This week at Macquarie Island: 21 December 2018

Counting gentoo penguin chicks

Annual gentoo penguin chick census

This week has been busy with the annual Gentoo chick count being conducted.

Tas Parks and Wildlife's Ranger Luke Gadd, along with MACCA SSO Tommy Leoni, visited various locations within station limits, along the northern head of Macquarie Island, and back down along the west coast through to Bauer Bay.

They both covered approximately 16km of coastline in order to find all Gentoo colonies with chicks. "Numbers are looking good at each of the locations visited and chicks ranged in age from almost fully moulted, well-guarded by adults and the occasional bird on egg being spotted," Ranger Luke Gadd said.

Well-established Gentoo colonies were found either on the beach or as far as 300 metres up tussock-enclosed paths. They try to avoid the elephant seals who have a habit of crushing young Gentoo chicks while trying to seek refuge amongst the tussock from the strong winds and the unusual amount of sun Macca is experiencing lately. Gentoo parents have been doing an excellent job defending their young from the devious Skua, who prowl on the fringes of colonies waiting for a chance to strike.

It was also a good opportunity to see other new arrivals to the island in these areas, as they are now protected as SMAs (Special Managed Areas) and not accessible for recreational hiking due to the pupping of fur seals and nesting sea birds. Southern Giant Petrels, Wandering Albatross, Sooty Albatross and Terns are busy laying eggs or raising chicks along the Featherbed Track. These locations have been marked via GPS in order to band certain species and conduct veterinarian studies at a later date. 

Numbers of fur seal pups are looking respectable this year along the northern head. Proud and protective parents kept a watchful eye over Luke and Tommy as they moved carefully at distance through these areas to reach Gentoo colonies.

A count will be conducted later in this month on the numbers of new arrivals for fur seals as well. "It’s very similar to doing a stock take except what you are trying to count is moving and won’t stand still," said Tommy. Counts were done at least three times in each location to find a defined figure for each colony.

Gentoo penguin with a small hungry chick
Gentoo penguin with a small hungry chick
(Photo: Tommy Leoni)
Parent gentoo penguin guarding its chick
Parent gentoo penguin guarding its chick
(Photo: Tommy Leoni)
Parent gentoo penguin feeding its chick
Parent gentoo penguin feeding its chick
(Photo: Tommy Leoni)
summer ranger Luke conducting the gentoo penguin chick count on Macquarie Island this week
Tas Parks & Wildlife Service summer ranger Luke conducting the gentoo penguin…
(Photo: Tommy Leoni)
SSO Tommy scouting for gentoo penguin colonies
SSO Tommy scouting for gentoo penguin colonies
(Photo: Tommy Leoni)