - a chinstrap penguin

Rare visitor to Cumberland Bay – a chinstrap penguin

Series Navigation<< My role in South Georgia – Higher Predator BiologistAnother Busy Week… a seal rescue, ‘blondies’ and chicks! >>
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8 thoughts on “Another Week In Paradise

  1. Great blog & blog post Jamie! Looks amazingly cool and the work looks awesome! Loving the photos! Keep on enjoying what you do! Good luck!

  2. Found yourself another tough gig Better Coleman! Looks amazing, also an educating and informative read! Nice work, stay well.

  3. We joined Mark for lunch a few days ago and found that he is keeping up to date with your blog (whatever that is!) So we had a very happy session going through it all. What a sea crossing! Some lovely photos too. And doesn’t your enthusiasm come through?! We catch up with Mark quite often so we will continue to keep abreast of your great adventure.

  4. Looks really incredible Jamie, Elisa and me are both looking forward to reading enviously! Enjoy every second!

  5. Fantastic Jamie. Really enjoying your posts. It does look amazing. What an experience. Keep up the good work.

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