This week at Macquarie Island: 25 October 2019

Something different happens every day at Macca

What you can see in a few days on station at Macquarie Island

We become used to seeing animal carcasses on Macquarie Island. Death of a seal, penguin, or another bird provides food for another, so the life cycle goes on. The scavengers we have in the form of giant petrels and skuas are very efficient in cleaning any carcasses up as soon as they locate it. They are very efficient at what they do, and there is no smell of rotten carcasses as after the birds have done their job, all that is left is skin and bones. 

There is a similar situation when an elephant seal pup is born, they assist the cow with the birth, and then all the birth by-products are cleaned up within the hour. The large male elephant seals are very serious when they fight, and occasionally they can result in the loss of life of some individuals, as can be seen in the photo.

At the other end of the scale, there is lots of new life at this time of the year. Gentoo penguin can be seen all year round in the station area. We have had the advantage of being able to watch them as they built their nests. The female lays two eggs, and after an incubation period of around thirty-five days, the chicks hatch, and this is what we are presently experiencing.

The adult king penguins are moulting, so they are staying in out of the way places until they can go back to sea and feed.

There are over 2,000 elephant seal cows on the east and west coast around the station.  They have pups ranging from newborn to weaners (mothers have left them and headed back out to sea to feed).  So there is plenty of action in this area as well.

If you happen to be in the right place at the right time, or one of the friendly elephant seal counters lets you know, you may see a leopard seal taking a rest on the beach.

The common Redpoll found here on Macquarie Island is a small bird in the finch family and common in the northern hemisphere.  What makes the Redpoll so interesting here at Macca is that it is the only place in Australia where you can see them. 

Now to have a look skywards. The clouds you can see over the southern end of Macquarie Island are lenticular clouds. These lens-shaped clouds typically form where stable moist air flows over a mountain or a range of mountains. When this happens, a series of large-scale waves may form on the mountain’s downwind side. If the temperature at the crest of the wave drops to the dew point moisture in the air may condense to form lenticular clouds.

That is a brief visit as to some of what I experienced over the last few days here on Macquarie Island.  Something different happens every day, and there is just so much to see and do.  In this case I was only on station, but there is a whole island available to experience and explore with so much to see and do.

Doug, Station Communications Technical Officer 

 

A balck and white gentoo penguin with orange feet sits on a nest with two chicks
Gentoo penguin and two chicks
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
Grey and brown giant petrel birds are feeding off a dead elephant seal bull
Giant petrels doing what they do best as scavengers
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
a group of king penguins are in various states of moult, some with down, some with feathers
King penguins moulting
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
 a long white cloud hangs over the top of the island plateau
Lenticular cloud over Macquarie Island
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
a harem of elephant seal cows and pups lay on a beach with mountains in the background
Just part of an elephant seal harem on west beach
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
two redpoll birds rest on a wooden beam
Redpoll
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)
a thin leopard seal lays on a rocky beach near an elephant seal
A visit by a young leopard seal
(Photo: Doug McVeigh)