About Me

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Bird Island, South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands
I work as a Zoological Field Assistant, and am the 2009 Winter Base Commander, at Bird Island Research Station, one of the British Antarctic Survey's five research bases in Antarctica. The main remit of my job is seal fieldwork as part of BAS' Long Term Monitoring and Survey programme. Science has been carried out on Bird Island since 1958. I work with Antarctic fur seals and leopard seals, as well as assisting with the seabird fieldwork programme. Contact me on: ewanedwards at gmail dot com

Monday, 29 March 2010

29.03.2010 - BBC Earth Explorers feature

I will update my blog once more, for old times sake, before I leave. Apologies for the slackness, but I have hundreds of photos waiting to be uploaded!

In the meantime, there is a feature on the BBC website on satellite-tagging of wandering albatrosses to follow their progress as their chick grows on the nest.

Friday, 18 September 2009

18.09.2009 - Seabirds and sunshine

A snow petrel takes off into the wind

To see these birds at such close range is really special

King penguins don't breed here. They come to moult (and look really scruffy) in the summer, so when they turn up in winter, they are more photogenic!

A chinstrap penguin - these breed in large numbers elsewhere around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and further south in the Antarctic, but not on Bird Island

August was a fantastic month in many ways. Firstly we saw our first significant snowfalls since June, and by the end of the month we were able to ski all the way to base from the slopes of the mountain on which we ski. In addition, the prevailing wind direction for the month was from the east, which meant bright, clear and cold days. Some days we recorded over six hours of sunshine - anyone who has spent any time on Bird Island, especially during the summer, knows that days like these need to be treasured. The cold, clear and almost-calm days meant time spent outside was a joy. We had a barbecue one calm night, when the temperature was well below freezing, but the lack of wind made it quite bearable.

In addition to the longer, dry and sunny days, we had some great wildlife encounters. Around the beginning of the month, upwards of 12 snow petrels could be regularly seen in the bays around the island. These have never been confirmed as breeding on Bird Island, and most sightings are fleeting glimpses as the birds fly past, out at sea. But seeing these beautiful, pure white birds at close quarters is something special, and sometimes we have to stop and think how lucky we are to see them like this.

We have also seen quite a number of chinstrap penguins. They used to breed on Bird Island in a small colony on Johnson Beach, but this disappeared several years ago. Now and again, a pair attempts to breed amongst the 80,000 macaroni penguins on Goldcrest Point, but otherwise, we class them as 'visitors' rather than 'residents'. During August and early September we have seen quite a few chinstraps. They look very smart, and although not as tall as our numerous gentoo penguins, they seem to have an very long tail!

The wandering albatross chicks are still on their nests, although they are starting to look more like birds now, as their dark feathers grow through the grey down. They will start to leave the island at the end of November, nearly one year on from their parents arriving to breed.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

08.09.09 - Leopard seals on BBC Earth News website

I was contacted by the BBC Natural History Unit who asked if I could provide a series of photographs for a gallery on the Earth News section of the BBC website. This related to the publication of a recent short scientific paper, entitled First documentation of leopard seal predation of South Georgia pintail duck, by Jaume Forcada, Glenn Crossin and myself (please email me if you would like a copy of the paper to read).

If you haven't seen the photo gallery, it is available here:

Monday, 7 September 2009

07.09.2009 - Bird Island on TMS

Test Match Special is an institution of the British summer. It is a long-running radio programme, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, giving ball-by-ball commentary of cricket test matches (five-day international games between the top teams). During the final test of the recent Ashes series between England and Australia, Jose (wintering predator/squid biologist) and I emailed the show to say we were listening from Bird Island - this seemed to capture the imagination of the presenters and they read out our email on air. You can hear a clip of the broadcast here (apologies to the BBC for stealing part of their radio programme):

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

28.07.2009 - Sunshine at last

Sunshine recorder and wind instrument on top of the communications tower - recording some fine weather for a change!

Prince House, our main accommodation building

Stacey and Derren carry out some maintenance on the met instruments

Freshwater Inlet, with the base and mountain behind

A giant petrel taking off from the water

Northern giant petrel

Sleeping seals covered in wind-blown snow

A young blue-eyed shag on a rock

A female fur seal rejecting the males untimely advances

A young male seal enjoying the sun

When fur seals sleep they often tuck their flippers in around themselves

The fur seals seem much more relaxed when the sun shines!

It is incredible how the appearance of the sun can change ones mood. I for one feel a lot more cheery when the sun shines upon my pale skin - although being so fair of complexion I have to be careful to avoid being burnt! The fur seals too seem more relaxed, and generally of a better mood, when basking in the sunshine.

Thus far this winter the weather has been, in general, appalling. The not-insignificant amount of snow that has fallen has either thawed soon after, or has been blown away by southerly gales, over the cliff edge on the north side of the island, only to melt into nothingness when it lands upon the sea once again. We have had days of fog, more commonly associated with the summer.

Dreams of long cold spells with clear skies, like Derren, Fabrice, Flea and I experienced last winter, have led to weeks of frustration - skis staying in storage, snow shoes gathering dust... but in the last few days, as we approach August, we have seen signs of a change. A couple of days of sunshine and snow showers have left the place with a far more wintery feel.

Today, with temperatures well below freezing and the bright sun shining down on us, was hopefully the beginning of a memorable period of fine winter weather, which will allow us plenty chances to get out and ski and enjoy the place at its best.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

11.07.2009 - Extra photos

Wanderer Ridge with South Georgia and Snow Peak behind

An albatross chick on Long Ridge

Roche Peak from North Valley

Roche Peak from Landing Beach

Roche Peak, the base, Wanderer Ridge and South Georgia behind in low evening light

Jose and Ewan after camping on Top Meadows - ready for a cup of tea back at base!

The cliffs of the Paryadin Ridge, South Georgia

A wandering albatross chick on its nest

A wanderer chick silhouetted against the sea and evening sky

As I prepare to enter the kitchen for a day of cooking (Saturday is three-course dinner day!) I thought I would put up some more pictures.

Being such a small island, we quickly grow accustomed to the same views, day in, day out. However the variety comes with the changing seasons, changing light, and the changing wildlife. The view from the top of North Valley - the normal route for us from base to the penguin and albatross colonies around the meadows) - is constantly changing with the seasons, from day to day, and even just from one hour to the next. I never get bored of taking, what must be, photos from the same location, of the same view - there is always something different going on.