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Animal: Fairy Penguin

Why this animal?
The reason I chose this animal is because it is the smallest type of penguin there is. It stands at only 43cm high which is less than half the size of the Emporer penguin. Another reason I chose to research this animal is because it doesn't live in necassarily cold places like the North pole and Antartica. When you think of where a penguin lives you automatically think of Antartica or somewhere cold but some penguins don't live in cold places like the fairy penguin. The last reason I am interested in the Fairy penguins is that they spend almost the whole day swimming in the ocean looking for food. They usually stay towards the top of the ocean only about 10 meters down but it has been seen before that they can go as far as 60 meters down into the ocean in search of food.

Research Location:
My research location is Pilots Beach, New Zealand. It's a small beach within the the city limits of Dunedin along the coast of New Zealand where they have a viewing facility to watch the fairy penuins and other marine life. It's located at the end of the Otago peninsula as a headlong. The beach is located just inside the south entrace of the harbour with a manificent veiw looking out across the seemingly endless sea. There is a lot of marine life surrounding pilot's beach including the largest colony of Fairy Penguins within the Otago Peninsula. January at Pilot's Beach is surprisingly the warmest month of the year, which sounds crazy compared to Iowa's Janurary. The highest temperature it gets to is about 65 degrees which isn't as cold as Antartica but it still sounds pretty cold to me. It gives me chills just thinking about it. At night however the temperature drops almost 30 degrees to a frezzing (at least to me) temperature of 35 degrees. The weather mostly stays about the same throughout the year with July being the coldest month. Even though the temperature stays at a cold temperature they still suffer from tons of earthquakes. If you go to some travel sites it will show that there is a 40% chance an earthquake will happen while you're staying there. How's that for relaxing? About every 50 years a monster of an earthquake occurs thats causes much damage but not near as bad as like the one that happened to Haidi. It rains pretty much year round so if you ever go there you should make sure to bring an umbrella. Every year Pilots Beach gets an average of about 650-1500 millimeters of rain per year, which is about 40-50 in. The Fairy Penguins live here in many numbers because of all the marine life and fish surrounding the water. The Fairy Penguin lives along with the almost extict yellow-eyed penguin on Pilots Beach as they both dive under the water in search of food. Pilots Beach is the perfect place for the Fairy Penguin.

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This is a nice camera shot of part of Pilots Beach, New Zealand

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This is a map of the area surrounding Pilots Beach. Pilots Beach lies right between Dunedin and Owaka.

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The picture on the left is a sign from the viewing center for the penguins. The picture on the right is of the viewing center area.

Observation Journal

Day 40

I looked across the infinite sea at the rising sun as it slowly rose up above the end of the world. It was a lucky sight to see considering the sun barely ever shines onto Pilot’s Beach much less look so beautiful. It’s April in New Zealand and its starting to get cold for winter. This is my second time coming to Pilots Beach to study the Fairy Penguins and I will be staying much longer than last time. However, last time I came to study the almost extict yellow-eyed penguin and only stayed for about four months. This time I will be staying a whole year and live in the city nearby. The fairy penguins are very friendly and are used to tourists walking the beach. I walk over to a small hollowed out rock and crouch down beside it. I keep a distance but carefully watch the fairy penguin inside. I have visited this penguin everyday for 39 days, this being the 40th. I have named him Carlos and have become quite fond of him. He has gotten quite friendly with me even to the point where I am in touching length. He is still a young penguin and has yet to mate but he is very smart even though he sometimes acts a little cocky. He gets out of his rock burrow and waddles to the shore as I quietly follow. He dives into the water and I do my best to keep sight of him. I sit on the beach the rest of the day watching Carlos catch small krill and eat them for lunch while taking time to play with other fairy penguins in the water. Continue to watch and it seems to go the same as any other day until I see a large splash in the water. Suddenly I giant sea lion rips out of the waves and grabs a poor fairy penguin in it’s mouth. This is the first time I have seen this happen before. The calming waves turn into ferocious explosions as the water flies upwards in a giant fury of sea lion and penguins. I Then remember that Carlos is out there with them. I want to jump into the water in some desperate attempt to save him but I know I cannot. All I can do is wait and hope Carlos is all right. I hold my breath as I look around for him but see no sign of Carlos. Then I see his blue head pop out of the water and swim onto the shore. I sigh in relief knowing that he is safe. I watch him waddle onto the beach into his burrow for safety. I look back across the water and see the bloodbath that occurred. This just shows that even after all this time staying here there are always surprises.

