Every austral summer, the US AMLR Program conducts predator studies at the Cape Shirreff field station on Livingston Island.  Each week, the field research team sends updates on their work.  The reports from the 2016-2017 season are provided below.


Sit Rep #21: Camp Closing 16 March 2017

The U.S. AMLR field camp at Cape Shirreff was closed on March 16, 2017. The closure brought an end to a season that began on October 27, 2016. The R/V LAURENCE M. GOULD approached the Cape and made radio communications at 08:00. Closing operations began with two zodiacs being launched at 08:30, and the offload began shortly thereafter. All of the NOAA/AMLR samples, gear, and trash as well as some INACH equipment were offloaded to the ship, the main camp was secured, and all NOAA personnel were safely taken to the ship.

In all, 10 crew and science team members (including 4 zodiac operators) came ashore to assist in moving gear. Approximately twelve zodiac loads of personnel, samples, gear, retrograde equipment, and trash were removed from the island. The last zodiac was aboard the ship at about 11:45.

All U.S.-AMLR personnel were transported from shore to ship. The camp closing crew, W Taylor, M Klostermann, S Woodman, N de Gracia, D Krause, and LTJG J Senzer worked tirelessly to clean, prepare, inventory and fix camp the final weeks. We are especially grateful for the four crew members (shown in bold font) that worked the entire time from opening in October to closing. No humans remained on Cape Shirreff after the closing of the U.S.-AMLR field station.

We would also like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the Captain and crew of the R/V LAURENCE M. GOULD and NSF/ASC support staff for a safe an efficient camp closing procedure.

The AMLR crew will now quality check data, organize metadata, summarize permit information, clean and dry field gear, and prepare customs and shipping documents. We are due back to Punta Arenas on March 21, 2017.

Seabirds:

  1. A significant portion of the week was spent cleaning, inventorying, and providing general maintenance to main camp, along with compiling and proofing the rest of the seabird data.
  2. In other penguin species news, the second live king penguin was observed on 15 March on Playa Bahamonde.

Pinnipeds:

  1. The majority of this week was spent inventorying, cleaning, organizing and packing up the fur seal lab, associated pinniped gear, and the main camp for the winter.  The remaining data summarization will be completed aboard the L.M. Gould en route to Punta Arenas, Chile.
  2. On 15 March we found a previously-lost TDR instrument which had been deployed on a fur seal female in order to track foraging behavior. The instrument was found on Playa Media Luna.

Weather:

  1. The weather station was taken down for the winter on March 14.  The previous day was relatively calm. Winds averaged 9.0 mph with a maximum of 19 mph. The average temperature was 1.8°C with a low of 0.7°C.  Mean daily solar radiation was 10,111 Wm2.
CS 2016-17 closing crew2016-17 Closing crew at Cape Sherriff.

Sit Rep #20: 13 March 2017

Seabirds:

  1. The skua shack was closed for the winter on March 8.  The shack was organized, received a thorough cleaning, all supplies were inventoried, and a needs-list was created for next season.  Various repairs were done, including adjusting the shed door so that it can close without the need for a vigorous hip check and opened without risking a dislocated shoulder
  2. A total of five remote cameras were set up in various colonies, with three cameras facing chinstrap penguin nesting areas and two cameras facing gentoo nesting areas.  They will take photos throughout the winter and into the early part of next field season to monitor late and early season breeding activities and colony attendance.
  3. Seabird data cleanup is finished.  All field notebooks have been scanned.  Copies of all notebooks will remain in camp for posterity
  4. The attention and talents of the seabird team have now shifted to the organizing, cleaning, and closing of main camp.

Pinnipeds:

  1. We concluded pinniped research activities on 10 March. Through that date we continued to monitor and resight eight CCAMLR fur seal attendance study mother-pup pairs for post 6th-trip foraging behavior and survival data collection. 
  2. Of the tagged female fur seals resighted in the 2015-16, 89 individuals (73%) were resighted this season.  Sixty-eight of those females pupped and 16 did not pup this year.
  3. Of the tagged female fur seals with pups, DNA samples were collected from 47 of the pups.  Ten of these pups survived through the season to be tagged.
  4. To date, 4 four-year old, 11 three-year old, and 3 two-year old fur seals have been resighted this field season for a total of 18 individuals. Eight of these individuals were resighted for the first time this field season.  All of these animals were observed to be in good body condition and health.
  5. Nine fur seal pups were captured to deploy SPOT5 PTTs to track post-weaning movements and survival.
  6. Four overwinter cameras were set up this week and began photographing fur seal study beaches. This footage will be used to census fur seals after we depart, and before our team arrives to open camp next spring.
  7. During the weekly phocid census, 50 southern elephant seals, 22 Weddell seals, and five leopard seals were observed.  

Weather:

  1. This week was relatively mild, with an average temperature of 1.6 ºC, a min of 0.0ºC, and a high 3.9 ºC. The mean wind speed was 6.3 mph with a max of 26.0 mph. There was 0.13 inches of precipitation, which brought our cumulative precipitation since 31 October to 5.85 inches. It was overall a very foggy week, as our mean daily solar radiation was 5285 watts per square meter. Our current sunrise and sunset times are 06:39 and 19:34. We are losing approximately six minutes of light per day. (Note: the sunrise and sunset times reported last week were each off by an hour; on 6 March the sunrise and sunset were 06:24 and 20:03.

Camp:

  1. Camp activity this week has been dominated by camp closing activities including conducting detailed inventories, camp repairs, winterizing equipment, and completing general organization. We are currently planning to close camp on 16 March.
  2. A fishing vessel was sighted on the horizon two nights in a row (8 and 9 March) this week, however it was too far away to obtain any identifying characteristics.


Sit Rep #19: 6 March 2017

Seabirds:

  1. The annual beach carcass count took place on March 2, a couple of days after our last chinstrap penguin chicks fledged.  A total of 741 penguin carcasses were counted (almost an order of magnitude higher than the counts from the last several years), which was mostly made up of juvenile chinstraps (~600).  Most of the remaining carcasses were adult chinstraps, but two macaroni penguin carcasses were also found.  Surprisingly, none of the juvenile penguins and only two of the adult penguins were banded, perhaps suggesting the birds came from elsewhere.
  2. Brown skua scat samples were processed on February 28.  Samples were collected throughout the season at four different stages of breeding: courtship, incubation, early chick rearing, and late chick rearing.  Most samples contained evidence of penguin and/or fur seal meals, although krill carapaces were found in a couple of samples and a pair of otoliths was found in one sample.
  3. End of season data entry continues, but is now nearly complete.  Most data has been entered and proofed.
  4. Most of the penguin team’s energy the last several days has been focused on skua shack clean up and organization.  Empty propane tanks have been lugged back to main camp and new, full tanks have replaced them and are secured for the winter.  Trash, the DCC receiver, and all samples have been carried back to main camp.  The DCC antenna, the weather station, and the gutters have all been removed from the outside of the shack and have been stored for the winter.  Old, peeling caulk has been scraped from around all of the shack’s leaky windows and replaced with fresh, new caulk.  Cleanup of the interior of the shack has begun, including field gear, with special attention being paid to the shack’s floor and its five month buildup of penguin funk.

Pinnipeds:

  1. We continue to monitor and resight eight CCAMLR fur seal attendance study mother-pup pairs for post 6th-trip foraging behavior and pup survival data collection.
  2. On 5 March, we completed the final week of systematic AFS resight surveys covering the entirety of the Cape over the course of each week.  Five weeks of these surveys were conducted.
  3. This past week, we conducted four counts of pups to calculate the ratio of tagged to non-tagged pups in the focal study areas.  Thirty-nine percent of the pups counted over the four surveys were tagged.
  4. Overwinter camera set-up trials began this past week to determine the optimal location for overwinter/early spring monitoring of fur seal beaches.
  5. The battery systems for both the El Condor and Aymara DCC VHF receiving stations were replaced this week with newer batteries. 
  6. During the weekly phocid census 130 southern elephant seals, 26 Weddell seals, four leopard seals, and two crabeater seals were observed.
  7. During this field season 40 tagged leopard seals have been resighted, including 16 which were tagged this year. Additionally, we added 19 untagged animals to our photo ID catalog. We are continuing to tag and collect DNA and vibrissae opportunistically.
  8. We concluded our leopard seal capture work for the year by recovering our fourth and final instrument. In all we conducted eight captures of adult leopard seals including two females and two males. These measurements, samples and observations will be used to better understand the foraging behavior of this apex predator, and how they may be affecting fur seals and penguins. Thank you to Stephanie Sexton who provided 24-7 support as we used ARGOS and VHF data to methodically track down our last (rather rogue) leopard seal.

Unmanned Aerial System (UAS):

  1. We conducted ten flights this week which concludes our UAS work for the year. From 8 January through this week we completed 64 operational flights in support of seabird census, pinniped condition photogrammetry, and UAS – wildlife response studies. We collected a lot of valuable data, and overcame a number of technical challenges in the field due to great support from Aerial Imaging Solutions, LLC, colleagues in the SWFSC Marine Mammal and Turtle Division, AOC, and others. Thank you all very much! 

Weather:

  1. Winter has returned to Cape Shirreff. For the first time since Thanksgiving, the average temperature for the week was below 0 at -0.2ºC, with a season-record low of -3.7 ºC and a high of 5.9 ºC. The mean wind speed was 10.2 mph, with a max of 42.0 mph. We got some snow, but only 0.04 inches of precipitation. The mean daily solar radiation increased to 9864 as we had a few sunny days mixed in with the storms. Currently sunrise is at 5:24 A.M. and sunset is 7:03 P.M.

Camp:

  1. Doug and Jesse undertook repairs to several of the camp doors, which are badly in need of help. We removed and replaced the Fur Seal Lab door and made general repairs to the Supply Hut, Main Hut and Shower Room doors.
  2. General camp closing activities began in earnest with a group planning meeting Sunday morning.
  3. Our collection system for freshwater is at full capacity.


Sit Rep #18: 27 February 2017

Seabirds:

  1. Nearly all chinstrap penguins have fledged, and fledge weights have ended.  A total of 270 chicks were weighed, including 29 chicks that had been banded during the chick round up and 1 chick of a known-age adult.  The average fledge weight was just slightly higher than the long term average weight of 3.15kg.
  2. The final round of instrument deployments for the 2016-17 field season is complete.  Satellite tracking devices were deployed on chinstrap and gentoo penguins in an effort to track overwinter movements at sea.  A total of 15 devices were put out on adult chinstraps, 10 were put out on adult gentoos, and 5 each were put out on juvenile gentoos and chinstraps. This marks the first time we have tracked winter movements of juvenile penguins from Cape Shirreff.
  3. All of the remaining brown skua chicks have now reached 48 days of age, which is the age when they are officially considered fledged.  A total of 15 chicks fledged out of our 21 active territories.  All chicks have been banded.
  4. Most of our time is now being used to organize and enter this field season’s data.

