Saturday, 29 January 2011

Curious pups

I thought I better put up some photos of my work. Admittedly this is part of my job that I am quite fond of! Having been to see if one of my GPS tagged seals was back there was time to sit with the Fur Seal pups and enjoy watching them. Once they are a month or so old they start to go exploring a bit, and learn very quickly how to swim very proficiently. They play around together in the lake, the water seems to boil with them.


Sitting quietly beside the lake the pups get really curious. Being tall to a seal is quite a threatening posture, so sitting down they are much less disturbed. The pups come up and sniff at your boots occasionally having a bit of a taste. Sam (the base doctor) came with me and took quite a few photos of the pups. The following photos are taken with my 10-20mm lens.


Fur Seals don’t have a great reputation. Most people think of them as vicious angry beasts, and I admit I did think this when I first started my job down here. Most people only meet a ‘Furry’ when they are jumping out of their cruise ships zodiac onto a beach full of seals whilst trying to get to whatever is on their list of things to see that day.

To be fair to the seals, the beach is their breeding territory, males fight aggressively to win and defend their territory and harem, and unsurprisingly don’t want to loose their place on the beach as this will result in having to fight, potentially to the death, to regain it later. Females are also defensive, they are either preparing to give birth, or have a pup, and are in a situation where males are jousting for dominance and space is something of a premium. For a seal and aggressive stance is to rise up to make yourself look big, naturally our standing position is taken as a dominant threat. A male seal will therefore treat you as it would treat any other aggressor and tries to drive you out of their territory.

Unfortunately most visitors to South Georgia don’t get much time to sit quietly and watch the furries and their antics. Sitting and watching you begin to understand what is happening, and you learn how to behave around them. Body language, posture and sounds are key, and as with most wildlife, if you just sit still and quiet you are no longer a threat and consequently ignored.


This curious little chap is just about to sneeze all ever my camera lens, a good reason to have a protective filter!


Handsome fellow enjoying relaxing in the sunshine, obviously not worried by my presence.


How can anyone not love these adorable creatures?!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Ships, skuas and penguins


The Royal Navy paid us a visit at the weekend, HMS Gloucester and the RFA Black Rover refuelling vessel. We offered our assistance to get the crew ashore, so ended up running our RIB’s in the morning and afternoon so that as many people could come off as possible. All the sailors appreciated this opportunity very much, and they even helped us cart supplies up to Maiviken hut for the repair work we are undertaking. It was good fun getting in plenty of boating, but it was exhausting fitting it in around other regular work too. I’ll do a boating blog soon as we have been doing quite a bit recently.

20110120_0695 HMS Gloucester


And now for a bit of a quiz!

Here are two photos of skuas, which is from South Georgia, and which is from Shetland? There is so much variation in the plumage of individuals can you tell?







The Gentoo penguins are nice and big now, some of them have lost all their down. They seem to have had a very good year with plenty of Krill around which is great news. Today also happens to be penguin counting/weighing day, so along with volunteers from base I’m off to do that now, unfortunately it’s raining, but that won’t  stop us!


Thursday, 27 January 2011

Ultimate predator

I had just woken up and was contemplating a lie in when I heard a nock at my door. It was the base commander, with news that there was a leopard seal down behind the boat shed. I quickly got my camera gear together, put on some warm clothes and headed out. I got there just in time, the lep was starting to edge out into the sea, having snuck up from behind an old Argentine landing craft I managed to get a couple of shots before it headed out into the bay.



On my way back from Maiviken on Wednesday (12th) I noticed another dead fur seal on the beach behind the fuel store. There was already a Giant Petrel beginning to have a feast when I noticed that the seal wasn’t quite dead yet. That was fairly gross really and the seal didn’t last long. By this morning (14th) the Giant Petrels had really got going on the carcass, and having done my early rounds I went down to take a few photos. I was really pleased to see three Wilson’s Storm Petrels flying around picking up scraps and took several hundred photos of them. The water was really smooth too so all in all quite a nice morning, and all before 8:30. I’ve not had much time to sort through all my photos yet, my laptop tried to die (dead RAM) and we’ve had the Royal Navy visiting for the weekend so I’ve been on boating duties, but here are a few reasonable shots :-)






Saturday, 1 January 2011

A few extra photos

I thought I’d put up a few more photos to keep you amused while I write something else!

Elephant seals

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Christmas photo

Female furry on the track

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Machinery at Grytviken

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