At the end of August large numbers of oiled penguins were seen on South Georgia, and 7% of the Gentoo Penguins at Maiviken were found to be oiled, some very badly.
Oiled penguins were coming up on the beaches at King Edward Point (KEP) and Bird Island (BI) (seen in these locations as they are the only two inhabited areas of the Island). (See last month’s newsletter).
In an attempt to investigate the extent of the problem, in early September three sorties were made by boat and ship to penguin colonies and roosts up and down the northeast coast.
On September 2nd the small boats from KEP were used to visit the vast King Penguin colony at St Andrews Bay. Around 1% of birds there were oiled. More oiled Gentoo Penguins were seen on the beaches in the bays returning north. Further checks were made in the Stromness Bay area on September 8th where only a few oiled birds were seen.
On September 11th and 12th the Fishery Patrol Vessel “Pharos SG” was used to visit the King Penguin colonies and Gentoo roosts at Fortuna Bay and the Bay of Isles. No oiled birds were seen. The last oiled penguin was seen on September 22nd.
The source of the oil affecting the penguins is believed to have been offshore; no inshore birds such as Seagulls, Shags or Terns have been seen oiled.
With the exception of a known and persistent small oil leak from a sunken whale catcher at Leith harbour, no oil was seen inshore.
Oil samples were collected from the feathers of affected birds and the wreck at Leith and have been sent for analysis.
Also, an update on King Penguin winter breeding at South Georgia:
And one last look at the Kings and Fur Seals on the island, before we end this month's SG news: