Fieldwork trip 1 day 1
The goal of the week: count penguin nests at 4-5 different sites, including scanning for transponders to ID birds, counting eggs, GPS locate each nest, and deploy a few GPS devices for foraging (at sea) trip routes. Be trained in transponding, device deployment, and other essential skills
Today marks the first day of my week long field work trip to various sites in the Catlins. Located south of Dunedin on the NZ East coast, the Caitlins is a remote, rugged coast with a variety of dense temperate forests, rocky cliffs, and a few sandy inlets. Today I left Dunedin with another PhD student Mel who I consider THE expert on YEPs. She graciously invited me to assist / train during this nest counting trip. We drive about an hour and a half to Nugget Point, a well known landmark hosting “the nuggets” or rocky islets jutting out of the ocean. On the point is a lighthouse with stunning views of the ocean. There is a Department of Conservation (DOC) private residence where we are so graciously being allowed to use. DOC is hosting 6 volunteers as well to help with the nest searching.
Mel and I are staying in the old lighthouse observation house which used to be used by the lighthouse keepers. Everyone else is staying in the bigger DOC house right next door. Upon our arrival, we met the volunteers and the DOC ranger who is leading the charge. After a brief introduction to what we will be doing, I took a GPS unit on a short walk to the lighthouse. I’m still learning to use the device and it was a good chance to practice. Along the way I saw some seal pups welcoming their mother home from a fishing trip, many seabirds, and a VERY steep cliff. It is a beautiful area with views for miles.
Two volunteers cooked a great meal, chicken, potatoes, and vegetables. I helped with the dishes while chatting for a bit with everyone. And now I’m typing this! Day 1 is complete. To be honest, I am nervous about the next few days mostly because of the fitness that I lack. I will power through hopefully.