Day 41

I continued to watch as Carlos spiraled through the water relentlessly chasing after the unfortunate krill. After yesterday's near death expirience I was hoping today would go quite normal. Carlos spends almost all day out on the water and can't actually get wet because of the oil on his feathers. This is similar to ducks and their feathers. His flippers and webbed feet allow him to glide through the water to depths up to 25 meters. Once Carlos is done swimming for the day he comes onto land when the sun has set and it is dark. Night time is usually the only time the Fairy Penguin travels on land. They do this to stay hidden from predators and humans. Tonight I was planning on watching Carlos as he traveled the night to see where he goes. The sun is just starting to set with its riveting and valient colors tearing through the sky. Slowly the sun vanishes beyond the skyline and darkness falls. I watch from a distance as Carlos swims onto shore along with a dozen other penguins as they begin to waddle across the land. Hopefully, this night will be exciting and fullfilling as I find out were they go at night. Wish me luck.

Day 42

Last night was one of the most dissapointing nights ever in my study of Fairy Penguins. All Carlos did was walk around on the beach with a few other penguins then after a couple of hours he returned to his burrow. Today wasn't going to be much better considering it was pouring rain outside. I got up early and went outside with my raincoat on to watch Carlos. He went out into the waves as usual, hunting krill. Despite the fact that New Zealand is almost completely Deciduous Forest the coast supports a lot of marine life making the population of Krill plentiful, which then results in the fairy penguins getting an easy meal. I watched the waves come crashing down the worn rocks as the penguins tried desperately to swim through the large waves. This might not be the easiest day they have ever had catching krill. Carlos tries desperately to swim against the ginormous waves but despite his effort isn't having much luck. He finally swims back ashore admitting defeat as he heads back to his burrow. Looks like everyone is having a bad day.

Day 43

I had quite the surprise today as I found Carlos with someone new in his burrow. She is a female and Carlos' obvious girlfriend. This is good, Carlos is finally growing up into a true male fairy penguin. Most likely now they will mate and when the time comes she will have baby fairy penguins. I watch them slowly creep onto the beach by each other and descend into the waters.Today is a nice day with still grey skies but a lot better than yesterday's rain. Carlos and his new girlfriend swim threw the water together catching krill and playing with each other. Fairy penguins are strange when it comes to mating relationships. Usually they will find a new mate each season to mate with but a few of the penguins will stay with the same mating partner their whole life. I am hoping the second one will be the fate for Carlos and his new girlfriend, I would enjoy watching them grow old together. I am almost a bit sad because I am returning to America the day after tommarrow and will miss my feathered friend. Hopefully when I return I will be able to find him again among the many penguins living here.

Day 44

My journey has come to an end as today is my last day watching Carlos before I return home. I have named Carlos' girlfriend Olivia which I think fits her. I watch as usual as Carlos and Olivia swim out into the sea looking for krill. As I watch them I think back to the day when the sea leopeard attacked Carlos and other penguins. The sea leopard works as a predator/prey relationship with the fairy penguin. Sharks sometimes cause a problem too for the fairy penguins as they are just as deadly to the penguins as the sea leopard. The rest of the day I spend watching the penguins swim about and after what seems like an eternity the sun begins to set. Carlos and Olivia swim back onto shore and into their burrow. I couldn't wait to see them grow a family and continue the line of fairy penguins. Before I left I decided I was going to get close enough to Carlos to touch him. I slowly crept up next to him and he simply watched me calmly. I reached towards him and just barely graced my finger against his back. He watched me calmly for a few minutes and then continued to his burrow. A smile sparked onto my face, I had touched him and he didn't mind. I left Pilots Beach but could not wait until my return.

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Notice that the Fairy Penguin above has a green bracelet on its leg, this is a way of monitoring these penguins with tags.