Pinnipeds:

  1. We continue to monitor and resight eight attendance study mother-pup pairs for post 6th-trip foraging behavior and pup survival.
  2. We conducted the fourth and final round of CCAMLR pup weights for the field season on 20 February.  The mean mass has increased by 1.4kg and 1.9kg for female and male pups, respectively, since the 3rd round of pup weights two weeks ago.
  3. All 100 pups weighed as part of the CCAMLR pup weights were also tagged with Dalton U-tags for future demographic studies and to estimate cohort survivorship.
  4. We continue to collect DNA and tag pups of tagged female fur seals.
  5. We completed the 10th week of scat collection with ten samples and processed three of those samples.  Two of the processed samples contained krill.  The other processed sample contained no krill, but did contain an otolith, fish eyes, and a squid beak.
  6. During the weekly phocid census, 117 southern elephant seals, 22 Weddell seals, and eight leopard seals were observed. 
  7. We conducted two captures of adult leopard seals this week. Both captures were conducted in order to take morphometrics and tissue samples while recovering previously deployed bio-loggers.

Unmanned Aerial System:

  1. This week really only provided a few hours of flyable weather. We took advantage and conducted 2 operational flights to collect photos and ground observations of leopard seal response to the UAS.

Weather:

  1. The weather this week was a tale of two Capes, with the beginning of the week being warm and rainy while the end of the week being cold and snowy. The average temperature was 2.2 with a high of 5.1 and a low of -0.9. The wind averaged a solid 11.0 mph, and the max gust was 42.0 mph. The cape got 1.13 inches of precipitation this week, which was more than a quarter of the total precipitation in the first 16.5 weeks of the season. Our total cumulative precipitation is now up to 5.68 inches. Thanks to the near-constant precipitation, the mean daily solar radiation plummeted to 6147 watts per square meter.

Camp:

  1. During our one brief morning without rain and/or high winds, we took down our insulated Weatherport tent, dubbed “The Thunderdome.” The Thunderdome provided additional bunk space needed for the 2016-17 field season.
  2. This year’s work focused on upgrading and improving the camp electrical system was completed this week. During that project, the existing Lithium-ion battery bank was expanded by 25%, the input and output leads for all systems were organized and labeled, a new 110v battery bank charger was installed, and the previous 12-volt system was removed. Additionally, the health of all 12v batteries on the Cape was evaluated and newer, high-functioning batteries will be used to replace older, failing ones. To date two batteries have been replaced at the bird blind. 
  3. Camp is overflowing with water. Not literally, of course, but we’ve had a plethora of precipitation in the last month, especially this week. During yesterday’s storm we collected over 200 gallons of water in less than 12 hours!


Sit Rep #17: 20 February 2017

Seabirds:

  1. Chinstrap penguin fledge weights began on February 17.  In three mornings of beach walks, 79 chicks have been weighed, including 10 chicks that had been banded during the chick round up.  The average fledge weight so far is 3.25kg, which is slightly higher than the long term average weight of 3.15kg.
  2. The final round of instrument deployments for the 2016-17 field season has begun.  A total of 35 PTTs will be deployed on both juvenile and adult chinstraps and gentoos in an effort to track overwinter movements at sea.  So far, five devices have been put out on juvenile chinstraps and five devices have been put out on adult chinstraps.
  3. This season’s second expedition to check on the status of the brown skua territories at Punta Oeste was on February 18.  Chicks at both nests were measured and banded, and a total of five adult skua bands were read.
  4. We are continuing to monitor 21 brown skua territories.  Including the now known statuses of the two nests at Punta Oeste, nine pairs are brooding one chick, four pairs are brooding two chicks, and eight nests have failed.  Eleven out of our seventeen chicks have officially fledged, having reached 48 days of age, and have been weighed, measured, and banded. 

Pinnipeds:

  1. We continue to monitor and resight nine attendance study fur seal mother-pup pairs for post 6th-trip foraging behavior and pup survival data.
  2. All nine attendance study pups have been tagged post-molt in order to continue to monitor their survival.
  3. Three TDR instruments were recovered from female fur seals this week. The recoveries of the Mk9 and two accelerometer instruments marks the end of dive data collection from fur seals for this field season.
  4. We completed the 9th week of scat collection with ten samples and processed three of those samples.  All three contained krill and one sample was observed to have otoliths and fish bones.  We have collected two samples thus far for the 10th, and final, week of scat collection.
  5. A non-AMLR tagged sub-adult male was resighted this week with yellow tags reading ‘5672’.  He was also resighted at Cape Shirreff last season. 
  6. During the weekly phocid census, 175 southern elephant seals, 26 Weddell seals, and 10 leopard seals were observed.  
  7. To date 40 tagged leopard seals have been resighted.  We are continuing to tag and collect DNA and vibrissae opportunistically.  Two individuals were tagged in the past week to increase the total number of tags deployed to 16 for this field season.
  8. We conducted three more captures of adult leopard seals this week. Of these one included taking morphometrics and tissues samples and deploying a GPS/TDR/PTT instrument. We also recovered our first GPS/TDR/PTT. These samples and data will be used to better understand the foraging behavior of this apex predator, and how they may be affecting fur seals and penguins.

Unmanned Aerial System:

  1. This week delivered two clear days for flying, during which we conducted seven operational flights to collect photos and ground observations of fur seal response to the UAS.

Weather:

  1. The mean temperature for the week was 2.9 ºC with a low of -0.4 ºC and a high of 6.2 ºC.  The total precipitation for the week was 0.26 inches increasing the total precipitation for the season to 4.55 inches.  The mean wind speed for the week was 10.7 mph with a maximum of 43.0 mph.  The mean daily solar radiation was 9,909 watts per meter squared.

Camp:

  1. This week Jesse assumed administrative camp leader duties.
  2. Testing and maintenance of the Cape electrical systems has begun.


Sit Rep #16: 13 February 2017

Seabirds:

  1. One hundred gentoo chicks were weighed on February 5 to calculate an average fledge weight.  The average weight was 4.6kg, which is higher than the long term average of 4.2kg and the second highest average fledge weight recorded on the cape.
  2. Chinstrap penguin repro nests have all crèched.  For the season, 28% of the nests failed and 72% had at least one chick crèche.
  3. All known age chinstrap nests have also crèched.  Of the 23 nests that were followed, 9 failed and 14 had at least one chick crèche.
  4. The annual chinstrap chick census was performed on February 6.  A total of 3,561 chicks were counted, giving us 1.16 chicks/nest, which is the highest chinstrap productivity on the cape in 10 years.
  5. Chinstrap chick banding took place on February 8.  Including chicks of known age breeders, 250 chicks were banded.
  6. All instruments deployed during the chinstrap crèche period (five PTTs and three TDRs) were recovered.  One PTT was recovered on the beach from a carcass that appeared to be a victim of leopard seal predation.
  7. We are continuing to monitor 21 brown skua territories.  Eight pairs are brooding 1 chick, three pairs are brooding 2 chicks, and eight nests have failed.  The current status of the two Punta Oeste territories is unknown.  They will be visited again within 1-2 weeks.

Pinnipeds:

  1. We continue to monitor and resight ten attendance study mother-pup pairs for post 6th-trip foraging behavior and pup survival data. 
  2. Of the ten mother-pup pairs, three of the females are fitted with TDR instruments.  After the departure of these females their pups were weighed for additional data on pup mass gain and how it correlates to foraging behavior.
  3. Two TDR instruments were recovered from female fur seals this week due to pup loss.  One (Mk 9) was recovered from a female that had lost her pup five weeks ago.  One (accelerometer Mk10) was recovered from a female that lost her pup this week.
  4. Seven attendance study pups were flipper tagged with plastic U-tags this week because their perinatal identifying bleach marks had faded.
  5. We completed the 8th week of scat collection with ten samples and processed three of those samples.  All three contained krill and two were observed to have otoliths and fish bones.  We have collected four samples thus far for the 9th week of scat collection.
  6. We have continued to conduct systematic fur seal resight surveys across the Cape.  We will continue these surveys until the end of the field season. 
  7. During the weekly phocid census, 247 southern elephant seals, 16 Weddell seals, and 13 leopard seals were observed.  
  8. To date 39 tagged leopard seals have been resighted.  We are continuing to tag and collect DNA and vibrissae opportunistically.  Two individuals were tagged in the past week to increase the total number of tags deployed to 14 for this field season.
  9. We conducted three captures of adult leopard seals this week (one female and two males). Morphometrics and tissue samples were collected, and GPS/TDR instruments were deployed. The samples and data will be used to better understand the foraging behavior of this apex predator, and how they may be affecting fur seals and penguins.

Unmanned Aerial System:

  1. The only clear day for flying this week was Monday, during which we conducted 5 operations flights to collect photos of chinstrap penguin chicks from 100’. For the season we were successful in obtaining coverage of all colonies from 300’, and from 5 additional colonies from 100’. We also conducted a behavioral study to compare penguin responses to the UAS versus ground-based census takers.

Weather:

  1. This week was our warmest and wettest week of the year, as well as the cloudiest. The high temperature was 6.2 with a low of -0.2 for a season-record mean temperature of 3.2. The weather station recorded 0.67 inches of precipitation this week, bringing our season total to 4.29 inches. The mean wind speed was 8.2 mph, and the max wind speed was only 28.0 mph. Due to the near-constant foggy conditions, the mean daily solar radiation was only 9683 watts per square meter.

Camp:

  1. The north and west facing walls of the Supply Hut were scraped, caulked, and given a fresh coat of paint.
  2. One advantage of the rainy weather is that all of our water barrels are full to the brim. 


