Time for the annual visit to Hawker Island to check the bird monitoring cameras

Hawker Island - Antarctic Specially Protected Area

Last week a team visited Hawker Island on a stunning sunny day to service the island's bird cameras which monitor the Southern giant petrel breeding colony.

Hawker Island is located seven kilometres southwest from Davis station off the Vestfold Hills on the Ingrid Christensen Coast, Princess Elizabeth Land, East Antarctica. The island is designated as Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) number 167, following a proposal by Australia, primarily to protect the southernmost breeding colony of Southern giant petrels. The area is one of only four known breeding locations for Southern giant petrels on the coast of East Antarctica, all of which have been designated as ASPAs.

Southern giant petrels nest in ice-free coastal areas, rocky bluffs, open flats, edges of plateau or offshore rocks. However, even though nests may be totally covered by snow, the parental birds often continue to sit on them to protect their eggs or chicks from the potentially fatal cold. Both Southern and Northern giant petrels tend to return to the same nesting sites every breeding season. Some pairs have been observed returning to the same nest year after year. Southern giant petrels will defend their eggs and small chicks.

The colony is monitored with three cameras which automatically take photos of the colony throughout the year. The cameras are visited annually to check they are still working, give them a clean and swap out the memory cards.

The birds are magnificant and large, some with wing spans of up to two metres. It was fascinating to watch these birds sit in pairs in the colony, take flight and interact with the other birds. The birds vary in colour dramatically, some have dark feathers and others have white feathers.

At this time of year, wildlife is slowly returning to the local area around Davis research station with some other recent sighting of Weddell seals and Snow petrels. On Sunday two adoscelent male Emperor penguins waddled onto the beach in front of station. They were very curious and playful, exploring the beach before heading off for another adventure. Everyone on station is very excited to see the wildlife again.

Please note: This visit to Hawker Island was conducted with a permit to enter the Hawker Island Antarctic Specially Protected Area (ASPA) for the purpose of servicing the scientific bird monitoring cameras. Photos were taken with a zoomed 300mm Nikon lens to maintain sufficient distance from the birds.

Robert Makepeace