Wandering albatrosses, new research


This video, recorded in South Georgia, says about itself:

9 February 2007

David Attenborough watches the wandering albatross, a bird of huge size and majesty. From the BBC.

From Science News:

Big dads carry weight among wandering albatrosses

by Helen Thompson

12:00pm, May 3, 2017

Dad bod is a big deal for albatrosses. Bigger male wandering albatrosses live longer and are more likely to breed successfully compared with lighter birds, while mass has no observable effect on female breeding or survival, researchers report May 3 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Climate change could shift the degree to which some seabirds pack on the pounds. It’s unclear how those shifts will play out in species like wandering albatrosses (Diomedea exulans), in which males are much bigger than females.

To investigate, Tina Cornioley of the University of Zurich and her colleagues examined how body mass affects certain aspects of an albatross’s life — survival, odds of mating, having chicks, chick size and chick survival. From 1988 to 2013, the team tracked 662 adult albatrosses on Possession Island in the southern Indian Ocean. Albatross parents take turns sitting on their eggs, but dads actually invest more energy in rearing chicks after they hatch.

In addition to the survival and breeding advantages, the team also found that heavier dads were more likely to have heavier sons, but not daughters, and those sons had better survival odds. Although the team can’t rule out the possibility of a genetic element, the fact that body mass fluctuates throughout a bird’s life and the absence of the trend in mothers and daughters makes genetics a less likely explanation, says Cornioley. Instead, the researchers think that heftier dads invest more in sons than daughters.

Spirit Animal Award, thanks unbolt and docsuesszues-zen!


Spirit Animal Award

Thanks to bloggers unbolt and docsuesszues-zen, my blog was nominated for the Spirit Animal Award.

Thank you both for this kind gesture!

The rules of this award are:

1.) Thank the blogger who nominated you, and link back to their page.

2.) Post the award picture on your blog.

3.) Write a short paragraph about yourself and what your blog means to you.

4.) If you could be any animal, what would it be?

5.) Pick and notify ten nominees.

I started blogging in 2005. More about the Why? of Dear Kitty. Some blog is here. And here.

I would like to be a snow petrel. I was privileged to see this beautiful bird species fly over the Antarctic ocean.

This video from South Georgia says about itself:

30 March 2011

It is rare to see a Snow Petrel on land at sea level. They are more normally seen flying or snowbathing in the high mountains or out at sea, commonly around large icebergs. This bird was possibly a newly fledged and inexperienced youngster. Two were seen that morning together in the same place, close to the church in the old whaling station at Grytviken. This video is attached to the monthly South Georgia website newsletter at www.sgisland.gs.

My ten nominees are:

1. BOOKS AND HOT TEA

2. wwwpalfitness

3. No Shame Jane

4. Brumbats

5. 365 dni w obiektywie LG

6. disabledsingleparent

7. Drama_Llama2016

8. Kintal

9. quercuscommunity

10. Noir

Antarctic fur seal pups, new study


This video says about itself:

12 December 2009

The Antarctic island of South Georgia is home to an estimated 4 million Antarctic fur seals, approximately 95% of the world population. These eared seals usually hunt the rich waters for krill during the night, but they also eat fish, squid and sometimes penguins! The pups come together in large groups in shallow water – come and meet a gang of fast-moving pups as they play around me during a dive.

From Wildlife Extra:

A mother’s long distance call help their seal pups find them

Identifying their mother’s voice is crucial for helping Antarctic fur seal pups find their mothers in densely populated breeding colonies, when they return from foraging for food, new research has found.

Antarctic fur seals breed in dense colonies on shore, and during the 4-month lactation period, mothers alternate foraging trips at sea with suckling period ashore. Each time the mothers return to the colony, they and their pups initially use vocalizations to find each other among several hundred other seals, and then use their sense of smell to confirm.

The team from University of Paris-Sud carried out playback experiments on about 30 wild pups using synthetic signals and playbacks at different distances at the Kerguelen Archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean.

The authors found that the pups use both the sound’s amplitude and frequency modulations to identify their mother’s voice. Playbacks at different distances showed that frequency modulations propagated reliably up to 64 meters, whereas amplitude modulations were highly degraded for distances over 8 meters. The authors suggest these results indicate a two-step identification process: at long range, pups identified first the frequency modulation pattern of their mother’s calls, and then other components of the vocal signature were identified at closer range. The individual vocal recognition system developed by Antarctic fur seals is likely adapted to face the importance of finding kin in a crowd.

You can read the full study HERE.

Birds of Antarctica and Argentina


This video, recorded in Argentina, says about itself:

Birds & More: Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego

Fabulous scenery, wide open spaces, whales, extraordinary Andes and the bottom of the world. Spectacular Magellanic Woodpecker, very scenic cruise in Drake Channel; 11-12/2008.

Brent Stephenson is a wildlife photographer, guide, and birder based near Napier, New Zealand.