Sit Rep #15: 6 February 2017

Seabirds:

  1. Gentoo penguin chick banding and fledge weights occurred on February 5th.  Including chicks of known age breeders, 100 chicks were banded.  One hundred chicks were weighed.  Fledge weight data has not yet been entered or summarized, so it will be reported next week.
  2. Chinstrap penguin nests have nearly all crèched.  Of the 100 chinstrap penguin nests we are monitoring, sixty-six have crèched, six are brooding one chick, and twenty-eight have failed.
  3. Twenty-three known age chinstrap penguin nests are being followed.  Of these, thirteen have crèched, one is brooding one chick, and nine have failed.
  4. Twenty-one brown skua territories are active.  Eight pairs are brooding one chick and three pairs are brooding two chicks.  Eight nests have failed.  The current status of the two Punta Oeste territories is unknown.  They will not be visited again until late in the field season.
  5. Five PTTs and three TDRs were deployed on January 30 during chinstrap penguin creche.
  6. Skua predation observations ended when chinstrap penguins reached peak creche on January 29.  A total of 48 observation hours were logged (24.5 in the eastern colonies and 23.5 in the western colonies).  On the east side, 42 attempts (on either eggs or chicks) were observed, two chicks were taken, and ten eggs were taken.  On the west side, 28 attempts were observed and two eggs were taken.
  7. The final diet sampling round of the season was on January 27.  For the season, 79% of krill found in chinstrap diets were female (average size was 50.2 mm) and 21% were male (average size was 48.3mm).  The proportion was the same in gentoo diets, with the average male krill length being 51.5 mm and the average female length being 51.7mm.
  8. A macaroni penguin is still being seen periodically. 

Pinnipeds:

  1. We continue to monitor and resight 12 mother-pup fur pairs for post 6th-trip foraging behavior and pup survival data collection.  
  2. Four TDR instruments were recovered from female fur seals this week due to failing attachments.  Three Mk9 instruments were recovered from two control females that did not pup this year and one female with a pup.  One Mk10 TDR instrument was recovered from a female with a pup.  Both of the females with pups continue to be tracked with VHF transmitters for attendance data.
  3. The third round of CCAMLR fur seal pup weights was conducted 5 February.  The mean mass for female pups was 11.7kg (n=50, range: 6.8-16.3kg, s.d. 1.50) and for males it was 13.2kg (n=50, range: 8.7-17.4kg, s.d. 2.06).  Mass at age and growth rate were similar to weights collected last year.
  4. We are in the 8th week of scat collection for fur seal diet analysis.  Of the scats collected this week, both samples were observed to have krill.  
    On February 1 we began our Systematic surveys of defined areas of the Cape for fur seals tagged as pups.  This will give us a measure of tags sighted per unit of effort and coverage for different areas of the Cape.
  5. Three tagged juvenile fur seals were resighted this week that had not been previously resighted.  The two, three, and four year old were all resighted for the first time since tagging.  All appeared to be in healthy body condition.  In total, 15 tagged fur seal juveniles (1-4 years old) have been resighted this year.
  6. A sub-adult male fur seal with non-AMLR tags was resighted this past week.  The seal was resighted near camp with blue Jumbo-Roto tags.  The tag reading was confirmed and documented with photos. 
  7. During the weekly phocid census, 295 southern elephant seals, 26 Weddell seals, and 13 leopard seals were observed.  

Unmanned Aerial System:

  1. The weather this week allowed for three days of flying. We were able to complete 17 mission flights all of which were focused on penguin colonies to obtain coverage in association with ground-based chick censuses. 

Weather:

  1. The weather for this week was relatively moderate, although we did have several days which started out sunny before getting stormy in the afternoon. The temperature was very similar to last week, with a mean of 2.4°C, a low of 0.2°C, and a high of 5.8°C. The mean wind dropped to 9.2 mph, with a high of 33.0 mph. Winds from the west and north dominated. There was 0.21 inches of precipitation this week, which brought the season total to 3.62 inches. The daily mean solar radiation increased a bit from last week to 13246 watts per square meter.

Camp:

  1. And then there were eight. The population of Cape Shirreff decreased from 14 to 8 when six members of the Chilean research party were picked up via helicopter on 31 January. Two helicopters from the Chilean Navy vessel Aquiles made a total of four landings at the Cape to pick up personnel and gear.
  2. And then there were six. We had one more visit from a Chilean military helicopter on 2 February which picked up AERD Deputy Director Jeremy Rusin and one of our Chilean research colleagues. Jeremy’s readiness to help with all manner of support tasks, and his good humor will be missed. AERD wishes to thank our Chilean colleagues for providing transport for one of our own; this type of international partnership helps to make our research possible.
  3. On 3 February two large trawlers were seen fishing just north and east of Cape Shirreff. They were too far away to read any hull markings, but photos were obtained. They have not been seen since. 


Sit Rep #14: 30 January 2017

Seabirds:

  1. All gentoo penguin nests have now creched.  For the season, 30% of the repro nests we monitored failed and 26% of the known age nests failed
  2. The annual gentoo chick census was performed on January 24.  A total of 902 chicks were counted, giving us 1.17 chicks/nest, which is the highest gentoo productivity on the cape in ten years
  3. Chinstrap penguins reached peak crèche on January 29.  Other than crèched nests, 16% of the repro nests we are monitoring are brooding one chick, 16% are brooding two chicks, and 29% have failed.
  4. Twenty-three known age chinstrap penguin nests are being followed.  Of these, five are brooding one chick, four are brooding two chicks, and nine have failed.  Five nests have creched. All 22 chicks of known age birds have been banded.
  5. Twenty-one brown skua territories are active.  All eggs have now hatched.  Seven pairs are brooding one chick and five pairs are brooding two chicks.  Seven nests have failed.  The current status of the two Punta Oeste territories is unknown.  They will not be visited again until late in the field season.
  6. All PTTs and two TDRs that were deployed during the chinstrap penguin chick brooding period have been recovered.  Additionally, all PTTs deployed during gentoo penguin creche have been recovered.  Instruments will soon be deployed once again on chinstrap penguins now that they’ve reached peak creche.
  7. A macaroni penguin was seen sporadically this week in various locations in the eastern colonies.

Pinnipeds:

  1. Of the 30 attendance study fur seal females, 24 completed six trips with their pups still alive.  Five females lost their pups prior to completing six trips.  One female has not been resighted since she left for her third trip.
  2. Twenty-one of the 30 fur seal study pups survived through their respective mothers completing six foraging trips.  These 21 pups were weighed when their mothers left for their 7th trip to sea.  For female pups, average mass is 10.4 kg (n=13, range: 8.4-12.4 kg, s.d. 1.15).  Average weight gain for female pups from perinatal to 6th trip was 3.6 kg (n=13, range: 2.0-5.3 kg, s.d. 1.12).  For male pups, average mass is 11.0 kg (n=8, range: 9.9-12.6 kg, s.d. 0.98).  Average weight gain for male pups from perinatal to 6th trip was 4.0 kg (n=8, range: 2.8-5.6 kg, s.d. 0.91). 
  3. Currently, 12 mother-pup attendance study pairs remain.  
  4. Two attendance study females were captured to recover TDR instruments this week due to pup loss and compromised attachments.  An additional two were also captured to add epoxy to their accelerometer TDRs.  One control study female was captured to recover a TDR instrument.  
  5. We are in the 7th week of scat collection for fur seal diet analysis.  Of the scats collected during 21 to 27 January, all ten samples were observed to have krill.  Fish was detected in two of the ten samples collected and processed.
  6. Six seemingly healthy fur seal pups have been found dead at one of the major study areas.  A sub-adult male has been observed in this area mounting pups possibly causing asphyxiation.  Necropsies have been performed on three of the dead pups with inconclusive findings but with signs of asphyxiation.  We have increased behavioral observations in this area and set up time lapse cameras to document potential causes of the observed mortality.
  7. During the weekly phocid census, 348 southern elephant seals, 39 Weddell seals, and 16 leopard seals were observed.  This is the highest count of the field season for total number of phocids observed in a single census
  8. To date 34 tagged leopard seals have been resighted, including 4 seen this past week for the first time this season.  We are continuing to tag and collect DNA and vibrissae opportunistically.  Two individuals were tagged in the past week to increase the total number of tags deployed to 12 for this field season.

Unmanned Aerial System:

  1. As per usual, the weather this week has been in control of the flight team. Monday was our only flyable day, during which we were able to conduct 7 mission flights without incident. Since then we have been waiting the first weather window to begin missions of penguin breeding areas.  (See photo below) 

Weather:

  1. Our sunny weather from earlier this season continued to be on vacation this past week, as we had lots of fog and some wind and rain. It was a warm week, with a mean of 2.9°C, a high of 5.9°C, and a low of 1.0°C. For the last three days the temperature did not dip below 3.0°C. The max wind speed was only 34.0 mph, but it was continuously windy all week with an average wind speed of 10.8 mph. We received 0.42 inches of precipitation, bringing our season total now to 3.41 inches. Due to the fog, the mean daily solar radiation was a paltry 10,219 watts per square meter. Currently we are losing approximately 7 minutes of sunlight per day, and sunrise is now at 4:37 while sunset is at 21:54.

Camp:

  1. All camp personnel participated in the 2016-17 field medical drill.  The drill was coordinated with George Washington University’s emergency medicine department, and it presented a training opportunity for review of camp medical resources and procedures.
  2. After many days of digging, hauling, pulling, towing, and smashing, Jeremy completed the old solar panel mount removal project, and packaged the cement and metal contents for disposal off the island.
UAS operations at Cape ShirreffUAS operations at Cape Shirreff Removing the old solar panel mountRemoving the old solar panel mount

Sit Rep #13: 23 January 2017

Seabirds:

  1. Almost all gentoo penguin nests have now creched (peak crèche was on January 17), with only two pairs out of the 50 nests we are monitoring still brooding chicks.  Overall, 30% of the nests have failed, but no nests have failed in the past two weeks.
  2. Thirty-one known age gentoo nests continue to be monitored.  Of these, twenty-three have creched and eight have failed.  Thirty-two chicks of known age birds have been banded.
  3. Chinstrap penguin crèche has just begun (first crèche was observed on Jan. 20), with 7% of the nests we are monitoring now creched.  Of the remaining nests, 26% are brooding one chick, 39% are brooding two chicks, and 28% have failed.  We are nearly finished recording 21 day chick weights.
  4. Twenty-three known age chinstrap penguin nests are being followed.  Of these, seven are brooding one chick, six are brooding two chicks, and nine have failed.  One nest has creched.
  5. Twenty-one brown skua territories are active.  Most eggs have hatched, although one pair is still incubating a two-egg clutch and seven pairs have failed.  Seven pairs are brooding one chick and four pairs are brooding two chicks.  The current status of the two Punta Oeste territories is unknown.  They will not be visited again until late in the field season.
  6. All PTTs and TDRs that were deployed during gentoo chick brooding have been recovered and were re-deployed on chinstrap penguins to monitor foraging movements at sea and diving behavior.  Additionally, three PTTs were deployed on gentoos to monitor movements during crèche.
  7. We spotted two penguin visitors to the island this week.  An Adelie was seen on Playa Modulo on January 19 and a macaroni penguin was seen on Playa Roquerio on January 21.

