This week at the station

This week at Macquarie Island: 22 November 2013

Albatross field team

The Albatross field team (Kate and I) have returned from the field after a three week mission at the southern end of the island. We were joined by Marty the Field Training Officer and Kris the Wildlife Ranger at the beginning of our trip for field training, working along the southern coast of the island with the odd nap in the sunshine that is apparently a rarity.

The fine weather has made Kris and Kate non-believers when it comes to Macca's notorious extreme weather, but don't worry - a trip across Windy Ridge in a blizzard will certainly put them back on track! After Marty and Kris left us we got to work identifying all the black-browed and grey-headed albatross nests on the island. This is no easy task, with both species nesting on the steep escarpment. Black-browed albatross are annual breeders with 44 active nests this season; this is an increase on the 37 from last year. It was also exciting to discover grey-heads nesting for the second year in a row at a new site amongst the thick tussock at Cape Star. This signifies an expansion of their breeding colony.

To analyse population trends and the survival of these species albatross researchers mark each nest, read individual bird bands and collect important habitat vegetation information. Albatross nesting habitat is changing rapidly with the removal of rabbits from Macquarie Island and this is anticipated to increase breeding success of albatross species by providing better protection for chicks from predators and extreme weather conditions.

After long days hanging out on the escarpment with the albatross we would make the trek back to the hut via the Hurd Point Grassy Jump-up, a renowned steep hill on the island. Tired legs would mean a race sliding down the hill on our backsides. The competition was fierce, with the current leader being Kate.

Our cooking skills have been put to the test this trip with the challenge to use polenta in as many ways as possible to reduce a backlog that has built up in all the huts. The two winning recipes were coconut and cherry polenta pudding and polenta, deb and parmesan hot chips. We look forward to updating the infamous Albatross Cookbook with our new additions.

We had many visitors to Hurd Point hut during out stay - we really appreciated the wine, meat and amazing aurora that Dave brought with him!

The highlight of the trip was banding the four wandering albatross chicks on the island. Being a newcomer, Kate learnt quickly to move fast and band with finesse after receiving a meal of krill over her new jacket. After three weeks of amazing weather consisting of sunny and snowy days and striking sunsets, we have big smiles on our faces, happy to have had a successful first trip.

Our next task is to collate the Light-mantled albatross census data which has been collected by the eradication team, so far we have over 1,000 albatross breeding pairs counted, with more data coming in daily. This is a really exciting project for this season, being the first whole island census to be completed. We look forward to the next few weeks getting out and about the northern end of the island!


A Light-mantled Albatross on its nest
A light-mantled albatross on its nest
(Photo: Kate Lawrence)
A magical morning at Green Gorge during field training. The image was taken from the path above the hut overlooking the hut, the beach and the coastal escarpment beyond. There is a thick covering of snow
A magical morning at Green Gorge during field training
(Photo: Kate Lawrence)
A non-breeding black-brow albatross makes band reading easy for us. A close up of the legs and feet of the bird, with a band with the number '242' on the right leg and a silvery metal narrow band on the left leg
A non-breeding black-brow makes band reading easy for us
(Photo: Kate Lawrence)
A spectacular sunset at Hurd Point with a silhouette of the beach and rugged coastal escarpment
A spectacular sunset at Hurd Point
(Photo: Kate Lawrence)
A close up of a pair of black-browed albatrosses. The bird in the foreground sits on a nest made of mud and grass
Black-browed albatrosses
(Photo: Kate Lawrence)
Jaimie and Marty taking a break at Cape Star. They are both laying against their packs on a grassy slope with snow covered hills in the background
Jaimie and Marty taking a break at Cape Star
(Photo: Kate Lawrence)
During field training - Jaimie Marty and Kris, sitting on the grass with their backs to the camera, having lunch while they take in the view of Waterfall Lake. Thick snow cover on the lakes shore and the hills in the background
During field training - Jaimie, Marty and Kris lunching while taking in…
(Photo: Kate Lawrence)
Jaimie, standing on a thick snow covered track, showing the way to Hurd Point, by holding the wooden Hurd Point sign over her head
Jaimie showing the way to Hurd Point
(Photo: Kate Lawrence)
A panorama showing Kate, in the far right of picture, standing on a grassy knoll at the edge of the escarpment getting her bearings by looking across the bay with Cape Star on the far left
Kate getting her bearings at Cape Star
(Photo: Jaimie Cleeland)
A close up of one of the 8-month old Wanderer chicks to be banded. The large chick is partially covered in downy feathers
One of the 8-month-old wanderer chicks to be banded
(Photo: Kris Carlyon)

Special Secluded Bay

Just to the north of the station is the track that goes up to Wireless Hill and beyond towards North Head. The far northern part of this northern most part of the island is a Permanent SMA (Special Management Area) which has restricted access all year round. You can view this area from above at the end of track.

