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Seabirds and Surprises

We know what Matt Rayner (Auckland Museum), Tim Lovegrove and Todd Landers (Auckland Council) were hoping to achieve when they installed dummy 3D printed spotted shags, complete with an acoustic attraction system on Ōtata a year ago. But, who’d have known this might also lead to unforeseen results?

From September we started making disturbing discoveries of small piles of decapitated and sometimes breasted White-Faced Storm Petrels, seemingly randomly discarded around Ōtata. We’d never seen this before.

After sounding the alarm with Matt and other seabird experts, we all strongly suspected our wide-eyed but not so innocent residents, the Ruru! By day the sound system belts out the calls of spotted shags. By night the system blasts out the calls of petrels and shearwaters. Perhaps the sound system has become a dinner gong for Ruru! It may be natural selection at work but for now, with the help of the experts, we’ll have a more thorough investigation.

It’s not all grim news though.

In mid-January, Zoe was kayaking around the islands looking for anything interesting, as we do! When she cast her eye up at the dummy spotted shags, one of them MOVED. Understandably, she was pretty excited. She took photos, fetched me, and we both returned to see him trying to impress his companion.

He was preening and craning his neck toward this dummy mate. After some time, when his efforts didn’t illicit the response he wanted, he appeared to decide the best strategy was to play it cool, just hang out and pretend he hadn’t even noticed the gorgeous piece of plaster standing beside him. That wore a bit thin and by the end of the day, he upped and departed. We hope he flew off to tell his mates (and lady friends) about the place with the cool music and the inhabitants who were very reserved and needed a bit of livening up! In case you’re wondering, Zoe and I just assumed he was a boy!

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