September 21, 2017 at 5:30 pm
After a rather relaxed start to the day… no, let me rephrase that. After we did nothing other than house cleaning, office work, preparing our next GPS Loggers, and taking long naps until late afternoon, it was time to head out to Jackson Head to get our first GPS loggers back. And deploy the three new ones.
The two penguins with trackers on their backs are both from the sub-colony we call Popi’s Plaza. What we had to do was sit on the shore and wait for them to come home. We try to recover devices before the penguin enter their breeding areas. On one hand they are easier to catch outside of the thick vegetation. On the other hand, we do not cause a stir within the breeding colony, freaking out penguins unrelated to our activities.
The actual process of device recover follows an easy if somewhat unnerving pattern.
We sit hidden behind some rocks and observe the foreshore. As the sun approaches the horizon, penguin start to pop out of the water and scramble over the rocks to their breeding colonies.
But that makes it sound like as if the birds would show rather determined activity. They don’t.
They would walk a few metres and then stop to have a look around or start to preen extensively.
All the while we are straining our eyes to see if any of the birds carry the priced package. The problem is, they tend to show you their bellies. And it requires a lot of patience before you can finally catch a glimpse of their back side… and see that there is nothing.
Often when a logger bird finally shows up, you only catch a glimpse of the device and the last moment. And then it gets hectic.
Well, until 7pm we managed to recover one of our two devices. And we were damn lucky. The bird – or its partner – had really done a job on the logger. The tape we attached the device with was in tatters and was literally hanging on the penguin by a thread. Well, a feather. At any rate, it wouldn’t have taken the bird much to preen off the device and that would have been the end of that.
But, as it is, we have our first logger back.
With a spring tide rolling in around midnight, we had until 9pm to deploy three more loggers. So we made our way through the darkness and thick vegetation to an area we call the rock arena. Here several of the breeding females were feeding their chicks. Once they had finished their job three of them volunteered to carry GPS diver loggers for a few days.
It took us an hour and a half to deliver our pay load so that we had to hurry up to get back out before the tide rolling in cut us off from home.
Because of that, we could not have a look for the second logger bird at Popi’s Plaza. We will have to get here tomorrow. When we will also try to deploy three more devices before we finally head over to Milford Sound on Saturday.