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The Penguins of Otago Peninsula

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This entry was posted on 1/4/2007 3:06 AM and is filed under New Zealand.

The Penguins of Otago Peninsula

About an hour north of the city of Dunedin is the tip of a peninsula that is home to many rare and amazing penguins.  We spent a very happy day - the last day of the year - in the pursuit of the sightings of them.

We started with the Penguin Place, which is a private habitat dedicated to providing a safe environment for the yellow eyed penguins to live, and caring for sick or injured ones as well.  Throughout the main nesting areas, they have built a maze of tunnels known as 'hides', because they gave us very free access to the area where the birds nest while allowing us to be hidden from their view.  Here's a view of the main nesting area from above, before we began our walk down...



Here's what those long snake-like tunnels looked like inside ....



or for even MORE fun, experience walking through one in this movie....

Walking Through the Penguin Hides

and at the end of the runs, we arrived in small rooms like this...



The gap in the boards was only about 6" high, and was at eye level.  The rule was to not stick anything like a camera or arm out of the hide, and not to use flash when photographing the birds.  With these guidelines, we could then disappear to the birds - we only appeared to be about 6" tall - not 6' tall, so we were not a threat and were ignored.  And here's what we saw...

A Yellow-Eyed Penguin sitting on her nest...



A young juvenile waiting for Mom or Dad to wake up...



Another juvenile begging to be fed...



and be sure to watch some of this in the movie too...

Watching the baby penguin

Here's a close-up of a couple...



And here's a few of them walking up on the beach.  The parents would take turns fishing and feeding and being with their young, so you could see them on the beach throughout the day...




The beach was just to the right of the picture at the top of this page, and from the protection of the hides, we could watch them walk up from the beach.

It's really amazing to see these penguins up close and in their natural environments like this - so totally different from seeing them in a zoo or marine-world setting.

THE
LITTLE BLUE PENGUIN

The area was also home to the LITTLE BLUE PENGUIN.  Some of them were nesting at this preserve too, but it was too dark inside their nests to get a good photo of them.

Here's what the Little Blues look like...


They're only about a foot tall.  How adorable!
The parents go out fishing all day - leaving before sunrise, and return at night at dusk to feed the young.  They are solitary by nature, and build their nests in burrows, often taking over the burrows of rabbits.  They can walk as far as a kilometer from the beach to their nest.  Here's a warning about their crossing the roads...



We ended the day by staying until 10:00 pm and waiting at the beach for their return.  Sorry - no pictures, as it was almost dark.  (Yes - it stays light here in summer until nearly 10 - wow!)  But it was light enough for us to see this large ripple about 100 meters off into the water, which gradually moved closer and closer to us.  As the ripple met the beach, there suddenly emerged about 20-30 little-bitty penguins, who all ran up onto the beach together, and started working their way up onto the land and towards their homes, after a hard day at work fishing.

We arrived back to our hotel at about 11:30 - just in time to catch the New Year's fireworks from our hotel windows.  What a great day to finish this amazing year for us.  We feel so blessed.


 

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