February 2017: News from the West Coast Penguin Trust
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Trust commissions new interpretation panels

Cobden has been getting a makeover

Bernie Fahey with one of the new panels he installed at CobdenThe West Coast Penguin Trust has installed three new panels showcasing the seabirds that may be seen at Cobden.
With support from the Blackadder Trust and the Grey District Council’s Signage, Interpretation and Public Art project, the Trust has designed the new panels to show penguins, coastal birds and seabirds. 
Trust Manager, Inger Perkins, said being a part of the Cobden Aromahana Sanctuary and Recreation Area (CASRA) project has been great.
“We offered support with seabird interpretation at the outset and we have been delighted to see the project grow in leaps and bounds.  These new panels are just a tiny part of this exciting scheme that will benefit the local community in many ways.”
The Trust is keen to share awareness of the presence of penguins and other seabirds in this area and the panels include the blue penguins that are occasionally seen in the area as well as rare terns, petrels, gulls, shags and even albatross. 
“A few of the birds depicted in the panels nest on the beach and shore in the Cobden area, particularly penguins of course, but also banded dotterels, oystercatchers and spotted shags.  The Sanctuary area will become a haven for wildlife as well as for recreation as restoration continues and to achieve the best possible balance for both, we’re encouraging dog owners to keep dogs on leads or under close control at all times.”
If you'd like to see the detail of the three new panels and the seabirds you might see at Cobden, you can here.

Good year for Cape Foulwind's sooty shearwaters

Breeding numbers on the increase

Reuben Lane checks sooty shearwater burrow
Reuben Lane and Kerry-Jayne Wilson inspected sooty shearwater burrows at Cape Foulwind last Friday and found more breeding attempts than in previous years.
They found three adults still incubating their eggs, four chicks and nine adult shearwaters that sat tight on their nests indicating they were either incubating an egg or brooding a young chick.
Shearwaters lay only one egg each year, thus there could be 16 breeding attempts this year; the previous best was 10 in the 2014/15 season.  The birds nest in very thick scrub above the seal colony walkway.
It’s possible to see the sooties as we like to call them circling overhead then crash landing in the scrub during the hour after sundown.  The best place to watch from is at the junction with the path to the Wall Island lookout.
Please do not leave the walkway, you will not see them after they land and you could damage fragile nest areas. (The birds enter their long, fragile burrows within seconds of landing and you cannot see them inside their nesting burrows.)

OK breeding season for blue penguins

A bit below average success in Charleston

nesting blue penguinThe Trust’s monitoring of blue penguin nests this year in the Charleston area shows that breeding success has been a bit less than average.
Blue penguins lay two eggs and, from monitoring over the past few years, we would expect nearly half of the pairs to raise two chicks.  From 19 nests monitored in this area during the 2016 season, just two pairs fledged 2 chicks and eight pairs fledged 1 chick.  The rest appear to have failed.
The view of our head scientist, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, is that colonies are slowly declining. 
“The land based threat is not stoats, and loose dogs are still a problem in some colonies, notably in the Charleston and Punakaiki River areas.  There may be an issue or issues at sea but we are still in the dark about that.  Our GPS tracking study of where blue penguins forage when feeding chicks will continue in the coming season and early results after two years will be published soon.”

Where do blue penguins go to feed?

We're building on our knowledge

blue penguin foraging tracks from Charleston, October 2016The Charleston blue penguins in our foraging study were more obliging this season, as we investigate where they fish before returning to feed their chicks. The loggers were retrieved after two nights, as opposed to over a week of 2am checks last year!
All but one of our tiny GPS units managed to record tracks, shown on this Google Earth map, and this information is useful in understanding the needs of blue penguins on the West Coast.
The tracks from our colony have been analysed by Te Papa scientists alongside tracks from two other colonies as well as tracks from previous years, and a paper will be published soon, drawing all of that information together.
We're hugely grateful for Te Papa's support and collaboration, as well as a grant from the JS Watson Trust, and we look forward to bringing you more news soon.

Tawaki breeding success close to zero

Second disastrous year for a South Westland colony

Fiordland crested penguins, South Westland

In the third year of the Trust's monitoring of potential predators and predation of Fiordland crested penguins, stoats at Jackson Head have proved to be a significant threat, taking virtually all eggs or chicks at this small colony during the 2016 breeding season.
The 2015 season was also a disaster as adults had to forage a long way from home, often returning with too little, too late, and chicks were starving.  That was presumed to be due to El Niño conditions.
In May last year, DOC confirmed a beech mast with massive seed production particularly in parts of southern South Island.  It appears that has led to the expected explosion in first the rat population, followed by stoats, and the stoats have spread out from beech forests in South Westland seeking other sources of food - sadly penguin eggs and chicks in this instance.
Dr Thomas Mattern, who has been studying the foraging behaviour of tawaki during the chick rearing stage (see The Tawaki Project story below), reported that of around 40 nests in the Jackson Head area, only five chicks were still alive in mid-November, when the colony should have been alive with the noise of adults and chicks almost ready to fledge.
The Trust's project was planned for three years, but with this exceptional event, a fourth year is now planned, collaborating with Dr Mattern, to help better understand the situation.  This should allow fact-based conservation management regimes to be developed and put in place to conserve populations and/or habitats as required.

The Tawaki Project extends south

Third study season extended to Codfish Island

Fiordland crested penguins, South Westand

Also in its third year, Dr Thomas Mattern's The Tawaki Project extended to Codfish Island, so that his research now covers the roughly 500km of the breeding range and diverse coastal habitat of this rare penguin. 
This research is conducted at Jackson Head (South Westland, open coastline at northern end of their breeding range), Milford Sound (enclosed fiord environment) and Whenua Hou/Codfish Island (open coast, near southern end of their range).
The aim of the project is to expand our knowledge of Fiordland crested penguins and raise awareness of this often overlooked but truly iconic New Zealand species.
Thomas found that our South Westland tawaki forage over the continental shelf (water depth <500 m) within a 50km radius from their breeding colonies, diving down to 100m.  In contrast, breeding tawaki in Milford Sound forage mostly within spitting distance (< 3km) from their colony, seldom diving deeper than 40m. This season, the project added Codfish Island / Whenua Hou as a third concurrent study site close to the southern extent of the tawaki breeding range. Here, the penguins raising young chicks also proved to be mainly coast huggers that stayed close to the island instead of venturing into open water like their West Coast counterparts.
You can read more about The Tawaki Project here.

10th Anniversary celebrated where it all started

Informal gathering with supporters in Charleston

Ten years after a small group of penguin enthusiasts created the Trust based on concerns at the apparent decline of blue penguin numbers in the Charleston area, we felt the occasion and the achievements since then were worth celebrating. 
At the start of October last year, we shared a lunch with three founding Trustees, Kerry-Jayne Wilson, Jill Cotton and Helen Chambers, as well as some of our wonderful supporters, at the Underworld Adventures cafe in the middle of Charleston and Trust Chair, Kerry-Jayne, reviewed progress over the past ten years. 
We have moved from a blue penguin and predator control focus to addressing other land-based threats - vehicles and loose dogs, extended our efforts to the other West Coast penguin, the Fiordland crested penguin, as well as other threatened seabirds, and we have also started looking into marine threats to blue penguins.  On top of that we have an excellent educational resource and we're expanding our input from primary to secondary schools.
None of this could have been done without your support.
Thank you and we look forward to your continued support for the next ten years and beyond!

Penguin tee shirts - take your pick

Trust's own tee shirts or Tumbleweed Tees - great to wear and they support our work!

Craig Bleckinger models our shirt in OtagoWe have our own tee shirts designed by the fabulous Giselle and Tumbleweed Tees now have a wonderful Fiordland crested penguin design as part of their collection. Purchases of either support our work!
Here is supporter Craig Bleckinger modelling his Trust tee shirt on holiday on the stunning Otago coastline.
Find out more about the choice here.

