September 27, 2014 at 11:12 pm
A lovely evening to sit between the rocks just underneath our logger bird’s colony waiting for it to return.
Today was the second day the penguin had been out with its i-gotU backpack. And it is time to relieve it for its load.
We got to the site in the late afternoon and decided to change SD cards in some of the surveillance cameras in the Hilltop area first. The weather here at the West Coast is gorgeous at the moment. Far too good not to walk up the hill when the vegetation is not dripping.
Everything was in order up there. Well, except for JH07 where the chick had died yesterday. In one of the hilltop nests, two about 2-week-old chicks were rummaging around in daddy’s brood patch. Perhaps this is going to be one of the rare nests that raises two chicks? Would be a welcome compensation for JH07’s failure.
After changing the last SD cards up at the scenic nest, we headed back down to the apartment block and past the TV tent to check on the time lapse camera that had malfunctioned yesterday. This time it recorded images as it was supposed to. What irks me is that I have no idea why it did not work before. The Bushnell’s are far too unreliable for my taste. Well, at least we don’t have the problems that the West Coast Trust is facing with its Little Acorn cameras which only record useless 1 second video clips if the temperature dips below 10°C, i.e. at night when it would be most crucial to get longer video clips to observe predator movements amongst the penguin nests.
On our way down, I reinstalled one of the trust loggers at nest JH10, the nest that had yielded us the first GPS logger data set last week. Both adults were present at the nest. An encouraging find, I thought. But my optimism was shattered when I peeked into the nest to find that their chick was dead, by the looks of its carcass dead since the rain yesterday. The nest is quite exposed. It seems as if the chick got wet and died of hypothermia. The second nest failure which pushes the breeding success rate below the 0.5 mark (i.e. less than 50% of all laid eggs will result in fledging chicks).
We assumed lookout positions below the current i-gotU bird’s breeding colony at about 5pm and waited for our bird to return. From 6pm onwards a steady flow of penguins arrived. Most of them seemed to appear out of nowhere and suddenly stood on the wet rocks some 100m below us. I stared at each bird through my binoculars until I could confirm that it did not have extra GPS logger baggage on board. The sun sank slowly towards the horizon and the sandflies whizzing around my head almost contributed to the serenity of the evening scenery with its warm light that slowly turned from golden to red to violet. The first stars appeared and the thin sliver of the waxing moon hugged the sparsely illuminated not-so-dark-side of the moon.
And penguins still kept on appearing. About half an hour after sunset a bit of a rush hour set in with six penguins making their way up to us and past our lookouts. Interestingly, in darkness the penguins do not seem to mind us at all.
The problem, however, was that our bird was not one of them. Or to quote Obi-Wan Kenobi: “These aren’t the birds you’re looking for.“
As night progressed the birds became increasingly more difficult to spot. Luckily, we had a night vision scope with us which allowed us to check on the birds with and infrared sensor. But, alas, that did not make the logger bird appear either.
At around 10pm I headed up to its nest site to check whether it had somehow managed to sneak past us. But its mate and chick were the sole occupants of the nest burrow. I got the SD card from the WCPT camera and just for good measure installed one of our time lapse camera facing the nest directly so that we can check tomorrow if the bird returned later that night and we headed out.
Back in Neil’s Beach around 11pm for a late dinner.