July 2016: It's been a while since our last newsletter, so this is a bumper edition of news from the West Coast Penguin Trust, (and seems to display better and in full in your browser).
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Cameras record only two kills of tawaki chicks

Motion activated cameras record two kills of chicks by stoats

Using motion activated cameras at nest sites, the West Coast Penguin Trust is carrying out a three year study to determine the impact of introduced predators on Fiordland crested penguins/tawaki.  Between the 20 cameras at two study sites in South Westland (Jackson Head and Gorge River), thousands of videos have been recorded over the 2014 and 2015 breeding seasons and then reviewed. Although most video clips show penguins preening or gathering nest material, occasionally intruders – stoats, possums and rats – entered the scene. While it appears that possums and rats keep a respectful distance from the breeding birds, two tawaki chicks have been preyed upon by stoats, both at Gorge River and both resulting in breeding failure at those nests.
All crested penguins have a curious two egg breeding policy. The first egg is smaller and hatches after the larger egg. Unless there are abundant food supplies, as was reported from Milford Sound last season, or unless the first chick dies in the first few days, the second chick will be ignored and allowed to starve. Should predation occur, it would therefore lead to a better outcome if the smaller chick falls victim to the predator.  Unfortunately, in both of these cases, one in each season, it appears that the only surviving chick has been predated, leading to breeding failure for those nests. 
We will continue the monitoring of nests at both locations for a third and final season, starting next month.  However, although the penguins would be better off without the presence of stoats, from Dr Thomas Mattern's parallel 'tawaki project' into the foraging ecology of these penguins, it seems that the biggest and as yet unidentified threat to their survival is at sea.
PS Tawaki are pretty tough and heading out into stormy seas goes with the territory as this video clip from Thomas shows.

Where do blue penguins go at sea?  

We're starting to find out with our GPS foraging study

In the first of a three year study, tiny GPS units were carefully attached to blue penguins around Charleston during last year's breeding season.
The Trust's project, funded by the JS Watson Trust, is supported by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa as part of a larger three location study, comparing penguins in the Cook Strait, NW South Island region.
The collaboration means that we have access to the best Geographical Information System software and the expertise to analyse the data, increasing the value of the West Coast project many times.
This foraging ecology study complements the Trust's understanding of population trends and land based threats, gained through annual monitoring over ten years. 
The teething problems of an earlier pilot study had been addressed, but additional challenges presented themselves including one bird that didn't leave its nest box for a week and a roll of surgical tape, used to affix the units to the penguins, that failed and several units were lost. 
The Trust generally aims for a hands off approach to conservation, but attaching the GPS units is the only way to learn about their life at sea.  To minimise our impact on breeding pairs, GPS units are deployed only once per season on just one bird in each pair.  Nine loggers were attached last year and five sets of tracks were obtained.  The number was low as fewer than average breeding attempts were made in accessible nests, probably due to the el Niño conditions. We're pleased to report that all birds fitted with the GPS loggers raised their chicks successfully.
The tracks showed that the birds travelled less than 25km off shore and analysis by Te Papa will relate the tracked foraging areas to marine conditions including ocean currents and fisheries activity.  We'll share the results soon.

Breeding season is getting underway 

Which means that there are more penguins out there and at risk

Penguins are out and about every night going to and from their burrows and laying eggs at the moment. Sadly, a blue penguin was killed on the road just north of Hokitika the other day, probably looking to establish a nest or having already established one where penguins would have nested for centuries, on the east side of the state highway.
There are a couple of things you can do to help, the main one being to drive a bit slower after dark on coast roads. That will give yourself more time to avoid a penguin safely should you encounter one. It's particularly difficult to see very far ahead with dipped headlights following another vehicle, so give yourself plenty of space. Although it's more likely to be blue penguins on the roads near the coast, there could also be larger Fiordland crested penguins on roads in South Westland. 
Secondly, the Trust shares a database with DOC to record penguin mortality, and, with a number of sick and injured penguins being reported last year, those birds and the outcomes are also now being recorded. Your reports can help us better identify issues and hazards for penguins, and respond quickly when necessary. Please report dead penguins through our simple website form and any sick or injured penguins can be reported via the DOC HOTline, 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).
Finally, if you're able and willing and the dead bird is relatively fresh, taking it to the nearest DOC office is useful as it could contribute to greater understanding of threats as well as being a valuable part of science and education projects.  

