Lauren K and Jess welcome you to join in on another season of activity at Middle Island!
The Little Penguin Monitoring Program for 2015-16 is underway, and outcomes so far look positive. Volunteers and WCLG members Mel W and John S were able to assess early stages of breeding activities in August, with many penguin occupants found in both nesting boxes and natural burrows guarding eggs or young chicks, and even one pair of chicks old enough to be left on their own during the day. This early onset of breeding activity was a positive sign of good foraging success at sea for many of the penguins.
Since then, we have observed a total of 20 breeding pairs in our survey area, with 18 chicks (from nine pairs) successfully fledged and left for sea so far. A second wave of breeding pairs have been observed in October, guarding eggs and young, suggesting it may be possible that some adults are attempting to raise their second clutch.
During the last dusk arrival count in October, 64 adults were observed, giving an estimate of 106 arrivals, with this number slightly lower than the 123 estimated the fortnight before, perhaps another sign that some adults have already finished their first breeding attempt, and are at sea feeding up before they return for a second effort!
Successful breeding seasons such as this appear to be very important ones for the colony, with irregular and shifting nature of sea based conditions strongly predicting breeding outcomes, which can highly vary from year to year.
The release of the movie “Oddball” in July has brought a lot of media and public interest to Middle Island and its furred and feathered occupants.
Mel and John were accompanied by a TV crew from Channel 7 during their August survey, who filmed and recently aired a piece on Middle Island and the conservation story on their Sunday Night program. A film crew from England, filming a nature series for the BBC, also accompanied volunteers over in October to put together a documentary likely to air next year. While these opportunities have many positive outcomes in telling the conservation story at the island, the experience has also meant a lot of thought around the potential disturbance of such constant interest and is something being reviewed by the Middle Island Working Group.
The release of Oddball also provided opportunity for celebration of the efforts of many people over the years, and two premieres, one in Warrnambool as well as one in Mt Gambier (the latter organised by Jess at NGT) were a fun night out for many of the volunteers and people that collectively put in many dedicated hours!
NGT also ran school sessions with a number of Mt Gambier primary schools in partnership with the Oatmill Cinema. The sessions were a lot of fun, with over 200 students and staff learning a lot about the Little Penguin, and just what it takes to be one. This was followed by a screening of the Oddball movie, and a great day out for both the school participants and NGT staff. A big thanks to the Oatmill Cinema and staff for supporting this event, and also helping us raise some modest but critical funds to help run the monitoring program this year.
A big update, as lots has been happening, and we will continue to keep you updated!