Rockhopper penguin research

This video is about rockhopper penguins of the Falkland islands.

From the New Zealand Herald:

Rockhopper penguins – where do they go?

11:15 AM Tuesday Jun 12, 2012

A team of scientists is set to solve the mystery of where rockhopper penguins go during winter.

The birds, which have distinctive bright red eyes and yellow crests, leave uninhabited Campbell Island, more than 300 nautical miles south of Stewart Island in April and return in early October.

A grant from National Geographic will enable a team of Niwa scientists to head to Campbell Island where they will attach 88 tracking tags to penguins’ legs before their departure next year.

The data obtained from the tags will shed light on the penguin’s movements and habitat use in New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic territory.

“It could be a crucial stage in the breeding cycle for them,” said Niwa scientist Dr David Thompson.

“To successfully raise chicks, they need to come back to Campbell Island at the start of the breeding season in good condition.

“This stage of the annual cycle of the birds is likely to be very significant. To know nothing about where this stage takes place is a crucial gap in our understanding of the factors affecting the penguin populations,” he said.

Dr Thompson said he suspected the birds didn’t go too far north or south.

“They probably stay at the same latitude, but disperse away from the island, spending that time feeding and regaining condition.

“When penguins finish breeding and the chicks leave the island, the parent birds disappear off to sea for a month to feed. When they come back, they are very large and fat. They sit on the breeding site and moult. They don’t move or feed for a month.”

Between 1942 and 1985, the rockhopper penguin population at Campbell Island declined by about 94 per cent, from about 800,000 breeding pairs to 51,000.

Although the decline has continued, Dr Thompson said the penguins are unlikely to become extinct.

“We think there is just less food. They eat little krill, crustaceans, juvenile and small fish and small squid.

“It’s thought that fluctuations in sea temperatures may have led to a reduction in the abundance or availability of their prey.”

The penguins breed in colonies on rocky coasts, in the open or among tussock. They usually lay two eggs but the chick from the first egg rarely survives to fledgling stage.

Campbell Island snipe video

From Campbell Island, between New Zealand and Antarctica:

Walking back to base on the Beeman Boardwalk tonight at 10pm I had a wonderful surprise. From beside the walkway by my feet I saw a flash of brown and something fluffy landed on the path in front of me. Not sure what it was (wearing no contacts today so everything was looking pretty blurry to me) I grabbed the video camera.

What a surprise when I zoomed in to see the wee Campbell Island Snipe. This tiny strange (but very cute) looking bird was unknown to science until its discovery in 1997. They are usually very cryptic birds, so to see one and have the video camera ready was such a special moment. The sound you hear in the background at the end of the video are the yellow-eyed penguins coming in for the night. I feel that this is my Christmas present from the island.

Campbell Island sea lions: here.

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Sub-Antarctic: first teal ducklings on Campbell Island

Campbell island teal

From BirdLife:

First teal ducklings on Campbell Island


The reintroduction of the flightless Campbell Island Teal Anas nesiotis to its sub-Antarctic home in 2004, after more than a century of exile, was carried out successfully.

But could they survive the harsh climate that was new to these captive and New Zealand-raised ducks, and equally importantly, would they breed?

In February 2005 a monitoring team from New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DOC) found 78% of the transferred teal alive, but no ducklings.

This was disappointing as they had bred in their first year when transferred from captivity to Whenou Hou (Codfish Island), a rat-free island off Stewart Island (a large island off the southern tip of NZ‘s South Island).

To build up numbers, a further 55 ducks were released on Campbell Island in September 2005.

The release team tracked 48 of the total 105 ducks released.

“The teal may not be able to fly, but are extremely fleet of foot, and the barest glimpse is all that may be seen,” explained Pete Morrin, who was part of the 2004 release team, documenting the release on video, assisting with duck husbandry and radio tracking, and acting as sea lion distractor in the dense scrub.

The team estimates that the numbers of sightings and recaptures represented the barest minimum of the birds surviving.

The 2004-released teal no longer had transmitters, as they had been designed with a weak link so they would fall off after 12 months, when the batteries became flat.

In the end, it wasn’t a teal-monitoring team that saw the first teal ducklings ever seen on Campbell Island, but an albatross research team.

A brood of small ducklings and their parents were sighted swimming by the wharf at Beeman Base in January 2006.

This sighting was followed up in February by a teal monitoring team who, with the assistance of Percy the dog, found one small duckling with a female teal, three juveniles and two nests containing eggs.

Rockhopper and yellow eyed penguins of Campbell and Auckland islands: here.

Kakapo on Ulva island, near Stewart island, New Zealand: here.

Kakapo on Anchor island: here.

More kakapo: here. And here. And here.

Kaka parrot chicks in New Zealand: here.

Rats on Ulva island. May 2012. New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) staff ran a final check of the trap network on Ulva Island in the hope of declaring the island rat free again. Unfortunately, a rat was found in one of the traps during this check: here.

Bird Watching On Ulva island In Southern New Zealand: here.

Great Barrier island near New Zealand: here.