The island has been a sheep farm for over 100 years and is now privately owned and under organic sustainable management. Wildlife and domestic animals appear to co-exist quite happily and there are attempts being made to restore some of the tussac grass habitat that has been lost through over-grazing in the past.
Here we were the guests for just one night of the owners of the islands, Mike & Phyll Rendell. We stayed in very nice accommodation in Cassard House built as recently as 2011 with solar-powered underfloor heating and hot water and triple glazing.
Like Pebble, Bleaker has been designated an Important Bird Area. It has 40 species of birds breeding including Gentoo, Magellanic, Southern Rockhopper and the odd pair of Macaroni Penguins and a large colony of Imperial Shags. Watching the Rockhoppers at Long Gulch was one of the highlights of the whole trip and at the same time countless Imperial & Rock Shags were flying in and landing on nearby cliffs. Pale-faced Sheathbills and a Striated Caracara ignored us completely, coming within just a metre or so, sometimes too close to photograph.
Striated Caracara, known locally as Johnny Rook
Bleaker is one of the islands where in the past rats have been accidentally introduced and now threaten ground-nesting birds. It is hoped that eventually they can be eradicated and bird populations restored to former levels but in the meantime we saw only a small number of Tussacbirds (Blackish Cinclodes) and there are no longer any Cobb’s Wrens to be found although we were told that they are present on the nearby rat-free islands, North Point, Halt and Sandy Bay.
What I particularly liked about Bleaker was that I needed to walk only a short distance from the accommodation to get to the nearest Rockhopper colony and hundreds of Imperial Shags. What a great way to start the day!