In the previous post I shared photos of New Zealand's Christmas Tree, the Pohutukawa. These photos were taken on a 2004 horticultural tour of New Zealand's North and South Islands. On the day when our tour group was able to see the pohutukawas in glorious crimson bloom closeup, we also had a rare glimpse of a trio of baby penguins on the Tasman Sea beach.
We were staying at the Wilderness Lodge at Lake Moeraki in the six million acre NZ World Heritage Area. Our lodge was in hiking distance of the Tasman Sea where the penguins came out at dawn to feed. So, the penguin scouts had to be up well before dawn, suited up in yellow slickers and boots, and make an hour's hike through the lush green bush. We walked in the rain that day, fording rushing streams almost up to our boot tops, clambering up mossy rocks and muddy stream banks by hanging on to thick vines and roots and getting the occasional friendly boost from the hiker behind us. All of this had to be done in silence because the penguins are notoriously shy and will not come out on the beach if they were startled in any way.
When we came out of the bush we were lucky. Three baby penguins were waiting in the shallow waters, ready to go fishing. If you look closely at this photo, you'll see three white blobs. Those were the penguins and we couldn't get any closer to them.
Here's one variety of penguin, the yellow eyed, that our babies may have been. Or they may have been a crested. Both breed in the coastal shrub areas.
After watching the penguins feed for awhile, several of our group moved away from the feeding area and did a bit of romping in the Tasman Sea themselves. Luckily they didn't have to fish for their breakfast!
New Zealand is a country of grand proportions and natural beauty from its coastal area rain forests to pristine lakes and glaciers to the snowcapped Southern Alps. I loved the friendly people, the wines, the formal gardens, the "Lord of the Rings" scenery and the wildlife. And, I must not forget the dogs--I could do a full post on the dogs I met in New Zealand. Perhaps I will soon.