Let’s Get this Party Started!

https://penguinhospital.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/xxx/Leave it to the shags to be the first to get dressed up for the spring fling. Their normally drab outfit has been replaced with a double crest of curling feathers, a bright turquoise eye patch, and a rich dark blue tail. They are ready to celebrate spring in full breeding-plumage style.

It's nearly spring, and spotted shags have already paired up on the Otago Coast
Spotted shags on the Otago Coast.

Last week, Wayne Turner guided me to a cliff near XXX where the shags have already paired off and are busily making nests in every available nook and cranny. As we got closer, he warned that we might be harassed by red-billed gulls. We escaped their attention this time, but they’ve been known to screech such a loud warning that by the time you reach the cliff, the shags have all flown away.  The gulls scavenge leftover fish from the shags so by protecting them, they are simply protecting their food source.

This red algae will be perfect for my nest...
This red algae will be perfect for my nest…

In the old days this did not afford the shags enough protection as “sportsmen” would wait below a cliff and shoot for fun, destroying an entire colony in an afternoon. Thankfully those days are over and shag numbers have increased again to the point where if we approach quietly and carefully, we can enjoy shooting them with a camera.

As soon as the shags lay their eggs the party is OVER, and it’s back to their normal dull brown and grey feathers. But dull feathers serve a purpose too, as the shags will then blend in perfectly with the rocks of the cliff while they are incubating eggs and brooding chicks.

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