Picnic and penguins

In Oamaru I bought fresh cheese at the Whitestone dairy, freshly baked bread at the Danish Bakerii in the Victorian section of town, and grapes in the supermarket. At the beach in Friendship Bay I watched the boats bobbing gently on the swell and had a picnic. Red beaked, red footed gulls watched me, waiting for the chance to dash or swoop in and steal my lunch. Pointing my camera at them seemed to be an effective deterrent.

Later I watched Yellow Eyed penguins returning from their day long fishing trip. Four of them in two hours. Oamaru is the extreme north of their range and there aren’t many here. They dashed quickly across the beach and disappeared into the bushes on the hillside. Seen from about 100 metres away they were tiny grey blobs against a grey pebble beach. I’m taking it on faith that they really were Yellow Eyed penguins. The juvenile Yellow Eyed penguin in the photo at the top of this entry lives in a colony on the Otago Peninsular, about an hour on the bus from Dunedin.

Afterwards, closer to town, in the twilight, I watched about twenty Blue penguins hopping ashore. They scrambled up the rocks using claws and beaks and scuttled along the road into town. There they disappeared into the ventilation holes under the buildings in the Victorian section of town. You can pay NZ$25 to watch the penguins come ashore from the “comfort” of a fenced off wooden grandstand or you can watch them for free from the shore end of the harbour breakwater on the other side of the fence. Together with about a dozen other budget conscious tourists I went for the free option, much to the consternation of the grandstand staff. I paid to see the Yellow Eyed penguins at Otago so I figured I’d done my bit for penguin conservation in New Zealand.

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