By: Erin Pickett
I have overheard about three different people today call the weather “gross”, which is understanding given the winds around here are gusting over 40 knots and it’s been raining all day, but I’m kind of enjoying it.
Due to safety concerns, we don’t take our Zodiac boats out if the winds are higher than 20 knots, so Logan and I have been occupying ourselves with indoor tasks today. I thought I’d take the time to share a few photos with you. Yesterday while Logan and I were surveying for whales we came across a group of giant petrels sitting on the water along with a few hovering Wilson’s storm petrels. Upon closer inspection we found the petrels scavenging on a fresh penguin carcass. Leopard seal leftovers perhaps?
Southern giant petrels are very cool! They range throughout the entire southern ocean and breed on many sub Antarctic islands and along the Antarctic Peninsula. They are large birds, with a wingspan of 150-210 centimeters (over 6 feet!). The scientific name of the giant petrel is Macronectes giganteus, which comes from Latin and Greek root words meaning “large”, “swimmer”, and “gigantic”. Another fun fact- the name Petrel refers to the story of St. Peter walking on water. Petrels have webbed feet that allow them to run on the surface of the water when they take off (they also make unique tracks through the snow).
The seabird team here at Palmer is monitoring the local population of giant petrels that are currently raising their chicks on nearby Humble Island. While they are raising chicks, mating pairs take turns guarding their nest and making foraging trips to obtain food for themselves and their young. Giant petrels are scavengers and will feed on carrion (e.g. dead and decaying elephant seals) and they are also predators that will kill live birds by taking them off the surface of the water.
Check out the photos to see what I’m talking about!