Posts written by Colin Miskelly

Antarctic blog #5 – Running on thick ice

  • An inglorious end to the day. A Sno-Cat extracts our van from soft snow. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Two marathon runners grab a snack and drink at Checkpoint 1. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • An ANI staff member completes the first lap of the marathon. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • The 2014 Antarctic Ice Marathon runners leave the start line. Image: Colin Miskelly

Union Glacier camp was bulging at the seams in mid-November, with an Ilyushin delivering 54 marathon runners (2 of whom pulled out before the event), a few support staff and organisers, and a Chinese film crew. The annual Antarctic Ice Marathon has become big business, with all available places booked a year ahead – unless… Read more »

A box of fluffy birds – moving fairy prions from Takapourewa / Stephens Island to Mana Island

  • An aerial view of the artificial burrows (with wooden lids, at right of image) waiting to receive the 100 chicks on Mana Island. The caravan is used as shelter while feeding the chicks, with the team of FOMI volunteer feeders staying in accommodation about a kilometre away. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Fifty boxes containing 100 fairy prion chicks fill the cargo hold of the BK helicopter. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Colin Miskelly (left) and FOMI committee member and project manager Brian Bell weigh a fairy prion chick while making the final selection of which chicks to move. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • A tuatara dropping on Takapourewa containing the webbed foot of a fairy prion chick. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Te Papa vertebrate curator Dr Colin Miskelly recently led a team that visited Takapourewa / Stephens Island Nature Reserve, to select and gather up 100 fairy prion chicks to move to Mana Island near Wellington. This is the first in a series of blogs about the project and the wildlife of Takapourewa. Over the past… Read more »

Antarctic blog #4 – The southernmost penguin colony

  • Adelie penguins nesting at Cape Royds, with Shackleton's hut at the lower left. Image courtesy of Peter Carey
  • Tourists visiting the southernmost penguin colony on the planet - the emperor penguin colony at Gould Bay. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Emperor penguins breeding on sea-ice at Gould Bay, south-eastern Weddell Sea. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Cape Crozier emperor penguin colony. Image courtesy of Gerald Kooyman

It is a long-established Antarctic fact that the southernmost penguin colony on the planet is at Cape Royds, on the west side of Ross Island, near McMurdo Station and Scott Base. Slightly anomalously, this is an Adélie penguin colony, being a few minutes further south than the ‘southernmost’ emperor penguin colony at Cape Crozier on… Read more »

Antarctic blog #3 – Camping with emperors

  • Reflection on an iceberg soiree. Staff and guests are reflected in the author's snow goggles. Image courtesy of Susan Ellcome
  • Emperor penguin chicks huddle during the cold of 'night', Gould Bay, November 2014. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • An emperor penguin broods its chick, Gould Bay, November 2014. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Part of the Gould Bay emperor penguin colony, November 2014. Image: Colin Miskelly

Emperor penguins are penguins of superlatives – largest, deepest diving, able-to-withstand-the-coldest-temperatures etc. But one rarely-mentioned fact is that they are the most curious penguin, as in possessing the strongest innate curiosity. This year’s ‘Emp camp’ at Gould Bay was established 2.3 km from the nearest corner of the colony, to reduce disturbance to the birds… Read more »

Seasonality in birds and birdwatchers

  • Shining cuckoo graph
  • Shining cuckoos are often secretive, but are unmistakeable when seen well. Image: Duncan Watson, New Zealand Birds Online
  • An adult grey warbler (left) feeds a recently fledged shining cuckoo chick. Image: Malcolm Pullman, New Zealand Birds Online
  • An adult shining cuckoo shows its iridescent dorsal plumage. Image: Nathan Hill, New Zealand Birds Online

One of the characteristic sounds of spring in New Zealand is the clear, upward-slurred whistle of the shining cuckoo. Along with its long-tailed cousin, the two cuckoos are the only New Zealand forest birds that migrate away from New Zealand after breeding. This is in sharp contrast to temperate countries in Europe, Asia and North… Read more »