Events and news from the West Coast Penguin Trust, March 2016
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Stark contrast for tawaki in South Westland vs Fiordland

South Westland penguins have a difficult season

We are still reviewing camera images and video from our Jackson Head and Gorge River sites and will report back in the next newsletter, but in the meantime, Dr Thomas Mattern of the Tawaki Project has released his report of the second season of his research on Fiordland crested penguins.  The penguins in the shelter of the fiord at Harrison Cove have had a bumper season, whereas the Jackson Head colony appears to have been adversely affected by El Niño conditions and foraging trips have required high levels of effort in terms of distance and depth swum. Read more about the study and future plans in the project report available here: Stark contrast for South Westland and Fiordland tawaki

Global interest in fate of Adélie penguins

Don't believe all you read in the news

Following her adventurous trip to Antarctica as ornithologist for the Australasian Antarctic Expedition two years ago, Trust Chair Kerry-Jayne Wilson is lead author on a new paper describing the impact a massive iceberg and its associated fast ice has had on the Adélie penguins.  The world's press picked up on the story following publication of the paper, misinterpreting the results and wrongly reporting the deaths of 150,000 penguins.
In fact few adult penguins will have died; what they found was many fewer penguins returning to the colony to attempt breeding, and of those that did, few if any succeeded in raising their chicks.  Kerry-Jayne spoke to National Radio and responded to emails from some 50 journalists from around the world.  Links to the paper published in the Antarctic Science journal and a short note correcting the misreporting of their paper is available here.  (We even had to correct Wikipedia!)

Top seabird island revisited

Wall Island is home to the largest colony of seabirds between Cook Strait and Stewart Island

What better way to finish off the year than a trip to Wall Island and Trust Ranger, Reuben Lane, made this report after his visit on New Year's Eve:
This island is so riddled with seabird burrows it's spectacular - but very hard to move around without causing damage.  With between 1 and 2.5 fairy prion burrows per square meter, the island is home to literally thousands of birds. Seeing all the cute fluffy prion chicks (and yes, the photo of a pile of grey fluff is a fairy prion chick about 20cm long - spot its beak in the middle), makes up for crawling through guano encrusted scrub, avoiding crushing a burrow at every step.  From the scrabbling claw marks worn into the rock, this island must have had seabirds nesting on it for a very long time.
The Trust maintains a predator trap line at Cape Foulwind to reduce the risk of stoats or rats reaching the island.  More photos from Reuben's visit are on the facebook post.

Sooty survey encouraging

Sound system draws more interest

On 21st December, Trust Ranger, Reuben Lane, and Chair Kerry-Jayne Wilson, carried out their annual post-egglaying check of the sooty shearwater burrows at Cape Foulwind.
12 burrows were occupied by shearwaters, similar to last year with birds incubating in at least 9 of these, again similar to last year. Unlike last year, virtually all other suitable burrows showed signs of recent use by shearwaters so although numbers breeding have not increased, the number of shearwaters visiting the colony have, which is very encouraging.  The Trust has been broadcasting sooty shearwater calls there for the past three summers to encourage more birds to nest here, so the signs are that it may be working.
If you are at Cape Foulwind in the hour after dusk during summer and early autumn, you should see a few sooty shearwaters circling overhead. Please enjoy the experience from the path as the birds are easily disturbed and are impossible to observe once on the ground.
[Photo: Craig McKenzie from]

Blue penguins star on the silver screen

(but not quite at the Oscars)

Blue penguins star in the heart-warming film, Oddball, alongside a gorgeous Maremma dog of the same name, based on a true story in Australia.  If you didn't get to see it when it was at cinemas, I recommend it to watch at home.  You'll see penguins scurrying around and using nest boxes and the lovely story of a dog protecting a colony from foxes.  Read more about the film and the Aussie cousins of our very own West Coast blue penguins here, along with a link to the trailer.  
We don't have foxes here, instead dogs are often the problem and sadly a number of penguin deaths due to dog attacks killing both adult and juvenile penguins have been reported over the past breeding season, both adult and juvenile penguins.  Any suggestions for a Maremma substitute for the coast anyone?

