It is late and once again my plan to have an early night went out of the window. Early nights are not easy to stick to when there are exciting things to do and see in the evening, followed by the need to shower and also eat before retiring. So often here in NZ, my heart is so full of joy and excitement that I have to digest things by writing before I go to bed
As planned, I did head out to Nugget Point after checking in at the campsite and headed straight to Roaring Bay where a hide has been set up for penguin enthusiasts to be able to view the endangered, rare and unique yellow -eyed penguins without disturbing them. Yellow-eyed penguins, appropriately named given their distinct yellow eyes and head-band, are native to NZ and are very shy, though among each other they are apparently quite noisy and emit a shrill call which has given them their Maori name, “Hoiho” , which means “the noise shouter”.
As it was only 6.15pm when I set off, I was fully prepared for a 2 hour wait before-with a bit of luck- spotting a penguin far away in the distance. My surprise was therefore great when a penguin landed on the beach about 5 minutes after I had arrived -in total, I saw two penguins tonight and was able to witness the first outing of a fledgling as well.
At this time of year, the yellow eyed penguins are still watching their young fledglings (usually they lay two eggs at a time), and so Mr and Mrs Penguin look after their young and each other through division of labour: one watches the chicks for the entire day and does not move an inch; the other goes out fishing shortly after sunrise and returns just before sunset to feed the little chicks by regurgitating fish and other goodies hunted down during a day’s labour. The following day, the parents swap roles-apparently they really do take it in turns. It is crucial that the penguins can return to their nests at the end of the day. If something scares them off, they stay away, the chicks go hungry and the food which the parents had intended to regurgitate is digested by the parent.
It was all so lovely to watch……first, you spot the little head bobbing up and down in the water, a clear sign that the penguin is approaching the shore after a day’s hunt for food. Letting the waves wash it up gently onto the beach, the little creature then does a bit of gentle waddling, followed by a bit of feather -drying and then slowly wanders up the beach to the dunes where the nests are hidden. It was funny to watch the penguins do this as their behaviour varied: number one took his time, letting his belly dry in the sun and flapping his wings for a while before slowly embarking on his journey home; number 2 was much more purposeful about getting home. I suspects it was him/her who emerged later with the young one. They just sat there side by side, calm, undisturbed. It was glorious.
Both penguins picked their landing spots carefully. There was a seal lying lazily in the middle of the beach (s/he did not move at all for the entire two hours that I was there!) but despite the fact that s/he was not moving in the slightest, the penguins stayed well clear. In fact, one of them landed, saw the seal, rushed back into the water and re-landed a bit further down the beach. When I left after 2 hours, the seal was still lying there in the same position. I wonder if it stayed like that until the tide started tickling its tummy?
There were, in fact , lots of seals at Roaring Bay, and even more on the rocks and in the turquoise waters of Nugget Point as seen on the walk up to the lighthouse. There were hundreds of them, diving gracefully around the gold nugget shaped rocks which have given this place its name, resting on rocks, waddling about, some even making loud noises to attract each other’s attention, or to pick a fight while all around, the green and blue tides continued to make seaweed dance on gentle waves while seabirds circled high above the water and landbirds sung in the bushes and lowers lining either side of the path.