I finished last week’s diary paddling towards the shore with a badly injured 200g grebe chick in my kayak, pondering what I should do with it. So I digress even further from grebes to explain my decision.
I have had a long interest in wildlife of all sorts and particularly in animal behaviour (ethology). I have worked longer with penguins than any other species of bird and that interest in penguins was further encouraged by working for four summers in Antarctica. There I came across five different species of penguin, thus when I came to work in Dunedin I thought to spend time looking at the behaviour of the yellow-eyed penguin (YEP). Up until the 1950s the YEP was the most studied and written about of all penguin species. That was the life’s work of Dr Lance Richdale.
So I set out to just look at the social behaviour of the YEP in my spare time. I quickly discovered that its behaviour is quite unique in the penguin world. But an incidental finding was that this was a species in serious strife; predation of chicks was rampant as was the huge loss of their traditional habitat of coastal forest. And yes, I talked to a lot of people about my concerns, but the real point of this digression is to explain, (because I did so much talking), how we became home for all the dead, dying and injured penguins in Otago.
We had deceased ones in the freezer and the sick and injured ones in the bath, rabbit hutch, workshop, garage, firewood store, guinea pig pen and the dog kennel, to name but a few of their temporary homes. One of my sons was very good at naming them. A pair of juveniles he looked after were named Sex and Violence, (they attacked you once you had fed them), Sid Vicious was another of similar ill-disciplined behaviour. And so, over time we came to look after a great number of penguins of all sorts of varieties, ailments and dispositions.
The photo above is of Greg asleep on the water.
To be continued…