Archives For Auckland islands

Pigs, cats and mice have been causing a lot of damage on Auckland Island for over 200 years. A feasibility study for an eradication project is now underway.

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Following in the footsteps of Sir Peter Blake, the ten-day Young Blake Expedition took 14 students on an adventure to the Auckland Islands, 465 kilometres south of Stewart Island.

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Today’s photo is of one of the rarest penguins in the world, the yellow-eyed penguin/hoiho, on Enderby Island in the subantarctic Auckland Islands.

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Photos from the Governor-General who recently visited the Auckland Islands with researchers and DOC staff.

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This week’s photo shows a white-capped mollymawk sitting on a nest in one of the planet’s most unique and special places — New Zealand’s subantarctic Auckland Islands.

White-capped mollymawk sitting on a nest, Auckland Islands. Photo copyright: Tui De Roy. DOC use only.

On Monday, 12 young New Zealanders set off on a 13-day voyage to the Auckland Islands, where they will help to plan the building of a world-leading research station.

They will be joined on the Young Blake Expedition by a crew of leading New Zealand marine scientists, representatives from the Department of Conservation, NZ Navy, NIWA and the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

The Young Blake Expedition programme aims to follow in the footsteps of Sir Peter Blake and to mobilise and inspire the next generation of kiwi leaders, adventurers and marine environmentalists.

Join us as we follow the expedition.

Photo by Tui De Roy | DOC use only

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Callum Lilley, Biodiversity Ranger in Taranaki.

At work

Callum Lilley holding a dotterel. Photo: Emily King.

Feeding time for New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu

Some things I do in my job include… marine reserve monitoring, maintaining marine reserve infrastructure, compliance, marine mammal work, making recommendations on a range of things such as Resource Management Act consent applications/renewals, permits, seismic survey impact assessments, writing management plans, reports, public relations material, providing advice and information on marine matters, liaising/working with community groups, iwi, other stakeholders, bird rescue, assisting with fire responses, and helping out in other areas when called upon.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… helping to look after our natural heritage, and working with others to do so too.

The best bit about my job is… getting out on the water (particularly if marine mammals or diving are involved), and the occasional opportunity to go away on an adventure.

Callum deploying video equipment off a boat. Photo: Bryan Williams.

Deploying baited underwater video equipment, Tapuae Marine Reserve

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… a pest fish scare. The threats team in New Plymouth thought they would invite the Taranaki Daily News along to watch them catch a “koi carp” (to raise awareness about pest fish). The orange shape they had previously observed in a murky river turned out to be a road cone. It was an amusing article and it took up half of page (including a large colour photo). The rest of the office got a lot of mileage out of it.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… Bill Fleury. There are so many people I could choose from, but one of them is Bill. I appreciate his understanding of all levels of the Department (having worked in positions ranging from on the ground to providing strategic advice on a myriad of matters). He has exceptional analytical skills and great demeanour (as an aside, some say that I model my desk on Bill’s).

Callum surfing a wave in Fiji.

Surfing tropical waters, Frigates – Fiji

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is… ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley.

My stomping ground is… coastal Taranaki. It’s where I grew up and where I love to spend time. It has good fishing, isolated beaches, great waves, the Stony River/Hangatahua, a friend/whanau base and the best view of Maunga Taranaki.

My best ever holiday was… a three week trip to Fiji a couple of years ago. Emily and I busted out of a cold Taranaki winter into the tropics for some epic diving, surfing, fishing, eating, drinking and exploring.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to… start a microbrewery.

Before working at DOC I… studied (BSc – Zoology, MSc – Marine Science), worked on a computer help desk, worked as a block-layer’s labourer building a rugby stadium, and taught English in South Korea.

Mount Taranaki in the background at dusk.

View of Mt Taranaki from “Graveyards” surf break

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “Give the laziest person the hardest job and they’ll find the easiest way to do it”. Not sure who first said it, or whether it is really true, but a great quote none the less.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… be nice to people.

In work and life I am motivated by… people that are fun to be around, whilst still cracking on and getting a job done.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… live modestly and outsource less. Grow your own food, cook from scratch, brew your own beverages (reuse glass and no longer worry about what the neighbours think on recycling day), pickle and preserve, hunt and eat pests… as much as you can, go back to basics.

A Southern right whale and her calf off the coast of Whanganui.

Southern right whale/tohora mother and calf, Whanganui

Question of the week…

As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up? A pilot or an electrician, until I was told they were no longer options as I was colour blind. However, I wanted to be a marine scientist from when I was about 10 years old.

A sea lion by Callum's boat in the Auckland Islands.

