This week at Macquarie Island: 20 July 2018

This week at Macca we look at some of the avian species on the island over winter and report on a swanky summer soiree

Pseudo-Summer soiree

With the recent short days and wintery weather conditions, the troops here at Macca felt a touch of summer was in order. Ever obliging, the Brits scheduled a few rounds of Wimbledon for our entertainment.

Doc Cathryn needed no more encouragement, and having already shipped ample supplies of Pimms (perhaps having preconceived the idea in Hobart), recruited our resident Pom, Jez Bird, to the organising committee. Advertisements were posted, quiches were made, and a ban was placed on any use of hydroponic cucumbers for a week prior.

With everything primed and ready, the only minor hiccup was getting any actual Wimbeldon footage to watch…

Thwarted in several attempts, in the end we settled for watching YouTube highlights of the historic 2008 Men’s Singles Final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Never mind, it was mainly about the cucumber sandwiches anyway.

A poster for the recent Wimbledon Soiree at Macca
The Macquarie Island social calendar is so tight that ample advertising of…
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)
Station Leader, Ali, making cucumber sandwiches at Macca recently
Station Leader, Ali, makes an impressive cucumber sandwich - no crusts!
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)
Danielle helping to make dishes for the recent summer soiree held at Macca
Danielle lends a hand plating up cucumber, blue cheese and maple walnut…
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)
A table laind out with dishes full of food for the summer soiree held at Macca
An afternoon tea fit for Wimbledon: caramelised onion and brie tarts, cucumber…
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)
Jez and the Doc clink glasses of Pimms to celebrate a successfully executed soiree
Jez and the Doc celebrate a successfully executed soiree
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)
Soiree attendees watch tennis highlights on the big screen at Macca
And of course there was a spot of tennis watching
(Photo: Cathryn O'Sullivan)

Macca's Winter Residents

During the winter months Macquarie goes into torpor. Azorella cushionplants have turned brown, the silvery beds of Plurophyllum die back, and elephant seal numbers fall; just a few now laze on the beaches through the short days. Most noticeable the skies and shores are eerily quiet. Albatrosses have left to circle the Southern Ocean, and with them went the Royal and Rockhopper penguins and their constant clamouring. But a few hardy birds stay put, and it’s a great time to see them, while the island sleeps before the frenzy of the summer to come.

Down the east coast King penguin chicks grow through the winter thanks to regular meals from their parents. The colony on the beach at Green Gorge has grown from a single pair attempting to breed in the early 1990s to around 1,000 pairs now! They battle daily to survive as giant petrels, growing ever hungrier with no seal carcasses to scavenge, harry the tight crèches.

Most of the birds that stay are those able to eke a living close to home, and I feel an affinity with them, sharing the same space. As we make do, so do they, and I’m glad they’ve stayed to keep us company. Macquarie shags and Gentoo penguins fish locally each day, returning in the evenings to fill rock stacks, or the beaches at Bauer Bay and around the northern Featherbed. Antarctic terns commute from West Beach to Garden Cove, right over the station and Market Square. They hover in the surf, dipping between waves to take morsels brought up to the surface. It’s an amazing dichotomy that while they’re resident year-round here, and around Antarctica, they’ll be joined over the summer by their northern counterpart, the Arctic Tern which undertakes the greatest migration of any animal to escape the Arctic winter and live in perpetual daylight. Why does one stay, and the other go?

Jez Bird, Seabird Researcher 

King Penguin chick begging for food from one of its parents at Green Gorge
King Penguin chicks beg for food when their parents trumpet their arrival…
(Photo: Jez Bird)
Southern giant petrels surround the carcass of a dead elephant seal
Giant Petrels may have to wait until an Elephant Seal succumbs to…
(Photo: Jez Bird)
The endemic Macquarie Shags resident all year round on the island are similar to shags on other sub-Antarctic islands
Our endemic Macquarie Shags are resident – although they’re found nowhere else,…
(Photo: Jez Bird)
An Antarctic tern hovers over the bay on Macquarie Island
Antarctic Terns yoyo up and down above the waves on West Beach…
(Photo: Jez Bird)
A Gentoo penguin on Macquarie Island
Gentoo numbers build up on beaches each afternoon when they arrive back…
(Photo: Jez Bird)