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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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(Last updated May 2013)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kia ora from Pukekura: Taiaroa Head update

Thanks to Stacey for forwarding this to us:

Kia ora all

Toroa/Albatross Hatching is finally over!

Our first chick hatched on 16th January and the 26th chick hatched on 12th February. Two chicks died within their first few days (one we suspect died from accidental crushing by its parent while the other chick died from microbial infection).

With 24 chicks alive it is the second highest number the colony has had, however we still have a long way to go to having all 24 surviving until fledging time in September. For example, currently the last chick is on a course of antibiotics. It has not begged for food from the adults, lost a significant amount of weight and has other signs of a probable microbial infection. The most common entry point for microbes is through the opening into the umbilicus (e.g. microbes picked up from nest or introduced into the chick via fly maggots) and once inside the chick's system, death often follows.

The use of antibiotics on very young chicks is a 'last resort' and the success of antibiotics is reliant on many factors relating to the type and timing of the infection and the resilience of the chick. As this chick isn't begging from the adults we are supplementary feeding it liquids and salmon (kindly donated from New Zealand King Salmon) and we will continue to do so until such time when the adults take over the role of feeding their chick.
The above photo of white-blue-green (WBG) shows her here with her 2 week old chick. WBG is our current oldest bird (42 years) and although WBG and her partner have produced chicks in the last few years, all have died. (Last year during a warm day, WBG showed signs of heat stress and while moving about on the nest in an attempt to cool herself, she accidentally stood on her newly hatched chick, killing it. In the previous year their chick was fly blown and died and in the year before that, microbes entered their egg through a minute crack which lead to the embryo's death). WBG's story has been popular with media as has another female-female pair we have this season, who have a chick of their own (egg was fertilised by an unknown male).

The Mukojima photos (below) are from Tomohiro Deguchi, (the researcher in charge of a Short-tailed albatross translocation project), whom I worked with in 2007 and 2008 on Mukojima (a Japanese island about 1000km south of Tokyo).
In 2008, 10 short-tailed albatross chicks (about 1 month old) were moved from an active volcanic island, (Torishima) and then hand-reared until fledging on Mukojima (400km south of Torishima). Each year since 2008, fifteen chicks have been moved to and then hand-reared on Mukojima in the hopes that they would imprint on Mukojima and return there to breed after a few years at sea.
A new colony on Mukojima would create another population and one safe from volcanic activity. This type of translocation hasn't been done before with albatross (other than a trial with another species in the previous year), and the age at which ground nesting seabirds 'imprint' on their location is unclear (i.e. there was a risk that birds may have already 'imprinted' on Torishima having spent their first month there and could go back to Torishima to breed rather than going to Mukojima) but just 6 days ago the team on Mukojima reported one of those 10 chicks from 2008 has arrived back at Mukojima after its first three years at sea!! A great result from a collaborative team from Japanese NGO's and government organisations and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The photos of Y01 shows him in his adolescent plumage and wandering around the site that contains this years hand-reared chicks.

Cheers Lyndon

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