May 4, 2009
What a day for wildlife spotting! The sun finally came through the clouds after a harsh wind blew last night. The first sighting came as Lisa and I went to the storage compartment outside to retrieve a needed chemical and heard a seal bark. We could not believe how close it sounded, so we went around the building to investigate. And there it was a leopard seal that popped out of the brash ice (chunks of ice in the water) and onto one of the larger pieces. After seeing pictures of these seals from earlier in the year eating penguins right off the pier, I was content that it was not any closer. I was SO excited and ran to get my camera. I took one decent photo before it slid off the ice and back into the water. That alone would have made my day, but little did I know what was really in store!
At about 10 a.m., Kristin came in the lab and told me that I could go with the Birders Group. This group consists of the volunteers on the station that conduct research on the Giant Petrel fledglings for scientists that are in the States. The team today consisted of Jeff Otten, Ryan and Webster and they were so gracious to let me join them! I had to grab my ECW gear, my drybag, camera and video camera and hopped into the Zodiac boat with them. The wind had died down and the sun was really starting to come out. With a quick trip across the water, we got to Humble Island, tied up and carefully made our way across the rocks. Ryan described how he had been helping the scientists over the summer when these chicks first hatched and he spoke with such revere, it was almost like they were his own young, getting bigger and getting ready to head out in the world (reminded me of the parents of seniors at home getting ready for their sons/daughters to graduate and head out into the world!). As we walked along, we came upon a large fur seal basking in the sun and was less than excited to see us. I snapped several photos from a distance and was so tickled to hear it hiss at us as we walked past. Listening to the birds, seals barking and waves crashing on the rocks was simply beautiful! I could not believe how blessed I was to be joining them, crunching over the snow in the sunshine. Webster recorded the data, while Jeff and Ryan carefully scooped up the Giant Petrel fledglings, checked the number on the band around their leg for identification (although Jeff and Ryan had pet names for most all of them especially entertaining was Leroy which was a particularly difficult participant), put them in a cloth bag while the bird tried to bite them with their beautiful, strong beaks and weighed them, and released them quickly. Most of the birds had already lost the majority of their down feathers and were getting big enough to fly away from their nest. Nine birds had already taken flight that they had studied. As we were continued walking to the next nests, we saw a group of elephant seals warming themselves in the sunshine. They were equally as thrilled as the fur seal to see us intruding their island. They were great models for my photography set, though! After we got all the birds weighed and accounted for, we were headed back to the boat when, BAM I spotted it near the shoreline my first penguin! I was SO excited and snapped a gazillion photos yes! I succeeded with the requests of the students! Hallelujah! It was a gentoo penguin, and I even got my last few minutes of video on my recorder of him clacking at us the sound reminded me of a weak blow on a party horn. I could have sat there all day in the sunshine watching all of this, but the sun was starting to fade and it was starting to get cooler. We hopped on the Zodiac and headed back. My day was more than complete!