Monday, June 04, 2007

Magical beach side tour

From NZ-yellow-eye...

While the boys and I were at the Neptune Swim Meet, Catherine, my photo impaired wife, enjoyed a magical tour of splendid nature around Dunedin, New Zealand. She set out at 1 pm on Saturday with the digital camera. Her images are posted in the web album above.

For the first part of the day, she thought she had broken Erik's digital camera. But, no. It was set to the 'download mode' and not the photo taking mode. That was fixed with an easy flip of the switch.

Catherine was keen to see the giant albatross, yellow-eyed penguins, blue penguins and more. See got a treat. They were all there and in volume.

Seems that the wind needs to be right for the giant albatross to come back into their nests. Their wings are so long that if the wind is weak or if the wind direction is such they can't land. They need a bit of a runway to land and head into the wind to slow. The conditions were perfect and they were flocking in to feed their chicks.

The albatross nests around Dunedin are the only place in New Zealand where they are to be found. All the others are in sub-artic islands, except for this colony.

These are huge birds -- with 3-meter wing spans. We saw some of the junior-types on other trips, but were not with these. Their flight is so impressive. They move, swoop and seemingly float just above the rolling waves of the ocean. Feathers at the tips of the wings right to the water's surface among swells and waves.

Then the yellow-eyed penguins -- such a hoot. The eyes are yellow as are the areas around the eyes. They surf in the waves to the beach then plop -- stand upright and waddle to the hillsides to their nests. These guys spend the day in the ocean and the nights at their land-based nests. Swimming, they look a bit like ducks. Then when they go vertical on land, Catherine said it was a riot to see.

The blue penguins are smaller and more to themselves and less in a clan. They nest in these small boxes that had been built for them by the local farmer.

The penguins avoided the sea lions. But, the sheep and penguins got along fine. The sheep help to keep down the height of the grass giving the penguins better footing to get to their nests. If the grass was tall, they'd be finished.

The bad guys are nasty, ugly, blood-thirsty critters that are hated. We're talking about the ferrits and the stoaks. Neither are native to this island. Now that they are here -- they've gone and made a real eco mess.

These stoaks kill tons of birds and there are traps for them all over the place. They kill for the thrill -- not even for the food. So, if one gets into a hillside, it will knock out a handfull of nests in one swoop. Three nests were hit recently until it ended in a trap.

The local farmer lways has a rifle with him as he walks and if he spots a stoak or ferret -- he'll shoot it. Drivers too aim for them if they are on the roads.

When we were driving in Queenstown, I saw one in the headlights running across the road into the bush. The traps are marked with pink triangles so the rangers know where they've been placed.

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