Westland petrels under threat

A new report identifies the problems and proposes solutions

With funding from the Brian Mason Trust, our Chair, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, has been able to review all the published and unpublished research into the Westland petrel or taiko
Her report concludes that a main threat is fisheries bycatch, both in New Zealand, where the Westland petrel is the 10th at risk seabird from bycatch in NZ waters, and in South America, where the risk is virtually unknown due to a lack of reliable information. Other important threats are introduced species, particularly goats, stray dogs and pigs should illegal releases of feral pigs occur, and mortality due to disorientation by lights.  In addition, nature hasn't been kind, with significant impacts on the colonies from storms and landslides. Ex tropical cyclone Ita was particularly damaging in 2014.
As breeding birds, Westland petrels are unique to the West coast but they feed in seas around central NZ and, between breeding seasons, they migrate to and spend summers around Argentina and Chile.
Read more here, with a link to the new report.
You have probably also heard on the news recently that a commercial fisherman faces prosecution by the Ministry for Primary Industries over the deaths of 38 albatrosses off the West Coast. It is alleged that the fisherman failed to use a mandatory device to scare birds away from the baited hooks designed to catch southern bluefin tuna.  
There are a number of precautions commercial fishermen can take to reduce the risk of killing our precious seabirds, developed over many years, and it is tragic to learn that such carnage is still taking place.  
You can read the articles on the sad news story by The Press' West Coast Reporter, Joanne Carrol here and Forest & Bird's article here.  
You may be interested to see that southern bluefin tuna is one of the worst fish to consider buying - it's at the bottom of Forest & Bird's Best Fish Guide.  It's heartening however, to learn that responsible fishing operators are working together to look after seabirds as part of Southern Seabird Solutions.

Cape Foulwind monitored and trapped for penguins and sooties

Still no increase in seabird populations despite Trust efforts

A total of 29 natural burrows in the Cape Foulwind headland are monitored twice per season for sooty shearwater breeding. Chicks would be expected in early April when a second survey took place as a follow up to the November survey.  Sadly no chicks were found and unfavourable marine foraging conditions are possibly to blame.  
Monitoring of the ten blue penguin nest boxes took place last Spring.  Just one box was being used and that pair of penguins raised a pair of chicks.  Penguins also use natural and inaccessible burrows nearby and it was estimated that there were up to a further four breeding attempts in the area.  The season is about to get underway again for the blue penguins and we hope to have more success to report soon.
Trapping of potential predators rats, stoats and weasels over the past three years has been relatively consistent and indicates low numbers of mustelids, with two or three caught each season, and between around 4-10 rats caught most months. Motion activated cameras are also in place for some of the sooty shearwater burrows and, to date, neither stoats nor weasels have been seen entering burrows. 
Erosion protection works around the walkway and penguin nest area were recently carried out with great sensitivity for the penguins by DOC and Buller DC, with Ranger Reuben's input.

Report your black-billed gull sightings to BRaid

Black-billed gulls are Nationally Critical, one step away from extinction, and the Braided River Aid charity wants to learn more about their whereabouts

Black-billed gulls are the most threatened gull in the world.  They number only in the thousands and are rapidly declining. They nest in colonies on braided rivers or streams with gravel beds as well as coastal shell banks and sand spits. They are believed to breed in a couple of locations on the West Coast and BRaid is asking for your reports of sightings.
Black-billed gulls are smaller than other gulls seen around New Zealand and you may see them hanging out with other gulls, appealing for some of your lunch close to towns. Legs and bills are black in contrast to the red bills and legs of the red-billed gulls.
BRaid is also keen to hear about sightings of Black-fronted terns, which are Nationally Endangered.  These terns breed on the eastern riverbeds from Marlborough to Southland but are occasionally seen visiting the West Coast, generally at river mouths, including Hokitika and the Totara (Charleston) Rivers. 
Send your reports to manager@braid.org.nz or 03 312 8799 and for more about BRaid and these rare seabirds, visit their website.
(Photo: Steve Attwood)

