Concern for penguin numbers
The declining population of yellow-eyed penguins at Southland Forest and Bird’s Te Rere Private Scientific Reserve in the Catlins continues to concern volunteers who have been providing native plantings for nesting shelter for the birds, and predator control, for over 25 years.
The annual count, undertaken last Saturday by two groups of five committed F&B members, found 31 adults compared with 37 last year, and down from 49 the previous year.
Two regular sites are used to count the penguins returning to their nests in the undergrowth, bringing back food gathered at sea for the chicks.
‘‘The adult bird pairs share duties, taking turns to go out to sea for food,’’ Southland F&Bird yellow-eyed penguin advisory group member Brian Rance said.
‘‘The number of adult birds coming in or leaving after a changeover of duties during the day are taken as the best estimate of the adult numbers at the site.’’
The numbers have varied from 46 to 66 over the last eight years, down from the highs of over 70 adults which had shown recovery after the disastrous 1995 fire.
Only 10 nests have been found so far this year, down from 14 last year. ‘‘The adult birds and chicks observed on the count day gener- ally appeared in good condition.
‘‘I checked the trap lines and found one dead stoat and three rats, so we need to keep up this regular pest control.’’
Another group is going in this weekend to put in more traps. ‘‘The big unknown is at sea, with predation and warmer temperatures affecting ... penguin numbers, but we hope this special breeding colony can support more of these unique birds.
‘‘This year penguin numbers, based on the nest search information, are not expected to rise because of all the challenges the birds have to cope with. After a poor season last year, it is hoped the chicks found there this season will be able to fledge, and then come back to this site to nest themselves after about three years, so helping to increase numbers,’’ he said.
‘‘One group of counters could not access the bird hide, as a pair of penguins had taken up residence and were raising two healthy chicks in it, which is very enterprising. ‘‘
‘‘The adult birds and chicks observed on the count day generally appeared in good condition.’’ Brian Rance This adult yellow-eyed penguin and chick seemed unperturbed by human intrusion at Te Rere Private Scientific Reserve in the Catlins.