Alien plants, tourists, a rabbit, and some fantastic images this week from Macca. There’s also an update on the ‘Penguin Palace', built to protect nesting gentoo penguns.

Station update

The albatross research team returned to station after a long but successful three weeks in the field, along with ‘Psycho', our field training officer. The guys had an action packed month of field work down on the rugged slopes of the south west of the island.

A farewell BBQ for Ranger Andrea, and departing summer crew Psycho and Aleks, was enjoyed on Friday night over at the green store. In homage to Andrea’s favourite sweets of 2015 we all enjoyed chocolate awesome and custard squares. The evening unfolded with shooting basketball hoops, some softball, and a lot of sitting by the fire braziers.

On Saturday we were visited by the first of the tourist ships for the season. Prior to the ships arrival, rangers were busy installing signage and inducting and training a small army of volunteer guides. Paul, Jac, Rich, Terry and Rowena headed out to the ship on Saturday, accompanying approximately 48 tourists around the Sandy Bay area. After spending a night aboard, the team returned to station to play a waiting game with some poor weather. The tourists successfully made it ashore in the late morning and they were greeted by a host of bird life around station, including a very large red pole. Two leopard seals also turned up on West Beach much to the delight of our visitors. Sharing tea and scones in our mess with a very excited bunch of visitors was enjoyed by everyone present.

As well as bringing tourists ashore, The Spirit of Enderby also brought us five new expeditioners. On Saturday night, Jimmy and Kris organised a Fray Bentos welcome feast and a hut themed evening, complete with socks hanging from the roof! The only thing missing was the pungent odour of wet field gear (and expeditioners!) usually found in an actual hut.

We welcome Ian our field training officer, Dom our supply officer, and Melissa, Margi and Kate who are working on field science projects.

With more daylight every day, many of the crew are finding time for early morning and evening walks, which offer a load of photo opportunities. The orcas continue to surprise us. Just when we didn’t think that we could top the seal hunting event that we witnessed last week, this week they were sighted sneaking right up into garden cove stalking weaners. To top off the week, Helena snapped a photo of a white orca on her evening stroll.

For those interested in how our gentoo friends from the 'Penguin Palace' are faring, we are pleased to report that two chicks hatched and they are growing up fast.

It has been a very busy week, with everyone here on station. However, by the weekend, all of the field scientists and a few recreational travellers will be out and about down island, making the most of the (so far) wonderful spring conditions and abundant wildlife.

Alien plant distribution and change on Macquarie Island

In 2009–10 Justine Shaw and Aleks Terauds undertook an island-wide survey of the three alien plants on Macquarie Island: the grass Poa annua, and the chickweeds Cerastium fontanum and Stellaria media. This survey allowed comparisons with similar survey done in the late 1970s.

This year, almost five years after the last rabbit was eradicated from Macquarie Island, Aleks returned to resurvey as many of the sites as he could, in an attempt to quantify fine-scale changes in the plant distribution. To do this he set up differential GPS base stations on high point in the northern half of the island.

Over four weeks Aleks covered over 400km (and 19km of altitude), revisited nearly 50 sites with centimetre scale accuracy, and a further 25 sites with standard GPS accuracy. The data from these surveys will inform our understanding of how the Macquarie Island weeds have responded to the removal of rabbits, and how their abundance and distribution is likely to change in relation to the native plants.

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service — pest eradication presentation

Upon her departure from Macquarie Island over the weekend, outgoing Ranger in Charge Andrea Turbett, presented a gift of appreciation on behalf of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service to the on-island Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) representative, current Station Leader Jacque Comery. Mr Keith Springer who facilitated the presentation, expressed his appreciation both personally and on behalf of the entire Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service for the support provided by the AAD during the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP).

Particular thanks was extended to all on-island expeditioners, who contributed to the project over the five years that it was active on Macquarie Island.

The rabbit was shot before the baiting started on the island and was taxidermied in Hobart, Tasmania. It will spend its days now safely contained in the glass box on station, a reminder of the significance of the task that was achieved.

The plaque in the case reads:

Presented to Australian Antarctic Division

With appreciation of the extensive support provided to the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service in removing rabbits, ship rats and mice from the Macquarie Island World heritage Area. This was the world’s largest eradication of this species and an achievement of worldwide conservation significance.

Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service — Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project

April 2014 

Photo gallery: out and about on station

The last word