Pinnipeds:

  1. We continue to monitor the 30 Antarctic fur seal attendance study mother-pup pairs for trip duration and pup survival.  Thirteen females have completed seven trips, nine have completed eight trips and two have completed nine trips. One has completed an impressive 11 trips.
  2. Eighteen of our original 30 fur seal attendance study pups continue to be resighted on a daily basis.
  3. Eighteen study pups have been weighed after their mother completed her sixth trip to sea.  For female pups, average mass is 10.1kg (n=11, s.d. 0.92, range: 8.4-11.3 kg).  For male pups, average mass is 10.8 kg (n=7, s.d. 0.88, range: 9.9-12.6 kg).
  4. One of the attendance females fitted with a TDR accelerometer instrument was captured on 18 January to re-epoxy the instrument.  We continue to monitor the epoxy attachments of all TDR instruments. 
  5. The second round of CCAMLR pup weights was conducted on 20 January.  The mean mass increased 1.2 kg and 1.5 kg since the first round of pup weights for female and male pups, respectively. 
  6. We are in the 6th week of scat collection for diet analysis.  The majority of scats continue to be comprised of Antarctic krill, however, otoliths were detected in two of the ten scat samples collected 14 to 20 January.  One sample contained remnants of squid.  Otoliths and squid beaks were identified to species and saved.
  7. During the weekly phocid census, 338 southern elephant seals, 32 Weddell seals, and 11 leopard seals were observed.
  8. To date, 28 tagged Weddell seals have been resighted.  Ten of those individuals were tagged during this field season.
  9. Leopard seals continue to haul-out at Cape Shirreff, though, in numbers below the 5 year average. To date 29 tagged leopard seals have been resighted, 12 of which were tagged this year, and an additional 10 untagged seals were added to our photo ID catalog.
  10. During the 2011-2014 field seasons a suite of visual, scat and stable isotope information was collected to construct individual-specific diet models for leopard seals. In an effort to extend those models, and address questions of temporal diet variability, we have begun collecting vibrissae from previous study animals (N=17). To date, four have been collected. 

Unmanned Aerial System:

  1. The weather this week was kinder to the flight team, and we were able to conduct 13 mission flights without incident. These flights were in support of our leopard and fur seal photogrammetry (N=7), and UAS-wildlife response studies (N=6).   

Weather:

  1. This was a weather week of extremes of very sunny days sandwiched by two storms. The mean temperature was 2.0°C, with a low of -0.7°C and a high of 6.9°C. We had 0.35 inches of precipitation, bringing our season total to 2.99 inches. We set a new season high in wind speed with gusts to 50mph.  The average was 9.9mph. We discovered midweek that the anemometer needed to be recalibrated, and thus, previous wind directions for at least the past several weeks may have been inaccurate. The mean daily solar radiation was 16,472 W/m2. 

Camp:

  1. On Thursday afternoon several new Cape Shirreff colleagues were dropped off. The new arrivals included four Chilean researchers, and one INACH logistics technician. The research group is focused on sampling penguins as part of an epidemiological study.
  2. While the old oven was repaired and functional after installation of replacement parts, problems with incomplete combustion persisted. As such, a new oven was installed this week (see photo right), which works great and has not had any issues.  We also took the opportunity to upgrade and replace the original propane pipes. The old oven will remain at camp as a back-up.
  3. One 3 kW generator was repaired this week, and currently all four are in working condition.


New camp stove installed at Cape Shirreff!New camp stove installed at Cape Shirreff!.


Sit Rep #12: 16 January 2017

Seabirds:

  1. We are continuing to monitor a sample of 50 gentoo penguin nests.  Of these, 20% are brooding one chick, 30% are brooding two chicks, and 30% have failed.  Our first chicks crèched on January 9, and 20% of our nests have now crèched.  We are nearly finished recording 21 day chick weights.
  2. Thirty-one known age gentoo nests continue to be monitored.  Of these, nine are brooding one chick, seven are brooding two chicks, and seven have failed.  Eight nests have now crèched.
  3. Of the 100 chinstrap nests we are monitoring, 27% are brooding one chick, 45% are brooding two chicks, and 28% have failed.  No chinstrap chicks have crèched.  We have recorded almost half of the 21 day chick weights.
  4. Twenty-three known age chinstrap penguin nests are being followed.  Of these, six are brooding one chick, nine are brooding two chicks, and eight have failed.  No known age chinstrap chicks have crèched.
  5. Twenty-one brown skua territories are active.  Most eggs have hatched, although two pairs are still incubating two-egg clutches and five pairs have failed.  Six pairs are brooding one chick and six pairs are brooding two chicks.  The current status of the two Punta Oeste territories is unknown.  They will not be visited again until late in the field season.
  6. Four out of five gentoo PTTs, used to track foraging movements at sea, have been recovered.  They will soon be re-deployed on chinstraps for the same purpose.  Four TDRs, used to track diving behavior of foraging birds, remain deployed on gentoos and will begin to be recovered on January 16.
  7. We are continuing to monitor and quantify brown skua predation on penguin eggs and chicks, which is a new study that was added this season.  In the western colonies, during approximately 24 hours of observation, one egg and one chick have been taken.  Skua predation has been more common in the eastern colonies, however.  In approximately 20 hours of observation, 10 eggs and two chicks have been taken.
  8. There have now been three diet sampling rounds performed for each penguin species.  The average krill length found in gentoo diets has been 52mm, and 78% of krill have been female.  The average krill length found in chinstrap diets has been 50mm, and 84% of krill have been female.
  9. A king penguin was spotted on January 13 on Playa Modulo.

Pinnipeds:

  1. We continue to monitor the 30 Antarctic fur seal attendance study mother-pup pairs for trip duration and survival.  Trip durations thus far have ranged from 0.69 to 6.35 days.  Mean trip duration by trip has ranged from 3.19 to 4.07 days.  Only 14 of our 30 females have completed six trips to sea.
  2. To date, twenty attendance study pups have been resighted daily, while ten have been confirmed as dead.
  3. Eleven of the 30 study pups have been weighed for their 6th trip weight.  For female pups, average mass is 9.7kg (n=6, s.d. 1.00). For male pups, average mass is 10.8kg (n=5, s.d. 1.00).
  4. Three TDR instruments were recovered this week due to problems with attachment and/or pup loss.  Two Mk10 TDRs with Fastloc GPS were recovered.  One Mk9 TDR from attendance was also retrieved after it had fallen off.
  5. Fifteen tagged Antarctic fur seal juveniles have been resighted thus far.  Of those 15, two (a 2-yr-old and a 4-yr-old) had not been resighted in previous years.
  6. We completed the fifth week of scat collection for diet analysis bringing the total collected to fifty.  Of the forty processed scats, only krill has been detected.
  7. During this week’s phocid census, 262 Southern elephant seals, 25 Weddell seals, and 11 leopard seals were observed.  Seals from all three species were observed in molt.

Unmanned Aerial System:

  1. This week was one of non-flying weather and technical challenges. With some superior remote support from Aerial Imaging Solutions Inc, we managed to overcome some software issues, and conduct two test flights with one of our APH-22 hexacopters. Unfortunately, we have had five days of poor flying conditions and have not been able to conduct any operational flights. 

Weather:

  1. The weather this week was variable, with calm and sunny days earlier in the week and windier and cloudier days later in the week. The average temperature for the week was 1.5°C, with a high of 5.9°C and a low of -1.0°C. The mean wind speed was 9.5 mph, with a high of 44.0 mph. This average was raised greatly as winds averaged 20-30 mph on Sunday. We had 0.43 inches of precipitation, bringing the season total to 2.64 inches. Our cloudier weather this week and shorter days were reflected in the mean daily solar radiation which dropped to 12,846 watts per square meter. 

Camp:

  1. In anticipation of the arrival of AERD Deputy Director Jeremy Rusin, camp personnel spent our two fair-weather days constructing an insulated Alaska Structures tent for additional living quarters.
  2. And then there were seven. With assistance from the Spanish Antarctic program, Jeremy arrived at our camp on Friday, January 13. We would like to express our deepest gratitude to our Spanish colleagues for their support for the US AMLR Program.
  3. Several Chilean researchers destined for Cape Shirreff are still aboard the Chilean Navy vessel Oscar Viel with plans to arrive at the Cape in the coming week.
  4. This week, along with our typical camp maintenance, we began a detailed infrastructure site assessment in anticipation of needed renovations and construction.



Sit Rep #11: 9 January 2017

Seabirds:

  1. We are continuing to monitor a sample of 50 gentoo penguin nests.  Of these, 24% are brooding one chick, 46% are brooding two chicks, and 30% have failed.  We’ve begun measuring 21 day old chicks in our earliest nests.  No chicks have crèched.
  2. Thirty-one known age gentoo nests continue to be monitored.  Of these, eight are brooding one chick, sixteen are brooding two chicks, and seven have failed.  No known age gentoo chicks have crèched.
  3. Chinstrap penguins have finished hatching.  Of the 100 nests we are monitoring, 23% are brooding one chick, 52% are brooding two chicks, and 25% have failed.  No chinstrap chicks have crèched.
  4. Twenty-three known age chinstrap penguin nests are being followed.  Of these, eight are brooding one chick, nine are brooding two chicks, and six have failed.
  5. Twenty-one brown skua territories are active.  Eleven nests have now hatched.  Two pairs are incubating two egg clutches, three pairs are incubating one egg clutches, and three pairs have failed.  The current status of the two Punta Oeste territories is unknown.  They will not be visited again until late in the field season.
  6. The last of our penguin VHF transmitters were deployed on January 4.  Nineteen were deployed on gentoos and twenty were deployed on chinstraps.  All radios and the receiver are functioning normally.
  7. We started tracking the at-sea foraging movements of gentoo penguins this week. Five satellite tags were deployed on January 8.  A deployment of four temperature-depth recorders will follow shortly.
  8. Penguin diet collections continue. To date, gentoo diets have included a mix of fish, squid, and krill while chinstrap samples have contained only krill.

