All the latest news from the West Coast Blue Penguin Trust
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Next meeting

The Trust's annual general meeting, followed by the regular quarterly supporters meeting starts at 10am Friday 24 May at the Grey District Council building.  Anyone is welcome to attend.

Dog's breakfast

If you and your pooch fancy a doggy treat with like-minded dog lovers then head to Hokitika beach on Sunday June 16.  Between 8am and 10am the Trust, with support from the Hokitika Veterinary Centre, will be offering doggy snacks and a sausage sizzle at the Weld Street entrance to Hokitika beach.  It’s a great way of celebrating how dogs are able to share the beach with penguins as long as they’re kept under control.
Come on down and enjoy a get together and beach walk.

Fence update 

Following the successful penguin proof fence trial at Punakaiki the Trust is talking to OPUS and NZTA about building another fence further north on SH6.  The plan is for a 2.5km fence that will begin just uphill from the Perfect Strangers Bach at Meybille Bay and end where the road leaves the coast at Pahautane. This would prevent penguins straying on to the road at several of the major mortality sites. Final negotiations with NZTA and OPUS are taking place now so watch this space.

Thanks for the support

Thanks to all the supporters who voted for the Trust in the Toyota promotion to win the use of a new car for three years.  While we didn’t make the top 25 we did come 66 out of 517 charities – a pretty good effort we reckon.

Congratulations to Kerry-Jayne who has launched her new book West Coast Walking - a naturalist's guide. The launch in Hokitika was well attended and we would recommend the book as a great read. 

Large seabird breeding colony discovered

The Trust's survey of an inshore island at Cape Foulwind has led to the surprise discovery of what appears to be the largest West Coast seabird colony between Cook Strait and Fiordland.
Ranger Reuben Lane and Matt Charteris were surveying Wall Island to look for sooty shearwaters as part of the Trust's project to boost numbers of shearwaters and blue penguins at Cape Foulwind.

They had assumed the Cape Foulwind shearwaters were an overflow from Wall Island and were astonished to find not only 300 shearwaters but an estimated 4,500 fairy prions.  Even more surprising it appears the island, which is only 120 metres off shore from Cape Foulwind, is free of predators.
Trust Chair and seabird expert Kerry-Jayne Wilson says it is exciting to find so many fairy prions as they no longer nest on the mainland. 
“The entire island is riddled with burrows and is extremely fragile, we had to walk very carefully so as not to fall through any.  At night during the breeding season it must be quite something to be there as they are very vocal birds,” she says.
Department of Conservation scientist Don Neale says while DOC has surveyed most of the islands on the West Coast the department wasn’t sure of the number of birds on Wall Island.
“This is a significant find.  Even though the birds are reasonably common the habitat they create is gone from the mainland and seabird colonies on inshore islands are the last remnants of how New Zealand used to be.  It is good to see the birds are there in numbers and are healthy,” he says.
The Trust will now establish further traplines on the mainland to ensure the island stays predator free.
Matt Charteris measuring one of the fairy prions

Focus of research changing

After five years monitoring blue penguin breeding success in Buller and three years in South Westland the Trust has decided to move its research priority to finding out what the birds are eating and how far they are travelling to forage.
Trust chair Kerry-Jayne Wilson says the monitoring carried out by Ranger Reuben Lane over the past few years has provided valuable research which will be published soon.
“It is essential that management undertaken to protect penguins is based on good research.  We have now monitored breeding success in colonies with and without predator control for between 3 and 5 years respectively.  There has been no significant difference in colonies with or without predator control in any year, at any location,” she says. 
It has been decided not to continue intensive colony monitoring for the next few years, however Reuben will still monitor penguins and shearwaters at Cape Foulwind and undertake more intensive predator control in that area to protect the shearwaters.
Preliminary work is now happening on a foraging study and the Trust is seeking funding for this research.  It would involve attaching GPS tracking devices to some birds during breeding season to ascertain how far the birds are going to forage to feed their chicks. 
Reuben (seen below) also has some new motion activated cameras.  “They are capable of taking great close up shots which will be perfect for the foraging study where we will need to identify individual birds as they come from the nest,” he says. 

Education programme all go

West Coast school children are about to learn more about blue penguins and other coastal birds. 
Thanks to a $7,455 grant from the Lottery Grants Board and support from Holcim, the Trust now has the green light to develop an education resource. 
Through a variety of fun and challenging activities 5 to 12 year olds will learn about coastal birds on the West Coast, as well as the threats to their survival.  The goal is for local people to take ownership of the wildlife in their own back yard as children share they information they learn with  parents, grandparents and friends. 
The education resource will be made available to youth leaders, holiday programme and home school coordinators, primary school teachers, and any other interested groups.  We’ll keep you up to date about when it will be available.

