Summer flora and fauna, tourist ships, and a birthday.

Summer is in full swing

Anyone who has been out and about in the field will tell you things are going mad on Macca at the moment.

In the absence of rabbits, the flora is flourishing. New seedlings are sprouting everywhere, and there are no sharp, little teeth nibbling them off anymore. Stands of once heavily grazed Macquarie Island cabbage (Stilbocarpa polaris) and the silver-leaf daisy Pleurophyllum hookeri are flowering profusely.

As for the animal kingdom — babies and teenagers can be seen everywhere. The rapidly growing royal penguin chicks have formed crèches, with Mum and Dad often commuting long distances over land to the rookeries to feed them. The skua chicks are starting to get their adult wing feathers, while the last of the king penguin chicks are losing their dowdy fluff, revealing a sleek new coat of grey and white. They’re frequently seen running like madmen on the beach flapping their wings to strengthen their muscles. Their parents, in the meantime, are hunched on top of new eggs.

All this activity has kept the TASPAWS rangers as well as the fur seal and albatross researchers very busy. While Bree has been motoring around the island doing the tern census, Julia and Jamie have been conducting a census on both the northern giant petrels and skuas. The two fur seal boys, Tim and Mark, continue their daily monitoring of Antarctic, sub-Antarctic and New Zealand fur seals, with all signs pointing to a bumper pup year.

Helping a tourist ship

As there is no safe harbour on Macquarie Island, visiting tourist ships must land their passengers using inflatable rubber boats (IRBS). At the station the ships usually anchor on the east side of the Isthmus, as the west side is the weather coast and often has large surf. One day this week the waves on the west side were smaller and passengers were loaded to return to the ship from west beach. However, conditions changed and we needed to transfer operations to the east beach. We assisted by moving the ship IRBs across the Isthmus, using the JCB tractor. Everyone arrived safely back on the ship.

Wayne’s birthday

Wayne celebrated his birthday during the week — with a delicious Black Forest birthday cake, and a wonderful hat, knitted by Janelle.