This week at Macquarie Island: 19 October 2018

Birthdays this week - for elephant seals and expeditioners

October is all about the Ellies

On Macca we're already a month into the elephant seal breeding season – the first pup was born on 7 September.

Both the west and east coast beaches of the isthmus (where the Macca station is located) are now crowded with large harems of females and the huge males (3 to 4 tonnes). The Beach Masters, as the males are known, either hold their harem territory or snooze with one eye open for a chance.

At present, if you watch a harem for an hour or so, you will without a doubt see a pup born, and watch as the skuas scream in to grab the rich placenta. The majority of pups rapidly put on about 100 kilograms over a three to four week period, and become large rotund ‘weaners’ that gradually move away from their visibly shrinking mothers as the milk supply dries up.

It is not all rosy in the colonies. Some fall prey to the ever-present giant petrels and brown skuas which are also raising chicks or preparing to do so.

The station population is assisting the Ranger-in-Charge Chris Howard to carry out the annual census on the isthmus, which means counting seals every day around the peak of the season (sometime this week). This Monday we are also counting the females on selected beaches around the rest of the island to get a more accurate idea of current populations – no mean feat when there are only 14 expeditioners! 

First elephant seal pup born on Macquarie Island in 2018
The first elephant seal pup, born 7 September 2018
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
A view of one of the crowded elephant seal harems to the west looking along the isthmus beach near Cosray rocks on Macquarie Island
Cosray Rocks harem
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A pregnant female elephant seal on the west coast beach at Macquarie Island
A newly arrived and very pregnant female ellie
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A female elephant seal with a new born pup showing a milky grin on Macquarie Island this week
Mum and pup with a milky grin
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A female elephant seal and pup both fast asleep on the beach at Macquarie Island
Sleeping the day away peacefully
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A large male elpehant seal guards his harem on Macquarie Island
A Beach Master - he appears asleep but will awake if any…
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A young elephant seal pup rolling around in the sand while its mother sleeps
The ellie pups are curious and playful animals
(Photo: Ali Dean)
An elephant seal pup scratching its head on Macquarie Island
Scratching an itch
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A relatively young elephant seal pup on Macquarie Island
A very cute ellie pup
(Photo: Ali Dean)
A 'weaner' so full it can't move sleeping in the tussock - one of the first to leave its mother
A very round 'weaner' sleeping in the tussocks
(Photo: Ali Dean)
An empty and now skinny female elephant seal after feeding a pup for the past month - half the size!
An empty and now skinny female elephant seal after feeding a pup…
(Photo: Ali Dean)
The elephant seal harem closest to Macca Station with around 300 females with pups
The Camp Beach harem close to the station - in full swing…
(Photo: Ali Dean)

Dessert for sharing

On the first weekend of this month, it was our Station Leader Ali’s birthday.

It had been a while since the last birthday, so our mouths were watering at the thought of something delicious for dessert.

We were not disappointed – a huge plate of chocolate-covered profiteroles– enough for several coffee-cream filled delights each – and luckily she shared!

At least we will be walking it off with the seal census in full swing....

Some of the variety of delicious dishes served at Ali's birthday supper
Sumptuous canapes and a delicious meal kicked off the evening
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Table setting with pebbles used as the centerpiece for Ali's birthday
Table setting - with pebbles
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Ali with her cake - a pile of coffee cream filled coffee-chocolate coated profiteroles - with candles
Ali's cake - a candle-lit pile of coffee cream filled coffee-chocolate coated…
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
A closeup of the profiteroles
A closeup of the profiteroles - they didn't last long - and…
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)

Croc in a Frock

Last Saturday it was Danielle’s turn to celebrate. Her instructions were simple - ‘wear a costume.’

An eclectic group gathered at the bar for bubbles and snacks before our meal – the costumes entirely dependent on the contents of the dress-up room.

Worthy of mention were the antenna-bearing cockroach, a pirate with an iron fist, Crocodile Dundee with an over-sized knife, a Goth straight out of the 80’s, and last but not least, a Cyndi Lauper-styled, pearl-and-lamé bedecked, shiny pink wig-wearing Croc - our own Danielle. She certainly celebrated her birthday in her own inimitable style.

Our Croc-in-a-frock Danielle, with the station Goth Norbert
Our Croc-in-a-frock with the station Goth
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Norbert on uke as a Goth, Tim channels Bluebeard and Chris as Mick Dundee wonders if he should have packed the bigger knife
The Goth, the Pirate and Crocodile Dundee?
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
Cathryn and Vicki help Danielle celebrate her birthday
Cathryn cockroach and Vicki help Danielle the Croc celebrate her birthday
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)
A pavlova with sparklers lit on top is delivered to Danielle at the table
Danielle requested pavlova for her birthday - delivered with sparklers. Next -…
(Photo: Vicki Heinrich)