Auckland Islands trip 2009
Friday 6th November, 2009The Auckland Islands, at latitude 50 degrees south, are the largest of New Zealand's subantarctic islands, with over 500 km of coastline, much of it steep and inaccessible to penguins and people, particularly on the exposed western side. Uninhabited now, the main island was once farmed by a hardy few, whose legacy is feral cats and pigs. Surprisingly, rats have never managed to colonise the islands.
Visiting the islands between 6 November and 7 December 2009 were team members Leith Thomson and Sandy King (both representing the YEPT), Jo Hiscock (team leader, DOC), Jo Ledington and Callum Lilley (DOC), and Kate Beer (Wildlife Management student from the University of Otago). The Trust contributed to the cost of transport and accommodation provided by Henk Haazen on his 15m yacht Tiama. Crew member Steve Parsons completed the team of eight.
Almost 200 km of coastline was surveyed, with identification of 301 landing sites. These were regarded as a minimum because some sections of coast accessible to penguins couldn't be surveyed because of sea conditions. Most landing sites would be used by one or more pairs, though probably some would be used by non-breeders.
The pig- and cat-free islands had more landing sites per kilometre of coast surveyed than the main island, which raises questions about the impact of these animals on yellow-eyed penguin and other ground-nesting birds. Areas of the main island adjacent to these islands - the northern shore of Carnley Harbour, and Port Ross and northern harbours - also had a higher number of landing sites than the coast in the middle of the main island. This suggests that perhaps the predator-free islands act as reservoirs whose overflow sustains the population.