Buster, the Yellow-eyed Penguin
Otago Peninsula, Dunedin, New Zealand

Making the Most of a Second Chance

   The Yellow-eyed Penguin is one of the most, if  not THE most endangered Penguin species on the planet. The Yellow-eyed Penguin population has significantly declined since the 1990s due to disease and human activity. In addition, since these Penguins spend most of their days at sea feeding, they must also avoid predators such as sharks and sea lions.

                                                                                                        Two years ago, Buster was found on the beach with injuries suffered in a shark attack. Taken to the Penguin Hospital in Dunedin, Buster was nursed back to health and released back on the beach where he was found.

Making the most of his second chance, Buster returned to his usual daily activities with only a limp to show for  his near fatal experience. Then, last year it was discovered that Buster had found a mate and had successfully produced a chick.

This series of photographs shows Buster returning from a day spent fishing at sea, to be greeted by his mate and chick.

Emerging from the surf in the late afternoon, Buster checks that the beach is clear of predators.

Buster then crosses about 100 ft of beach (depending on tide level).  The beach and breeding habitat is part of the Elm Wildlife Conservation Area. As such, access is strictly controlled and Buster should only expect to see gulls, sea lions and fur seals as he crosses the beach. Hides for observing the activity on the beach are set in the hillside above the beach.

After crossing the beach, Buster makes his way up the steep path in the hillside that leads to his mate, chick and burrow.

As he approaches the burrow area, Buster vocalizes to let his mate know that he has arrived.

As Buster continues to vocalize, his mate comes out to greet him.

The chick is happy to see Buster  because it knows that it is soon to be fed.

Soon after  Buster's return, his mate will descend the hillside path to also spend some time feeding on her own, leaving Buster to care for the chick. This sharing of activities will continue until the chick fledges.