This week at Macquarie Island: 20 September 2019

Macca’s aviators on show

Macquarie Island Airshow

Airshows are a daily event on the Macquarie Island isthmus.

The flying displays vary constantly with the weather and seasons but there is always a variety of activity from a diverse range of professional aviators.

On the glorious but rare days when there is little or no wind the smaller flyers are prominent. Kelp Flies, Redpolls and Common Starlings often perform frenzied aerobatics or formation flying displays.

In moderate to strong winds the mid-sized aviators are out in force. Antarctic Terns, Kelp Gulls and Skuas often share the same airspace over the east or west beaches, showing off their slow-flying skills along the foreshore. Macquarie Island Shags (Blue-eyed Cormorants) flap their wings frenetically as they transit between rock stacks on either side of the isthmus.

At higher wind speeds the larger aviators dominate the sky and put on impressive displays of flying skill. Giant Petrels (known here as GPs) can be awkward and even clumsy when attempting to take-off in light winds but they revel in strong to gale force winds with no wing-flapping required. Light-mantled Sooty Albatross have yet to return this season so the GPs are currently the masters of ridge and slope soaring at the northern end of Macquarie Island.

Gaining altitude from air deflected upward by terrain, rock stacks, buildings or the upslope along the beaches the GPs sometimes convert height into speed, swooping low along the isthmus at impressive speeds with their wings fully extended. They can then convert speed to height, rising quickly and performing semi-aerobatic turns.

Giant Petrels are very impressive flyers but not recommended as dinner guests. They can be very messy eaters with absolutely no table manners.

Mark G


a white kelp gull flies with open wings against blue sky
A kelp gull soars above Macca
(Photo: Mark Grainger)
a giant petrel with open wings against a blue sky backdrop
A giant petrel and a blue sky day
(Photo: Mark Grainger)
a small white antarctic tern hovers just above the water line with a rocky outcrop in the background
An antarctic tern about to skim the waters edge
(Photo: Ashleigh Wilson)
The Macquarie Island shag (a blue eyed black and white cormorant) sits on a rocky outcrop
The Macquarie Island shag (blue eyed cormorant) on a rocky outcrop
(Photo: Ashleigh Wilson)
Two northern giant petrels hover above the camera lens of an expeditioner
Northern giant petrels getting a closer look at expeditioners
(Photo: Billy Wallace)
A giant petrel scavenges off the carcass of a dead elephant seal pup. Another petrel stands by with blood on its beak
Giant petrels are messy and rowdy eaters
(Photo: Billy Wallace)
A brown skua hovers above the back of a brown elephant seal on the beach
A skua hovers…looking for lunch
(Photo: Mark Grainger)
a brown and grey northern giant petrel ridge soars at speed from a tussock covered ridge
Northern giant petrel ridge soaring at speed!
(Photo: Mark Grainger)

Baking for a cause — WINNERS!

On a final note, congratulations to Macca’s TasPWS Rangers Andrea and Stella for their winning entry in the Threatened Species Bake Off.

Minister for the Environment, Susan Ley MP hand-picked her own winners for this year’s Bake Off, and chose the Macca entry!

The 12kg beachmaster elephant seal cake has been a social media sensation, bringing attention to the declining southern elephant seal population.

Check out the link for the other winners and for the Minister’s comments.

Fabulous creative effort Stella and Andrea! 

Two women hold a cake in the shape of an elephant seal on a green tussock with a beach behind them
Andrea and Stella with the winning cake on the isthmus at Macquarie Island.
(Photo: Mark Baker)
a close up of the pink mouth and teeth of an elephant seal shaped cake
Winners are grinners!
(Photo: Mark Baker)