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Practically Chickens

04/25/2011

Happy World Penguin Day!

Thinking about penguins reminds me of our fantastic trip to New Zealand, where we saw three different species of them. The Little Blue Penguins were absolutely adorable, smaller than bunnies, and lived in a manmade community of tiny wooden houses. JC described it as “Hobbiton for penguins,” and that’s precisely what it looked like.

Little Blue Penguin Colony

Little Blue Penguin Colony


Little Blue Penguin House

Little Blue Penguin House


Little Blue Penguin

A Little Blue Penguin snoozing in its nest.

Our most rewarding penguin experience was waiting at dusk on a high rocky cliff for rare Yellow-eyed Penguins to come in from their long day of fishing at sea. Here are some shots of a bird on the shore. This variety is very cautious and would have stayed in the water if we got too close. There were probably 30 or 40 people up on the ledge with us, all remaining perfectly silent as about 10 of these birds arrived. Ten is a lot, by the way, as there aren’t many of this endangered species left.

Yellow-eyed Penguin on the beach.

Yellow-eyed Penguin on the beach.

One amazing thing about this penguin colony is that it was far up the hillside, so these short-legged animals had to waddle their way up a steep, windy path to get home. At the top of the hill, all of their partners stood waiting. It was all reminiscent of seamen’s wives waiting for their husbands to come home, except that the waiting birds were a mix of male and female. Not that we could tell them apart. You can see a trail of penguin footprints in this shot of the beach below. Penguins literally follow in each other’s footsteps when returning to their colony.

Yellow-eyed Penguin on the beach.

A penguin on the trail.


We also saw Fjordland Crested Penguins in Milford Sound, although we didn’t get any good photos of them. They had amazing head feathers and were really striking to look at. That experience was exciting because the penguins hopped into the water and swam under the boat. They’re very fast and graceful when not hobbling around on land. It was pretty amazing. Here are a couple of photos of the sound. You can see how misty and gray it was—beautiful, but hard to get nature shots of speedy penguins under the waves.
Milford Sound

Milford Sound from the boat.


Milford Sound

A wet, windy, but beautiful day.

Seeing penguins in the wild was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. I can’t recommend New Zealand highly enough; it’s an amazing, beautiful place to see. It’s well worth traveling to the far south for a variety of reasons, penguins being just one.

This all reminds me of the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon “8 Ball Bunny.” As far as I know, we didn’t meet any penguins from Hoboken.

Penguin Crossing

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From → Birds, Travel

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