September 12, 2014 at 7:44 pm
After another comfy night and a solid breakfast at the Heartland Hotel in Haast, we climbed into our field gear. The weather looked rather dull and grey. Today was definitely an oil skin day.
The drive from Haast to Jackson Head seems to get longer every time. 48 Kilometres of one of the straightest but also bumpiest roads in New Zealand can be a real drag. Especially when you want to get back home after a long, wet day in the field. I look forward to the 15th when the Japanese film crew will have wrapped their filming and we move to Neil’s Beach.
It was drizzling when we made our way across he rocky shore towards the base and the rope ascent to the Apartment Block. The last three weeks have been phenomenal in terms of weather, with not a drop of rain. Everything was bone dry. Not today. The climb up the rope was slippery business. Today, Ida-san and Hongo-san both shared filming duties, with the director being curled up in the tent looking after the remote controlled cameras, while the camera man spent the entire day in a tiny canvas hunters hide of dimensions of no more than 80x80x160 cm. From in there he manually operated a large 4K camera as they had found that the remote camera was to slow and sluggish to pan around chasing the penguins as they moved around the apartment block. The penguins did no mind the hide at all, so I was happy with this activity.
Popi and I did the camera run around the Apartment Block and the Hill Top with the scenic nest. I was pretty dismayed by the fact that again, two cameras had not recorded anything. Another camera had been knocked over by some pesky penguins and had recorded nothing but close up shots of the surrounding vegetation.
My Argentinian colleague was impressed by the fact that the penguins choose to breed that high up the hill. Of course the scenic nest added to the experience. It is a lovely spot indeed.
Saying that, we both agreed that the number of nests suitable for logger deployments was not so flash. What we need are closed nests without a back entrance. The nests need to be approachable and ideally a bit secluded from other nests so as to minimize disturbance. Not to mention that a lot of nests were in impenetrable or simply nasty (ongaonga nettles!) vegetation. So far I had identified about six potential candidates. Hardly enough for the proposed 20 logger deployments.
After the camera run we headed west along the shore to a spot where I knew one of the West Coast Penguin Trust cameras is located. Apart from the fact that this camera needed its batteries replaced anyhow, I wanted to have a bit of a look around to see whether there might be any more suitable logger nests.
The camera nest certainly is not. You have to be a contortionist to get to it, weaving your body through an impossible tangle of kiekie. It does not help at all if you are tall. Like me.
However, a bit further up the hill I spotted what looked like tree daisy. Perhaps we had more luck there?
We had! We had to dive through a wall of wet kiekie to find ourselves at the base of an open but steep and muddy slope with a large rock face to our right. Right at the bottom of the rock we looked at a single cave nest. Exactly what we were looking for. We kept going up and found a bit of a clearing. Well, actually it was a bit of forest with closed canopy above but little undergrowth. It seemed really open to us and in honour of my companion I was quick to name it “Plaza del Popi”. I had to name it, because right here we found two more nests that were perfect for logger deployments!
We continued to search the area but found only open nests that were tucked away in dense kiekie. However, three more nests was not bad for a quick look around.
We headed back to the car and hopped on the car for the long drive back to Haast where we spent the rest of day beginning the analysis of the Bushnell time lapse data.