Field work in 2014

Hi all,

thanks for bearing with my while I’m finishing up the work on my PhD project! I’ve not been idle, but with the last field season coinciding with the write-up of my thesis, I did not spend enough time on public outreach – so here is a quick summary of what happened during the lasts months of 2014:

October 2014

The penguins had been most numerous on both Bowen and Lion Islands, the two locations I was doing demographic surveys on, during the month of October in 2012 and 2013, so I decided to go back to both islands during that month in 2014. Lion Island was to be visited first, as we can only stay for two nights in a row on there due to its lack of facilities – which made me want to visit it twice this year.

What a surprise when we arrived on Lion Island and noticed that a path had been cleared to the (previously inaccessible) top part of the island, which afforded us a whole new perspective on the penguin colony. We noticed penguin tracks and signs of burrowing activity until about halfway up the hill. The top was densely vegetated, but still allowed a glimpse to the other side of the island, and the open ocean.

The weekend after, it was time to re-visit Bowen Island, where the orchids were in full bloom – although we only found two of the 4 species promised us by the National Park guys. We were again joined by Gemma Carrol from Macquarie University, who studies the foraging ecology and energetics of our Little Penguin friends in NSW. We spent a nice, not too warm, not too rainy long weekend on Bowen Island, where the penguins seemed to be doing similarly to the last two years.

We were lucky this year and the weather did not get in the way of a third and final penguin trip in October! And what a trip it was! Perfect weather, good numbers of penguins and the company of a pod of dolphins feeding nearby – we spotted them on both days! It would have been a perfect trip, if it wasn’t for the reckless driving of one of the motorboats, who seemed to head straight for the pod of dolphins at full speed, at least five times in a row, which made us fear for their safety. Please always observe the regulations for approaching whales and dolphins, most of the time curious dolphins would approach your boat on their own accord, allowing you to observe them much better than by driving over them!

September and November 2014

And finally, I was invited to join two trips to Five Islands – not to collect any more samples for my own project, but to help the “Friends of the Five Islands” with their sea bird census, including a comprehensive penguin survey. It was a nice change to just tag along for a trip someone else had organised, meet other seabird researchers and see another penguin colony in NSW that I had previously received genetic samples from through some very helpful collaborators, and to enjoy the rest of the local wildlife, which was very different to what I knew from the seabird islands I had previously visited.

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