Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Southwest of Campbell Island, at 54 degrees south, Macquarie Island is a relatively young island with tangible links to the New Zealand groups. It shares a number of plants as well as several seabird and marine mammal species with the New Zealand islands. Macquarie has no woody plants among its 41 native species. Sprawling penguin colonies and large numbers of elephant seals are among the island;s wildlife features. 
The great Australian Antarctic Explorer Sir Douglas Mawson once called Macquarie Island,"One of the wonder spots of the world." We shall spend DAYS 7 and 8 during the Birding Down Under Voyage observing and photographing the wildlife of Macquarie Island which was one of the first subantarctic island to obtain World Heritage Status, largely due to its unique geology. It is one of the few places on earth where mid-ocean coastal rocks are exposed at the surface due to the collision of the Australian and Pacific Plates. 
Macquarie Island is home to four species of penguins, Kings, Royals, Gentoo and Rockhopper. 
 The Royal Penguin, above and below, occurs nowhere else in the world. 
 Royal Penguin with chick, below.
There is a pleasant boardwalk that leads to the heart of the colony.
Like all crested-type penguins, Royals are quarrelsome.
Mating Royal Penguins, below.
 At the beach, the Royal Pengins curiosity is quite amazing.
A Royal Penguin approaches Debi, below. 
The young folks, below, really did not know how to react to this!
The ever-present Brown Skua.
 This is a near magical experience, below, where King Penguins actually swim out to greet the boats.
 A Zodiac cruise along the shoreline reveals how huge the King Penguin colony is!
King Penguin colony, below.
 Scavenging Giant Petrels, below, as seen from the cruise in the kelp beds.
 This is the place to see Southern Elephant Seals, both in the water and on land.
 Nose of the Southern Elephant Seal, below.
 Pups are born in October and weaned in November when the breeding adults return to the sea. The weaners and sub adults lie about the beaches until they go to sea in January, running the gauntlet of Killer Whales who are waiting offshore!

Macquarie Island was discovered in 1810 and was soon ravaged by sealers who introduced various animals including rats, mice, cats and rabbits. The native bird population was virtually eliminated and plants destroyed. The Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service which administered the island recently embarked on a very ambitious eradication program which seems to have been successful. The island is now predator free and both the birds and plants are responding. It is amazing to witness the regeneration and the increase in the numbers of birds. (When I last visited, rabbits, cats and rats still existed on this island!) 

We depart for Campbell Island on the afternoon of the second day.
Debi Shearwater

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