It is the time of year when the yellow-eyed penguins are at their most glorious - and they know it!!
Our late summer and autumn so far has been quite warm and we had rain as well so that the grass is growing madly and it all looks more like spring than going into winter. This sponsored box was occupied by a moulting male and we introduced him to a young lady that we released from rehab. Initially they ended up about 10m apart but then were caught them hanging out in the box together - if you look carefully you can spot a second bird in front of the obvious one. We have now tarted up this box a little by mowing the long grass and there has been some sign that penguins is hanging out in the area. We hope they have found love and will bless us with eggs and chicks next season. We shall see. For now the box has been discovered!
This is a pair that is much loved and have produced much loved chicks: Thor last season and Rocket this season. Here they are all done with the moult and having a day off in the colony wearing their brand-new feathers. Just gorgeous!
Every year the penguins amuse us with their fabulous hair dos during the moult. They might look a little moth-eaten but they do come out most beautiful in the end!
This moulting season we have noticed a difference in the timing of the moult of our yellow-eyed penguin breeding pairs. The males are already well into moult before the females show up. Here is a pair with this obvious difference. In fact she struggled with the weight and needed a little top-up in our rehab facility along with a number of other females whose partners were already done and had gone to sea. It is important for the pair bond that they moult together but not at the risk of losing one of them. So a week or 10 days of salmon sees them right and then they can be reunited with their mates - hopefully pair bond intact.
This is a beautiful bachelor just finishing his moult, dreaming in the sun. He is called Noel because we re-discovered his identity around Christmas. He was one of our rehab birds last year and appears to have settled in our colony. We have released a couple of females into his area in the hope that he finds love for next season. For now he has grown a gorgeous new set of feathers - that's gotta impress a lady!
We are coming to the end of the moulting season for our yellow-eyed penguins. Here a pair has chosen a sponsored box to moult - maybe they use it for breeding next season!
It's been a tough few weeks for our yellow-eyed penguins at Moeraki: we have now found dead 5 females and 4 males, 3 chicks have died in hospital and 2 chicks were found dead in the colonies this season. Some of the autopsies come back that they died of Avian Malaria, some are inconclusive. It is always sad to loose a penguin but one stood out in particular: Wotan the Magnificent - here our last photo of him, round and fat and ready to moult with his mate Poppy. Three days later he was dead. He had finally found a wife and raised a chick and he was obviously in good nick but then he was dead - nothing conclusive in his autopsy report. Whilst we can't cure death we think we are pretty good at determining if a penguin is sick and we take it into rehab, and then maybe we can help (not always but usually). But Wotan? He did not look like he needed help.
How can we deal with Avian Malaria? It has been detected in yellow-eyed penguins as far back as 1944, and African penguins get it. Is there a cure? Not that we are aware of. But how do you administer medication when a bird appears perfectly healthy and they die so quickly that even a blood test that might tell us, would not save their lives.
(In case you are wondering about Poppy, she is moulting on her own but may have found company in the bachelor neighbour.)
For now we mourn Wotan and all the others that have died, and feeling a little anxious and worried about our precious penguins.
Our much loved white-flippered penguin was finally ready to be released. We took him into our penguin colony and let him go into a little (blue) penguin box there near the beach. He would be able to hear the ocean and leave at his leisure. It also gives us a chance to monitor whether he in fact does leave as we check the colonies every other day. If he is reluctant we can always give him a bit more TLC. For now we say good-bye and good luck. He ought to be able to find his way back to Bank Peninsula where most of his kind live.