This week at Macquarie Island: 22 July 2016
Great news on grey petrels, some walks for both pleasure and operations, and a whale spotting!
Grey petrel quest
The hunt for grey petrels has continued since May. It has been a team effort searching areas used by grey petrels. The aim is to estimate the number of grey petrel breeding pairs on Macquarie Island. To do this we have been carefully scouring patches of thick tussock looking and sniffing for signs of grey petrels. When we find something promising we take a closer look, either sticking our head right into the burrow or using a go-pro on a selfie-stick that is linked to a screen/tablet.
To date the team has recorded 94 breeding pairs: not quite a record, but we are getting close. So far our number of breeding pairs is greater than all the totals recorded prior to the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP). This suggests the breeding population has increased since MIPEP – great news! Now that there are no more rabbits on the island the vegetation is growing and providing much more stable habitat for grey petrels and other burrowing seabirds. There are still more than 10 out of 35 areas to search for grey petrels. Fingers crossed we are able to find more breeding pairs than were recorded in 2011 (112 breeding pairs), because this would mean the population is continuing to grow.
Southern right whale spotting
We'd been filming some interviews with our Ranger team for inclusion in a forthcoming exhibition on Macquarie Island, and whilst filming with Kim up at the Ham shack, heard a noise in Garden Cove behind us, and saw our first southern right whale visitor! Very exciting. Unfortunately pics don't quite do it justice but at least George was on the spot with a camera so we have proof!
Sandell Bay marine debris survey
Macquarie Island has several Special Management Areas (or SMAs) around its coastline that regulate access to areas used by the many different species that breed on the island. Over winter many of the summer breeding species leave the island and at this time some of the SMAs are open for operational activity. Sandell Bay is in one such SMA. Marcus (wildlife ranger) and Marty (BOM observer) recently visited Sandell Bay and undertook some much needed clean up of marine debris.
Sandell Bay is a two-day hike down the island and visitors are rewarded with a spectacular view from the edge of the escarpment. Marcus and Marty spent a day walking the beaches along the bay and produced a sizeable addition to the cache of marine debris at Davis Point hut. The cache of debris will be collected by helicopter on the next island resupply and returned to Australia for processing.
It is rewarding see the Sandell Bay shoreline a little cleaner. Soon the Sandell Bay SMA will close and it will become an important breeding site for southern giant petrels. These giant petrels sure have picked a great place to raise their chicks!
What's worse than carrying a pack up Doctors?
Having to carry a pack and an antenna!
We've been having various issues over the last few months with comms here on the island, and a helicopter-less resupply meant that numerous things that needed to be moved about on the island didn't get anywhere. Our Senior Communications Technical Officer Rob is a determined man and managed to convince our Station Supply Officer Dom that a lovely day trip would be for the two of them to carry the new antenna up the hill to Mt Elder (approx four kilometres from station) and position it. So off they set, with the antenna slung between them, and their packs on. Hopefully all those gym hours would pay off!
After a massive effort they had to turn around about 800 metres shy of their final destination as they were losing light, and a few days later Rob and Marcus (Wildlife Ranger) went back up the hill and hauled the antenna to its final position.
Communication with the field is much clearer now – big thanks from all of us.
As seen with the antenna, manual handling is the way we have to get everything up on to the plateau in the absence of helicopters, but it wasn't always so. A surf through the archives threw up some pictures of the days when there was agricultural livestock on the island for the farm, as well as horses. I can't imagine the station with pigs and cows, but I'd love a mule to carry my pack up the hill for me…