Life as a falconer, insect systematist, and double Masters Student (or a look into the mind of someone who is questionably sane).

12 December 2011

Penguins

11 xii 2011

011- Walking to the dock to start the glow worm trip
416- Working on the computer
1254- sleeping
1947- On the boat in Milford sound looking at some pretty amazing waterfalls. 
                   
lunch: sandwich, cheese, granola bar
dinner: fish and chips

Random Fact: The main fall at Milford Sound is 3x the height of Nigeria Falls, but not nearly as wide

We woke up and went to Mass.  It was a really small church with a recorded musical accompanist.  Once church was out we went back to the camp finished loading things and then stopped for breakfast at a café.  I had chocolate ice cream.  Then we headed off to the sound.  The drive was beautiful along a winding road.  We stopped a few times and took pictures of the views.  Lots of steep cliffs and rivers, lakes, and streams.  I also saw some decent grass patches and did some sweeping.  Not a lot of leafhoppers but I did get a couple of them.  We had to drive through a mile long tunnel (one way at a time), after which the road got really narrow (at some points just a single lane) and twisting. The road would have been super fun to drive in a zippy car.  Once we got to the Milford Sound visitors center we checked in for our boat ride and then walked along the dock.  Our boat is pretty cool looking- it’s a powerboat, but with sails (although we later found out it didn't have a keel so they only put up one or two of the sails at a time in the morning cruises).  We boarded and picked up our lunches. Mom took my salad and other vegetable matter and gave me cheese.  After we ate we went up to the upper deck and watched the scenery. We were able to sail along really close to the shoreline, in some areas the mist from the waterfalls would soak us.  We saw a bunch of fur seals on a rock- they were all sleeping pretty soundly.  The weather was great, apparently it hadn't rained in 6 days something of a record.  It wasn't very windy either- there was some wind being funneled down the sound, but that was it.  When we got to the end of the sound and entered the ocean the swells picked up (we got some pretty good bow spray going on and  some of the people sitting near the bow got pretty wet).  Dad pointed out a bird and I glanced at it and thought it was a seagull. Turned out I was pulling a Nick, as shortly thereafter the guide pointed out one flying overhead and said it was a wandering albatross.  We got an awesome view of one flying over the boat, and saw another few behind the boat.  Then we turned around and headed back up the sound.  We stopped under waterfall that was 150m high and got some pictures. Apparently there is a Maori legend that says 10 years is added to your life if your face is hit by mist from the waterfall.  We also motored through a small bay and then went by another group of seals.  Back at the dock we disembarked, bought the picture/calendar thing the boat company made, and walked back to our van. We watched some birds on the walk back.  The drive back was nice, mom led the way through the tunnel since the light changed just as we pulled up.  We got to Te Anau at about 630, stopped at the information center and got reservations for the campsite in Gore.  We also figured out the penguin situation for tomorrow.  We picked up fish and chips to go from the gas station next to the info center, and my dad and I got gas while my mom waited for the food.  I drove the first part of the trip while mom ate, and then we switched so I could eat.  The trip was uneventful, lots of driving through sheep country and rolling green hills.  Really pretty place.  We pulled into gore about 830, and decided to go get some beer.  We tried the convenience store first but they didn’t have beer.  So we walked to the bar/bottle store and got 6 Tui beers- an IPA.  It was a bit complicated because they didn't have any 6 packs of Tui, so we were going to buy a 12 pack, turns out they didn’t have a 12 pack so she pulled out a 15 pack and gave us 6 beers.  We took them back to the camp, and mom fought with the camera to take a picture of the 3 of us with our beers.  The beer was pretty good, and by the time we were done it was totally dark.  We took some pictures of the moon, tried to get the DVD to work (unsuccessful) then went to bed.


12 xii 2011
436- Trying to figure out how to use the DVD player in the van.  Apparently it's too complicated for any of us to figure out
1351- Taking pictures of leafhoppers
1439- About to leave camp
1908- At the Royal Albatross Center looking at penguins

Lunch: Tomatoes
Dinner: Seafood chowder and fries, with a beer

Random fact- "The Last Post" restaurant is housed in the oldest public works building still standing in the town of Oamaru.  It was originally built as the post office, then served as a couple of other things before being sold and converted into a restaurant in 1992.  Also, the Captain Cook Bar in Dunedin serves the most beer in New Zealand and has been in operation since 1860.

Well I got woken up at 830, and started the morning taking pictures of the leafhoppers I had caught yesterday.  Only one of them kept trying to get away, the rest were pretty cooperative.  Got some decent ones I think.  We left about 10, and got breakfast at a café in town.  I had scrambled eggs and toast with milk.  After we ate we checked out a couple of shops and my mom got some wool yarn to make hats for us.  We left about 11 and drove from Gore to Clinton (someone even labeled it the presidential highway), then went to Dunedin, on the coast.  I did a bit of sweeping, but again not much in the way of leafhoppers.  In Dunedin we got off the main road and worked our way to the tip of the peninsula, where the Royal Albatross Center is located.  This was another amazing drive.  The road was really narrow and at the edge of a steep cliff without much in the way of a guard rail.  Its amazing how steep a slope the sheep can graze.  The views were also amazing- ocean view on one side and bay view on the other.  At the center I found out we could look from the cliff overlook and see spotted shag and spoonbill nests, and if we went to the beech we could see nesting blue penguin.  The albatross colony was on the back of the cliff and only visible with the tour.  I thought I would rather take my chances on seeing an adult fly by then go on the tour, which was 40 a person.  The lady at the ticket counter told me yesterday the weather was really nice and there were albatrosses all over the area, but today the weather wasn’t as nice so the chances of seeing one were pretty slim.  We went outside and spotted the shags and spoonbills pretty fast.  The shags were everywhere with nests on the cliffs.  We got some great views of the adults feeding the nestlings by the young sticking  their heads in the adults mouths and eating (I'm so glad I'm not a shag, and I think my parents are too).  Tons of gulls- mostly red billed gulls, but also some black backed gulls.  When we had gotten out of the car a red billed gull tried to steal my soul- they really are pretty spooky looking when they just stare at you and don’t fly away, especially since their eyes are pale and they have a red eye ring.  I thought I saw an albatross flying out at sea and flying into the albatross colony behind the cliff, but I couldn’t be sure.  We watched for quite a while before deciding to try our luck with the penguins.  We had to climb over the fence blocking the road (the receptionist said it was just to block cars not people, and the sign and fact the benches were set up like steps over the fence seemed to support this too) to get to Pilot Beach.  We walked down the beach, and I spotted a hole in the ground.  As we got closer I could see what looked like a white spot inside.  Pulled out the binoculars and sure enough it was a blue penguin on the nest.  We watched her for a bit,  I can't believe I finally saw a wild penguin, I was beginning to think  I would never see one.  We didn't want to disturb her though so we left after maybe 10 minutes and continued down the beach to where a  seal was hauled out.  We were able to get pretty close without him getting too concerned about us so we took pictures of that and then walked to the end of the beach.  I watched some songbirds and then we headed back.  The sun broke through the clouds and suddenly there was an albatross.  At first I wasn't convinced it wasn’t a black backed gull since they kinda look similar (although the albatross is about 3x the size), but it quickly became apparent it was an albatross.  The bird was lazily making circles around the cliff- coming into view for about ½ the circle and behind the cliff for the other half.  It did this for about 10 minutes (I'm assuming it was the same bird), and we got some really great looks at it.  There flight style and wing shape is really different from the gulls once you have them both in view to compare its pretty obvious.  My dad pointed this out, I think hes becoming a bit of an albatross spotter over this trip…  During one flight all doubt was removed when I got a great view of both the back and beak- neither of which were remotely black backed albatross like.  Then it was time to leave after a quick stop at the giftshop.  We stopped in Portobello and got some drinks (I had lemon aid with a really cool bottle top opener, kinda like the ones you see on tin cans with a pull loop).  I also pointed out some sheep in a truck to my mom.  We worked our way through Dunedin and about 2 hours later arrived in Oamaru.  We got a campsite, then decided to rent a room at the camp instead so we could have a smoother exit in the morning.  The camp person directed us to the yellow eyed penguin colony and told us they usually come ashore at 1830.  Since it was almost that time we headed over and got to the colony at 1825.  Sure enough at 1830 the first penguin came ashore, quickly followed by another.  They swim in so strangely- I expected them to be faster swimmers but it took them a while to make it onto shore out of the surf.  Once they were on shore they spent about 45 minutes or so drying themselves on the beach and standing around (typically stopping 3-4 times for about 15 minutes each) before they went into the undergrowth.  After these 2 came ashore we spotted another in the ocean swimming in but never saw it reach shore.  Around this same time a bunch of sea birds showed up and were fishing offshore so I expect there was a school in the area and maybe the penguins stayed out later to get an easy meal.  Right as we were about to leave another penguin showed up so we watched him for a while, and then a 4th one appeared.  We left after this 4th one had made it almost all the way up the beach (he was a penguin on a mission because he didn’t stop at all for the first ½ of the beach).  We walked back to the van and went to town.  After mom only getting slightly lost we parked in downtown and walked around looking for someplace to eat before settling on "The Last Post"  There was a loud guy from south Africa talking the ears off of the people he was with but otherwise the atmosphere was pleasant.  My soup was really good as was my beer.  My mom had a steak and my dad some salmon both of which were also good.  Then we came home and organized our things for tomorrow.

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