Dogs still killing our West Coast penguins

Yes, sadly this headline was also in the last newsletter

And as we said last time, the West Coast Penguin Trust, Trustees and staff, love dogs and some own beautiful dogs.  We also love penguins, and, when dogs are not controlled, the two just don't mix.  
If you're a registered dog owner on the West Coast, you will have received or are about to receive your annual registration pack from the local Council and again this year, the Councils have kindly included a leaflet from the Trust encouraging dog owners to keep their dogs under control and safe and secure at home. 
Have you seen those signs encouraging the sharing of the road where the cycle trail needs to follow the road for a while?  Well perhaps we need similar signs for the beach, encouraging the safe and responsible sharing of the beach by dogs, with and for penguins.  
The sad photo shows a Fiordland crested penguin killed on a beach in Hokitika in broad daylight.  We know that blue penguins generally cross the beach under cover of darkness, but in fact, if sick or moulting, they could be on the beach in daylight, and Fiordland crested penguins could be there, albeit rarely, at any time of day or night. 
As we suggested before, it's great to run your dog on the beach during the day, so long as he or she is under voice control and does not go into coastal vegetation where penguins may be nesting, and perhaps you could consider a comfortable basket muzzle as back up.  Otherwise, keeping it on a leash when on the beach or in coastal areas, and safe and secure at home on the section are the best things to do.  You can make a difference as a dog owner or as the friend of a dog owner. Where you lead, others will follow. Let's make responsible dog ownership and sharing the beach safely with penguins the norm. 
You can read the full story on our website, here.

What prions are and why we should care

Nesting on Wall Island off Cape Foulwind, beautiful fairy prions are part of the West Coast seabird landscape

Te Papa's Alan Tennyson begins his blog like this: "If you see a dead bird on a New Zealand beach it is likely that you have found a prion, as they are the most common kind of bird washed ashore. So why has almost no-one heard of prions and why are many dead on our beaches?"
We reported on a couple of dead fairy prions washed up on the beach at Hokitika last year and, tragically, a quarter of a million prions died in 2011 after being driven ashore, mainly on the North Island's West Coast, after a storm lasting several days.  
Tennyson's blog follows the publication of a review of all 135 or so New Zealand's prion colonies, with our own Kerry-Jayne Wilson among the authors. 
You can read more on our website, with a link to the Te Papa blog.  
(Photo: Fairy Prion, by Les Feasey, NZ Birds Online)

Stylish new t-shirts available now

West Coast Originals t-shirts are available to order 

New Trust t-shirts showing our two West Coast penguins with the caption 'West Coast Originals' are now available and kindly designed by Giselle Clarkson, a freelance illustrator. 
As before, we have selected a supplier with an environmental and ethical approach to manufacturing and we're sure you'll be proud to be seen in one!
You can read more about the t-shirts including how to buy them on our website.

New brochures inform and invite support

New penguin brochures inform and engage, and new Trust leaflets explain the value of our work and seek your annual support 

We have published two new Trust brochures, the first focusing on our two penguins and the second introducing the Trust and seeking support to continue our penguin and seabird conservation projects.  
Read more here (including links to the new brochures) and please let us know if you would like any for yourself, your guests, clients, visitors etc.
Again we're hugely grateful to Giselle for more delightful illustrations, to Jase Blair for putting in long hours to create the new look for us, and to DOC's old Biodiversity Fund, for sponsoring the brochures. 
PS, Jase is currently on an expedition to climb a rock on the remote, sub-arctic Faroe Islands - sounds crazy?  You can read about the expedition here.