Um… could we please have our boat back? Hoiho survey, Auckland Islands

By guest blogger, zoologist, award-winning wildlife film-maker, natural history writer and passionate story-teller, Alison Ballance…

When I last blogged the 2012 Auckland Island expedition was getting ready for its final yellow-eyed penguin count on Enderby Island, and we were hoping for big things – or at the very least big numbers of penguins. Enderby Island is ‘the’ hotspot for yellow-eyed penguins in the Auckland islands – back in 1989, when he counted over 600 birds, Peter Moore calculated that it was home to a third of the island group’s penguins. We had a plan of action that would see us out of bed at 2.30 am and getting dropped ashore by inflatable dinghy by 3.30 am so that we could make our way – in the dark – to our counting sites, some of which were nearly an hour and half’s walk from the landing site in Sandy Bay. And as Enderby Island is also a hotspot for New Zealand sealions, we were all hoping that we wouldn’t encounter too many of those on the way!

Alan Magee, Sharon Kast and Jo Hiscock heading back to the yacht Evohe after a morning penguin count (photo: Alison Ballance).

Alan Magee, Sharon Kast and Jo Hiscock heading back to the yacht Evohe after a morning penguin count

By this stage of the expedition we had visited both Port Ross and Carnley Harbour and begun to get a good sense of the islands and their history as well as their wonderful wildlife and beautiful megaherbs, which are just starting to flower. There had been some exciting afternoon opportunities to visit some of the historic sites associated with the failed Hardwicke settlement and the many shipwrecks. And one memorable day, while most of the team took a much-enjoyed visit to the white-capped albatross colony at South-west Cape on Auckland Island, Jo Hiscock and I headed across to the south side of predator-free Adams Island to band some young Gibson’s wandering albatrosses. These birds have been the focus of a long-running study by Kath Walker and Graeme Elliott, who are concerned at the decline in fledging success each year and the disappearance of adult birds. It was a special privilege to get so close to the huge albatross chicks, which at nine months old are still patchily covered in soft white down, but which are already the size of their parents and well on the way to growing their adult feathers. I enjoyed the way each chick greeted our arrival with a percussion blast of bill clapping, and was very thankful that none of them chose to vomit oily fish over me (so my yellow PVC coat and trousers came home clean after all!). But it was very poignant to walk around the colony and find nest after empty nest which had already failed. Out of more than a hundred eggs laid in the study area earlier this year, only 40% or so still have a chick, and it is likely that more of these will die in the next few weeks before they are old enough to fly away.

The New Zealand sealions on Enderby Island, which have also been the focus of a long-term research project, have also seen a significant population decline over the last decade. For both species the causes of mortality include interactions with fisheries as well as possible changes in food supply related to changing sea temperatures and currents, while the sealion population has also been affected by several disease outbreaks. These stories highlight the fact that being isolated in the subantarctic is no guarantee of a safe future, which brings us back to the reason for our yellow-eyed penguin counting trip – to get a good estimate of their numbers now so that in future we’ll be able to tell if their population is increasing or decreasing.

Jo Hiscock amongst the megaherb Bulbinella flowering on Enderby Island (photo: Alison Ballance).

Jo Hiscock amongst the megaherb Bulbinella flowering on Enderby Island

Our Enderby Island yellow-eyed penguin count was certainly the highlight in terms of numbers of birds counted. Jo had the ‘landing of choice’ and clocked more than 70 birds heading out to sea. I was treated to a close-up and personal visit by some very curious penguins that couldn’t work out what this ‘thing’ on the edge of the cliff was, and Al was entertained by a penguin that got itself bluffed at the edge of an Auckland Island shag colony and took the only honourable option – a 3-metre leap into the waves below. But despite our one-day best we counted just two-thirds the number of yellow-eyed penguins that were counted on Enderby in 1989, and for the trip as a whole the figure was the same – 2012 penguin numbers were two-thirds those of 1989. These however are just the first crude results, and Jo still has to sit down for a more thorough analysis comparing search effort and many other variables.

When yellow-eyed penguins raise their head in an ecstatic display of calling they live up to their Maori name of hoiho, or noise-shouter (photo: Alison Ballance).

When yellow-eyed penguins raise their head in an ecstatic display of calling they live up to their Maori name of hoiho, or noise-shouter

In the meantime we can rest easily knowing that the 2012 Auckland Island Expedition was a success in every other way – we achieved all the penguin counts in all the sites that we wanted to survey, helped greatly by fine weather, smooth seas and a superb team of energetic and enthusiastic volunteers, who threw themselves whole-heartedly into their first subantarctic experience.