September 20, 2017 at 5:30 pm
The day started with quite a bit of drama.
While we were having breakfast a loud bang shook Neils Beach. Next thing we knew there were flames billowing from the airfield no more than 200m from the house we’re staying in. It turned out that the heli-shed of Greenstone Helicopters went up in flames. Greenstone have helped out the tawaki project from the beginning and it was sad to hear that the helicopter that was destroyed was the one that got us to and from Gorger River last November. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the heli shed and the adjacent packing facility of Barnbay Fishing burned to the ground in less than half an hour. Hopefully nothing was lost that isn’t covered by insurance.
In the afternoon, we did another round through the tawaki breeding areas to check on our monitored nests. Sadly, we lost another four nests. Again there were signs of predation… or at least scavenging. Judging from the messy job that was done on two chicks from one nest, I would say that a possum had a go at these unfortunate birds. But… question is whether the possum actually killed them. Hopefully, trail cameras operated by the West Coast Penguin Trust can shed some light on this mystery.
The remaining nests, however, look all pretty good. In one nest there we found two big chicks, a rather unusual sight for any crested penguin as they usually lose one of their two chicks a few days after hatching. It probably is a sign for good foraging conditions at sea this year.
When we headed back out, we spotted one of our logger birds returning home. The device will come off tomorrow.
And, finally, to round of this day of tragedy, my camera played up so that some really stunning video footage and photos recorded today are lost. Well, compared to what we witnessed this morning, I probably should not complain.