25 Nov 2010

A day of penguins at Otago peninsula – 23rd

I woke up early and had a quick breakfast with Colin. He then drove me to the bus stop as I wanted to catch the morning bus to Harington Point, which is located at the tip of the Otago Peninsula. The bus driver dropped me at the Penguin Place and I checked in at their lodge for two nights. The lodge were located at the top a hill and its veranda facing the inlet. Amazing view while Bellbirds singing in the surrounding forest. I  accommodate myself and the took a long walk along the shore to Portobello. It was low-tide and hundreds of hundreds of Red-billed Gulls as well as Variable Oystercatchers, Black-backed Gulls, three Royal Spoonbills, Little and Spotted Shags.

Back to the lodge a made a simple pasta dinner, enough for two days. Took a power nap before I joined a tour within the penguin reserve. The reserve has been managed by the McGrouther's family since 1985. They has replanted the penguins breeding grounds, built nesting sites, cared for sick and injured birds and trapped predators. Daniel were my and to more participants guide for the one hour tour. We saw a young Yellow-eyed Penguin, which had been present on the cliffs for two days. During our tour an adult Yellow-eyed Penguin landed on the beach and we could study the bird from a nearby hide. Finally we visited a shady nest with one parent and two three-week old chicks. It were a great experience to see these strange, but beautiful birds. Afterwards I had soft selfmade latte on the lodge veranda and enjoyed several Silvereyes and a couple of Bellbirds.

In the evening I took a five kilometres walk to Pilot Beach close to the Royal Albatross Colony at the very tip of the peninsula, to watch little Blue Penguins arriving to their breeding grounds after sunset. Just behind the roped-off viewing area there were two burrows with penguins visible. 10-15 minutes after sunset one could see rafts of 10-20 penguins coming to shore, but slowly and careful. It was to see them to land on the beach just below the audience. And soon their calls sounded through the night. During my walk back to the lodge I saw several rafts of Blue Penguins swimming in to shore and heard some tramping in the bush. What a joyful day!

The Penguin Place is located almost at the tip of the Otago peninsula. The place has been a conservation reserve for the Yellow-eyed Penguin since 1985.
View from the veranda at Penguin Lodge where I stayed for two nights.
The beach where the Yellow-eyed Penguins land during afternoon and evening. Unlike other penguins it breeds solitary and have clear territories and don’t use burrows.
An immature Yellow-eyed Penguin. They receive adult plumage after their first moult.
An adult Yellow-eyed Penguin that just have land at the beach. It is 70 cm tall and weighs over 5 kg.
Adult Blue Penguin and chick in its burrow at Pilot Beach, where a great colony is to be found.
Sunset at Pilot Beach while awaiting the Blue Penguins, which usually arrive some 10-15 minutes after sunset.
A blurry picture of a group of Blue Penguins that just have landed on the beach. Flashes or torches is of course not allowed.

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