Penguin photographer in New Zealand


This video (in English, after a short introduction in German) says about itself:

Tui De Roy – A Wild Spirit

9 Dec 2012

Internationally acclaimed New Zealand wildlife photographer talks about her life.

From the Otago Daily Times in New Zealand:

A dedicated follower of penguins

By Rebecca Fox on Wed, 25 Sep 2013

Tui De Roy has travelled to the ends of the Earth in search of the perfect wildlife photograph.

Whether photographing the rarely seen northern rockhopper penguin on a South Atlantic island or the emperor penguin in the Antarctic, the remoter the better, for Ms De Roy.

During the production of her latest book, Penguins Their World, Their Ways, co-authored with Mark Jones and Julie Cornthwaite, she made an exception, visiting Otago Peninsula to photograph the yellow-eyed penguin.

Ms De Roy (59) and her co-authors were in Dunedin this week to talk to the Dunedin Photographic Society.

The book was a sister to an earlier one on albatrosses and together marked the end of a 15-year project for the trio.

It was during the work for the latest book that she fell in love – with emperor penguins.

She travelled to the Antarctic with the Australian Antarctic programme and was able to spend three days photographing the penguins.

”It’s very much the end of the earth. I was very lucky.

”The space, the immensity, the soft light and they were such stately birds. It was very other-worldly.”

Her dream was to spend one year in [the] Antarctic photographing the penguins‘ life for another book.

Such an endeavour was not that outrageous for the woman who has been photographing wildlife in remote places for many decades – including the Galapagos Islands, where she used to live – and who has produced six books in the past eight years.

Another highlight was photographing the ”outrageous” looking northern rockhopper penguins, as their remote location meant they were not often seen by people.

In contrast, she also spent four weeks camping in the Falkland Islands among four different species of penguins.

Her work required much time and the ability to be able to immerse herself in the environment, she said.

With the book out, she planned to take some time out before planning her next project.

One of the most “disastrous breeding seasons” in recent years has hit endangered yellow-eyed penguin colonies along Otago’s coast: here.

New Zealand birds discovery


This video from New Zealand is called Bird of the year, Vote Yellowhead / Mohu! Ruth Dyson.

From Fuseworks Ltd. today:

Fifth endemic NZ songbird family identified

New Zealand’s unique biodiversity has been strengthened with the identification of a new endemic songbird family – the family Mohouidae – which includes the endangered Yellowhead, the Whitehead and the Brown Creeper.

This brings the number of endemic songbird (Passeriformes) families to five and increases the number of endemic vertebrate families from 13 to 14 (11 bird, 1 frog, 1 bat, 1 tuatara).

It’s an achievement that Massey University postdoctoral fellows Dr Luis Ortiz-Catedral and Dr Michael Anderson say has international significance, as the taxonomy of birds, especially Australasian songbirds, is the subject of intense research. By conducting DNA sequencing of three species – two of them for the first time – the testing confirmed what had been suspected since the 1950s.

Mohoua were clumped in the same genus for some time,” says Dr Ortiz-Catedral. “But this was done without more stringent evidence. By obtaining DNA samples from all three species of these birds, we were able to add to the body of knowledge about New Zealand’s unique biodiversity.”

The Whitehead (Mohoua albicilla) or Pōpokotea is only found in native and exotic forests in the North Island, while the Yellowhead (Mohoua ochrocephala) or Mōhua and the Brown Creeper (Mohoua novaseelandiae) or Pīpipi are only found in the South and Stewart Islands. Dr Anderson says despite the differences in location, the Whiteheads and Yellowheads are more closely related to each other than the Brown Creepers.

The project to identify New Zealand’s fifth endemic songbird family was a global collaboration between New Zealand, Australian and United States-based scientists, and came about while Dr Anderson was conducting comparative analyses on New Zealand cuckoos.

“We know very little about the Long-tailed Cuckoo, which parasitises these three species, laying its eggs in their nests,” he says. “This research will help us to understand the evolutionary relationship between this brood parasite and its host species.”

