Thursday, 29 November 2012

Antarctic Terns

It seems that Terns are like Marmite, you either love them or hate them. Their defence tactic of dive bombing and chattering harshly at anyone within range of their nest seems not to be particularly liked by some people, especially when out for a quiet walk. I don’t mind though, they’re gutsy little birds trying to defend their eggs and chicks from predators much bigger than themselves, like skuas, so they really do need to give it their all.


We have a good number of Antarctic terns nesting around King Edward Cove, at least 5 pairs alongside the track to Grytviken, a pair on the old Grytviken jetty, a couple of pairs near the magnetometer hut to name just a few. Most of the UK tern colonies, (Arctic, Common and Little), nest in quite distinctive, high density colonies. The Antarctic terns here though seem to nest fairly well spread out. There are some places where they do form  colonies, but at a much lower density to that which I’ve seen with UK breeding terns.


With the regular traffic along the track to Grytviken one pair in particular have become very accustomed to having people around, something I was able to make use of to get some photos without disturbing the adults. Obviously if the adults are trying to peck you on the head they’re not going to be foraging and feeding their chick, and you’re not going to get any photos of the adults with the chick. I was lucky that while I was watching one of the adults brought in a Krill and fed it to the chick.

20121126-DSC_3353The adult is calling to it’s partner which is flying into the nest with a Krill

20121126-DSC_3357Dinner time for the chick, a tasty Krill

20121126-DSC_3367Down the hatch!

20121126-DSC_3378This tern chick from another pair nearby was a bit older

20121126-DSC_3338A happy tern chick

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Furries and Pingus

Now that spring is well under way it’s breeding time for the fur seals and gentoo penguins. The male furries have set up their territories on the beaches which they defend ferociously, and the females are gradually coming in and giving birth to their pups. The gentoo eggs, which have been incubated for a few weeks are now hatching, and you can hear the chicks quiet ‘cheeping’ coming from all over the colony.

20121123-DSC_3159Big male keeping a good watch

20121124-DSC_3211Play with me mum!

20121124-DSC_3200Not now I’m sleeping

20121124-DSC_3193 Fur seal family

20121123-DSC_3187Basking in the evening sun

20121124-DSC_3225Chick trying to find food under it’s parents wing

20121124-DSC_3236Two nice healthy chicks

20121124-DSC_3246Chicks being fed

20121124-DSC_3264Cute chick close up

Thursday, 8 November 2012

St Andrews bay, part 2

Waking up on the first morning at 4:30 it was a beautiful day, but being pretty tired from the ski over I went back to sleep, feeling rather guilty for not making use of the dawn. Luckily though I had the chance to redeem myself the following morning as a beautiful day began.

I walked down to the beach, and headed along past the moulting king penguins, and the elephant seals towards the main penguin colony. The first river was frozen over, the second was fairly shallow and I could hop from rock to rock and stay dry (even when one was covered in ice and try to dump me in the drink). Being with the chicks and kings to watch the sunrise was one of those moments you will always treasure, as well as enjoying the moment I tried to take a few nice photos too.

20121005-DSC_9647King Penguins and Giant Petrels all in different poses at dawn

20121005-DSC_9663Beautiful clear skies

20121005-DSC_9690‘Dawn chorus’ South Georgia style

20121005-DSC_9705Adults rising above the chicks


20121005-DSC_9715Family bond

20121005-DSC_9891Golden down



20121005-DSC_9949Chicks huddled together, backlit by the low sun

Sunday, 4 November 2012

St Andrews bay, part 1

On the BBC series Frozen Planet a sequence was shown of two male elephant seals in battle. This was filmed at St Andrews, somewhere I am lucky enough to have now visited twice while here on South Georgia.

Erny and I skied in thick fog from Sorling beach, to Hound bay, finding our way by map and compass, and occasional verification using the GPS. At Hound bay the cloud lifted, and the rest of our trip, and holiday took place in beautiful weather.

Most visitors to St Andrews only ever get to spend a few hours in this stunning place. Some are lucky enough to have early landings for dawn, but these are few and far between.

20121003-DSC_9260St Andrews hut, built in the 80’s for a film crew, re-roofed last year, a very comfortable base for a few days holiday, or 3 months if you’re a BBC film crew!

20121003-DSC_9252 King Penguins like to stand on snow to keep cool especially when they are moulting.

20121004-DSC_9497 Reindeer wander around the colony munching on grass that grows in the glacial soils.

20121004-DSC_9628The Milky way stretches across the sky over the thousands of Kings. Exploring the beach during the night was an incredible experience, it got particularly scary while taking this shot as two males began fighting on the beach behind me!

20121005-DSC_0043Taking a morning swim.

20121006-DSC_0542 It’s quite tricky to take a photo at St Andrews with just one penguin in it!

20121006-DSC_0581 Kings everywhere.

20121006-DSC_0594 Erm, so how do we get through this lot? Elephant seals on the beach make it tricky for the penguins to get past, they often spend quite some time finding a route through, only for a female to turn around and block their path!

20121006-DSC_0635 A cute elephant seal pup trying to work out what sort of seal or penguin I am.

20121006-DSC_0648 Two bull elephant seals fight for territory and females on the beach. When the loser flees there are often pups and females that get squashed, fortunately they seem to be fairly squashable and are usually none the worse for their ordeal!