Lancelot Richdale was a pioneer marine ornithologist in New Zealand, who studied (and published on) both penguins and procellariiform seabirds. In his most readable biography by Neville Peat it is described how in 1936 he followed up a report of albatrosses at the tip of the Otago Peninsula, near Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island. He travelled out on his motorbike and walked to the headland. He later wrote: "... there on a grassy path, before my astonished gaze, sat a male Albatross incubating a large white egg".
Lancelot Eric Richdale, OBE, DSc (University of New Zealand), 4 January 1900 - 19 December 1983
Two 1949/50 publications by Lance Richdale: valued parts of the ACAP Information Officer's personal library on procellariiform seabirds
Historical footage taken by Richdale of one of the first successful nests at Taiaroa Head archived in the University of Otago Library’s Hocken Collections can now be viewed online. The two-and-a-half-minute film taken in 1939, silent and in black and white, first shows Richdale’s wife, Agnes visiting the nest containing a small downy chick being brooded by a leg-banded parent. Lance Richdale is then shown weighing the chick in a cloth bag. The short film ends with a later shot of the growing but still downy chick and a passing ship in the background below the head.
Photograph from The Royal Albatross Centre
Since his discovery, and subsequent devoted care of this first successful breeding attempt, the colony of globally Endangered Northern Royal Albatrosses Diomedea sanfordi at Taiaroa Head has grown to around 50 well-protected pairs breeding each year (click here). The colony must be the most visited group of albatrosses anywhere with close-up views to be made from a glassed observatory – and even closer views online via a 24-hour live-streaming ‘Royal Cam’ that has been set up close to an occupied nest each breeding season since 2015.
Richdale's legacy: the 500th Northern Royal Albatross chick to be reared at Taiaroa Head, photograph by Lyndon Perriman
Still keen to watch videos of albatrosses at Taiaroa Head? Then try these links as well:
Peat, N. 2011. Seabird Genius. The story of L.E. Richdale, the Royal Albatross, and the Yellow-eyed Penguin. Dunedin: Otago University Press. 288 pp.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 30 January 2019, updated 01 February 2019