Wrap-up - Blog 10
Monday 26th November, 2012... and then suddenly the trip was over! It seemed as if we had barely arrived in the subantarctic before we had completed our planned six days of yellow-eyed penguin counting and were heading home. Time flies when you're having fun and all that - and also when the skipper says the weather forecast is looking good then you take advantage of it.
With the southerly behind us our trip home was even faster than out trip down, for which the seasick few were very grateful.
But before we set sail we had saved the best for last - Enderby Island, which had been our first port of call, was to be our last penguin counting site, and it accounted for the 2.30 am start that I mentioned in blog 9. We needed to get 12 people ashore in the dark, and then spend up to an hour and half walking in the dark (with
head-torches!) to be in position to start counting by 5 am. Thank goodness for calm seas again, and also for the low tide that meant we could land in the 'boat harbour' on the rock platform rather than having to cope with waves rolling in on the sandy beach. Jo had arranged a super-sized counting team for Enderby Island as we had a large amount of coastline to cover. Evohe crew Dinghy Dave and Tori offered to help out, and Dave H. and Leith had finished their nest-finding duties on the island and were available to give a hand as well.
Back in 1989 Peter Moore counted about 550 yellow-eyed penguins on Enderby Island, and estimated that it was home to about a third of all yellow-eyeds in the Auckland Island group. And we had already seen quite a few birds loafing around during our initial scoping visit, so we had high hopes that we would see good numbers of birds. And we weren't disappointed (Jo got the morning's best tally of 70+ birds!) - but that doesn't mean we aren't concerned. We counted 288 birds, to which we could add about 80 birds that Leith and Dave H. had already counted for us at several other landing sites. That gives us a total of about 368 birds -which is only two-thirds of the 1989 count. And if you add up all our other counting sites and compare them, then once again our numbers are just two-thirds of what Peter counted.
By the way that two-thirds figure seems to be a bit of a recurring motif - Dean Nelson has just completed the 2012 yellow-eyed penguin count on Codfish Island, and the numbers there are now two-thirds of the survey total from 2001.
These numbers are just the first rough summary of what the 2012 Auckland Island expedition found - Jo will be analysing the data in much more detail in the coming weeks, and trying to come up with a population estimate for the Auckland Islands, and we'll tell you about that in a future blog. And while the Auckland Island penguin team is now safely home the Tiama-based Campbell Island expedition are still hard at work - we wish them the best for the rest of their trip, and we look forward to seeing their results.
Many thanks to the members of the 2012 Auckland Island Expedition for their hard work and great company, to the crew of Evohe for getting us safely there and back and looking after us so well, and to you for keeping us company on the blog. And of course a big thumbs-ups to the yellow-eyed penguins, those endearing and intriguing birds who were the reason we were down in the fabulous subantarctic - best wishes for a great breeding season!