'Tis the season to be merry - and for red-billed gulls to be breeding!

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Call for help to survey
red-billed gulls

You probably think red-billed gulls are common and, in comparison to our penguins, of little conservation concern. Surprisingly this might be wrong.  There has been no nation-wide survey of red-billed gulls since 1965 but some of the largest colonies at Kaikoura and on the Three Kings and Mokohinau islands have declined markedly over the last 20 years, probably as a result of reduction in marine productivity and therefore food availability. Conversely numbers in Otago have increased.

What is the current status of red-billed gulls and what can they tell us about changes in the marine environment?

Over the next three years, the Ornithological Society of New Zealand in collaboration with DOC is conducting a nationwide survey of red-billed gulls and they need your help. The aim is to locate and then census all red-billed gull colonies.  If you know of any location where these gulls nest please record its geographic position (latitude/longitude or NZTM2000 coordinates, ideally accompanied by a map or Google earth image showing the location of the colony), together with some indication of its size. You might want to use the datasheet available for download here.

Red-billed gulls should be in full breeding mode at present with birds on nests with eggs or chicks. Now is a great time to locate nesting sites (i.e. look out for birds dive bombing and crapping on you as evidence of breeding! 

Please submit your records on red-billed gulls to either Peter Frost 
(birds.wanganui@osnz.org.nz) or Graeme Taylor (gtaylor@doc.govt.nz) or by mail to Graeme Taylor, Department of Conservation, PO Box 10420, Wellington 6143, NZ.

Further information about this survey can be found in this link:  http://osnz.org.nz/node/538

Claudia Mischler (Wildlife Management International Ltd) is carrying out a parallel survey of black-billed gulls (left hand photo below). These are not common on the West Coast but small numbers do nest on some West Coast braided rivers. If you come across any such colonies, please pass the information on to Claudia (email: claudia@wmil.co.nz).

The West Coast Penguin Trust records the size and location of breeding colonies of all West Coast seabirds. We are especially interested in both blue and Fiordland crested penguins, sooty shearwaters, fairy prions, all species of shags and white-fronted terns. If you know of breeding sites for any West Coast seabirds please inform Kerry-Jayne Wilson Kerry-Jayne@bluepenguin.org.nz.
Thank you.
Kerry-Jayne Wilson,
Chairperson, West Coast Penguin Trust

Happy Feet II or Gary the Tawaki
gets special treatment

A young Fiordland crested penguin came ashore on Hokitika beach on Westland Holiday Monday (28 November) and was thought to be suffering from exhaustion and hunger.  With some rest and plenty of fish, we thought he'd be ready to be released back to South Westland within a few days.

Gary Lee, owner of New World in Hokitika, kindly provided some fish for the little chap, so we named the penguin after him!

Gary (the penguin) progressed from the laundry tub to the bath and we then noticed that things weren't right.  A visit to Rachel Berry at the West Coast Vets confirmed that he had a prolapsed cloaca and a large wound in that area as well as an injury to one foot, all assumed to have been caused by a seal bite. 

Rachel did some initial treatment and got in touch with places that might be able to help; Wellington Zoo put their hand up. 

DOC has an arrangement with Air New Zealand to fly native birds and they kindly agreed to ensure that Gary the Tawaki would be flown from Hokitika to Wellington.  A special transport box had to be made and after a day of fog and waiting to fly on Tuesday, Gary finally flew away from Hokitika yesterday, (and you thought penguins didn't fly!)

Dr Lisa Argilla, Veterinary Science Manager, met him in Wellington and he was "feisty and bitey" and then loving a salt water bath when he got to the zoo.

She'll be anaesthetising him today and reviewing the condition of his ankle and possibly doing a skin graft for the wound.  Updates will be on our facebook page if you'd like to follow the story of this rare and very tough penguin!

[Photos below: in the laundry tub; Graeme Jackson loads the precious penguin cargo at Hokitika airport; Gary the penguin gets star treatment at West Coast Vets]
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Thank you and Merry Christmas!
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