Secluded Bay along with the western coast and escarpment of North Head is also a SMA, which has restricted access from the 16th of November to the 30th of September. So it is available for access by field trained expeditioners for a period of just over 6 weeks.

Almost everyone who was on station in the northern part of the island took the opportunity of venturing down to this beautiful little bay.

Just under halfway along the Wireless Hill track is another track which heads east. Around 60 metres along this track you come to the edge of a very steep jump-down (up) to Secluded Bay. On going down the steep descent one is afforded magnificent views of cliffs surrounding the a small bay to the south. On these cliffs are many light mantled sooty albatross nestled in the narrow shelfs and cracks.

It was amazing to watch the albatross in flight trying to land on these precarious sites.

Finally we reached the beach and again we encountered more wildlife. Of particular interest are the fur seals, of which there are plenty. Some of the parties that went down to the beach close to the 16th of November were fortunate to see fur seal pups.

After walking around the bay it is then a steady ascent up a tussock covered slope to the plateau. Reaching the junction with the Wireless Hill track you can head north to the end of the track and take in the magnificent views of North Head and Gorilla Rock. Heading south along the WH track, takes you back across the plateau and then down to the station. If interested you can take a little detour to the antenna (VHF Repeater for Channel 7). Nearby is the new Azorella nursery that Natalie has set up (see last week's story).

Barend (Barry) Becker

Clive at the top of the plateau contemplating the jump-down way below into Secluded Bay
Clive at the top of the jump-down into Secluded Bay
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Light mantled sooty albatross in flight below the level of the photographer. Some steep rugged cliffs are in the right of picture
Light mantled sooty albatross
(Photo: Greg Bird)
Six light mantled sooty albatross nesting in the crevices on a cliff face
Light mantled sooty albatross nesting in the crevices on a cliff face
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
The steep cliffs around the small bay just south of Secluded Bay. There are several light mantled soot albatross nestled amongst the crevices in the cliff and two albatross can be seen in flight
The steep cliffs around the small bay just south of Secluded Bay
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Close up of a couple of elephant seal weaners in Secluded Bay
A couple of elephant seal weaners in Secluded Bay
(Photo: Tony Harris)
New Zealand fur seal family at Secluded Bay four pups and several adults. There are also some elephant seal weaners in the background
New Zealand fur seal family at Secluded Bay
(Photo: Greg Bird)
A couple of fur seals in Secluded Bay
Fur seals in Secluded Bay
(Photo: Tony Harris)
Big Male fur seal at Secluded Bay. He has extremely long whiskers and there are also a three elephant seals in the background (one partially submerged in the water)
Big male fur seal at Secluded Bay
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)

Macca Gallery

This weeks Gallery features some spectacular images from all over the island, thanks to Kris our new summer TASPWS ranger. 
A rare visitor from the ice - a vagrant Chinstrap Penguin in front of many royal penguins at Sandy Bay
A rare visitor from the ice - a vagrant chinstrap penguin at…
(Photo: Kris Carlyon)
At night Brothers Point hut stands out with interior light bright out of the oval windows looking like two eyes
Brother Point hut
(Photo: Kris Carlyon)
Close up of a pair of nesting rockhopper penguins at Brothers Point. They are quite distinctive, with their red eyes and streaming yellow head feathers
Nesting rockhopper penguins, Brothers Point
(Photo: Kris Carlyon)
Light mantled sooty albatross in flight near Secluded Bay
Light mantled sooty albatross near Secluded Bay
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)
Pleurophyllum in flower on the Featherbed
Pleurophyllum in flower on the Featherbed
(Photo: Kris Carlyon)
Several royal penguins at Sandy Bay
Royal penguins at Sandy Bay
(Photo: Kris Carlyon)
Snow-covered Macquarie Island - the view on Thursday morning from the first tourist ship of the season, the Spirit of Enderby. The white snow covered escarpment is in stark contrast with the darkening sky and the dark ocean water
Snow-covered Macquarie Island - the view on Thursday morning from the first…
(Photo: Kris Carlyon)
Whale vertebrae, covered in patches of lichen stand out in contrast with the vivid green cushion plant at Langdon Point
Whale vertebrae, Langdon Point
(Photo: Kris Carlyon)
What do I do now?? A elephant seal weaner has trouble as it tries to climb over the second railing of the stations perimeter fence
What do I do now??
(Photo: Barend (Barry) Becker)