It's been a busy year

Our annual report illustrates the many projects underway with more to come

The West Coast Penguin Trust’s Annual Report was released last month and is full of action and progress over the past year.
Trust Chair, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, has compiled the report, which celebrates the successes of the past year and explains some of the challenges.  
It lays out each of the Trust's projects and reports on progress and plans for the coming year.
You can read the report here.


Facilitating Community Conservation 

Exciting new event planned for the West Coast in 2017

The Trust is in the early stages of planning a community conservation event, probably for August next year.  Our idea is that we invite experts to share their knowledge through workshops and seminars on a range of relevant topics, from ecology, restoration and trapping, to governance, health & safety and fundraising among others. We have started work on a programme and if you have any suggested topics that you would like to see included, please get in touch: info@bluepenguin.org.nz.

Hazards for little legs

Could your lovely outdoor bath be a hazard for penguins? 

If you live anywhere penguins might come exploring, please keep an eye out for places they may become stuck.  "A swimming pool or hot tub might not be on your radar at this time of year but it always pays to think about the critters who could become trapped" says our Ranger, Reuben.  "Lucky for this little guy he was rescued in time. You might like to think about leaving a plank set up at all times for wildlife to climb out of your pool, bath or other hole!" 
We heard another story about a blue penguin that ended up in the bath set up in the middle of the Greenstone Park Speedway at Cobden.  The bath is there to be filled with water for race day emergencies, and a penguin had found its way in a few years ago but couldn't climb out. Again, fortunately, he or she was found and released before it was too late.  

Petrel festival fun

If you missed the petrel festival in April, make sure you catch it in 2017!

The Trust had a very visible presence at the wonderful Punakaiki 'Return of the Westland Petrel' festival in April.  
Trust Chair, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, led a beach walk at dusk to watch hundreds of Westland petrels coming ashore against a stunning sunset, we had a stand at the market in Punakaiki central, and then Kerry-Jayne, along with Te Papa's Dr Susan Waugh, talked to the crowd about these precious birds.  After the talks, the evening concert at Punakaiki Beach Camp got underway, with great music from local talent, top Wellington bands and international artists - and great food!
Read more and see some photos in our facebook post, and don't miss it next year!

Big 'thank yous'

We have received generous donations from
Joshua Poon (age 7!)
Adelaide, Aimee and Lily who raised money through a cupcake stall 
Denise Tilling
Rohan Wanigasekera 
Michael Humphries
Stefan Reiner
Phyllis and Michael Wells
Pat Latas

And we're grateful to all those who make our donation boxes available and to those who contribute via those boxes.  Special mention goes to J's Cafe in Westport and Underworld Adventures at Charleston.  Both do great coffee and great food, and the glow worm display in the Charleston caves is rated by our Kerry-Jayne Wilson as one of the most spectacular in the country.  
Big thanks too to the Hokitika i-Site, Birds Ferry Lodge and the Shining Star Beachfront Accommodation for collecting donations.
We're enormously grateful to our regular donors, some of whom go to great lengths to support us, making personal donations and collecting donations from clients and customers on our behalf.  Special mention goes to Daniel Beetham, whose coastal book-a-bach now has a donation box (illustrated by our own Jill Cotton!), and to Kim and Stu Free and their Canterbury Pet Foods customers.
We're also very grateful for donations that have come through DOC from whitebaiters - thank you!

Supporter feature - Breakers Boutique Accommodation

A beachfront haven on the Great Coast Road

Breakers is rated #1 in the B&B and Inns section of Trip Advisor for the West Coast - congratulations to hosts Jan and Stephen Roberts!  
Each year, Jan and Stephen contribute 50 cents for every room night booked and encourage their guests to make donations too.  The total is a generous annual donation to the Trust's work, which connects perfectly with their stunning beachfront and blue penguin nesting location, 14km north of Greymouth.  
We're hugely grateful for your support, Jan and Stephen - thank you.

As always, more can be achieved with your help - please donate today.

With your help, we are making a big difference for the West Coast penguins and other threatened seabirds. Givealittle link
Every donation, small or large will enable us to do more.  
We hope you can help us out - why not start now?
Copyright © 2016 West Coast Penguin Trust, All rights reserved.

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