This week at Macquarie Island: 7 December 2018

Penguin projects and visitors to Buckles Bay

Disease screening on Macquarie Island

Macquarie Island is brimming with many wonderful wildlife species, but monitoring shows that three of the four resident penguin species have been declining in recent years.

One of the possible contributors to declining populations is disease. In order to better understand the health status of the resident penguin and albatross populations on Macquarie Island, Parks and Wildlife rangers are undertaking disease screening this summer as part of their summer wildlife monitoring program.

With the gratefully received assistance of many Macca expeditioners, Parks rangers have been busy capturing and sampling individuals from gentoo, rockhopper and king penguin populations. Blood samples, swabs and parasite samples have been taken and stored, ready for analysis at the end of the season.

Sampling declining and threatened species will improve our understanding of the health status of resident wildlife populations, and contribute to overall Parks and Wildlife management of Macquarie Island’s many unique wildlife species.

A gentoo penguin steps out on the beach at Macquarie Island
A gentoo penguin steps out on the beach at Macquarie Island
(Photo: Annie Philips)
Parks and Wildlife Rangers sample the blood from a gentoo penguin as part of a study into avian diseases
Parks and Wildlife Rangers sample the blood from a gentoo penguin as…
(Photo: Annie Philips)
Two king penguins touching beaks on the beach at Macquarie Island
Two king penguins on the beach at Macquarie Island
(Photo: Annie Philips)
A Parks & Wildlife Ranger about to release a rockhopper penguin after sampling
A Parks & Wildlife Ranger about to release a rockhopper penguin after
(Photo: Annie Philips)

Nearly daily Orca visits

As it approaches the time when the ellie seal weaners leave the beaches where they were born and disappear into the Southern Ocean, visits from the local Orca pod (killer whales) to Buckles Bay on the east coast of Macquarie Island have become an almost daily occurrence.

It is of course ‘easy pickings’ for the Orcas. The ellie seals have no idea of the danger and the Orcas are assured of a generous rich feed to strengthen their increasing numbers.

We have noted up to 12 or more individuals travelling together – many very small calves and juveniles with females. There is only one large male though, and he's usually the one who makes the kill. Although much of the action is below the surface of the water it would appear he eats his share then gives the remainder to the rest of the pod.

The distinctive dorsal fin of a large male orca (aka killer whale) in Buckles Bay on Macquarie Island's east coast
The distinctive dorsal fin of a large male orca (aka killer whale)…
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
There are several young and juvenile orcas travelling with the pod
There are several young and juvenile orcas travelling with the pod
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
Another three members of the orca pod in Buckles Bay
Another three members of the orca pod in Buckles Bay
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
Five females or juvenile male orcas swimming together in Buckles Bay
Five females or juvenile male orcas swimming together
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
The large male orca in the pod makes a powerful lunge for a young ellie seal
The large male orca in the pod makes a powerful lunge for…
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
An ellie seal weaner in the mouth of the large orca male
An ellie seal weaner in the mouth of the large orca male
(Photo: Angus Cummings)
One of the orcas breaching - jumping for sheer joy it seems (following a good feed!)
One of the orcas breaching - jumping for sheer joy it seems…
(Photo: Angus Cummings)