Pinnipeds:

  1. To date, five females have completed six trips with a mean trip duration of 2.66 days (n=5, range: 2.25-3.10, s.d. 1.45).  All 30 attendance study females have completed at least two trips.
  2. The pups of the five females that have completed six trips were weighed 24 hours after their mother left for her 7th trip.  The mean mass for the pups (2 females, 3 males) was 10.2kg (n=5, range: 8.4-12.6, s.d. 0.75.
  3. Twenty-seven of 30 study pups have been resighted daily this past week.  In the anticipation of loss due to predation, 16 pups were weighed this past week 24 hours after their mothers left for sea.  The females had completed 2-5 trips.  For these 16 pups (10 females and 6 males), the average mass was 9.6 kg (n=16, range: 7.8-11.8, s.d. 1.12).
  4. Two attendance study females were recaptured this past week in order to add more epoxy to their TDR instruments.
  5. The median date of pupping this year was 6 December.  Accordingly, the first round of CCAMLR pup weights was completed this week.  A total of 100 pups were weighed.  
  6. Of the 122 tagged adult female fur seals seen during the 2015/16 field season, 88 have been resighted so far this season (72%).  Of those 88, 72 have pupped.  Forty-one of those pups have been sexed and sampled for DNA.
  7. During this week’s phocid census, 190 southern elephant seals, 24 Weddell seals, and six leopard seals were observed.
  8. Fur seal diet protocol requires collecting 10 scats each week for analysis of fish bones, squid beaks, and krill carapaces. This week we collected our fourth sample. To date 37 scats have been processed. All samples have been composed mostly of krill.
  9. Leopard seals have been hauling out on our study beaches throughout the season, but the number of large adults has been increasing since late December. As of 8 January we have recorded 40 sightings of 13 previously flipper-tagged seals, we have deployed 9 new flipper tags, and we have added photo ID records for another 5 untagged animals to our catalog.

Unmanned Aerial System:

  1. During the second half of our field season we are hoping to deploy our unmanned aerial system (UAS), comprised of two APH-22 hexacopters, to collect aerial data for a number of different projects including: mapping/censusing penguin colonies, photogrammetry of Antarctic fur and leopard seals, and measuring UAS – wildlife response. To date we have prepared a UAS hanger in our ATV shed, set up and calibrated one of our hexacopters. At our first weather opportunity we’ll conduct some test flights, and begin collecting data.

Weather:

  1. This week brought a heat wave to Cape Shirreff, as we set a 2016-17 season record with an average temperature of 1.7o C. The high was a respectable 5.5o C, while the low was -0.5o C. The average wind speed was 9.7 mph and the max wind speed was 35.0 mph, with the majority (51.8%) of the wind coming from the north. There was a small amount of precipitation this week, as we got 0.12 inches of combined rain, sleet, and snow, bringing our season total to 2.21 inches. The mean daily solar radiation was 19,090 watts per sq meter.

Camp:

  1. And then there were 6. On Monday January 2, Douglas Krause and LTJG Jessica (Jesse) Senzer arrived to Cape Shirreff aboard the R/V L.M. GOULD.  Weather conditions were ideal and the offload went smoothly.  Selected passengers from the Gould came ashore to assist with the offload.  All freshies and supplies were transported in approximately six zodiac trips, and have all been moved from the beach to camp. We would like to pass on our sincere thanks to the Captain, crew, and scientists aboard the GOULD for their assistance and good humor.
  2. Along with our new campmates, the ship brought flu-like germs to camp.  After a rough week during which three of the field team were down with various maladies, the camp is on the road to recovery.
  3. Jesse and Doug repaired the long-broken oven with spare parts brought in with the re-supply.  A new oven was brought in as well, which will be used to replace the current oven in the future.
  4. Our rain collection system has stored approximately 850 gallons of fresh water.   
     

Sit Rep #10: 2 January 2017

Seabirds:

  1. Gentoo penguins have finished hatching.  Of the 50 nests we are monitoring, 72% are finished hatching and the remaining 28% have failed.
  2. Thirty-one known age gentoo nests continue to be monitored.  Of these, 24 nests are finished hatching.  One nest has a one-egg clutch and six nests have failed.
  3. Chinstrap penguin peak hatch was on December 26.  Of the 100 nests we are monitoring, 78% are finished hatching and another 7% are in the process of hatching.  One nest still has a two-egg clutch, one nest has a one-egg clutch, and fourteen nests (14%) have failed.
  4. Twenty-two known age chinstrap nests continue to be monitored.  Twelve nests are finished hatching and two nests are in the process of hatching.  One nest still has a two-egg clutch, one nest has a one-egg clutch, and six nests have failed.
  5. Twenty-one brown skua pairs are active, and the first chick hatched on December 28.  Five nests are finished hatching and another three are in the process of hatching.  Nine pairs are incubating two-egg clutches, two pairs are incubating one-egg clutches, and two nests have failed.
  6. The first radio transmitters went out on gentoo penguins on December 27.  All nineteen were attached as of December 29 and their nests are being monitored daily.  The first chinstrap penguin transmitters will be put out soon.

Pinnipeds:

  1. On 31 December, the last fur seal census of the field season was completed.  A total of 110 adult males, 227 adult females, three juvenile females, 464 live pups, and two dead pups were observed on the fur seal study areas.  The number of pups appears to be hitting a plateau with only three females giving birth and an additional females pregnant this past week.  Highly mobile pups have made census surveys increasing more challenging as pups are leaving study areas and moving around the island.
  2. We completed the annual cape-wide fur seal pup census surveying the entire cape from 26-28 December for fur seal pups.  The mean number of pups observed was 1546 pups (range: 1522-1562; s.d.=17.1).  This is a decrease from the census of the previous season by 135 pups.
  3. To date, two attendance study females have completed six trips.  The mean trip duration for those two females is 2.47 days (n=2, range: 2.26-2.47, s.d.=0.72).  Twenty-nine females have completed two trips with a mean trip duration of 3.73 days (n=29, range: 1.71-5.9, s.d.=1.19).
  4. As of the New Year, all study pups have been resighted daily.  One study pup has been weighed for post-perinatal 6th trip weight.  The male pup weighed 10.2kg. 
  5. We are continuing to collect DNA of the fur seal pups of tagged females.
  6. We are in the process of completing the third week of scat collection for diet analysis.  Of the diet samples processed thus far, all have contained krill.  No otoliths or squid beaks were found.
  7. During the weekly phocid census, 270 southern elephant seals, 49 Weddell seals, and seven leopard seals were observed. 
  8. An adult male fur seal was resighted on Punta Poblete with a non-AMLR tag.  The tagged animal was photographed.  
  9. A green All-flex tag was found on San Telmo Pt. with contact information for “Projeto Elefante-Marinho”, a Brazilian project according to the tag.  This tag also has an email address contact.  Unfortunately, we won’t be able to report the fate of this animal.

Weather:

  1. It was just another beautiful week of weather at Cape Shirreff. The average temperature was 1.2ºC, with a high of 6.0ºC and a low of -0.6ºC. It was a bit windier early in the week, with a wind chill low of -7.4ºC. The average wind speed was 9.6mph, the high was 39.0mph, and 68% of the wind was from the north. There was very little precipitation this week, 0.03 inches, but plenty of sunshine, with a mean daily solar radiation of 20,916 watts per square meter.

Camp:

  1. We rang in the New Year with a feast and numerous multi-cultural traditions. 
  2. As food stores clear out, we are unpacking more supplies and look forward to our resupply next week.


Sit Rep #9: 26 December 2016

Seabirds:

  1. Gentoo penguins have nearly finished hatching.  Peak hatch was on December 20.  Of the 50 nests we are monitoring, 62% are finished hatching and another 8% are in the process of hatching.  Five nests still have two-egg clutches, and one nest has a one-egg clutch.  Nine nests (18%) have failed.
  2. Twenty-nine known age gentoo nests continue to be monitored.  Of these, 22 nests are finished hatching and another two are in the process of hatching.  Two nests have two-egg clutches, zero nests have one-egg clutches, and three nests have failed.
  3. The first chinstrap penguin chick hatched on December 19 and they are now nearing peak hatch.  Of the 100 nests we are monitoring, 23% are finished hatching and another 15% are in the process of hatching.  Thirty-six nests still have two-egg clutches, fourteen nests have one-egg clutches, and twelve nests (18%) have failed.
  4. Twenty-one known age chinstrap nests continue to be monitored.  Three nests are finished hatching and three nests are in the process of hatching.  Nine nests still have two-egg clutches, two nests still have one-egg clutches, and four nests have failed.
  5. Twenty brown skua pairs are active.  Fifteen pairs are incubating two-egg clutches, three pairs are incubating one-egg clutches, and two nests have failed.
  6. This season’s first multidisciplinary expedition out to Punta Oeste occurred on December 23.  Both of the known brown skua territories in the area were found to be active, and a total of eight bands were read.  A fairly fresh king penguin carcass was found on the shore.
  7. Daily beach sweeps (walks along the beaches that border the penguin colonies in an effort to resight non-breeding known age birds) began on December 22.

Pinnipeds:

  1. The most recent fur seal census was conducted on 25 December.  The demographics of our study areas are shifting with pups now being the most numerous age class (live pups now number 490).  A total of 246 adult females, 135 territorial adult males, and 2 juveniles were also recorded.
  2. Twenty-nine of 30 attendance study fur seal females have completed their first trip to sea.  Average trip length was 3.09 days (n=29, range: 0.69-6.35d, s.d.=1.37).  Nineteen females have completed two trips.  Average second trip length is 3.31 days (n=19, range: 0.83-5.77d, s.d.=1.31). Seven have completed three trips with an average trip length of 2.88 days (n=7, range: 0.81-4.42d, s.d.=1.20) and two have completed four trips with an average trip length of 2.24 days (n=2, range: 1.71-2.77d, s.d.=0.75). 
  3. Post-perinatal pup weights have been completed.  All 30 study pups have been weighed.  Average mass for male pups was 7.4kg (n=12, range: 6.4-8.6kg, s.d.=0.75).  Average mass for female pups was 6.7kg (n=18, range: 5.9-8.1kg, s.d.=0.61).
  4. A second confirmed set of fur seal twins was born on 20 December to a tagged 20-year old.  This latest set, and the other set born on 10 December, have been resighted daily and appear to be healthy.
  5. We have continued scat collection for diet study analysis for the second week.  With the fur seal scat lab fully functioning, scats are being processed as they are collected.
  6. During this week’s phocid census, 308 southern elephant seals, 53 Weddell seals, and five leopard seals were observed.

Weather:

  1. The weather stayed warm this week, as the temperature barely dipped below freezing. The mean temperature was 1.6ºC with a high of 6.0ºC and a low of -0.1ºC. The snow continues to melt rapidly, and was helped along on 21 December by the longest day of the year here at Cape Shirreff. On the 21st, the sun rose at 2:56 and set at 22:57, for a total day length of 20.02 hours. Mean daily solar radiation of 16688 watts per square meter. The average wind speed was 9.4 mph (4.2 m/s) and the max wind speed of 29 mph. There was 0.15 inches of precipitation this week, including a bit of snow on Christmas day, bringing the total precipitation since October 31 to 2.06 inches.          

