This blog has been a long time coming, many of the pictures you have probably already seen but it’s too good a trip not to write a blog about. As I have mentioned many times before, one of the perks of my job is that I get outdoors a lot and visit many peninsulas to carry out science.
Last month I was fortunate enough to visit the Barff peninsula, where I was needed to carry out maintenance on an SM2 for an Oxford University project. An SM2 is a sound meter which can be programmed to pick up specific frequencies of sound. We have a number of these around the island which have been set up to record the songs of South Georgia Pipits. This should hopefully allow the rate of recovery of South Georgian Pipits, post rat eradication, to be monitored.
Fortunately, the SM2 is located 50 metres from a rookery of Macaroni Penguins. Last time this colony was counted, there were approximately 7000 of them, so the colony is a substantial size. Once we had finished with the SM2, we were able to head down to the shoreline and watch the Macaroni Penguins come in from their fishing trips. It is absolutely incredible to watch these guys porpoising through the water and surfing their way up the rocks.
Once they have surfed the white water ashore, you start to observe their aggression. They are very territorial and are definitely suffering from a bit of “little man’s syndrome”. Any excuse possible and they will be pecking, chasing and pushing each other.
Considering their small size, it is astonishing watching these guys making the small commute up to the colony. Once they have washed the salt off themselves, they ‘fly’ up the rocks, jumping over crevices and scrambling through the tussock.
Once up the hill, the Macaronis have to safely navigate their way through the colonies, avoiding the angry territorial swipes and pecks of their neighbours, to their nest. Once alongside, their mate couples perform an incredible display, simultaneously dancing and calling to each other!
It’s not all easy nature spotting though as the walk back to the boating pick-up point was a good 3 hours hiking over deep snow and high mountain passes. Visibility, unfortunately, wasn’t great as a result of low cloud. However, we were accompanied for much of the route by Antarctic Terns commuting back from fishing trips. I have these birds to thank for making me feel so at home from day one here. Hearing their courting calls and being mobbed from the sky took me right back to the Farne Islands and living within the Arctic Tern colony there. Even the acrid smell of seabird colonies gives me a slightly homely feel!