A lone penguin island in Jervis Bay

08 Oct

Last weekend, we helped Sandra with fieldwork for her Little penguin conservation project. We went to Bowen Island in Jervis Bay, which is a small protected island where only researchers are allowed. So we were there all by ourselves (Sandra, David, Gemma (another PhD student who works on the penguins) and us), living in the small cabin. We had to bring all our food for the ~5 days and there was no shower (only a big ocean in front of our new home).
The work with the penguins was a lot of fun. We built a fence around the beach to catch the penguins when they came back from fishing after sunset. We had to count them and check if they were tagged (if yes, write down the ID number). This is the part that helps Sandra estimate the population size of the Little penguins on Bowen Island. Also, we put GPS loggers and accelerometers on the penguins (Gemma’s project) to find out where they go fishing and how deep and fast they dive.
During the day we went to check 40 burrows. That meant that Sandra had to lie on the floor and put her hand in a burrow to get the penguin out, check if there are eggs and chicks and sometimes get blood samples and tag them. All this was written down and serves to find out which burrows are used and so on (ask Sandra for details πŸ˜‰ ).
All in all these 5 days were unforgettable. 4 biologists and one engineer/hobby-photographer stranded on a lone island full of penguins, birds, red-belly black snakes and the funnel-web spiders. We were very fortunate to see all of these, plus dolphins and whales around the island. Luckily, the snakes are very shy and the funnel-web spiders were only an issue in the last night when it rained (it swear there was one by the toilet in the middle of the night, scary!).
Thanks so much to Sandra, Gemma and the National Park guys for working on the cute Little penguins and enabling us to experience it with you! And thanks to David for the many style shots with funny poses πŸ˜‰ haha!


Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Australia


3 responses to “A lone penguin island in Jervis Bay

  1. Brian

    February 28, 2014 at 05:42

    G’day! I found your blog via a search for ‘Bowen Island funnel web’. It’s fascinating work that you people perform.
    I knew about the restricted access to the island but I didn’t know about the Little Penguin colony. However, I was very interested to see mention made of funnel web spiders, as I have been led to believe (I forget how) that they are the reason the island is off-limits. I was told that it is a breeding-ground for the spiders but, after reading about your group’s efforts there, I now wonder whether it’s because of the penguin colony. Can you shed any light on that for me? It’s just that I have had this vision of the island being overrun by funnel webs, making it possibly the most dangerous island in the world.
    Regards, Brian, Grenfell, N.S.W

    • Simone

      March 3, 2014 at 09:36

      Hi Brian
      Thanks for your interest. It’s nice to know that such kind of work fascinates the public as well πŸ™‚
      The island is protected, because it is the nesting ground for several seabirds: little penguins, sooty oystercatchers and shearwaters (
      The island has lots of funnel webs, but you mostly just see holes in the ground. We only saw one during the 4 days on the island and that was after a heavy rainfall.
      I personally don’t think that there are more funnel webs than elsewhere in the national parks, but I don’t know the numbers…
      Have a nice week!


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