The many names of the Fairy Penguins:
The Fairy Penguins are known as many different names around different places, here is a list of all of them.

-Fairy Penguin
-Little Penguin
-Blue penguin
-Little Blue Penguin
-There is also a seperate species that is fairly new and almost the exact same as fairy penguins called white flippered penguins.

Monitoring Technique

The monitoring technique I am using is tag and release. Tag and release is when scientists knock out the animal, usually by shots, and attach the tag to the leg of the animal. (it can also be in other places besides the leg but the leg is the most common) On the tag they put the date and location, including some way to communicate back to the scientists. They then release the animal, they also sometimes do this with a group of the same animal, into the wild and their natural habitat.
When they release the animal back into the wild they wait until someone contacts them about seeing one of the penguins wearing the tag. They then find out where the penguin is eating at, where it is living, and how many are living there and why. This is a cheap and useful way at finding new information on the animal's species.
All these reasons show why the best monitoring technique to use for my animal would be to use tags. This is the best option because the tags are easy to put on and affordible plus they will stay on when the penguins go swimming all day. The low cost of the tags would save money that scientists could use to further their study in the penguins. Using the tags scientists can discover more and more about these small penguins.
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The fairy penguin on the left above is wearing a tag so this is the monitoring technique scientist actually use.

Using Your Research

Even though the fairy penguins are listed as endangered they are are doing alright. Their main worry is house developement on the coast and constant erosion of the land. Fairy Penguins usually live in rock crevices and caves where they make their nest. Occasionally a rabbit will eat the penguins roofing causing it to collapse. Another problem these penguins face (more in Australia than New Zealand) is getting hit by cars. Fairy penguins sometimes build their nest/burrows accross coastal roads and since fairy penguins usually travel by night the cars don't see them until it is too late. Fairy penguins also need constant wet land for buildin their burrows which isn't difficult since they live on the beach. They also have to worry about predators such as the sea leopards and sharks. Weeds can cause problems too along by causing no room for their nests. However, very rarely does poaching ever happen. Oil spills have also caused damage to the penguin population from poisoning.

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However, despite all these problems fairy penguins have, the penguins on Pilots Beach have it pretty good. They have a lookout center for tourists to watch the penguins and so the penguins are protected from outside predators by a fence surrounding the area. There is also plenty of room and rocks for making burrows and nests. There is also a ton of marine life surrounding Pilots Beach so the penguins there have no trouble finding fish to eat. The predators surrounding the area are very few as well so there isn't a whole lot of danger for them. There is little house creating around Pilots Beach and with that little habitat loss is happening. Overrall the fairy penguins that live at Pilots Beach have it a lot better than other fairy penguins.

Fellow Researcher Profile

My fellow researcher is Dr. Belinda Cannell. She is wonderful with fairy penguins and has been studying them for ten years on the same island. That's where we differ a bit, with our research locations. She is studying the penguins on Phillip Island which has an even bigger population of Fairy penguins than Pilots Beach. She weighs and checks on the penguins every day, she is very dedicated to her work. Currently she is fighting to keep people from building a dock for boats near the fairy penguins eating area. The boats could harm the penguins along with new fishing which would make it harder for the penguins to get food therefore resulting in a decrease in fairy penguin population.

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Dr. Belinda Cannell.

Her fight for Fairy Penguins:


Works Cited
"Biology experts." Latest News. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <http://www.murdoch.edu.au/News/Find-an-expert/Biology-experts/>.
"Fairy Penguin." Australian Animals. Spring 2004. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <http://www.australianfauna.com/fairypenguin.php>.
"Pilot Beach." In Otago Peninsula, New Zealand. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <http://www.lonelyplanet.com/new-zealand/dunedin-and-otago/otago-peninsula/sights/beach/pilot-beach>.
"Pilots Beach Penguin-viewing Operation Approved." (page 1). Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <http://www.odt.co.nz/your-town/otago-peninsula/125376/pilots-beach-penguin-viewing-operation-approved>.
Readman, A. "Unique Australian Animals." Unique Australian Animals. Austrailia Oceania Vacation Spots. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <http://australian-animals.net/peng.htm>.
Williams, Tony D. "Little Penguin." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Feb. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Penguin>.

Food Web: