Thursday, October 25, 2012

Penguin chicks all grown up and gone to sea

The chicks of the last nest in which an adult penguin was equipped with a GPS logger device for one foraging trip, have fledged. All the nests selected for logger deployments are now empty. The breeding season is coming to a close on Robben Island.  There are only 5 nests remaining with chicks that are still being monitored. The environmental officer of Robben Island Museum who is checking the last active nests reports that there have not been any oiled penguins sighted in the field lately.

The parent of these two chicks made an unusual foraging trip around the island in June when they the chicks were much smaller and about two weeks old. This photo of the chicks was taken in late August. Below is the foraging track their mother made around the island, 29 June 2012 when they were around two weeks old.

Here is the picture of the penguin after she was equipped with the GPS-TD logger, brooding the chicks which can't be seen as they were underneath her. At that time they had alert open eyes and their chick down was all grey.
Here is a photo of the same chicks taken in July with the male partner guarding them. The nest is is now empty. The last time these chicks were seen at the nest both of the chicks had lost all their chick down and had complete blue juvenile plumage so it is likely that they fledged the nest successfully and headed off for their first trip to sea.

The African Penguin Chick Bolstering Project (APCBP) continued this year researching where juvenile penguins go. In June, three juvenile penguins from Robben Island and three hand-raised chicks from SANCCOB were equipped with satellite transmitters. PenguinWatch reports they had track data going to St. Helena Bay, south of Hondeklip Bay, the Orange River mouth and into Namibian waters. See the older PenguinWatch posts for maps showing where they went. Pinky, Green-foot and Blue are the Robben Island juveniles. There is no way to know if the chicks fledgling recently from Robben in September/October have headed in the same direction but we wish them well on their first journeys at sea!

A juvenile African penguin coming ashore at Robben courtesy of Greg Campbell.

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