Notoriously difficult to obtain samples from, the team recruited several New Zealand-based scientists to obtain a variety of samples from a number of species while in the field to get a robust database from which to draw their evidence.

“It would be inaccurate to only sample these three,” says Dr Ortiz-Catedral. “We needed to find out how they would be placed when compared to other species from New Zealand and the broader Australasian region. When more species were added to the analysis, these three really came into their own.”

Professor Mark Hauber, a New Zealander now based at Hunter College of City University of New York became the conduit for the DNA sequencing, analysed by lead researcher Zachary Aidala in New York. Previously working in Auckland (and Dr Anderson’s and Dr Ortiz-Catedral’s PhD co-advisor) Dr Hauber is a leading researcher in animal behaviour and conservation ecology in the Department of Psychology at Hunter College.

As one of the last land masses to be settled by humans, New Zealand occupies a unique place in the world as a living conservation laboratory providing valuable training for scientists saving endangered species. Dr Ortiz-Catedral says the world-class methods developed here involving the analysis of complex data sets is one of New Zealand’s finest unsung export stories.

Originally from Mexico, Dr Ortiz-Catedral came to New Zealand to study New Zealand’s conservation methods and went on to complete his PhD on refining translocation practices for New Zealand native parakeets. His expertise is now in demand globally and he recently came back from the Galapagos Islands working on a project to save the critically endangered Floreana Mockingbird (known as Darwin’s muse).

Auckland Museum taxonomist Dr Brian Gill investigated what name could be applied to the new family and found that “Mohouidae” was available from its published usage in 1946 by Gregory Mathews.

Dr Anderson says the international collaboration can help unravel how far back in time these native birds have diverged from their ancestors and how fast they have evolved into different species. Data from this project will help to inform comparative studies both locally and internationally.

“It’s an exciting discovery that further enhances the level of uniqueness of New Zealand’s biodiversity by increasing our high levels of endemism,” says Dr Ortiz-Catedral. “It’s much easier to prevent biodiversity loss by maximising conservation efforts early.”

The discovery was published in the prestigious Journal of Ornithology.

From Massey University in New Zealand:

The five endemic songbird families in New Zealand are:

Mohouidae – Yellowhead, Whitehead and Brown Creeper
Notiomystidae – the Hihi or Stitchbird
Callaeidae – Huia (extinct) and North and South Island Saddleback and North and South Island Kokako
Acanthisittidae – Bush Wren (extinct) and Rifleman and Rock Wren
Turnagridae – North and South Island Piopio (extinct)

New Zealand island now rat free


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Achieving Balance: Anacapa Island Ten Years After the Removal of the Black Rat

6 March 2013

Ten years after removing nonnative rats the ecosystem on Anacapa Island, including rare seabirds, is showing profound results of recovery.

Ashy storm-petrels are nesting on the island for the first time ever recorded and Cassin’s auklets have expanded their territories in the absence of rats as predators. Significantly, the number of Scripps’s murrelets nests has quadrupled with a 50 percent increase of eggs hatched.

Rats are known to have negative impacts to island ecosystems. Rats are the most significant cause of bird extinctions on islands and are estimated to be responsible for half of bird and reptile extinctions worldwide.

Nonnative black rats, which were first reported on Anacapa Island in the early 1900s, threatened critical breeding habitat for these rare seabirds. They were eating approximately 70 percent of the eggs of the once common Scripps’s murrelet, a state-listed threatened species. They also preyed upon native deer mice, reptiles, insects, intertidal invertebrates, and plants.

To restore balance to the island ecosystem, black rats were removed in 2001 and 2002 using an aerial application of rodenticide bait. Some of the world’s leading island experts and scientists from the United States, Canada, and New Zealand assisted project partners from Channel Islands National Park, Island Conservation, and the American Trader Trustee Council (comprised of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and NOAA) in the rigorous planning process for this project.

From Wildlife Extra:

Another New Zealand island declared rat free

Rodent eradication successful on Taranga Island

July 2013. There has been no sign of rodents on Taranga Island, off the Whangarei coastline north of Auckland, since a large-scale eradication took place there in May 2011. Monitoring has just been completed now that two years have passed since the aerial application of bait. No rodent sign was recorded, which confirms they have been eradicated.

The NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) and Ngatiwai Trust Board worked together on “Project Restore” with the objective of removing the rodent threat to the continued existence and recovery of the many threatened species that live on the island.

Monitoring was carried out in June 2012 and then again in May 2013 using rodent detection methods that consisted of tracking tunnels, rat traps, observations from people working on the island and rodent detecting dogs scouting the island. DOC Programme Manager Keith Hawkins says “After two years of no kiore (Pacific rats) being found we are confident that the eradication was successful. Two years allows for any kiore that may have survived the bait drop to have bred to detectable levels and be picked up by monitoring”.

Tuatara & lizards

Evidence has shown that following kiore eradications from islands the number of tuatara and lizards recover quickly. DOC expects this will happen on Taranga Island, along with huge benefits to ecosystem regeneration.

Saddleback, little spotted kiwi, red crowned parakeet, kaka, and Pycroft’s petrel

Coastal broadleaf forest covers the island that is home to saddleback, little spotted kiwi, red crowned parakeet, kaka, and Pycroft’s petrel. Tuatara, at least six species of lizard and an endemic land snail also inhabit the island.

Taranga has extensive historical features and holds spiritual significance. Taranga Island is part of the Hen and Chicken Islands group and is ranked as internationally important. As a nature reserve, Taranga is strictly a ‘no landing zone’ to protect the rare and endangered flora, fauna and local endemics that are present on the island.

Now the island is kiore free, DOC urges boaters to be extra vigilant, ensuring they are not taking unwelcome guests out with them as that is the only way they can get there. Not storing food on your boat and having traps set on board are easy measures that can be taken.

A tropical rodent eradication review has been launched to develop recommendations for improving the success rates of eradications. More than 30 experts in island rodent eradications, island ecology, rodent ecology, and toxicology came together at a meeting at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, to review historical data, analyze successful and unsuccessful projects, and discuss new ideas and approaches to increase the success rates of rodent eradications on tropical islands: here.

New Zealand albatrosses, new research


This video says about itself:

March 20, 2012

Mostly White-Capped, some Buller’s, one Royal Albatross interacting, Stewart Island, New Zealand.

From the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels site:

Age of first breeding of and tracking Buller’s Albatross from New Zealand’s Snares Islands

Paul Sagar (National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, Christchurch, New Zealand) and colleagues have produced a report for the New Zealand Department of Conservation on recent research conducted on Buller’s Albatross Thalassarche bulleri at The Snares during April 2013.

An abbreviated Summary follows:

“This report presents the results of demographic and tracking studies of Buller’s Albatross Thalassarche bulleri at three study colonies at The Snares during 11-29 April 2013. Demographic studies at three study colonies of Buller’s Albatross have been undertaken annually since 1992, and so this report incorporates some of these data in the current analysis.

Estimates of the numbers of breeding pairs, made by recording the contents of each nest, showed substantial declines in two colonies and a slight increase in the third. A total of 353 birds banded previously as breeding adults of unknown age were recaptured within the study colonies. A further 28 breeding birds were banded in the study colonies. The oldest bird in the study colonies was banded as a breeding bird of unknown age in 1969. Assuming a minimum age of first breeding of ten years, this bird was at least 53 years old in April 2013.

During the period 1992-2004 all chicks that survived to near-fledging were banded, and their survival to return to the study colonies in subsequent years has been monitored. This year 91 of these birds were captured, with birds from cohorts banded from 1999 to 2004 being recaptured for the first time, showing that long term monitoring is required to obtain reliable estimates of survival of such known-age birds.

There is a strong male bias in the known-age birds recaptured, but some of this is explained by females being less likely than males to be recaptured. The average age of first breeding is 10-12 years, and recruitment to the breeding population varies widely, so further years of recapture are required before the recruitment rates of all cohorts 1992-2004 can be estimated reliably.

GPS tracking of 20 birds showed that, during the guard stage, Buller’s Albatrosses foraged over the Snares Shelf and around Stewart Island and the lower South Island. Females tended to forage to the south-east and north-west whilst males foraged to the south-east and north-east of The Snares. Such differences in foraging areas between males and females was consistent with results from GPS tracking during the guard stage from 2008 to 2011.”

With thanks to Paul Sagar for information.

Reference:

Sagar, P., Torres, L., Thompson, D., Morrison, K. & Battley, P. 2013. Demography and tracking of Buller’s Albatrosses at The Snares, and tracking of Snares Crested Penguins and Rockhopper Penguins from The Snares and Campbell Island respectively: Final research report of the 2013 field season. Prepared for Department of Conservation June 2013. Christchurch: National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd. 18 pp.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 August 2013

Forget circumnavigating the globe in 80 days—an albatross can do it in a mere 46: here.

New Zealand journalists spied on by US NSA


This video says about itself:

Investigative journalist Jon Stephenson talks about New Zealand’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan. Marae Investigates, TVNZ 24 April 2011.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Journalists ‘could have been spied on’

Monday 29 July 2013

New Zealand became the latest battlefield in the US National Security Agency’s controversial global surveillance programme today after its prime minister admitted it was “possible” journalists had been spied on.

John Key claimed there was “no evidence” that reporter Jon Stephenson’s phone had been hacked by the New Zealand military with assistance from the US.

But he acknowledged that journalists could be “caught up” in the surveillance net when the US spied on its enemies.

Mr Stephenson‘s case hit the headlines at the weekend after it was alleged he was spied on because the army was unhappy with his reporting on its treatment of prisoners of war in Afghanistan. If true, this would contradict US claims that the NSA programmes merely compile large data pools and do not target individuals.

Major General Tim Keating said officers had assured him there had been no unlawful monitoring of Mr Stephenson by New Zealand and the country had not asked any foreign organisations “to do this on our behalf.”

But as with British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s protestations in Parliament over NSA data-sharing, he did not address whether US organisations might have handed information over. New Zealand and Britain are both part of the “five eyes” data-sharing bloc alongside Australia, the United States and Canada.

Wellington’s Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman was also forced to admit the existence of a military order today that listed investigative journalists alongside spies and terrorists as “threats to New Zealand’s military.”

Multiple spying scandals and sagas show that New Zealand is suffering from a democratic deficit. And it’s not just due to the Government’s contentious GCSB spying reforms – the latest major challenge to civil liberties involves state surveillance of journalists: here.

New Zealand’s conservative National Party-led government passed legislation on August 22 to give the country’s external security agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), vastly expanded powers to spy on citizens and residents: here.

Mention the UK and most of us imagine fish and chips or a decent pint rather than the Orwellian levels of online censorship about to be imposed on Brits at the end of 2013: here.

Mount Everest, Hillary, Tenzing and others


Tenzing on the summit of Mount Everest

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Mysteries of the men who scaled the highest peak

Tuesday 28 May 2013

In 1953, when news could be managed better than it is today, on the morning of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation the nation heard that Everest, the world’s highest mountain, had been climbed.

New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay had stood on the 29,000-foot high summit of Mount Everest, now also known by its Tibetan name Qomolongma.

It was typical of the many previous examples of empire expeditions.

The white man takes the credit and the local folk are there to do the heavy work and carry the bags.

Tenzing Norgay didn’t know his own birthday. Following his famous climb he celebrated his birthday on May 29, the day he had reached the summit.

He was born Namgyal Wangdi and changed his name on the advice of a local holy man. He was one of the most experienced Nepalese Indian Sherpa mountaineers, having taken part in previous Everest and other Himalayan expeditions.

Edmund Hillary was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and started climbing at 16. While at university he made his first major climbs, reaching the summit of Mount Ollivier in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

He became a bee farmer, a mainly summer occupation that allowed him to go climbing in the winter.

He first visited Everest in 1951 on a reconnaissance expedition and in 1953 joined the British expedition. There has been some speculation that the expedition had a second purpose, to spy on suspected secret Chinese rocket bases beyond the mountain.

Hillary and Tenzing’s successful climb was the second attempt on the summit from the South Col base camp, 25,900 feet up. They climbed all day and pitched their tent for the night.

In the morning Hillary found his boots had frozen solid. It took two hours to thaw them out before they could start the final climb. They reached the summit at 11.30am on May 29 1953.

Hillary photographed Tenzing but in what must be the world’s worst missed photo opportunity he had no pictures taken of himself at the summit.

There has always been some controversy as to which of them actually reached the summit first. Tenzing gave Hillary the credit. Hillary said they did it together.

The descent was difficult as fresh snow had covered their tracks. Above the base camp a fellow expedition member, George Lowe, greeted them with hot soup. Hillary declared: “Well George, we finally knocked the bastard off.”

Sir Edmund never lost his love of adventure, participating in other expeditions including one to the South Pole. Directly after the Everest climb he led a expedition to find the yeti.

To his credit all his life he campaigned to improve the life of those in Nepal who lived in the shadow of Everest. He was honoured for this work by the Kathmandu government.

Tenzing Norgay went back to carrying white mountaineers’ bags up the mountain.

Were Hillary and Tenzing really the first?

An increasing number of historians of mountaineering suspect a British climber called George Leigh Mallory actually reached the summit as early in 1924.

On June 6 1924 George Mallory and his companion Andrew “Sandy” Irvine left their tented base camp to make an attempt on the summit. They were never seen alive again.

In 1960 a Chinese expedition found Irvine’s body at a much higher elevation than anyone had expected.

It wasn’t until 1999 that a US group found the body of Mallory, just 600 yards from the summit with a broken rope fixed to his harness. But was he going up or coming down?

He had carried a picture of his wife in his wallet. He had told her he would leave it on the summit as a tribute to her. The picture had gone from his wallet.

It is hard to imagine mountaineering in the 1920s. Little specialist equipment existed. Mallory wore silk underwear and woollen tweeds from Burberrys. His boots were leather with iron nails for grip.

He did have the first primitive oxygen equipment and he borrowed a Kodak camera just before setting out for the summit.

The search goes on for that borrowed camera. Even after more than 80 years, the freezing conditions at the top of Everest would mean the film would still be able to give up its secret.

Is there a picture of Mallory on the highest spot on Earth 30 years before Hillary and Tenzing?

Two new sea pen species discovered off New Zealand


Acanthoptilum sp. nov. (photo: National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research)

From Sci-News.com:

Marine Scientists Amazed: Two New Species of Sea Pen Discovered in New Zealand Waters

May 27, 2013 by Natali Anderson

A team of marine researchers from New Zealand has used remote operated vehicles to collect specimens of sea pen previously unknown to science.

Sea pens are colonial marine animals that get their name from their resemblance to old-fashioned writing pens. They colonize the seabed and ledges by burying themselves in soft sediment, but, unlike coral, they lack a hard ‘outer skeleton’. At night, sea pens are luminous, which helps to attract the phytoplankton they feed on.

“They’re essentially row-upon-row of feeding polyps growing out of a soft stalk, hence their resemblance to feathers or quill pens,” explained team member Dr Sean Handley of the New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

The team collected new sea pens in February, 2013 at a depth of about 80 m in Fiordland National Park, New Zealand.

“We found two specimens of two different species,” Dr Handley said.

“At 65 cm long, the specimens are among the largest sea pens found in New Zealand. Elsewhere, however, sea pens of up to 2 m in length have been found.”

The researchers said the new species belong to the genus Acanthoptilum and the genus Funiculina.

“They will be logged in a biodiversity database and then international sea pen experts will be consulted to help formally identify and name them.”

“This was our second exploration of Fiordland’s deep waters in the last few years, and on both occasions we’ve discovered previously unknown fauna. We can only guess at the treasure trove of life still waiting to be discovered down there.”

“Sea pen colonies generally indicate an unpolluted, undisturbed environment,” Dr Handley said.

“These discoveries, and the prospect of many more to come, reinforce the importance of the Fiordland Marine Area at both a national and international level,” concluded Malcolm Lawson, Chairman of the Fiordland Marine Guardians.