9 December, 2000
I am exhausted. It has been a very busy day. The weather was looking bad but the leader of our group Matt Irinaga made the decision to go to work. We were scheduled for trips to Torgersen, Humble and Litchfield islands to do some work. Today was also house mouse day.
At 10 a.m., I headed out with the birder group for Torgeresn Island. I was hoping to see a baby Adelie penguin. We arrived at Torgersen and unloaded the zodiac. Our first job was to count the number of adults in the colonies and the number of active nests. This was accomplished as a large group. Matt Irinaga, Heidi Geisz, Chris Denker and myself would each count and record the number of adults and then count the number of Adelies sitting on an egg. This became very complicated quickly. Some colonies had well over a hundred penguins. We counted about ten colonies around the island. Chris told me that there are around three thousand Adelies on Torgersen.
After the colonies had been counted I went with Heidi and Matt as they inspected nests that they have been watching all season. This gives them valuable information on how successful the Adelies are at breeding this year. While we were checking the nests, Heidi noticed that one penguin had a numbered band around its wing that was coming off. Very few of the penguins are banded, but if this band fell off all data on that penguin would be lost forever. So Matt and Chris captured the penguin and reattached the band. Needless to say that was one excited bird.
The next job on the list was to conduct snow transects across the island. This is to determine the amount of snow on the island and how it is changing over time. There is a hypothesis that since it is getting warmer and there is more precipitation (rain and snow), that there will be fewer Adelies because wet weather adversely affects breeding success. So it is important to get accurate data.
We finished in about two hours and there were no reports of any Adelie chicks. We packed up our zodiac as a leopard seal was hunting for penguins in the water around us. Matt started the engine and we headed for Humble Island. The procedure was the same except for one small difference. This island had numerous Elephant seals so we had to be careful to excite the hefty seals or they might rampage through a penguin colony. After we had counted the colonies Chris pointed out some baby chicks for me. They must have been born in the last 24 hours. It was very exciting.
Stay tuned for the rest of the story tomorrow. It involves Elephant seals, Adelies, Skuas and the mysterious Litchfield Island.
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