Wildlife on South Georgia’s Bird Island – in pictures

Wildlife on South Georgia’s Bird Island – in pictures

The UK overseas territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean is a haven for sea birds and fur seals where the British Antarctic Survey monitors long-term population trends. Jerry Gillham photographs the island’s wildlife

A wandering albatross chick sits on a nest in Bird Island, South Georgia. The chicks are left alone in April as both parents spend their time foraging at sea, returning roughly once a week to feed them. Their thick layer of down feathers protects them from the elements through the southern hemisphere until they fledge in November
Gentoo penguins coming ashore on Landing Beach. In the run-up to their nesting period they feed at sea during the day and head back in large groups in the evening to claim their nest sites
A chinstrap penguin on Evermann Cove. They don’t breed on Bird Island, but are occasional visitors from further south during the winter when they come ashore to rest
Macaroni penguin, Big Mac, 29 October 2013. One of the key species on Bird Island. Our work involves counting, weighing and checking on their breeding success. They’re only 30cm tall but extrordinarily feisty and tough.
After spending the winter at sea the Macaroni penguins return in October and November. The biggest colony on the island, Big Mac, contains 80,000 individuals. With that many it often feels like they’re stretching as far as the eye can see
Gentoo penguin with chicks on Landing Beach. Each pair will hatch one or two chicks, one of the chicks above was from an adjacent nest and came over to try and steal some food off the adult. They feed by regurgitating their diet of mainly krill
A blonde-fur seal pup, North Valley. The pups are born in December on the beaches where the adults form harems with big males fighting over groups of females. The pups are born black, but roughly one in 1,000 pups are blonde
Grey-headed albatross with chick at Johnson Top. The grey-headed and black-browed albatrosses nest in colonies on the steep grassy slopes. They raise a single chick in a nest built of mud
King penguins on Freshwater Beach. Breeding on the South Georgia mainland in huge numbers, the kings only come ashore on Bird Island when moulting to rest and replace their feathers
Gentoo chick counting at Natural Arch. Once the chicks are large enough the adults head out to sea to feed, leaving their young gathered together in large creches, usually in January – the best time for a census
A clash of cultures on Main Bay. Once the fur seal pups are large enough the females leave them to head out to sea and feed. While awaiting their return the young pups group together and explore their environment. Here a group of them has met a pair of equally curious but wary king penguins
Wandering albatross skycalling at Wanderer Ridge, South Georgia. The birds form long-term pairs. They reaffirm these bonds and unpaired birds attract mates through a display that includes throwing their head back and calling to the sky
Young, unpaired wandering albatross courting by spreading their wings and tapping bills together at Top Meadows
Checking on the wanderer chicks at Top Meadows. The wandering albatross chicks grow quickly, this one is about three months old and has another six left before fledgling
A sleeping leopard seal on Main Bay, looking over to South Georgia. The leopard seals are one of Antarctica’s top predators. They visit during the winter when they’ve finished breeding and are searching further for food
A curious penguin on Freshwater Beach. The gentoos frequently wander up the beach, appearing distracted by pebbles or, in this case, a crack in the ice. While the macaroni penguins stay at sea for the winter the gentoos regularly come back ashore
The fur seals hang around through the winter, completely unconcerned by whatever the weather throws at them, on Freshwater Beach

This article was first published by The Guardian.

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