This week at Macquarie Island: 20 January 2012

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.

Flowering Pleurophyllum — one of the mega-herbs
Flowering Pleurophyllum — one of the mega-herbs
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
Stillbocarpa, the Macqaurie Island Cabbage, in full flower.
Stillbocarpa, the Macqaurie Island Cabbage, in full flower.
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
The sunny east coast of Macquarie Island
The sunny east coast of Macquarie Island
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
A group of elephant seals all cuddled up together
Elephant seal thigmotaxis
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
Gentoo chick chasing its parent for a feed
Gentoo chick chasing its parent for a feed
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
Bathing King penguins
Bathing King penguins
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
King penguin chick which has lost half of it downy feathers as it moults into adult plumage
Awkward stage for an 11-month old King penguin chick
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
King penguins on eggs
King penguins on eggs
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
Royal penguins heading to the Nuggets rookery
Royal penguins heading to the Nuggets rookery
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
Royal penguin with chick
Royal penguin with chick
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
Julia checking a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross
Researcher Julia checking a Light-mantled Sooty Albatross
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)
A Skua chick with parent
A Skua chick with parent
(Photo: Claudia Babirat)

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.

IRB being carried by the tractor
Now we have the IRB onto the JCB
(Photo: Adrian Pyrke)
Walking the IRB through the station
Walking the IRB through the station
(Photo: Adrian Pyrke)
The IRB arriving down at the beach
Comming down to the beach
(Photo: Eve Merfield)
Launching a full IRB required as many people in the water as in the boat!
Launching a full IRB required as many people in the water as in the boat!
(Photo: Eve Merfield)

Wayne’s birthday

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

Wayne’s beanie has the word ‘Tigers’ on it — his football team
Can you tell which team Wayne supports?
A magnificent cake!
A magnificent cake!
(Photo: Dan Metejic)