Other penguin and seabird stories in the news

Blue penguin in rehabilitation for subsequent release Jan 2017

Happy release of a blue penguin at Hokitika after a few days of R&R with rehabilitor, Sabrina Luecht - view the joyful video here.


White-capped albatross Although numbers of many seabird species have been falling dramatically in recent years, the population of white-capped albatross, which breeds in the Auckland Islands, appears to be have remained relatively constant.  Read more here.

Life on the Edge - a wonderful NZ Geographic feature on NZ penguins.  We're the penguin hotspot of the world, which carries with it a huge responsibility.  Feature includes wonderful photographs and video with reports from Dr Thomas Mattern and WCPT Trustee and tawaki ranger, Robin Long.  Enjoy the whole feature here.

Blue penguin in the Avon River.  Photo: Joseph Johnson, Fairfax NZA juvenile blue penguin was spotted in the Avon River in central Christchurch in early January.  It was later picked up by penguin rehabilitators, Thomas Stracke and Kristina Schutt, so that it could feed and get up to a healthy weight before release.  See the wonderful photos, story and video here.

Sponsor feature - Pancake Rocks Café 

Famous pancakes and pizzas and much more!

As one reviewer said, you can't go to the pancake rocks and not have pancakes! 
I'm sure most Coasters know that the Pancake Rocks Café is a great place to stop for coffee, a snack or a meal, including pancake stacks, great pizza or fish and chips, and many thousands of visitors have enjoyed calling in for sustenance before or after a walk to Punakaiki's famous and fascinating pancake rocks.
The Café team are very conscious of their location close to stunning coastal scenery as well as the fact that some of that scenery is home to blue penguins and, as a result, they have chosen to support the West Coast Penguin Trust with an annual donation. 
Blue penguin sculptureBut not only that, they have recently commissioned a wonderful sculpture of two blue penguins.  Carved from beautiful Oamaru stone by local Greymouth artist, Brent Scott, the magnificent piece will sit outside the cafe and donations will be invited for our work.  Don't forget to look out for it when you're passing - and in fact, don't pass, call in and enjoy what is on offer in this great cafe!

Thank you Pancake Rocks Café - you rock! 

Thank yous and appreciation

We have received generous donations from:

Michael Humphries
Daniel Beetham
Kim and Stu Free
Rohan Wanigasekera
N Bishop
Vivien Pybus
Anna McKay
Andrzej Suchanski
Karen Blisard
Nicky Armstrong and Pengs
Denise Tilling
Canterbury Pet Foods

In addition, we have received donations collected by J's Cafe in Westport, West Coast Treetop Walk and Punakaiki Craft Shop.

Thank you all for your wonderful support!

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? 
A credit card donation can be made through our Givealittle page, or donations can be made as a one off or regular bank payment direct to our account: West Coast Penguin Trust, KiwiBank Acc No: 38–9011–0518009–00.  Thank you!

Please think about a legacy
Whoever you are, whatever your situation, you can help make a difference by including a gift to our charity in your will.  A gift can be as large or small as you wish, it just needs to be meaningful to you.  Your lasting legacy can help protect wildlife on the West Coast. 
We have put a few notes together here in case you'd like to consider how you could support the Trust; you can even link giving now to giving later to help ensure that our work with penguins, threatened seabirds and the coastal habitat continues and grows.  Thank you for thinking about it.

And don't forget, if you travel for business or pleasure within New Zealand, please consider using www.kiwikarma.co.nz to book your accommodation, and share it with friends, family and colleagues.  
At no extra cost to you, Kiwi Karma donates up to a generous 8% of the room rate to your favourite charity, and we hope you'll choose the West Coast Penguin Trust! 
Copyright © 2017 West Coast Penguin Trust, All rights reserved.

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