Camp:

  1. We have an estimated 610 gallons of freshwater collected and stored.
  2. This was a week of celebrations with a celebration for Solstice and for Christmas.  We celebrated Christmas with a feast of smoked turkey and salmon and the traditional sides.  The weather was conducive to coffee, breakfast, and opening presents on the front deck.



Sit Rep #8: 19 December 2016

Seabirds:

  1. Gentoo penguins are nearing peak hatch.  Of the 50 nests we are monitoring, 22% are finished hatching and another 10% are in the process of hatching.  Twenty-five nests still have two-egg clutches, and two nests have one-egg clutches.  Seven nests (14%) have failed.
  2. Twenty-nine known age gentoo nests continue to be monitored.  Of these, four nests are finished hatching and another two are in the process of hatching.  Twelve nests have two-egg clutches, eight nests have one-egg clutches, and three nests have failed.
  3. Chinstrap penguins have not yet begun to hatch.  Of the 100 nests we are monitoring, 79% have two-egg clutches, 15% have one-egg clutches, and 6% have failed.
  4. Twenty known age chinstrap nests continue to be monitored.  Fourteen nests have two-egg clutches, two nests have one-egg clutches, and four have failed.
  5. Brown skuas have finished laying.  Fifteen pairs are active.  Thirteen pairs are incubating two-egg clutches and two pairs are incubating one-egg clutches.  No nests have failed.
  6. The DCC antenna has been mounted to the roof of the skua shack and testing of radio transmitters has begun.  The gutters have also been put up, and the shack is now ready for rain water collection.
  7. A south polar skua was seen on Playa Nibaldo on December 12, and sporadic sightings of single Adelie penguins have continued. 

Pinnipeds:

  1. On 12 December, we completed perinatal fur seal captures for monitoring attendance and foraging behavior.  A total of 34 female fur seals were captured for measuring, sampling, and instrumenting.  All 34 females were fitted with VHF radio transmitters to monitor trip and visit duration.  Twenty animals were also given TDR instruments to collect data additional trip and dive data.
  2. Of the 30 CCAMLR attendance females, 21 females have completed their first trip to sea.  Mean trip length thus far is 3.00 days (range: 0.88-5.06).  Three females have completed two trips.
  3. We have continued to monitor the growth of the CCAMLR attendance pups.  Of the 30 fur seal pups, a post-absorptive, post-perinatal mass has been collected on 29 of the pups.  The mean mass of male pups was 7.0 kg (Range: 5.9-8.6; s.d. 0.76).  Female pup mass was also 7.0 kg (range: 6.1-8.5; s.d. 0.72).
  4. During this week’s phocid census, 190 Southern elephant seals were counted, four leopard seals, and 29 Weddell seals.  Two tagged elephant seals were resighted; one juvenile male and one yearling in addition to the pups tagged this year.  No crabeaters were observed.
  5. The most recent fur seal census was conducted on 17 December. During this census, 169 territorial males, 317 females, and 467 live pups were counted.
  6. Our fur seal diet study began on 17 December.  It will continue for the next ten weeks.  The pinniped lab has been transitioned into work space for processing scats collected.
  7. Fur seal tag resight surveys were conducted outside our study area.  During these surveys, a pup was observed with mottled blonde fur, mottled pink flippers, and pink eyelids.
  8. After completing fur seal perinatal captures we captured, tagged, sampled and weighed two more Weddell seals.

Weather:

  1. The weather this week was a delightful mix of wind, precipitation, and sunshine, occasionally all within the same day. The mean temperature for the week was 1.4oC, while the high and low were 7.1oC and -0.6oC, respectively. We got 0.37 inches of precipitation this week, mostly in the form of rain, which hurried along the cape-wide snow melting process. Wind speeds reached 41 mph, with a mean of 8.3 mph (3.7 m/s). Westerlies prevailed. The mean daily solar radiation was 13,704 watts per square meter.          

Camp:

  1. This week we bid farewell to Mike, who was picked up by the R/V LAURENCE M. GOULD on the afternoon of 15 Dec. We will miss his one-liners and life wisdom.  We would like to extend our appreciation and gratitude for his work in opening the camp, conducting research missions, and accomplishing research goals.
  2. Empty propane tanks, oxygen tanks and trash were hauled to the beach and transported to the Gould in three zodiac loads.
  3. We installed the rain gutters and the water collection system around camp after a couple days of rain. It then proceeded to snow for the next two days.   Our gravity fed water supply to the kitchen sink is now operational
  4. We currently have 10 full 50-gallon barrels of water and three partially full barrels.
  5. The last few remaining areas of the deck that still had some ice and snow were cleared, so now all decks are snow-free.
  6. We set up the Christmas tree, decorated with various iterations of bones, origami, and ornaments crafted in previous years. Santa has arrived and the tree is loaded with presents. We are looking forward to solstice and Christmas celebrations in the coming days. We prepared a batch of eggnog in anticipation and sometimes indulge in holiday music.
  7. We have begun the process of putting away our skis and snow shoes as the snow is melting fast. Our daily commutes to study sites can now be done in just hiking boots. Everyone is very much relieved to scamper along bare ground once again.



Sit Rep #7: 12 December 2016

Seabirds:

  1. Of the 50 gentoo nests we are monitoring, 6 (12%) have 1 egg clutches, 37 (74%) have 2 egg clutches, and 7 (14%) have failed.  Twenty-nine known age gentoo nests have been found through our daily resighting effort.  Of these, 5 have 1 egg clutches, 20 have 2 egg clutches, 1 has 2 chicks, and 3 have failed.  The chicks from this known age nest were the first to hatch on the cape (on Dec. 6), but it was evidently an isolated, early nest.  No other nests have hatched, although there are two additional nests in plots with pipping eggs as of Dec. 11.
  2. Chinstrap penguins continue to incubate eggs.  Of the 100 nests we are monitoring for the reproductive study, 12 (12%) have 1 egg clutches, 83 (83%) have 2 egg clutches, and 5 (5%) have failed.  Twenty known age chinstrap nests have been found through our daily resighting effort.  Of these, 2 have a 1 egg clutch, 14 have 2 egg clutches, and 4 have failed.
  3. Brown skuas are nearly finished laying.  Thirteen pairs are active.  Twelve pairs have 2 egg clutches, one pair has a 1 egg clutch, and no nests have failed.

Pinnipeds:

  1. We have had unusually good weather for our Antarctic fur seal CCAMLR attendance captures for estimating annual trip durations. To date we have completed 33 of our 34 planned fur seal captures for attendance and foraging behavior.  All of the adult female fur seals were fitted with VHF radio transmitters.  Eighteen have also received a time depth recorder; five of which have GPS location capability and four more are collect accelerometer data. All females were captured and weighed within 48 hours of parturition.
  2. As of this morning 8 of the 29 CCAMLR attendance females tagged thus far have departed for or completed their first trip to sea.
  3. We are monitoring pup growth of our CCAMLR attendance females and have gotten a post-perinatal mass on thirteen of the pups whose mothers have departed sea.  
  4. At the last census of fur seal study beaches on 11 December, we recorded a total of 387 females and 414 live pups (no dead).  There were 220 adult males.
  5. We continue to record arrivals of tagged Antarctic fur seal females.  Once the last pups are born we will calculate overwinter survival and natality rate.
  6. On the last Phocid census on 9 December we counted 250 southern elephant seals, 43 Weddell seals, one leopard and no crabeater seals.
  7. We recorded the birth of twins to an Antarctic fur seal on our study site this week. 

Weather:

  1. This week featured more calm, beautiful weather. The mean temperature for the week was 0.5oC, with a high of 4.1oC and a low of -1.1 oC. Our mean wind speed was 7.5 mph (3.4 m/s), and the max. wind speed was 25 mph. Forty-four percent of the wind was out of the north, but we had some easterlies that delivered small chunks of iceberg onto the eastside beaches. We had 0.14 inches of precipitation, mostly in the form of light snow. It was not a super sunny week, as the mean daily solar radiation was 16,385 watts per sq. meter.          

Camp:

  1. We inventoried our current fuel and food stores for placing orders for re-supply due to arrive in January.
  2. We had a “Just One More Perinatal” celebration as we are nearing completion of perinatal captures.
  3. Whale watching was the camp evening activity on the night of the 11th.
  4. We are currently planning holiday festivities to celebrate departures, holidays, birthdays, and accomplished research goals.        

     

Sit Rep #6: 5 December 2016

Seabirds:

  1. We are continuing to monitor a sample of gentoo penguin nests for reproductive success, breeding phenology, etc.  Of the 50 nests we are monitoring, 4 (8%) have 1 egg clutches, 42 (84%) have 2 egg clutches, and 4 (8%) have failed.  Twenty-eight known-age gentoo nests have been found through our daily resighting effort.  Of these, 24 have 2 egg clutches, 2 have 1 egg clutches, and 2 have failed.  The first pipping egg was seen in a reproductive plot on December 4.
  2. Chinstrap penguins finished laying on approximately November 28.  Of the 100 nests we are monitoring for the reproductive study, 8 (8%) have 1 egg clutches, 90 (90%) have 2 egg clutches, and 2 (2%) have failed.  Nineteen known-age chinstrap nests have been found through our daily resighting effort.  Of these, 1 has a 1 egg clutch, 15 have 2 egg clutches, and 3 have failed.
  3. The annual chinstrap nest census was performed on Nov. 28/30.  We counted a total of 3060 nests (1842 in the E colonies/1218 in the W colonies), which is down from last season’s 3140 nests.
  4. Brown skua territories continue to be monitored every 4 days.  Seven pairs have laid and all have 2 egg clutches.  No nests have failed.  Fresh nest scrapes have been seen in a few additional territories. 

Pinnipeds:

  1. The last female elephant seal to give birth at the Cape weaned her pup and departed to sea on 30 December.
  2. We began perinatal fur seal captures for attendance and foraging behavior this week.  To date we have completed 14 of the planned 34 captures. All females have received VHF radio transmitters for monitoring attendance behavior and trip duration (CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program protocol).  Six females, thus far, have also received a time depth recorder for monitoring diving effort for the first six trips to sea.  Two of the TDRs also have GPS Fast-loc technology for recording at sea location.
  3. We concluded extensive testing for range and signal strength of our VHF transmitters prior to our first captures. Both VHF receiving stations are now recording and have better coverage over last year after increasing the antenna capacity for both stations.  Thus far none of our instrumented female fur seals has departed on her first trip to sea.
  4. At the last census of fur seal study beaches on 4 Dec we recorded a total of 197 live pups (no dead), 311 adult females and 205 adult males. 
  5. We have recorded 318 pinniped tag resights since arriving at the Cape.  Tagged Antarctic fur seal females and juvenile males are now arriving every day.
  6. During this week’s phocid census we observed 254 elephant seals and 57 Weddell seals. No crabeater or leopard seals were observed.
  7. Before the start of perinatal fur seal captures we captured, tagged and measured another Weddell seal.
  8. We continue to observe lots of salps washing ashore. 

