The first chicks hatched at Oamaru Harbour this year were abandoned as eggs by their parents for three days.
Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony science and environmental manager Dr Philippa Agnew this year installed microchip readers at the two corrals where the birds enter the colony and began monitoring individual birds’ comings and goings from the colony.
And this year’s first breeders, an 11-year-old female and 13-year-old male that have been breeding together since 2010, left the eggs unincubated for a short period.
At the time, Dr Agnew said, she was concerned and unable to explain the behaviour.
“We knew the parents were still coming and going. But we’re not really sure why they stopped sitting on them. But the eggs can obviously survive a few days of being abandoned,” Dr Agnew said.
This year’s early start to the breeding season, estimated to be May 6 (just four days shy of the colony record, set in 1996, when the first eggs of the breeding season were laid on May 2) could indicate a boom in the number of eggs at the colony in late June or early July.
The long-term data kept at the colony shows an average start to the breeding season, when the first eggs were laid, of July 16.
In a year with a mid-July start to breeding the peak for the number of eggs to be laid at the colony would be during August.
On Wednesday, Dr Agnew said there were 12 eggs at the colony and eight chicks.
Across the harbour at the Oamaru Creek colony, there were two chicks and 12 eggs.
“This year, I keep expecting to see eggs each week, because the number of birds has been really high – both coming ashore and a couple of times on land during monitoring,” Dr Agnew said.
Chicks were left alone for the first 10 days to two weeks of life but would then be weighed and monitored until they fledged.