Thursday, March 29, 2012

Return to the penguin colony

The 2012 breeding monitoring has begun at the African Penguin Robben Island colony.

The first EarthWatch team of the year took place over two weeks, from March 12 to 23. The team began the nest monitoring of the penguin colony breeding success. One penguin in the colony was found to be incubating three eggs! This only happens on occasion. Usually, penguins only lay two. We will have to wait and see how many chicks hatch. The team also conducted two penguin moult counts and took a sample of chick measurements (head length and mass) to get an index of the condition of chicks in the colony, during this time of year. The other field work completed by the team included: two game counts, two rabbit counts, and the submission of three bird lists to the second Southern Africa Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2).
During this team, nests that had adults on eggs and appeared suitable for logger deployments were also selected for monitoring. Their GPS locations have been recorded and regular nest visits will begin shortly.

It is very important to record any findings of birds that have rings or flipper bands in the case of penguins. The resighting of a bird with a ring or band is called a retrap. The name comes from mark-release-recapture theory in ecology. These data can give a variety of information about survival, population estimates, and colony immigration. Flipper bands can be made of metal, or rubber and they have a letter followed by a series of numbers. Altogether, the team recorded 32 flipper band sightings. In some cases, the same banded bird was seen more than once by different team members but it is still important to submit all the sightings, so team#1 2012 had 32 retraps.  If you see a bird with a flipper band please record the code on the flipper band using binoculars and a notebook, along with other details such as where you saw the penguin, the time and date and what the penguin was doing (whether it was on a nest, or in a group,or on the beach). Then send the record into SAFRING.  Submitting flipper band sightings is very important as we can learn a lot from these data. It is a great way to make a contribution to penguin research.

Thank you to the EarthWatch volunteers of team #1 2012: Janet Donald, Sue Olafsen, and Kyoko Matsui for their hard work in the field on Robben Island. The team owes particular thanks to Robben Island Museum staff for their assistance with transport in the field.

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