The Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is on track to record another bumper season.
Across the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony and Oamaru Creek Reserve, 568 chicks have fledged so far this season, and science and environmental manager Philippa Agnew predicted about 800 penguins to fledge in total by the end of the season.
The 2020 season — one of the colony’s best in recent years — produced 914 birds.
Dr Agnew said the number of breeding pairs had gradually increased at both sites.
‘‘That’s simply because [penguins] are well protected both from disturbance and predation.
‘‘We obviously provide a nesting habitat as well which makes a difference,’’ Dr Agnew said.
After stormy weather last June, Dr Agnew had been concerned about how the rest of the season would turn out, but the penguins responded well and were a good weight.
‘‘We’ve had a really good season.’’
The colony also reached a record number of penguins coming ashore each night, with more than 400 visiting the colony for several nights in November.
That number topped the previous record of 390 birds in June last year.
November was always the ‘‘peak for penguin numbers’’, Dr Agnew said.
‘‘That’s when most of the chicks reach the age where both parents need to go to sea to feed for them, so it’s that post guard period. We’ve got parents coming and going every day.’’
This month, numbers had been steady, with 200 to 250 birds coming ashore each night.
Visitor numbers for night tours were also high.
On December 29, the colony had 169 bookings — one of the highest numbers in one night since the border closure in 2020.
Dr Agnew said overall visitor numbers were down compared with last year, but she put that down to Auckland being in lockdown for a long period of time.
Three birds were taken into the colony’s rehabilitation centre over the holiday break.
A little penguin named Dani, who weighed 606 grams, was transferred from the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital to the colony last week in order to gain more weight.
Dani would spend about a month at the colony before being released.
Another little penguin, Alice, spent six days at the rehabilitation centre before Christmas, before being microchipped and released.
The colony last week also cared for a juvenile yellow-eyed penguin who kept coming ashore there, and released him at Bushy Beach the next day.