Fieldwork week 1 day 2
Location: Penguin Bay, Catlins
Off we go! After eggs and bacon for breakfast, we left the accommodations at 9:30am. 2 4wd trucks took us to Penguin Bay. The roads are very windy and hilly, with pasture of sheep after pasture with the occasional cow. And more sheep, with lambs! Down a dirt path and a slightly upset stomach later, we pulled off to the side of the road. We walked a few minutes over a hilly pasture and through the beginning of the bush to the rocky shoreline. It’s only a small beach but a landing site for penguins nonetheless.
We divided into 2 groups and went opposite directions into the bush over wobbly and slippery rocks. The beginning part was pretty dense vegetation, both tall trees and shorter ferns, flax, and grasses. Pretty much a tangled mess. We then split up even more following tracks that could belong to penguins or any of the numerous introduced mammal pests. About 30 minutes later, after some crawling and climbing and hunching, Mel found our first nest. It was a very deep burrow in some brush, difficult to see and to get to. Mel knows the sites really well (amazingly so) and knew this area had a nest previously. However, 2 nests from last year weren’t being used. Anyways, at each nest we found, we first scanned the bird for a transponder on its back, checked for flipper bands, and counted how many eggs in the nest. We then took a GPS point of the nest, marked it with red flagging tape, and jotted down the various bits of information. Little beady eyes would look at you but all parents guarded their pair of eggs very well. One female was a new breeder and one a rehab bird. In all, we found 7 nests (not good for a site that had 20+ in the years past, 10 last year). I didn’t find one myself but marked 2. I could have watched them for ages, but we moved away asap in order to keep stressing them to a minimum. We searched in total for about 2 hours and covered most of the reserve. It’s possible we missed 1 or 2 nests but monitoring will happen throughout the season so missed nests might be found then.
After lunch near the beach, we made our way back through wet pasture to the trucks. An hourish later we were at a beautiful waterfall, which lay at the end of a public trail. It was lovely to hear the water and the view was spectacular.
A shower, data entry of the nest information, and delicious pasta from dinner later, I’m off to bed in order to rest up for tomorrow’s two site day. The extreme winds will hopefully put me to sleep quickly.