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Friday, January 12, 2018

Seabird doggedly attached to his concrete love

We have some crazy birds in New Zealand.

First, there was Sirocco, the kakapo (a kind of really dumb parrot) that became an internet sensation when it was filmed trying to make love with Stephen Fry's photographer's head.

You can watch the shameful episode on the BBC, here.

But the craziness is not just on land.  We have a goofy gannet, too.

His name is Nigel, and it is quite a story.

For the past twenty years the Department of Conservation has been trying to lure gannets to Mana Island, just north of Wellington, hoping to establish a colony.  Their plot was diabolical and complex, involving eighty concrete decoys, and a lot of concrete bird poo, which was dutifully sprayed white at regular intervals, to make the guano look real.  And there is a solar-powered gadget, which hoots gannet noises, also at regular intervals.

Success of a kind arrived in 2016, with the alighting of one lone male.  He seemed quite happy to be alone (which was why he was named Nigel), to the extent of falling in love with one of the concrete birds, and even building a nest for "her."

And so life went on for two whole years.

But then fate intervened, in the shape of a visiting scientist, who suggested that the gannet-noise-making gadget might be pointing the wrong way.  So they adjusted it.  And it worked!  Three other gannets moved in.  "I was flabbergasted to see them," said Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger, Chris Bell. "I nearly fell off into the sea in shock."

But Nigel was not welcoming at all.  Instead, he shunned them. As  Chris Bell observed, "They are on one side of the colony and on the other side is Nigel, who is still making love to his concrete bird. He definitely has some sort of fetish.  It's tragic."

But the outlook is optimistic.  After all, Nigel might be super-odd, but at least he helped attract the newcomers. "He may be a weirdo," Chris Bell ruminated, "and they may not want to associate with him, but he's played his part.  Maybe one day he will figure it out."

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