Weather:

  1. We lost substantial amounts of snow this week spurred along by warm temperatures and rain. The mean temperature was 0.8°C, with a high of 4.3°C and a low of -0.9°C. Precipitation for the week was 0.17 inches, bringing us to a total of 1.4 inches of precipitation for the season. We had a few windy days this week, leading to an average wind speed of 9.5 mph (4.2 m/s) and a max gust of 43 mph. The mean daily solar radiation was 17,824 watts per sq. meter.

Camp:

  1. We inventoried our current supply of fresh and frozen foods.   The inventory was used to finalize and place the re-supply order of fresh and frozen foods which will be arriving in January. 
  2. The deck on the southern side of the workshop was shoveled clear of snow and ice.  Other areas of deck around the buildings are melting out with the help of warm temperatures.

     

Sit Rep #5: 28 November 2016

Seabirds:

  1. All penguin colonies are now free of snow.  The snow stakes near the colonies indicate a loss of approximately 30cm since our arrival.
  2. Gentoo penguins have finished laying.  Of the 50 nests we are monitoring for the reproductive study, 4 (8%) have 1 egg clutches, 43 (86%) have 2 egg clutches, and 3 (6%) have failed. Twenty-six known-age gentoo nests have been found through our daily resighting effort.  Of these, 22 have 2 egg clutches, 2 have 1 egg clutches, and 2 have failed.  Gentoo E1E2 measurements were taken on November 26.
  3. Chinstrap penguins are nearly finished laying.  Of the 100 nests we are monitoring for the reproductive study, 8 (8%) have 1 egg clutches, 91 (91%) have 2 egg clutches, and 1 (1%) has failed.  Seventeen known-age chinstrap nests have been found through our daily resighting effort.  Of these, 4 have 1 egg clutches, 11 have 2 egg clutches, and 2 have failed.  Chinstrap ADE1 measurements were taken on November 20.
  4. Most brown skua territories are occupied and the beginnings of nest scrapes have been observed in several territories.  The first skua egg was seen on November 27.

Pinnipeds:

  1. All but one female elephant seal have weaned their pups and returned to sea. Total pup production for Cape Shirreff was 89 including one pre-weaning mortality.  Another pup died after weaning. 
  2. We completed our tagging effort of recently weaned elephant seal pups.  In total we tagged, measured, and collected DNA from 52 pups.  In addition we collected DNA from 11 adult elephant seals (6 females and 5 males).   
  3. During this week’s phocid census we observed 206 elephant seals including many newly arrived juveniles and 76 pups. We also counted a total of 38 Weddell seals. No crabeater seals or leopard seals were observed.
  4. During the last census of fur seal study beaches on 26 Nov we recorded a total of 23 pups, 85 adult females and 146 territorial males.  We counted an additional 52 peripheral, non-territorial adult males.   No pup mortality has been observed.
  5. As adult female fur seals arrive we are recording more tags.  Thus far we have resighted 11 tagged fur seals, 13 tagged Weddells and one tagged elephant seal.
  6. We captured, tagged, sampled, weighed, and measured five Weddell seals this week.

Weather:

  1. Despite fog rolling into Cape Shirreff for most of the second half of the week, the warm weather and rain have continued to cause the snow to melt at a rapid rate.  The mean temperature for the week was 0.7°C, while the high for the week was 3.7°C and the low was –0.7°C. Total precipitation this week was 0.80 inches, for our biggest precipitation week this season. Mean wind speed was 10.9 mph (4.9 m/s) with maximum of 36 mph. There was again a little less sun than last week, with a mean daily solar radiation of 15,076 watts per sq. meter.  Sunrise and sunset are 03:24 and 22:21, respectively, as we continue to gain between 5 and 6 minutes of daylight per day. 

Camp:

  1. All gear brought to the Cape for opening has been moved up from the beach to camp for storage and unpacking.  
  2. Temperatures have averaged above freezing allowing the water storage barrels to thaw sufficiently and allowing the water barrel in the kitchen to be stored outside for the remainder of the season. 
  3. Above freezing temperatures also allowed the front deck to be cleared of snow and ice.  We will be tackling the back deck starting this week.
  4. We perfected the grill oven just in time for Thanksgiving.  We celebrated Thanksgiving this past week with smoked turkeys and salmon, the traditional sides, and a buffet of pies.
  5. The INACH research crew arrived via helicopter from King George Island on 26 November increasing the human population of Cape Shirreff to seven people.  We celebrated with a social and dinner of Thanksgiving leftovers and homemade bread.


Sit Rep #4: 21 November 2016

Seabirds:

  1. Sunny weather has persisted and the penguin colonies are approximately 90% free of snow.  The snow stakes near the colonies indicate a loss of just under 20cm of snow since our arrival, but there has been less snow loss closer to camp.
  2. Gentoo penguins have almost finished laying.  Forty-eight of the 50 nests (96%) we’re monitoring in our reproductive success plots have initiated clutches.  Thirty-eight nests (76%) now have 2 egg clutches.  Two nests (4%) have failed.  Twenty-three known-age gentoos have initiated clutches.  Of these, 18 have 2 egg clutches.  No known-age gentoo nests have failed.
  3. The annual gentoo nest census was performed on Nov. 19.  We counted a total of 771 nests (265 in the E colonies/506 in the W colonies), which is up from last season’s 655 nests.
  4. The first chinstrap penguin eggs appeared on Nov. 15, and chinstrap peak clutch initiation was on Nov. 20.  Of the 100 nests we monitor to determine reproductive success, 67 (67%) have initiated clutches.  Sixteen nests (16%) have 2 egg clutches.  No nests have failed.  Eight known-age chinstraps have initiated clutches.  One of these has a two egg clutch.  None have failed.
  5. Our first round of brown skua nesting territory observations was on Nov. 15.  Territories were mostly unoccupied.  No nesting has begun.
  6. An Adelie penguin was seen in camp on Nov. 16.  Our first sighting of a Wilson’s storm-petrel was on Nov. 21, and the first black-bellied storm-petrel was heard on El Condor on the same date.

Pinnipeds:

  1. Antarctic fur seal females have begun to arrive we have had several pups born but to date we have not recorded any tagged females.  No pups have been born within the bounds of our study site however.  
  2. At the last census of fur seal study beaches on 20 November we recorded a total of eight adult females, no pups, 137 adult males and one sub-adult male.
  3. To date we have recorded nine tagged fur seals.  All have been males, adult or sub-adult.
  4. There are three elephant seal females that remain suckling pups.  One weaned pup perished after melting through the snow layer in an area of deeper melt water.  Our total pup count for the season is now 86 live and 2 dead.  We continue tagged weaned pups and collect a small tissue sample for DNA analysis.  We also recorded an adult territorial male elephant seal tagged as a pup at Cape Shirreff in 2005. 
  5. We are still conducting our standard range tests of our two VHF receiving stations for monitoring trip duration of fur seals. Both stations will soon be ready to begin logging instrumented lactating fur seals for attendance patterns and trip durations.
  6. In the last weekly census of phocids on the Cape we recorded 149 elephant seals, 51 Weddell seals, and no crabeater or leopard seals.
  7. We captured, tagged, measured, and weighed two Weddell seals this week.  We have recorded in addition to these two new ones 12 tagged from previous years.

Weather:

  1. It was a beautiful and relatively calm week, with the wind that we had mostly coming out of the south and west (64.2% combined).  The mean temperature for the week was -0.5°C. The high for the week was 6.1 °C and the low was –3.3°C. Total precipitation this week was 0.01 inches. Mean wind speed was 6.9 mph (3.1 m/s) with maximum of 27 mph. There was a little less sun than last week, with a mean daily solar radiation of 18,914 watts per sq. meter.  Sunrise and sunset are 03:41 and 22:00, respectively, as we continue to gain between 5 and 6 minutes of daylight per day.   

Camp:

  1. With above freezing temperatures and high amounts of solar radiation, an estimated 50% of the deck area has been cleared of ice and snow.
  2. The propane tanks were moved from the landing beach up to camp for use throughout the season.  Only a handful of totes stowed in fish boxes remain on the beach to be moved up as necessary.
  3. We continued to unpack totes of gear and food supplies as needed and as time allows.
  4. The smoker box was dug out in preparation for Thanksgiving’s celebration.  We are also working on perfecting our grill/oven techniques for pies and other baked items.
  5. Everyone at the Cape is looking forward to Thanksgiving and wishes all their families and friends a Happy Thanksgiving.  


Sit Rep #3: 14 November 2016

Seabirds:

  1. Sunny weather over the last week has caused snow melt to accelerate in the colonies.  Some colonies are 50% or more free of snow, while others are still buried.  All reproductive success plots for both species have been set up and are being monitored daily.  We are also resighting banded birds daily.
  2. Gentoos continue to lay eggs, with the East colonies being slightly behind the West colonies.  Thirty-four nests out of the 50 we’re monitoring in our reproductive plots (68%) have initiated clutches.  Eleven of them (22%) have two egg clutches, while the remaining 23 (46%) have one egg clutches.  Eight known-age gentoos have initiated clutches, four of which are 2 egg clutches.  Peak clutch initiation date was November 12.  No gentoo nests have failed.
  3. Chinstrap penguins have been constructing nests, and the first eggs were seen November 13.  One nest out of the 100 (1%) we’re monitoring in our reproductive plots has initiated laying. No known-age chinstraps have laid yet.
  4. Brown skuas continue to establish pairs and a copulation was seen on November 11.
  5. A pair of Adélie penguins was observed on Playa Marko on November 13.

Pinnipeds:

  1. Most southern elephant seal mothers have weaned their pups. At the last census on 11 November there were 15 females that remained suckling pups.  Our count of southern elephant seal pups remains at 87 (86 live, 1 dead).     
  2. Antarctic fur seal males continue to arrive and set up territories.  The first female arrived on 8 November.  Considerably earlier than in most years.  She was not pregnant and remains the only female.  Our first census of all fur seal study beaches will be today.       
  3. We have thus far recorded five tagged fur seals.  All have been adult males tagged as pups. No tagged females have arrived as of 13 November.  
  4. Our phocid census on 11 Nov yielded 121 southern elephant seals (inc. pups) and 31 Weddell seals (inc. 2 pups). We counted one untagged leopard seal. No crabeater seals were observed. 
  5. We have observed eight tagged Weddells to date.  One frequently observed female continues to suckle a very large pup.
  6. We began the process of setting up our VHF radio transmitter data logging systems.  We have two receiving stations at either end of our study site for Antarctic fur seals.  We have tuned in a total of 40 transmitters on both stations and began range tests to validate our expected ranges for both stations.  Both stations use a two 4-element-Yagi directional array.  Range testing will continue through this week.  Our first deployments of VHF radio transmitters will be late November.        

