Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feburary 21 - more whales, Sheathbill chick, birding assistant and the Krill.

There was an interesting event that happened on the 20th.  There was a low tide and we noticed a ton of birds feeding on something by the waterline and then all these seals feeding also.  We investigated and saw Krill all over the place.  The Krill as you know is what is the one of the main foods for the whales and seals and birds here at Palmer.

Here's a picture of a Fur seal that had been feeding on the krill and a closeup of his face.  He has such cute ears and was just rubbing around on the rocks and was totally aware of my presence, but didn't seem offended.

This is a little krill in a tablespoon so you can get an idea of it's size.  This seems to be about a 5 year old krill.  I'm not an expert, but I have observed enough krill to get an idea watching science in the aquarium here on station.

We had the delight of finding a Sheathbill nest.  They nest under rocks usually and have been known to nest under buildings.  We've not seen a Sheathbill chick here as long as I have been coming to Palmer Station.  That's been 10 years.  Here's a picture of a Sheathbill parent watching out for it's chick.  This was a sunny day and they had come out of the next to absorb some much needed sun. 
Here's a closeup of the Sheathbill chick.  A little fluff ball about 8 inches tall.  After we discovered the sheathbill nest, we noticed Skuas hanging out around the next.  We're been keeping away from the nest hopefully to not disturb the already tense situation.  The Skuas would love little sheathbill chicks for a snack.

I was able to go out and help with Adelie penguin Fledgling counting.  We start out planning on a full day out on the islands.  We'll be counting, measureing beak and wing lengths, weight and general condition fo the penguins that are almost done fledging.  What that is, is when the little gray Adelie chicks start to lose their down and start into their teenage years.  The Fledglings hang out by the waters' edge until they fully molt.  Then they get to go out and explore the water.  They generally won't go out until they have fully lost their down.  Here's a picture of the first phase, the Birders Jen and Kirstie are counting the penguins.
After counting, us helpers hold out bamboo flags to keep the Adelie fledglings coraled.  Then the Birders go into the group and gently pluck one Adelie at a time to do measurements.  We do our best to keep our distance.  The flags on the end of the poles are enough of a deterant to keep them in a group.
Here I am getting to hold an Adelie penguin.  If you notice he has a tuft of feathers on top of his head. It always seems that this always makes them look like they have mohawks.
On our checking out the island, we also check out the Giant Petrels.  There is the Humble Island loop that takes us to all the Petrel nests.  We do the same more or less of counting the nests, weighing the birds and checking for any missing birds. 
This is Jen one of the Birders holding the Giant Petrel Chick to take measurements.  The birds as we, are gentle in handling so there isn't any tramatizing the birds. 
I'm gently holding a big warm fuzball of a Giant petrel chick.  They are big, but don't weigh as big as they look.  It's all fluffy feathers that make them look so big. 
Here we are getting ready to travel to another island to check on more birds.
Here we are traveling between Islands.  I think we hit three different islands this day.  Total count of Adelie's was 96.

These pictures are taken from station when the Humpbacks stopped by while there were Krill in the area.  This is a good picture of the inside of the roof of the mouth of a Humpback.  I heard but can't confirm it yet, that this has something to do with cooling of the whale.  This will take some more research.
Here's a group from station in their zodiac checking out the Humpback whales.
This is the Birders watching from a safe distance the whales feeding and checking out the behavior of the birds.


  1. Wow, Zee! What an amazing post. Just beautiful...

  2. Catherine SmegalMarch 1, 2010 at 9:40 PM

    Hi, Zee! Thanks for this mind-blowing post. The photos are beautiful.