This entry is part 12 of 47 in the series British Antarctic Survey

I was told that spring was going to be full on and this last 10 days has been no exception. On top of the 14km round trip to Maiviken every other day in order to take pictures, I have also visited the Macaroni Penguin colony at Rookery to do some work with South Georgian Pipits (a whole other blog post), rescued a young elephant seal, monitored more Giant Petrels and found the first Penguin Chicks and a ‘blondie’

Macaroni penguin at Rooker Point making standing up look difficult!

Macaroni penguin at Rookery Point making standing up look difficult!

As higher predator biologist, any seal entanglements or injuries are my responsibility to deal with. So when a couple of the museum staff ventured upon an elephant seal pup that had managed to get stuck under a collapsed bank, I was radioed. I got sent out with a shovel and two other members of the team to try and find and rescue this guy! He had a few scrapes and cuts but most disturbing was the smell. He had obviously been stuck there a few days, with nowhere to go to the toilet, so when we finally manoeuvred him out from beneath the rocks, the release of smell was quite spectacular.

An elephant seal we managed to free from the collapsed bank at Penguin River

An elephant seal we managed to free from the collapsed bank at Penguin River

Continuing on the seal front, we have had a number of very rare visitors to Maivikien beaches this year. Within the Antarctic Fur Seal population, certain individuals have a recessive gene trait which results in a change in their fur colour. Studies at Bird Island suggest that approximately 1 in 800 seals are ‘blondies’. Currently, we have 2 adult males (which in the water you can almost mistake for a polar bear if you squint and are wearing very bad glasses), one adult female and a pup. I am not sure what other recessive genes the pup was born with, but the last time I saw it, it had taken over a Giant Petrel nest and started incubating the egg!

Rare pale morph adult male fur seal taking a dip

Rare pale morph adult male fur seal taking a dip

Blondie, Antarctic fur seal sitting on a giant petrel egg

Pretty cute…. A Blondie, Antarctic fur seal sitting on a giant petrel egg

The Gentoo Penguins are having a poor year at the moment. Numbers at egg census, which was completed a few weeks back, were down from last year. And further to this, their new nesting site is located adjacent to a pair of Brown Skuas, which, with incredible intelligence and teamwork has resulted in a worryingly large egg graveyard. But it’s not all been bad news… on the 3rd we discovered a number of Gentoos with small chicks and a further check on the 10th showed these guys to have grown at an incredible rate. These guys will eventually form creches at about a month old and will finally become independent of their parents after 3 months.

Brown skua patrolling the Gentoo penguin colony

Brown skua patrolling the Gentoo penguin colony in the snow

Young Gentoo Penguin begging for food

Young Gentoo Penguin begging for food

With spring continuing here, the breeding season for most of our native inhabitants is also in full swing. Large numbers of pintail ducklings are filling the tussock grass King Penguins are displaying, Brown Skuas are on eggs, South Georgian Pipits are collecting food for chicks, and the Antarctic Terns are starting to fledge. So much wildlife to take in and so many pictures to take!

Hopefully the first of many Antarctic Tern fledglings at King Edward Point

Hopefully the first of many Antarctic Tern fledglings at King Edward Point

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3 thoughts on “Another Busy Week… a seal rescue, ‘blondies’ and chicks!

  1. Absolutely stunning photos with an entertainingly informative text to compliment them.
    Best wishes,
    Cousin Mark (Fonseca/Gregory)

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