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Welcome to the SHEAF Blog.

Despite our best intentions, we're not great at keeping this blog updated with our latest happenings. We are, however, definitely an active group, meeting at least once each week during term time.

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Have a look through this blog to see the types of events we have organised in the past. You'll also find links to other blogs and articles that we find useful or informative, on the off-chance that you'll appreciate them too :~) (Look for these more general blog-posts under the label "Weekend Reading")

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(Last updated May 2013)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pukekura/Taiaroa Head (Albatross Colony) update

Thanks very much to Stacey for passing on this update from the head DoC ranger:

Kia ora all

Today is the opening of the observatory to visitors for the 2010/11 breeding season. 30 eggs have been laid this year including seven by seven 'first-time breeding' pairs. Ordinarily we will get 1-3 new pairs each season, so seven is a big bonus!

Most eggs are fertile, (determined by candling-see photo) we had one egg that was broken the day it was laid. The 1 cm hole in it was patched with tape and glued to the shell (after a good cleaning of the area with antiseptic).

Candling of this egg at 7 days did show the embryo survived and the expected growth was seen at two weeks. Unfortunately at three weeks some microbial infection had entered the hole in the shell so the embryo died.

This pair is currently incubating one of the new young pairs’ egg, from a nest where the male is yet to show up for his first incubation stint and we are concerned the young female may desert.
96 birds have been seen so far this season which includes a few of last years breeding birds that sometimes visit the headland for the month or so after their chick fledged.

This photo shows a bird in September 2010 at its nest site (its chick had flown a few days before) and the tatty look of its feathers is probably a result of a loss of body condition from foraging for food for its chick in the 8 months prior. That breeder has now gone to sea and expected back in September 2011 and its feathers and body condition will have vastly improved.

At the end of the 2009/10 season there was an opportunity for the Otago Peninsula Trust albatross guides as well as members from the Korako-Karetai Trust and from the local Runanga to visit the nature reserve to see other areas of the headland and catch a glimpse of some of the chicks from that season before they departed.

Other species:

Stewart Island shags nesting below the observatory have large chicks now and their population is around 350 pairs.

Spotted shags abandoned chicks half way through their breeding season, something that occurs with this species about every 5 years or so and generally is an early indication that other species found on the peninsula might not have a good breeding year either (abandonment is most likely due to poor food years with food availability naturally fluctuating over time).

The red-billed gulls have timed their breeding perfectly. During our winter there can be less than 20 gulls found here, but several hundred turned up at the same time as the arrival and abundance of a type of krill in waters nearby. Soon after the gulls began nest building and egg laying. Their chicks are now hatching at a time when a different food source is now available to gulls (see photo below: Munida - the red patches in the water). Munida hasn’t been seen within the harbour in such large swarms for many years.
During the annual population counts of seabirds I came across a pounamu/greenstone tool that a shearwater had dug up and flicked out onto the surface. Possibly a few centuries old, this unusual find in now back in the hands of local iwi.

Other work:
Port Otago have done a fantastic job of repainting the signal station (located on the top of the headland) and painted it in colours that help this building blend into the landscape.

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