We had the most amazing experience Thursday evening & it's taken me quite awhile to process the photos and get this blog post ready but I think you'll agree it's been worth the wait!
The third reason we stopped at Moeraki was because there is also a Yellow-Eyed Penguin (Hoiho) colony nearby. Yellow-Eyed Penguins are one of the rarest penguins in the world & are unique to NZ. There is an estimate of only 450-500 pairs of penguins nesting on NZ's mainland, this is up from 150 pairs in 1990 when the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust & others began their work in saving this endearing little penguin.
Nearby the colony was a hide(bird) which overlooked a tiny sandy bay surrounded by rocks & this was where most of the visitors to the colony could wait & watch for the penguins arriving home from the sea. The penguins are nesting at the moment, one stays with the eggs or chicks while the other feeds at sea and then brings home dinner in the early evening to feed it's mate or the chicks.
I went down to the hide while David checked out another track, he soon came racing back to get me as there were two penguins already up on a ridge just above another bay & much closer than where the hide was.
These two penguins spent the entire time we were in the area, about 2 hours, in this spot preening & preening & preening some more! I didn't once manage to get a photo of them both looking up.
I wanted to see a penguin arrive in on a wave but with no action happening we moved further on along the peninsula and just about stood on a seal enjoying an afternoon siesta.
All around us in the grass and on the rocks & sand below were seals snoozing.
And another Blue Spotted Shag rookery or should that be "round table". If you look closely (click on the photos to make them bigger) there's also a couple of seals that I didn't see when taking the shot.
We headed back to the penguin beach to see if any more had arrived, the two we had seen earlier were still doing their ablutions.
And another penguin had arrived on the beach! And he had set about preening himself too.
But not for long as once he had finished he then did a series of wing exercises. Preparing for what he was about to undertake.....
He waddled forward towards the steep bank and jumped and flapped his way up. When he got to the top he waved his flippers in the air, very proud of himself....
Just then another penguin made an appearance just to the left of where we were sitting, he'd come up from the bay on the other side of the rocky outcrop. He looked a little startled to see us sitting there but just stayed where he was for quite awhile before waddling off in the direction of the point.
Next minute (nek minnit) right in front of us & not three foot away, the penguin from the beach exercises, appeared on the other side of the fence.
He took no notice of us, we stayed very still & he proceeded to climb underneath the wire and jump out in front of us. How thrilling was that! They are just so darn cute, their flesh coloured legs look like baggy socks & they look like little old men when they walk.
The foreign tourists who had followed the track to this end were just as thrilled to see a penguin passing by on the wrong side of the fence.
We thought he must be heading for one of the tracks up the grassy hill behind us. Up until then we thought the tracks had been made by people but now we realised that they were penguin tracks. But he fooled us again and took a dive under the thistles and disappeared up an unseen track.
He was heading straight to where David (Attenborough) was laying!
Once he reached the fence on that side of the hill he started climbing, and climbing, and climbing.....
We circled around and climbed to the top of the hill where we found this nest box & a patiently waiting partner.
But he fooled us again. Somewhere between our last sighting & the nest box he had disappeared under the fence to be reunited with his partner (not the one above) where they were both performing an elaborate greeting ceremony of trills and calls before he fed their hungry chick. I caught sight of the chicks beak in between the two once of twice & you could certainly hear it squeaking for a meal.
So we were thrilled to see so many penguins, seven in all. There was another nest box close to the track that on our return now had a penguin sitting outside it as well.
And before we left our camp site, Moeraki had one more surprise for us much closer to home. But you'll have to wait to find out about that until the next post.