This week at the station
9 March 2012
Last week we were very lucky to have all the stars align to allow us to do another circumnavigation of the island. For this to happen we need the weather – and this is the hardest part to get right. Then we need the appropriate personnel available, enough coxswains and competent boat crew, and then we can take up to 6 passengers.
A month ago when we did the first circumnavigation the fog rolled down along the coast, so views of the island were limited to the shoreline. This time the team enjoyed a view of the whole escarpment. It is an 85 km trip and it takes all day to complete.
Island bird population slowly increasing
The eradication of cats followed by the recent blitz on mice and rats has rolled out a welcome mat to burrowing seabirds which are now returning to Macquarie Island to breed.
Although it is too early to quantify numbers of all species winging their way back to their sub-Antarctic nesting ground, wildlife ranger Bree Hunter is buoyed by the number of active burrows she has discovered this summer.
Most of her time is spent monitoring wildlife population trends on the island, with an emphasis on burrowing petrel species. An island-wide census of both northern and southern giant petrels will be completed annually for three years until 2013. Rangers count nests at the beginning of the breeding season, and re-visit them later to record breeding success.
Bree says that the eradication has certainly benefited Macquarie Island’s burrowing petrel population. Although it is too early this summer for statistics on breeding success, Bree was able to provide data for one species of burrowing petrel which indicates an increase in population.
Prior to cat eradication, grey petrels had not been confirmed as breeding on the island for over 100 years. After cats were removed from the island, the first active burrows were found in April 2000 and some chicks fledged that year. The grey petrel is Macquarie’s only winter breeding petrel. Last winter it had the highest breeding success rate (87 per cent) since monitoring began in 2005, and was also found nesting in new locations.
The burrow occupancy of sooty shearwaters and white headed petrels also appears to be higher. Blue petrels have been breeding for a number of years in low numbers on off-shore islands, with low fledging rates as a result of rat predation. This year there is quite a difference as hundreds of active burrows have been found on the main island. There is plenty of evidence for optimism about Macquarie Island’s future if the eradication of introduced pests is ultimately successful.
Stripping down the kitchen
Every year the kitchen needs to have a thorough clean. To do this takes a couple of days, so all expeditioners were warned that for 2 days this week they would have cold cuts and salads for lunch and dinner. Every surface was scrubbed. Danny coordinated the whole job and spent hours on his hands and knees scrubbing under cupboards and shelves and stoves. Wayne and Mick did a first rate job cleaning the extraction fans and hood and Trish cleaned the ceiling and upper walls. The next day Robbie, Meg and Jaimie assisted with the final touches, and cleaned out storage areas. Its so clean now that we don’t want to dirty it up!