Thanks Holcim

Cement supplier, Holcim (New Zealand) Ltd, prides itself on being a good neighbour in the communities it operates in and the West Coast Blue Penguin Trust reckon the company has been more than neighbourly.
For the last five years Holcim has given the Trust a generous annual donation.  More unusual the funding is “untagged” which means the Trust can choose to use it in whatever way it feels appropriate.
“Holcim tell us they understand the value of having untagged funding which is fantastic.  It means we have the flexibility to use the money on a variety of projects.  We really appreciate Holcim’s support,” says Trust co-ordinator Inger Perkins.
In previous years the funding has been used to fund the Trust’s research, advocacy and predator trapping programmes.  This year some of the funding will be used towards the planned education programme for 5 to 12 year olds.
Separate from the funding Holcim gives to the Trust it has also helped fund the creation of a wetland and bird sanctuary on eight hectares of Holcim land at Cape Foulwind.  Holcim’s Environmental Advisor, Ajay Krishna says the company is committed to taking the greatest care of the environment while going about its business.
“A modern community expects environmental excellence from its corporate citizens.  We are committed to being a good neighbour and to achieve this we assess local needs, promote community involvement and partner with local stakeholders to improve educational, social and cultural development in the communities we operate in.”
The Trust looks forward to an ongoing relationship with Holcim.

New trustee welcomed

Kim McPherson comes to the Trust with a background in running an ecotourism business and community work through her involvement in the Scouting movement.
When she heard the Trust needed help with its annual census in 2010 she got the Scouts involved and they were able to identify an area of Hokitika Beach where penguins were nesting but threatened by lack of habitat.  Her enthusiasm helped the Trust gain support and funding for a habitat restoration project in the area.
Kim has gone on to establish a native bird recovery care facility to help sick or injured birds recover before being returned to the wild.
She is passionate about penguins and believes as New Zealander’s we have a responsibility to take care of the beautiful land in which we live.
Ranger Reuben Lane (pictured) conducted autopsies in April on nearly 40 dead penguins that have been stored in DOC’s freezer.  He took feather and tissue samples from all of the birds and stomach samples from around 25.   â€œIt was interesting to see at first look that most of the birds had been eating squid but sadly one had two shards of 1cm plastic in its stomach.  We’ll now have the stomach contents analysed further,” says Reuben.
An Otago Univestity PHD student will now analyse the birds' DNA as part of a study into genetics looking at the relatedness of blue penguins in different parts of New Zealand.  Otago and Australian birds seem to be closely related to one another but different to birds elsewhere in New Zealand.  This study will look at how our West Coast birds fit into this peculiar pattern.

Marine Reserves too small

The Trust is disappointed that the Government hasn’t gone far enough to protect marine ecosystems on the West Coast
In March Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith formally approved the new Kahurangi, Punakaiki, Okarito, Tauparikaka and Hautai marine reserves.  The new reserves are the first reserves between Whanganui Inlet (Westhaven) and Fiordland and total 17,500 hectares.
Trust chair Kerry-Jayne Wilson says while the reserves are in good locations they are not large enough to effectively provide protection for most of the marine wildlife found there.
“The Government has missed an important opportunity to protect and show case areas important to marine ecology at Punakaiki, Okarito and Ship Creek.  None of the West Coast marine reserves include deep water habitats and they are too small, only the Kahurangi Reserve is sufficiently large enough,” she says.
Kerry-Jayne says the Punakaiki reserve stops at Perpendicular Point missing waters to the north important to the largest blue (spotted) shag colony in New Zealand.  There are also good numbers of blue penguins between Perpendicular Point and Fox River so she believes the logical northern boundary would have been Fox River.
While she is pleased to see an Okarito Marine Reserve she believes the northern boundary should extend to the mouth of the Waitangiroto/Waitangitoana Rivers, allowing whitebaiting and other fishing in the lagoon with a no take area outside the lagoon.

Day in the life............. 

Ahhhh the freedom.  I have been hanging out with my mate, keeping our own hours and heading out to sea when it is fine for some fishing without a care in the world.  Reality will hit soon though as we are starting to feel like its time to have a family.  We’ve been checking out new burrows which the shearwaters have kindly made for us – it is all about finding the perfect penguin pad.
Thanks to our sponsors below and Kea Tours, Hokitika’s Shining Star, Birds Ferry Lodge, Rimu Lodge, and Breakers for their support.

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