By Peter Ryan, onboard scientist, expert in general ornithology, seabird-fishery interactions, evolutionary ecology, marine debris, solid waste management, biology of oceanic islands.
Leg 1, Day 16 – January 5th, 2017
We arrived off Kerguelen at dawn on 5 January, entering the passage into the Golf de Morbihan shortly after sunrise at 4h30. The early risers were treated to some stunning scenery as well as an obliging Commerson’s Dolphin as we approached the anchorage. It was odd to see albatrosses and petrels surrounded by land in the gulf.
Despite the strong winds, parties were landed by helicopter and zodiac, and enjoyed a productive day ashore. The highlight for at least one of the birding party was seeing Eaton’s Pintail, having dipped it at Crozet (where they are scarce on Ile de la Possession thanks to the rats). The highly variable (in terms of plumage) Kerguelen Shags ranged well offshore, and were remarkably tame at a small roost next to Port-aux-Francais, walking up to investigate a photographer. Rabbits were abundant but less tame, and a single cat was seen slinking into a rabbit burrow near base. Birds seen on the way in/out:
|Slender-billed Prion||35||Kerguelen Shag||25|
|Antarctic Prion||22||White-chinned Petrel||11|
|Diving Petrel spp.||9||Black-browed Albatross||8|
|Northern Giant Petrel||6||Grey-backed Storm Petrel||5|
|Crested penguin spp.||4||Light-mantled Albatross||4|
|Wilson’s Storm Petrel||4||White-headed Petrel||3|
|Blue Petrel||3||King Penguin||2|
|Wandering Albatross||2||Black-bellied Storm Petrel||2|
|Gentoo Penguin||1||Kelp Gull||1|
|Kerguelen Tern||+||Antarctic Tern||+|
|Brown Skua||+||Eaton’s Pintail||+|
Anthropogenic litter from the base was common along the adjacent beaches, but none was observed at sea. Giant Kelps Macrocystis outnumbered Bull Kelps Durvillaea 5:1 close to the islands