Every time I’ve been to Penguin Island, I’ve been fascinated by the Crested Terns (Sterna bergii). The first time I visited with my camera, I watched for ages as a group of terns splashed about in the small waves on the more protected side of the island.
Terns in the waves
In late November last year, the terns were busy raising their families. They started out with the young hidden in the vegetation and the poor parents battling to get fish to the chicks without losing their catch to the very determined Silver Gulls.
Two weeks later, the colony had moved down onto the beach.
The gulls were still very much in evidence but not seeming as much of a threat, probably as the chicks were older. I’m not sure how the parents find their offspring in amongst all the chaos.
Tern chick on the move
Waiting for food – Crested tern chick
Crested tern with lunch
Young Crested tern exercising his wings
Hopefully those chicks are all grown up now, and in juvenile plumage like the bird on the left below.
Penguin Island is one of my favourite places to visit near Perth. It’s a bit of a drive from home south to Rockingham but then just a short ferry ride to the island, which forms part of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park. Bridled Terns breed here in summer – it is an awesome experience visiting when they are in residence as they are so close and flying all around you.
The birds and other animals are so much more relaxed than on the mainland making it easier to get close to them (sometime they get too close). I would love to be able to get over to Penguin Island early to get the soft light but as the first ferry is at 9 am I may have to learn how to kayak (and be brave enough to take my camera!).
Pied oystercatcher probing wet sand
Room with a view – nesting Silver gull
Adult Crested tern pair
Snoozing Australian sea-lion
If you’re lucky you’ll spot a wild Little Penguin – the smallest penguin species, found on the southern coast of Australia and around New Zealand. In summer, you sometimes see a couple of penguins hiding under the boardwalks but most of them disappear early in the morning to fish all day, returning at sunset. The island is closed to visitors in winter when the colony (about 1000 pairs) gets into breeding mode. The Little Penguin below is a late fledgling I spotted in the middle of the day – he probably tired of waiting for his parents to return and decided to try fishing for himself. Hopefully he made it to adulthood.
Little penguin fledgling
Pair of Mute swans at Penguin Island
Another unusual sight I came across was this pair of Mute Swans in the sea near the jetty. Mute Swans are an introduced species in Australia; there is a breeding colony at Northam (about 100 km away) but this pair were seen in the Rockingham area for a while.