Return of the Macs / by Jerry

While the Gentoo Penguins have been around all winter, although in much larger numbers recently, the Macaronis have been out at sea since April.

I've been out preparing for their return - painting and measuring transect lines within the colony that we'll use to estimate numbers and setting up the gateway that weighs them as they return to feed young.

The return date of the Macs is pretty consistent year to year so I knew that when I was out doing some measuring there was a good chance I'd see the first one back. And so I did. There it was, standing half way up the colony looking nice and clean with big impressive eyebrows.

Numbers seemed to double each day for the next week until the colony was swarming and bustling with birds. These will be the males, returning first to establish sites and build nests. The females are out at sea still, feeding up so they've got the energy reserves to lay their eggs. They'll be back in the next fortnight though.

It's been pretty rough the last few days with some big swell and waves smashing over the rocks. That hasn't stopped the tough little Macs though. Neither has the Leopard Seal patrolling at the bottom of Big Mac. You have to admire their resilience as they ride the waves up the rocks, struggling to get a foothold before it ebbs back and drags them down past the kelp and into the danger zone.

Once up on the rocks they have a shake and a preen. Check their feathers are still in order and they're looking good and then start walking up the narrow route onto the wider 'motorway' up through the colony and back to their nest site where they can start shifting rocks around and arguing with the neighbours.

Shock at seeing the first Mac while out measuring the transect (Hannah's photo).

A late evening at Little Mac with the first 60 males back.

Looking over at the big waves crashing against Big Mac.

A group of Macs charging back home.

Getting washed up the rocks.

Spot the penguin struggling not to slide back down.

Made it!

Another group make the run.

Penguins crashing against each other in the maelstrom.

Once ashore meeting friends and preening,

Heading up to the colony.

One at a time in some places.

Trekking up into Big Mac.

Getting comfortable on it's nest site.

Little Mac with several hundred penguins back, but with many more still to come.