August 20, 2014 at 9:33 am
Just returned from a two day trip out to Haast and Jackson Head where I had a look at how things are progressing with the Fiordland penguins. The breeding population has yet to be surveyed by DOC which will happen sometime next week. As of yet we have no clear idea where the nests are located or how many breeding pairs there are.
However, even though it appeared rather quiet there surely were penguins in the area. Occasional honks were heard from the bush on top of the cliffs – although most of them seemed to be coming from dense Kiekie patches. Now, I am really appreciative of the New Zealand vegetation in general and native plants in particular. But penguins breeding in Kiekie means trouble. The stuff is literally impenetrable, penguins are hard to spot, and it is all in all no fun to work in this kind of habitat. Well, here’s to hoping that there will be nests with cool birds in a more accessible setting.
I had with me Sam, a production assistant working for the Japanese NHK which will film a documentary on Fiordland penguins. I will be acting as their scientific consultant and supervisor. They had a rough time finding their way through DOC’s all new albeit by no means easier to comprehend permitting process, but eventually we managed to suss it all out for them. Through the consultation work we manage to offset some of the public funding for the project that never really came to fruition.
As Sam and I were scrambling along the shore looking for good vantage points to place 4K cameras, we came across some Tawaki returning home from a foraging trip. And I also realised that it will be tremendously difficult to catch penguins we will fit with GPS loggers down here on the beach.
I am always astonished when I witness the agility of penguins in what we humans perceive as “difficult terrain”. Surely, penguins – crested penguins in particular – are the animal equivalent of Parkour traceurs. They just jump over what I would call razorsharp volcanic rocks without hesitation, land safely on the next boulder over, hop a couple of times to the crest of the stone only to disappear with another daring dash somewhere in what certainly must be a stony maze to them. Only to reemerge at the top of the cliff less than a minute later. I am so looking forward to see the footage the Japanese film crew will get of this spectacle.
We will be back at Jackson Bay next week when filming starts. It’s another three weeks until the Tawaki Project gets under way in earnest.