From B1RDER: The birding blog of Eco-Vista | Brent Stephenson (with photos there):

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Looking back to January – Antarctica

Well the year to date has been a hectic one, but with a lot of fantastic places along the way. First off was a trip to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica – I always say if you are going to go to Antarctica, then you HAVE to do a trip that includes the Falklands and South Georgia. So this is one of my favourite trips, and despite the increase in tourism in the Antarctic you still get the feeling of isolation and that you could well be the first people looking at the landscape.

We started in Ushuaia, with awesome views of both male, female and young Magellanic woodpeckers in the National Park – stonking views! Epic birds, and also got great views of ashy-headed geese. Then out of the Beagle Channel and heading to Saunders Island in the Falklands. This has to be one of the best islands for diversity in the Falkland group, with a great array of species there nesting within easy walking distance. To be so close to nesting black-browed albatross is always a treat, and whilst we were there the birds had young chicks in the nest, so there was a lot going on. Having spent four incredible days on this island camping under a rock at ‘The Neck’ back in 2004 this place is one of my all-time World favourite spots!

Next stop South Georgia, and with landings at Salisbury Plain and St Andrews Bay we got to see a fair sack of the king penguin population that breeds on the island. Our afternoon at St Andrews was just spectacular, with incredible weather and so much going on. I managed a bit of time with tripod and neutral density filters to play around with some long exposures which was fun – let me know what you think of the images below. There might still be a slight colour cast from the ND filters, but I am pretty happy with the results…I’d just like to spend some more time experimenting with these filters.

This video says about itself:

Albatross – Penguins – ICE BIRDS – Antarctica © 2009 C. Hunter Johnson

Nesting Albatross Chicks, King Penguins and Gentoo Penguins. … on a recent visit to South Georgia Island to explore and photograph these rare endangered Albatross in natural, unspoiled surroundings.

The Brent Stephenson article continues:

We also called in to Coronation Island in the South Orkneys, with a little bit of sleet and drizzle it was a chilly landing, but thousands of chinstrap penguins were there to keep us company! Back onboard that afternoon my Canon 1Dx decided to give up the ghost – leaving me with my old worn out 1D MkIV for the rest of the trip. On getting back to NZ it turns out the 1Dx was the first in the country to have completely died – making me wonder if i was lucky or unlucky (!) – having blown a circuit board and some fuses. All covered under warranty when I got home, but effectively an expensive paper-weight for the rest of the trip!

Down on the Antarctic Peninsula we had stops at Brown Bluff, with a little foray along the ice front of the Weddell Sea in Antarctic Sound. There had been an Emperor penguin reported, but rising winds meant we could’t get too close, and had to head back onto the western side of the Peninsula and carry on to the South Shetlands. A morning at Hannah Point was fantastic with lots of activity amongst the chinstraps and gentoos – including the gory killing of a gentoo chick by several giant petrels. At Deception Island, not normally know for its wildlife (at least the interior of the island), we had an awesome leucistic chinstrap penguin. At first it seemed to be playing hard to get, and then at the end walked up on to the shore with another bird, and right into the middle of our group! Ha, what little show off!

Then it was off south along the Peninsula, making landings at Petermann Island and Plennau. Awesome iceberg graveyard, and VERY ‘friendly’ leopard seals – one of which came steaming in and chomped on the end of my zodiac! That was a new experience – it all happened so quick I didn’t have time to get out of there, so after our 2.5 hour zodiac cruise one of the pontoons was VERY flat! We only lost two people out of the zodiac…just kidding! We also had an incredible show with a female and calf humpback right at the stern of the ship. With everyone out on the stern of the ship, they came right in under us and just hung out at the back of the ship for more than 15 minutes – just incredible.

A final afternoon at Portal Point – after finally catching up with killer whales in the Neumeyer which I managed to spot a few miles off. We had stunning views of a pretty large pod of these Type B (small form) killer whales, in what looked like a feeding slick. There was a huge slick on the surface and clearly something attracting large numbers of Wilson’s storm-petrels, giant petrels and other species, but we couldn’t spot anything that looked like chunks of prey. A mystery!

And then we were on our way back to Ushuaia. Time just flies so quickly on a trip like this, with days at sea and the start of the trip seeming to go relatively slow, and then all of a sudden you are heading back across the Drake Passage! A great trip with great folks and an excellent Zegrahm Expedition team!

South Georgia pipit comeback


This video says about itself:

Dreaming of the South Georgia Pipit

3 August 2011

Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic guests on the search for the only songbird to live below the Antarctic convergence.

From Wildlife Extra:

Rare pipits return following rat eradication on South Georgia

The world’s most southerly song bird, the South Georgia Pipit, is fighting back from extinction thanks to work carried out by an 18-strong international team to eradicate rats from its island home in Antarctica.

Just as the final phase of the world’s largest rodent eradication project was being undertaken by UK charity, the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), news came that a nest of five South Georgia Pipit chicks had been found in an area previously overrun by rats.

The South Georgia Pipit is only found on South Georgia and its numbers had been decimated by the invasive rat populations on the island. Its survival as a species was under threat before the eradication work began.

The discovery of the pipit nest was made at Schlieper Bay near the western end of the island by a former member of the rat eradication team, Sally Poncet, an expert on South Georgia’s wildlife and this year a recipient of the Polar Medal in recognition of service to the United Kingdom in the field of polar research.

