There's a change in the seasons here at Mawson: the days are longer, the sun a little higher, and out at the rookeries emperor chicks are hatching. Mind you, the weather this week has been a little rough, with several days of blizzard and the wind going close to 100 knots. It makes me wonder how our neighbours are faring.
We first visited Taylor Rookery a month ago to take census photos. As only the males remain through the middle of winter, it enables a precise count of breeding pairs. Each pair represented by one male balancing an egg on their feet, huddled for warmth.
At the end of July we made it to Auster Rookery. The exact location of the rookery changes each year, being that they breed on the sea ice, so it's a bit like hide and seek amongst the icebergs. A couple of years ago they were off the map, literally! No such challenge this time, and we soon found them, two large huddles dwarfed by the bergs. Most still had an egg tucked under their belly fold, but we could also hear a few chicks.
Just a week later and we were back, Mawson winterers keen to meet the other winterers. There were a lot more chicks, each one still carried on the parent's feet. Females have begun to return to the rookery with bellies full of food. Spring is on the way!