This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 22 February 2013

Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project

The big news here at Macquarie Island is that our season is coming to an end.

The Aurora Australis is scheduled to arrive on the 3rd March and as soon as it drops anchor we will commence resupply operations – a one year supply of food, fuel, building materials and essential station supplies will arrive by helicopter or larc over approx nine days. We’ll also welcome the new wintering team who will take our place and continue the good work, monitoring for any signs of rodents and rabbits. In addition to those coming ashore for 12 months, we’ll also assist numerous scientists and operational personnel to inspect, test, research, review and report on various projects while the ship remains in the harbour. It will be a very busy busy time.

The hunters arrive back on station Saturday 24th and on this day their work in the field comes to an end.

A message to the 2012 hunters (and their dogs) - Congratulations to you all! You’ve done an awesome job, you’ve worn out many pairs of boots and clothes during your 12 months walking every inch of the island (numerous times). To be a part of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication project, a World Heritage listed island, is rewarding and an enormous achievement. The final result of your combined efforts will have such a long lasting positive outcome for the local inhabitants (Macca’s unique fauna and flora). Well done team!!!

Female expeditioner barefoot in one of the bays with a seal watching on
Karen

(Photo: Karen Andrew)

Hunter and his back dog in the distance walking up a grassy steep slope
Dave with Wags

(Photo: Kelly Smith)

Expeditioner carrying a large white buoy
Dave retrieves marine debris from the coast

(Photo: Kelly Smith)

Expeditioner recording on a piece of paper the sighting of a bird. Bird is in background
Cameron participating the giant petrel survey

(Photo: Kelly Smith)

Expeditioners in inflatable boats with their dogs departing station
Hunters and their dogs getting a lift down island

(Photo: Kelly Smith)

Female expeditioner with her golden labrador dog sitting in an inflatable boat
Karen and Finn

(Photo: Kelly Smith)

Boat heads towards the beach with field hut in background
Boating team arriving at Green Gorge

(Photo: Kelly Smith)

Expeditioner with a jar of vegemite in his hand spreading if on dough
Kiwi Dave with his favourite food: Vegemite

(Photo: Kelly Smith)

Close up photo of baked scrolls
Dave's Sunday bake in the hut

(Photo: Kelly Smith)

Looking down a steep grassy slope on a hunter and 12 elephant seals at the waters edge
Hunter comes across some sleepy elephant seals

(Photo: Kelly Smith)

Inside the hut a bottle of tomato sauce and a loaf of bread on the table
Setting the table at Hurd Point hut

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Four expeditioners standing around a large black pod drinking tea
Maria joins Cam, Steve and Kelly at Bauer Bay for a cuppa

(Photo: Lauren Wise)

Macquarie Island Ranger work

As the days are counting down until the big orange ship rolls over the horizon, the rangers and albatross staff are frantically trying to complete the works program. Last week we had two very enjoyable tourist ship visits and received many comments from tourists coming off a 28 day trip to the Antarctic via South America as to how enjoyable Macca was and many stated it was a highlight of their journey. On completion of the tourist ships, Paul and the albatross researchers walked down the island counting southern giant petrel chicks to complete the island-wide census. The other task planned is to complete long term photo monitoring to assess landslips and landscape changes. Unfortunately, over the past two weeks we have had poor weather for this task with much precipitation, and the Macca favourite, low cloud and mist. With only a little over a week to go, we have two more tourist ships but will squeeze in another field trip to complete the season's work.

With an earlier than expected resupply, Anna and Jaimie the albatross researchers are working at capacity banding grey-headed, black-browed and light-mantled albatross chicks on one last down-island mission.

It is an exciting time to be on Macca.

Three expeditioners in an inflatable boat
Paul, Richard and Greg

(Photo: Lauren Koehler)

Four expeditioners in an inflatable boat heading towards land
Lauren with some of the crew from the Ortelius

(Photo: lauren Koehler)

Light-mantled sooty albatross in flight over hills
Light-mantled sooty albatross

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Light-mantled sooty albatross in flight over hills
Light-mantled sooty albatross

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Light-mantled sooty albatross flying high with station in the background
Light-mantled sooty albatross

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Pair of large brown birds flying alongside each other  - Light-mantled sooty albatross
Synchronised flying

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Science at 'Macca'

After a couple of weeks in the field, Jennie and Nick have provided the following update on their botanical findings:

Azorella macquariensis dieback

Azorella dieback is continuing to be active across the island, with almost no area completely free of dieback. However, the SMAs (Special Management Area) have good populations of healthy Azorella. We have completed 80% of the Azorella photo monitoring plots. 