Penguin resource inspires teachers

and makes their life easier

Teachers from several Greymouth schools, from pre-school to senior level, joined Zoe Watson and Reuben Lane for an enjoyable exploration of the Trust's Blue Penguins and Other Seabirds education resource at the end of Term 4.  
Teachers are reporting that the resource is saving them heaps of work and they are connecting penguins into a variety of themes including respect and responsibility.  For more about the workshop and a link to the resource online, click here.  Teachers, youth leaders or parents etc. who would like a printed copy of the resource can contact the Trust ( and we'll put one in the post. 

Dogs still killing our West Coast penguins

But with your help, things can improve

We like to focus on the good news, but sometimes, the bad news needs our attention too. 
Let's get one thing straight.  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.  Sadly, after several years of promoting responsible dog ownership, alongside Councils, the SPCA, and others, a number of blue penguins were killed by dogs during the last season, notably around Charleston, Punakaiki, Cobden and Hokitika.  
Research tells us that awareness is no guarantee of changing behaviour, so how do we reach dog owners and appeal to their better nature?  
Well, perhaps we can't, but we know you can.
Some simple guidelines are that it's OK 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 consider a comfortable basket muzzle as back up.  Otherwise, keeping it on a leash when on the beach or in coastal areas, 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.  

Police to the rescue!

PC Graf-Pollard saves the day

Here's a happy story, and one that drew our largest ever facebook audience at 21,826 and counting!
There's a very fortunate little blue penguin out there because PC Nyanne Graf-Pollard from Nelson (who was on the West Coast to help out local cops with the pre-Christmas safe driving campaign) stopped to pick up the penguin, which was standing on State Highway 6 around Waimea.  PC Graf-Pollard took it to the SPCA in Greymouth and then brought it back to Hokitika for a check up (thank you Sabrina) and release at dusk (thank you Antje and Eigill), close to where he was found. 
Thank you so much to Nyanne, who showed the coast cops that community policing can extend to lending a helping hand to our wildlife. 

Penguins and photography with Craig Potton

First fundraising event a success

Craig Potton's Penguin Encounters audience and photography workshop participants were treated to inspiring sessions at the Hokitika Regent in November.  The Trust is hugely grateful to Craig Potton (our patron), to the Regent and to the volunteers who helped make the events and associated raffle successful fundraisers for the Trust.

More 'thank yous'

We have received more generous donations from
Denise Tilling
Kate Henderson
Alun Hassall
Nicola Armstrong
and two travellers from Singapore!  

The latter donation arose from a lovely story a year ago.  DOC Ranger, Ieuan Davies, who has done some work with the Trust in the past, passed the touring couple at the Gates of Haast late at night.  They had run out of fuel so he siphoned some into their car.  Ieuan reported that they were pretty scared as it was raining in classic West Coast style; he said "they were parked too close to the big slip so I was just relieved to get them out of there really."  They asked if they could repay him and he mentioned the Trust.  Their comment on the Givealittle page said "Paying it forward from Ieuan of DOC at Westland National Park Visitor Centre. Thank you so much Ieuan!"  

We're also very grateful to businesses that have donation boxes (if you would like one, please let us know), and special thanks go to J's Cafe in Westport (we love your coffee and your birds!), to the intrepid team at Underworld Adventures at Charleston and to the very welcoming Carters Beach Top 10 Holiday Park.  
Thank you to all our donors and supporters and w
e'll give a big mention to our regular donors in the next newsletter. 

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?

Help protect penguins simply by booking your accommodation!

Please don't forget to use KiwiKarma as your first stop when looking for accommodation in New Zealand, from backpacker to business to luxury, it's all there wherever you need to stay.  Kiwikarma is supported by the BookIt system and when making your booking, simply select the West Coast Penguin Trust at the end of the short booking process.  This is a great opportunity to help us at no cost to you and we'd love you to make the most of it!  There are no booking or credit card fees; please share this with everyone you know!  Thank you - just click on the logo to start looking.

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