Poncet was a member of what has been nicknamed Team Rat during its Phase 1 operations. She discovered the nest while on a Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris expedition (in collaboration with the Government of South Georgia) to survey Wandering Albatrosses.

Alison Neil, Chief Executive of South Georgia Heritage Trust says, “The discovery of pipit chicks is thrilling news and shows the rapid beneficial effect of the Habitat Restoration Project on this threatened species.

“People had spotted pipits exhibiting breeding behaviour following the baiting work, but this is the first firm proof that they are nesting in areas from which they were previously excluded by rodents.

“Pipits cannot breed when rats are present, so this discovery is confirmation that birds are quickly responding to their absence.

“We are confident that when South Georgia is once again free of rodents, it will regain its former status as home to the greatest concentration of seabirds in the world.”

South Georgia is one of the world’s last great wilderness areas and amongst the wildlife on the island are 90 per cent of the world’s Antarctic fur seals and half the world’s elephant seals.

Four species of penguin nest on the island, including King Penguins with around 400,000 breeding pairs. The island’s birdlife includes albatross, skuas and petrels, as well as the endemic South Georgia Pipit, and the South Georgia Pintail.

However, although the wildlife is impressive, it is a shadow of the numbers Captain Cook encountered when he discovered and named South Georgia in 1775.

Rats and mice, arriving in the ships of sealers and whalers, have spread over much of the island, predating on the eggs and chicks of many of the native birds.

The aim of SGHT’s project is to eradicate these invasive rodents and allow millions of birds to reclaim their ancestral home.

A successful trial phase in 2011 was followed by a second phase conducted in 2013. The results have been signs of rodents having been eliminated from almost two-thirds of South Georgia.

Phase 3 began on 18 January. The challenge is to complete the baiting of the entire island during the brief sub-Antarctic summer months and this will be followed by two further years of monitoring by the South Georgia Heritage Trust and the South Georgia Government.

Assuming no signs of rodents have been discovered by 2017, South Georgia will be declared free of rodents for the first time since humans first came to the island.

Rare birds return to remote South Georgia island after successful rat eradication programme: here.

Good British seabird news


This video from Britain says about itself:

7 June 2012

A documentary about Lundy Island. A place of peace and tranquillity, where a wealth of wildlife and stunning scenery attracts vistors from all around the world all year round……But with plans for a new offshore wind farm, named the Atlantic Array, the unique wildlife of Lundy could be in jeopardy.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Lundy bird populations soar after rats eradicated

Findings will give encouragement to a similar project due to get under way this autumn on two of the isles of Scilly

Steven Morris

Tuesday 30 July 2013

A project to eradicate rats from a rocky island off Devon has resulted in a tenfold increase in the population of an endangered burrowing seabird that nests there, conservationists have revealed.

Wildlife charities are delighted that the removal of rats from Lundy, in the Bristol Channel, has apparently led to a dramatic boost to the number of Manx shearwaters and other birds on the island.

A similar project costing £750,000 is due to get under way this autumn on two of the isles of Scilly, St Agnes and Gugh, to wipe out the descendants of brown rats that swam to shore from shipwrecks.

Survey teams from the RSPB who returned to Lundy 10 years after the launch of the seabird recovery project found that the number of breeding pairs of Manx shearwaters had leapt from 300 to 3,000. Puffin numbers had increased from just five birds to 80, while razorbills and shags had also made substantial gains.

Helen Booker, RSPB senior conservation officer in the south-west of England, said: “This is such an exciting result, better than we expected, and the rate of increase is an indication of just how important rat-free islands like Lundy are as breeding site for seabirds.”

David Bullock, head of nature conservation for the National Trust, which owns Lundy, said “Once the rats had gone from Lundy, the number of pairs of shearwaters went from hundreds to thousands in matter of a few years.”

He said such a rapid recovery must have been aided by birds from other colonies, probably including those on islands off the Pembrokeshire coast, settling to breed on Lundy.

The results will provide encouragement for a similar project on St Agnes and Gugh, 28 miles off the south-west tip of mainland Britain. Here an estimated 3,100 brown rats are blamed for preying on Scilly shearwaters as well as storm petrels, terns and the Scilly shrew, a rodent found only on the archipelago.

From this autumn, poison bait will be laid for the rats as part of a 25-year Isles of Scilly seabird recovery project, which is being run with cash from the National Lottery, the EU’s Life fund and other sources.

It follows a 25% fall in bird numbers in recent years. The project is deemed feasible because the islands are surrounded by deep water, and so it is thought unlikely once the rats there are removed that others will be able to repopulate it.

It is deemed particularly important because St Agnes and Gugh are close to the uninhabited island of Annet, which has significant colonies of seabirds.

Jaclyn Pearson, project manager for the Isles of Scilly recovery project, said it had the backing of the 75 residents of St Agnes, though some of the children had taken some convincing.

She said the bait stations were designed to be accessible only to rats, and a stock of the antidote had been ferried across in case a cat or dog got to the poison.

See also here.

The world’s biggest rat-killing campaign underway on South Georgia Island: here.