10th annual blue penguin census

Luke and Adam Garside inspect tracks during the 2013 census

The West Coast Penguin Trust invites anyone on the coast this weekend (9-12 October) to find out whether penguins live on their beach.

One of the first activities undertaken by the West Coast Penguin Trust when it formed in 2006 was the annual blue penguin census, an informal and enjoyable bit of citizen science for all Coasters who love the beach and are interested in penguins.  Last year, the census was updated with an online form, which is here.

This year will be the tenth census, which grew from small beginnings in July 2006 with 23 participants.  The range then was and has remained huge covering beaches from south of Haast to north of Karamea. 

Trust Ranger, Reuben Lane, has put together a helpful guide to some of the footprints you might find on the beach. 

“Once you have identified penguin footprints, they’re easy to spot and quite distinct from those of other sea and coastal birds.  One of the easiest identifying features is that, as they want to move quickly to the relative safety of burrow or sea, they tend to go in a straight line between the two.  Our footprint guide along with other advice about being safe out there yourself and reporting your findings, is on our website.”

Inger Perkins, Trust Manager, said: “This is a great way to connect with local penguins and enjoy the emptiness of our wonderful beaches first thing in the morning.  As penguins have normally gone back to sea before dawn and only return after dark, it’s unusual to see live penguins in the wild, but seeing their tracks, running the gauntlet among other tracks including people, vehicles and dogs, is exciting for wildlife sleuths of all ages.” 

If you’re keen but can’t make it this weekend, a few days later won’t matter, but please keep an eye on the tides and never turn your back on those waves.