The New Zealand Diaries: rush-hour penguin-groups style (18/01/16)

Just as humans are different from one another, so are penguins.  Whereas the yellow-eyed penguins I saw last night swam and landed on the beach one by one, then took their time to waddle back to their respective nests, the little blue penguins’ behaviour tonight was quite different: they gather in rafts (the name for penguin-groups) of around 50 while still in the water, then approach the beach together …..from a distance all you can see is a dark mass of water gliding through the water fast, like a torpedo. Then they land and scramble up on the beach and up the hills towards their nests at high speed…..pouring out of the water and then swarming out much like ants would when you prod their nest with a stick (I have never done that!!!!). Some of them paused briefly, especially as they got closer to the platform we were on, resting a bit before disappearing under the platform, in their respective hides or up the hills-tiny plump little creatures, so much smaller than the yellow-eyed penguins. We saw some of them pop their little heads out of their nests again and I sat for ages on a step in the dark watching one which was resting in a dark spot literally an arm’s length away from me…..his little antics were so incredible, fun and sweet to watch.

Getting a decent photo was, of course, impossible. As the viewing took place after dark, a flash would have been needed and the light eminating from the specially designed wooden platforms fitted with little LED lights which are not harmful to little penguins’ eyes, unlike camera flashes.

Either way a photo could not really have captured the moment: the squaking, the speed, the rushing up the cliffs and into the dunes, the little antics, the head movements; even the poor little one that got stuck for a while climbing up……..the guides counted 117 of these little cuties, who swim so very fast and yet waddle so funnily once on land…it was very precious and unique. What a joy to witness this wonderful part of their routine tonight!