Vegetation recovery in the absence of rabbits

The 30 year vegetation/rabbit plots and exclosure plots have all been scored and photographed. Initial impressions are that there is amazingly rapid recovery in some of the most palatable and visible species (Stilbocarpa - Macquarie cabbage, Pleurophyllum and Poa foliosa - tussock grass). The shield fern, Polystichum vestitum, is showing good recovery in the exclosures constructed to conserve a 'seed' population, as well as in scattered locations across the island. Acaena minor also appears to be more common (although this might also be because we are earlier in the season). The introduced species Poa annua forms thick lawns in places.

Huperzia australiana populations

The enthusiasm and intense scrutiny of the vegetation by the MIPEP team has resulted in several new populations of Huperzia australiana being identified on the island. Previous inspections of populations has revealed that many of the plants were unhealthy and appeared to show signs of chlorosis. However, new populations with as many as 20 individual clumps per site, have been identified and inspected. Many of these appear quite healthy. These new populations mean a significant range extension, with the most southerly population being at Lusitania Bay (previously it was in Green Gorge basin). Kelly currently holds the record of most Huperzia found and Dave holds the record for the most southerly extension of the range.

Sphagnum falcatulum 

The distribution and health of Sphagnum moss has varied over the 25 years that it has been monitored. Currently, the Sphagnum moss appears to be in good health and expanding at monitoring sites. A new population ofSphagnum moss was found just north of Pyramid Peak, extending southwards the previous known range of Green Gorge basin.

Galium antarcticum

The most unexpected and exciting find of our visit has been the re-location of Galium antarcticum on the northern shore of Skua Lake. We found a total of 35 individuals spread over 15 metres in the general vicinity of the original collection. The plants appeared to be in good health, with one or two flowers evident. It is possible that additional individuals may exist in the area, but snow, hail and pending hypothermia curtailed our enthusiastic searching and celebrating.

We are wondering whether the initial recovery of the ecosystem in the absence of rabbits and rodents has resulted in an expansion in numbers and distribution of some species, particularly the Galium and Huperzia.

Jennie and Nick

Five metre white tape strung over ground
Azorella baiting

(Photo: Nick Fitzgerald)

Five metre white tape on ground over green short grasses
Azorella baiting

(Photo: Nick Fitzgerald)

Green and dark red short plant
Galium antarcticum

(Photo: Nick Fitzgerald)

Short green and dark red leaf plant
Galium antarcticum

(Photo: Nick Fitzgerald)

Small cluster of light green leafy plant amongst darker green plants
Huperzia

(Photo: Nick Fitzgerald)

Wildlife

All creatures, great and small

Large grey-brown bird with wings spread taking off from the ground
Skua taking off on North Head

(Photo: Karen Andrew)

Brown bird with her fluffy brown chick
Skua and her chick

(Photo: Karen Andrew)

Small fluffy grey chick walking on grass, close up photo
Skua chick off for a walk

(Photo: Karen Andrew)

Close up of a small grey seal scratching its face
Fur seal

(Photo: Karen Andrew)

Close up of the head of a small brown fur seal pup in the grass
Fur seal pup

(Photo: Karen Andrew)

Large penguin bending down biting a hand held radio with an expeditioner looking on
King penguin chatting on the radio

(Photo: Lauren Koehler)

Penguin moulting looks like he has a brown beard
A 'bearded' king penguin

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Two king penguins about to take off into the water
Royal penguins preparing to enter the water

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Three royal penguins following each other along a beach stepping over small rocks
Royal penguins

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Scenery

View from the top of the mountain looking down on the isthmus and station lights, and beaches
Macca station at night

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Steep rocky stacks amongst the mist
Spectacular rock formations seen on a misty day

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Close up of a wave crashing lots of white water
Huge seas on the coast

(Photo: Richard Dakin)

Springer spaniel in front of a lake
Joker at Duck Lagoon

(Photo: Dana Boyte)

Close up of a large leaf green plant
Macquarie Island Cabbage

(Photo: Lauren Koehler)

Small stems of green flower
Macquarie Island cabbage in flower

(Photo: Lauren Koehler)

This page was last modified on 16 December 2010.