October 3, 2014 at 9:21 pm
The logger bird fooled us. Or perhaps its mate fooled us. I guess both of them fooled us good.
We headed out to the Head after breakfast to finish the camera run we’d started yesterday. One of the sites we changed SD cards was out at Popi’s Plaza, where image data hopefully gives us new intel on the fate of our logger bird.
Overnight a southerly had arrived bringing with it not only icy temperatures straight out of Antarctica but also quite impressive seas. Even though we scrambled along the rocks just around low tide, some waves crashed precariously close to where we were walking. It took me all the way to the penguin sites to get warm.
So in essence it was a quick-in-quick-out job. We were back in Neil’s Beach in the early afternoon where we spent the rest of the day keeping the fire going and reviewing our camera images.
First of all, I had a look at our beach camera which faces the rock the penguin use to get up into the bush after they landed. The angle of the camera is perfect with lots of upward traffic recorded between 5pm and 10pm on the two nights we had the device out. Interestingly, the majority of the penguins left between 4am and 5am, so about two hours before sunrise. More and more Fiordland penguins remind me of Little penguins with their nocturnal commuting habits.
However, most importantly no trace of our logger bird on any of the images. That is, on those images where we could actually see the penguin quite clearly. Last night, however, when it was raining hard, penguins appeared like ghostly, blurred figures. However, I was fairly confident that our logger bird did not go up there.
In the evening Ursula arrived with five desperately need new i-gotU loggers. Finally we can continue the main purpose of our study – to track Tawaki. A bit of good news after several days of disappointments.
I was ready to go to bed when I remembered that I hadn’t had a look at our logger bird nest’s camera footage. Quickly I clicked through the images… until my jaw dropped to the floor in disbelief.
The logger bird returned to its nest late on 30 September! Just shortly before midnight! It appears in the frame, has a frantic greeting concerto with its mate and enters its nest site to feed its chick which also had returned to celebrate the occasion.
To think that we spent 5 hours at the beach waiting for the bird to return only to give up after the steady trickle of birds emerging from the sea and heading up the hill stopped around 9pm. We were cold and frustrated and gave up that night. Yet two hours after our departure she returned.
So she was pretty successfully at making us belief she was someone else, an unrelated bird we accidentally fitted logger to. And her mate was even more convincing having tete-a-tetes with other penguins while his mate was out searching for food for their chick.
All the image data I had reviewed, all the theories and explanations I came up with. All out of the window. Everything is as it should be, really. No trace of the logger bird the following two nights. But a bird without a logger spent a few hours with our male again. Could it be that he has a couple of concubines?
More importantly, if the logger bird had not returned the last two nights, it seemed more than likely that it would be back tonight. So I geared up, grabbed the basic tools and headed out to the heads for a quick midnight stroll to the Plaza.
It took me less than half an hour from Neil’s Beach to the logger nest. And lo and behold… a lone male penguin occupied the nest with the chick snoozing in a mini-crèche in the neighbouring burrow. Doh!
October 1, 2014 at 7:15 pm
Yes, the weather is packing in. It started with clouds slowly creeping up on us from the South. And towards the end of our camera run taking us to all our Jackson Head West sites drizzle set in.
We got the SD cards from most our cameras and removed the Bushnell from JH07 which had failed a few days ago. A sad father was sitting on a now empty nest. I could not find the carcass of the chick anywhere. Maybe a possum did a bit of a clean-up job? But then again, penguin chicks – dead or alive – have the habit of vanishing from one day to the next.
I re-set the camera to take pictures at 1 minute intervals looking up towards the penguins’ entry point into the bush down at our logger site. Let’s see if that sheds some light on the whereabouts of our non-breeding (D’oh!!!!) logger bird.
When the rain set in late afternoon we were back at Neil’s Beach.