#RoyalCam 2016 highlights: Behind the scenes at Taiaroa Head

#RoyalCam 2016 highlights: Behind the scenes at Taiaroa Head


It’s always great to see you know kind of old friends I guess in terms of um a lot of the birds I’ve known for 20 30 years. Spent more than sort of half my life now I guess out here on Pukekura. My name’s Lyndon Perriman, I’m one of three rangers out here on Taiaroa Head Pukekura Nature Reserve. Our role out here is basically, um primarily looking after toroa or royal albatross. [Hey buddy] From a very early age – I was probably only about seven that I thought – I’m gonna work with wildlife. Living so close to Taiaroa Head growing up it was kind of just a natural progression that that was the career path that I wanted to get into. [They’re just starting to learn what their beaks are used for.] [How much? 8.1? Yip.] [Bout what I thought you’d be. Righto, out you get.] [Thank you.] When I first started working out here in the late 1980s we were fledging on average around about 10 chicks each season. It’s an extremely slow process building up an albatross population. We’re now fledging around about 25 each year. And I think that’s part of what drives the three of us to be out here Is seeing that increase – it’s so slow – but being able to hit some of those big numbers. It becomes a bit of a celebration. And that’s the sort of targets we keep heading for. [Weighing the albatross] That’s all you. 7.5. 7.5? Better. Yeah. Might still give you something to eat today though. The biggest challenge that we have out here is that the breeding season’s very long. It’s 10 months from the time the adults arrive, mate, lay their egg and 10 months later before the chicks actually fledge. So it’s challenging in terms of – it’s not a 9-5 job we can be out here at all sorts of times of the day or night. But the staff that work out here are all very dedicated to our cause which is basically trying to optimise the number of chicks that we have fledging from here each season We’ve actually had a really fantastic breeding season this year. Although we had 28 chicks hatch two of those died very early on we suspect from infection they picked up in the nest. But all 26 chicks through to this stage, um we’re kinda hoping that we’ll see all 26 of those fledge. Albatross have had some sort of protection here from the early 1930s when Richdale learnt that there were albatross out here he’s a fairly well-known ornithologist and came out here and actually protected those first birds. But that protection the albatross have had for such a long period has actually helped a lot of the other species on this part of the peninsula as well. Ah there can be as many as ten thousand seabirds nesting on Pukekura over the summer time. There’s a lot of gulls, there’s a lot of penguins, shearwaters, various species of cormorants. And it’s really because of that protection of albatross that those other species have been able to actually hang on here on mainland New Zealand. [Gate opens] We do have predator control going on out here 365 days of the year. So this is one of our DOC200 traps. We’ve got about 40 traps set up throughout the colony throughout the whole year. Target animals are particularly the stoats and ferrets. Albatross chicks are only vulnerable at a very early stage of their life but ah these offer protection for all the other seabirds on the headland. There’s certainly some other albatross species that are at a higher threat rating than these ones but it’s really the uniqueness of this site um, of all the albatross in the southern hemisphere it’s just this very small population of northern royals here on Taiaroa Head that are actually nesting on a mainland. all the other albatrosses in the Southern Hemisphere are all on really remote, hard to get to places so in terms of people being able to see albatross, in the Southern Hemisphere this is actually one of the very easiest places to do it. A lot of the people that visit the Richdale observatory are from overseas and it’s really a once in a lifetime opportunity for people to be able to see albatross. [Observatory background noise] Now it’s more exposed you can see more of the white That’s the parent walking away, the one that’s been in to feed Over the last couple of days we’ve fed several chicks that were underweight so we’ll just about to go through the process again today to see whether they still need a feed. We have their weights from yesterday to give us a bit of a guide about whether we need to give them an extra top up today. [feeding albatross] Yip we’re all good. C’mon settle down, there you go Right… give us the beak. Say ah [bird sounds, eating fish] So over the next 5 months with Royal Cam chick that chick will have the complete adult plumage by the end of July. And at that stage they really need to start moving around, getting a bit more exercise because they’ve gotta prepare for that eventual first flight in September. There’s no practise flights for albatross that first flight really is the big one as they head off out into the Pacific Ocean. And those chicks are out at sea then for the next 4-10 years before we see them back here again. The next piece of land they’ll touch will actually be Taiaroa Head. I think that’s the fascinating thing with working with a seabird like this is that we’re only catching a really small glimpse of their whole life 80% of life is actually spent away from here, away out at sea and it’s that part of their life history that you know we’ve just got little glimpses of but we’ll never truly understand their entire life at sea. It’s a really neat place to have a career I could be out here in some really horrible conditions wind blowing a gale and rain and the wind chill factor bringing it down to close to zero but you get one day like this and think about all the people that might be stuck in an office somewhere that don’t get this opportunity and it makes up for 10 of those other days. I guess that’s also part of the reason I’ve been out here for such a long period of time is that, it is a passion and it certainly has been a huge part of my life out here um and will continue to be so for probably the next, well maybe, 20 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *