On the coast around Davis station there are ten automated seabird nest cameras, which monitor the colonies of the various seabirds that breed in and around Davis. Most of them overlook Adélie penguin colonies and with the return of the penguins it's time to visit the cameras, make sure they are all working, clean the optical windows, check their solar panels and batteries, and swap out their memory cards so they are ready for the coming season.
So, accompanied by station doctor John, the first stop was Gardner Island just out the front of station. Here there are two cameras overlooking Adélie penguin colonies. The colonies are easy to spot due to the light brown colour of the soil, which is actually thousands of years’ worth of penguin poo. There are also reminders of the harshness of the environment and mother nature. Sadly, not all the birds survive and the colony is littered with the bodies of birds from past seasons. Parts of them are even used as nesting material.
The cameras take pictures from once a week, to one per hour or so depending on the time of season. They are solar powered and the control system spends most of the time asleep to allow the batteries to last through the Antarctic winter, when the sun doesn’t rise for weeks on end.
Our timing was good as the penguins are now coming back in droves and the colonies will soon be full of penguins squawking and fighting over a spot to nest, and stealing stones from each other to build their nests.