Weather:

  1. Both the weather station and the solar radiation logger are up and running, so we have our first full week of weather data. The weather has been glorious, with sunshine every day this week and very little wind.  The mean temperature for the week was -0.7˚C, the high temperature was 5.2˚C and the low was –2.9˚C.  There was no recorded precipitation this week. Winds directions this week were relatively evenly distributed, with 31.5% of the wind coming from the north. Mean wind speeds were 4.0 ms-1 (9.0 mph).  Maximum winds were 31 mph.  Mean daily solar radiation was 22,346 W/m2.  Sunrise and sunset are now at 03:59 and 21:39, and we are gaining about 6 minutes of daylight per day.

Camp:

  1. We continued to unpack gear and supplies at camp as needed for food stores, workshop projects, and lab work.
  2. Shoveling and de-icing the deck has ensued with the help of sunny days and warm temperatures. 
  3. In the mutli-week preparation for Thanksgiving, the smoker is being excavated from under the past winter’s snow accumulation.  It is currently 80% uncovered.
  4. We successfully used our new grill to cook burgers and salmon and also to bake cookie bars and cauliflower cheese pie.
  5. We have not been able to get our oven working.  We have been in contact with the manufacture to help troubleshoot the problem.
  6. We are now in full data acquisition mode for pinnipeds and seabirds. Our new and improved Pinniped Data Management System has been working really well.  This is in a large part due to the persistence and efforts of Gene Stebley and Stephanie Sexton.  The pinniped team extends their thanks to them and the crew last year for their very helpful weekly database reports.


Sit Rep #2: 7 November 2016

Seabirds:

  1. The bird blind/emergency shelter is now completely up and running.  All necessary early season maintenance has been done.
  2. The automatic nest-monitoring cameras are set up in the observation spots they’ll remain in for the season and they’ve begun taking photos.
  3. The penguin colonies are slowly melting out.  There are small snow-free areas in sections of colonies dominated by Gentoo penguins.   The first Gentoo eggs were laid on Nov. 6.  Three were seen in the west colonies, and one was seen in the east colonies.  One egg on the west side is in a productivity monitoring plot.  No known age birds have been seen on eggs yet. 
  4. Areas dominated by chinstrap penguins are still covered in snow.  Some nest construction has begun, primarily on the colony 29 ridge, but birds are mostly establishing pairs and finding nesting spots.
  5. Brown skuas are pairing up and are being seen more often on the peripheries of the penguin colonies.  No nesting has been observed.

Pinnipeds:

  1. Forty female southern elephant seals continue to suckle their pups.  Another three females are without pups. The most recent birth occurred yesterday, 6 November. The total elephant seal pup count to date is 87 (86 live, 1 dead).  We have tagged and measured  24 weanlings.  Tissue from the flipper tagging was collected on all pups tagged for future DNA analysis.    
  2. We have recorded five tagged fur seals.  All were adult males tagged as pups.  Three are holding territory.  To date no female fur seals have arrived.  
  3. We have had two sightings for leopard seals.  One was a tagged female the other was at sea and its tag status (tagged or untagged) could not be discerned.  Both were seen only once.  
  4. We have observed four tagged Weddell seals; including one suckling a pup. 
  5. In our first weekly phocid census of the entire Cape (including San Telmo Pt.) we counted a total of 68 adult southern elephant seals, 86 elephant seal pups, 19 adult Weddell seals, 2 Weddell seal pups, and no leopard or crabeater seals. 
  6. We captured and tagged a Weddell pup.  A DNA tissue plug was collected for the SWFSC marine mammal DNA archive.

Weather:

  1. Our weather station has been up and running since 29 October and we can now report on a full week of weather.  Our weather station is set up to log temperature, wind direction, wind speed, barometric pressure and solar irradiance and store an average every 15 minutes.  However, the solar irradiance logger was not properly launched, and thus we do not have solar irradiance data for this week. The mean temperature for the week was -0.2˚C, the high temperature was 1.7˚C and the low was –2.3˚C.   Total precipitation was recorded as 0.31 inches.  Winds this week were predominantly from the west. Mean wind speeds were 6.0 ms-1 (13.5 mph).  Maximum winds were 44 mph. Sunrise and sunset are now 04:15 and 21:11 and we are gaining about 6 minutes of daylight per day.  

Camp:

  1. All members of the field team completed “AERD Permits and Declarations” review and training. We reviewed all applicable science, waste and environmental permits that facilitate our work at Cape Shirreff.  In addition, the pinniped researchers reviewed the updated Pinniped Data Management System (PDMS) manual.
  2. Trick or treat!  Halloween was celebrated with a community dinner of tacos and masks were donned.
  3. The Barrel Liberation Front was formed and deemed successful this past week.  Significant portions of the deck have been cleared of snow and ice. Warm temperatures and little snow accumulation has allowed for all water barrels to be moved from the overwinter location and staged alongside the buildings.  
  4. Repairs were made to the hinges on the generator box door.
  5. The shower room is fully functioning and summer clothes line have been hung to encourage the cleanliness of the cape inhabitants.
  6. We are continuing to unpack food and supplies for the season as necessary and needed. 
  7. The new grill has been assembled.  Its first use is planned for Election Day.  Along with “I voted” stickers, burgers, potato salad and grilled corn will be served to those who cast their ballots.
     


Sit Rep #1: 31 October 2016 - Arrival & Camp Opening

Opening field team at Cape Shirreff in front of the main cabin on the island.
16-17 cs team

The 2016 Cape Shirreff opening crew arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile on 17 October to begin the 2016/17 field season at the U.S. AMLR base camp on Livingston Island. The crew this year consists of Whitney Taylor, Sam Woodman, Matt Klostermann, Naira de Gracia and the Expedition Leader, Dr. Mike Goebel.  We departed Punta Arenas for the Antarctic on the R/V LAURENCE M. GOULD on 22 October at 09:00.  We arrived at Cape Shirreff at mid-afternoon of 25 October but conditions did not allow the launching of zodiacs.  The ship waited offshore for conditions to improve all day 26 October.  Finally on the morning of 27 October, the sea state and wind conditions improved enough to allow opening ops.    

Zodiacs were launched and the first zodiac to shore departed the ship at 09:10.  We spent the next 4.5 hours transferring cargo from ship to shore with the help of ~16 volunteers from the ship.  By 13:30 the last zodiac left shore and the ship was soon underway to Palmer Station.  VHF and Iridium communications were established shortly after the first zodiac trip.  On the morning of 28 October we began a daily check-in by Iridium with Palmer Station at 8:30.  First email communications were established on 29 October.

Snow cover for the Cape at arrival was below average for this time of year and there is already substantial spring thaw in progress.  The closing crew of March 2016 had prepped our ATV with snow tracks which made transfer of cargo from beach to camp much easier this year. 

We had no apparent overwinter damage to the main camp.  Opening of the emergency hut/bird blind on the north end of the cape took place yesterday.

Seabirds:

  1. On October 30, we opened the bird blind/emergency shelter, checked on the status of the penguin colonies, and retrieved the memory cards from the cameras that overwintered in colonies 3 and 10.
  2. The penguin colonies are about 90% covered in snow, but most birds were present.  Courtship and nest construction are just beginning.  No eggs were observed in any of the colonies.
  3. Single brown skuas have been observed, but no pairs have been seen.  Skua territory checks have not begun, but they don’t seem to be holding territories yet
  4. We have looked at the main kelp gull colony just once.  About 30 gulls were present, but no nesting has begun.  The area is still covered in snow.

Pinnipeds:

  1. We conducted our first breeding elephant seal census on 28 October. There were 57 mother pup pairs, 16 females without pups, and nine already weaned pups.  There were four breeding groups and 10 adult males.  We have yet to conduct a census at a secondary breeding site on the west side of the Cape that occasionally has breeding elephant seals.  Thus far we have not recorded any tagged adult elephant seals.  Yesterday we tagged, measured, and collected DNA from 11 weaned pups.   
  2. On 28 October we recorded the first known-aged tagged adult male fur seal.  There are not many fur seals but adult males have begun to arrive and establish territories on breeding beaches around the cape. 
  3. We have seen many Weddell seals, including a tagged female suckling a pup but have not yet conducted a full census. We will conduct the first weekly Phocid census of the entire cape on 4 November.
  4. We recovered two overwinter camera time-lapse cameras that collected over 6000 images.

Weather:

  1. 16-17 cs oct31 temps We set up our weather station on 29 October to record wind speed, direction, temperature, humidity, precipitation and solar radiation at 15-minute intervals.  At the next situation report on 7 November we will report a full week’s summary of weather.   Since opening five days ago we have very little wind and unseasonably warm weather.  Currently we are experiencing 0-5 mph winds out of the northwest with some precipitation.  Sunrise and sunset are at 04:36 and 20:49.
  2. Our overwinter temperature logger successfully recorded temperature once every 30 minutes all winter.   Mean daily temperature (with st.dev.) is plotted below.  The coldest day of the year was on 20 August which had a mean temperature of -13.8°C.  The minimum temperature was -15.6°C recorded on the same day. 

Camp:

  1. The camp opening has gone exceptionally well. All methods of communication have now been established (i.e. e-mail, VHF, SSB, and Iridium).
  2. Communications have been established with Palmer Station via Iridium satellite phone and a daily check-in for 08:30 will continue throughout the season. 
  3. As of the ship’s departure on 27 October, our fixed solar array and gasoline powered generators were operational.  Wind turbines were set up and fully operational by the end of the following day.  All freezers are up and functioning.  We are currently troubleshooting and investigating a non-functional oven.  After consulting the manual and multiple hours of dissembling and re-assembling, no solution has been found.  We will continue to troubleshoot and contact other resources for advice and assistance.
  4. We are very grateful to the captain, officers, crew, and the many volunteers of the R/V LAURENCE M. GOULD for their support in opening the Cape Shirreff field camp.  The captain and crew did an exceptional job to make this an efficient and safe opening.
  5. Thanks are also extended to the staff of the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division in La Jolla, California for their support in getting the 2016/17 field season off to a good start.  In particular, thanks to Dr. George Watters, Jeremy Rusin, Douglas Krause, Jessica Senzer, Stephanie Sexton, Jen Walsh and Anthony Cossio.

 

Last modified: 11/8/2017