Filming

We’ve had a film crew visiting Bird Island for the last few days while they get footage for a documentary about the island and its residents. Whilst the birds and animals have performed brilliantly in front of the camera, the weather hasn’t been quite so cooperative. However, in between the gloomy drizzle there have been enough bright spells for them to film wandering albatrosses…

Some of the island’s more aggressive residents, the macaroni penguins…

And even one of the newer residents, a seal-pup who seems very interested in the microphone.

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Cute chick!

This skua chick has to be one of the cutest youngsters on the island at the moment (and there’s strong competition, with all of the baby penguins around!).

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Masters of disguise

It’s a little-known fact that fur-seals are masters of disguise, regularly using their costumes and make-up skills to hide from predators. The pups, the vulnerable youngsters, have to be especially good at it. Here are a few examples:

This first one is trying to appear inconspicuous on top of an male fur-seal. This is quite a good tactic as anything with any intelligence (this certainly rules out penguins, but they’re not known for preying on fur seals anyway) would avoid the aggressive adult like the plague. Plus it makes a nice warm bed.

This second one is trying to pretend that it’s a skua. The skua, on the other hand, is just waiting hopefully for the pup to die.

These three have all had the same idea – they’re trying to disguise themselves as a pallet truck. Surprisingly effective.

This one’s a bit different – taken on our front doorstep, this is a photo of a very young elephant seal nervously trying to pretend that it’s a fur-seal pup, while the fur-seal pups all try and pretend that they are a doormat. The animal world can be confusing.

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Happy Christmas from Bird Island!

It’s that time of year again, so I rounded up the Bird Island team for the annual Christmas card photo. After an unsuccessful but harrowing attempt at training fur-seals to spell out ‘Merry Christmas’ on the beach, we opted instead for a lower-risk nativity scene. Here it is, and a Happy Christmas to y’all.

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Blonding

It’s one of those unavoidable things that comes round every year, like winter colds or tax returns. Yes, it’s the traditional annual Bird Island blonding. Each year hundreds of seal pups get marked with hair dye so that they can be easily tracked, and it seems only reasonable that the humans responsible get a bit blonder too. So last night we turned the dining room into a hair salon, grabbed the peroxide and cling film (apparently an essential part of hair-dying equipment, which was news to me) and pushed sub-Antarctic island fashion to a new level.

Here is a seal puppy, doing an excellent catwalk-job of showing off Cian’s hair-dying skills

Here is Jess, drawing a wandering albatross onto the head of one of BAS’s very eminent scientists (he only put up a modest resistance).

Here is Robbie, proudly showing off his new blonde hair/black beard combo.

And here are the rest of us proving that blonde is the new cool.

But this is what we all dream of looking like… here is a blonde fur-seal – not dyed by us, but a rare genetic anomaly of which only a handful are born here each year.

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Petrels and albatrosses (take 2)

Oh dear, I still haven’t quite got the hang of this…. let’s try that again.

This is a very exciting time of year to be a giant petrel. Their favourite food is dead seal, so all of the detritus of the seal breeding season, the ones that didn’t make it, lie around on the beach making an enormous carrion feast. All over the bay you can see the giant petrels sticking their heads into seal carcasses, wriggling them around a bit and then coming out again with a tasty morsel. It’s all part of the big cycle of life and death that plays out daily on our front doorstep!

Here are a couple of geep photos for the stronger-stomached amongst you. The first one is trying its luck with a piece of intestine. I watched this bird for ages, and it started off by tying itself in knots (literally) before eventually developing a clever little jumping-up-and-down dance that was very effective in breaking off pieces of the tasty meal.

For the fainter of heart, here are some less gruesome photos. Firstly, a geep in flight, looking far more elegant and at-ease than they do while waddling about on the ground.

But for true elegance, you can’t beat a black-browed albatross in flight.

And slightly less elegant, but very cute, is this wandering albatross chick who is still waiting for his down to turn into proper flight feathers, so that he can leave Bird Island behind and head out into the open ocean.

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Petrels and albatrosses

This is a very exciting time of year to be a giant petrel. Their favourite food is dead seal, so all of the detritus of the seal breeding season, the ones that didn’t make it, lie around on the beach making an enormous carrion feast. All over the bay you can see the giant petrels sticking their heads into seal carcasses, wriggling them around a bit and then coming out again with a tasty morsel. It’s all part of the big cycle of life and death that plays out daily on our front doorstep!

Here are a couple of geep photos for the stronger-stomached amongst you. The first one is trying its luck with a piece of intestine. I watched this bird for ages, and it started off by tying itself in knots (literally) before eventually developing a clever little jumping-up-and-down dance that was very effective in breaking off pieces of the tasty meal.

For the fainter of heart, here are some less gruesome photos. Firstly, a geep in flight, looking far more elegant and at-ease than they do while waddling about on the ground.

But for true elegance, you can’t beat a black-browed albatross in flight.

And slightly less elegant, but very cute, is this wandering albatross chick who is still waiting for his down to turn into proper flight feathers, so that he can leave Bird Island behind and head out into the open ocean.

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