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

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):