Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Dance of the Hoiho- Part 2

Catch-up, continuing on from Part 1

Of course there was no way I wasn't going to do the same again the next morning; get up early and head out into another dismal summer's day. I wasn't going to miss another possible encounter with the Yellow-eyed Penguin/Hoiho pair. David rolled over and mumbled something about he'd wait to read the blog (it's been a long wait).

I pulled into the Curio Bay Campground carpark again and was a little disappointed that my penguin pair were nowhere to be seen. I walked to the edge to check out the rocks and beach below. I couldn't believe my eyes when I glanced down the track, half way down, sound asleep was a penguin.

Not one of my penguin pair though, this one's a juvenile, it has no yellow eye stripes. He spotted me...

...stood up and started preening. He's got the itches too!

A tell-tale sign his moult has started is the feather stuck to the end of his bill (I have no idea if it was a he or a she).

Then, while I was watching the juvenile, I saw some movement on the penguin track above him and out popped my adult pair! And going by the greeting they got, the juvenile is likely to be their chick from last year, come home to begin it's moult. The adult pair have a chick (or 2) hidden in the flax bushes further up the hill behind the carpark, it's where I saw one of them head to, and then return from yesterday.

Three penguins; preening (& pooing) right there in front of me! How wonderful, how exciting, could it get any better?

One of the adults decided to have a lay down while the other two carried on doing their ablutions.

Junior is ahead of his parents in moulting (they still have to fledge this year's chick/s), the white patch on his rump is the start of a 4 week process where, unlike other seabirds, they moult all their feathers at once. During the moult, because the new plumage is not waterproof and the body not well insulated, they cannot go to sea to feed They will also lose up to 3 to 4 kg in weight. This also makes them very vulnerable to disturbance on-shore from humans and dogs.

Grooming finished they rock-hopped... 

...and then waddled off towards the ocean, Junior leading the way.

Once in the water...

...they swum about in the breakers (they look like different birds in the water)

'You said you dropped it about here , didn't you?'

I thought once they were in the water they'd be gone in a flash but no, they spent another 15-20 minutes floating about in the shallows, preening and ducking and diving in short fast spurts, then preening some more.

And then the biggest surprise of all, they swam off, still in the shallows, heading along the back of the breakers and past a small rocky platform.

I followed along, as they moved closer in through the breakers. I was thinking they would soon turn and head out.

But they didn't...

They came waddling out of the water right in front of me! 

They stood around for a short time...

...had a parent conflab...

Looks like that didn't go too well...

And then started preening once again!

Junior looked wistfully out to sea...

Stretched his wings...

Just as Mum & Dad came over for a chat...

And told him in no uncertain terms...

He was to stay on-shore...

...up there, away from harm (synchronized swimmers?) 

Are you listening?

It seems he was, he waddles off towards the track...

Mum & Dad appear pretty pleased with the results...

...and take a moment to reassure each other...

...have a little dance...

And head off back to sea for the day (check out the little penguin tracks in the sand)

One last wing stretch, and they're gone.

I make my way back to the carpark, Junior has settled at the bottom of the track out of sight, hopefully he'll be ok, he's right in the line of fire once the daily tourists converge on the carpark and make their way to the beach to check for dolphins and/or penguins.

I head to the Petrified Forest at Curio Bay, just down the road.

It's where we had a another great encounter with a penguin during our last visit to the area.

I have a half-hearted look on the forest platform, I don't think I can beat what I've already seen during the last last couple of mornings...

And anyway, the weather has taken a turn for the worse, a cold southerly wind is blowing hard and big fat spots of rain are hitting me and my camera lens. It's time to head for home.


  1. Great pics Shellie, loved the final one and also enjoyed the narrating.......lol

    1. Thanks Pam, I knew you'd enjoy this one! :) xx

  2. Have just come in from the garden - too hot!! - and have been entertained, amused, and educated by your wonderful kaleidoscope Shellie. The photos are amazing and the commentary is delightful. It must have been a magic time for you. I trust "he who must sleep" appreciates your dedication and tenacity. I'm sure he does!

    1. Hi Fred, nice to hear from you again. Yes, 'he who must sleep' knows that if he does miss anything he'll get to see it later... probably in much greater detail too! :) Thanks for your lovely comments, much appreciated.

  3. Wow, an amazing experience, I was quite emotional reading your lovely blog.

    1. Thanks Carol, it's lovely that it had such an impact on you. It shows I must be doing something right, I often think it's just me who gets soppy about nature. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Another mind boggling post, Shellie. Made my husband look at all the photos and am getting ready to share it with some friends. This was one of those posts that suddenly, and forcibly, remind me how privileged we are to get to read about your work.

    1. Hi Kathy, glad you're still enjoying the blog. Your poor husband having to look at them all! I know I get carried away with the number of photos I post, it's so hard sometimes to choose the best when you take so many! Thanks for your lovely comments too.

  5. Excellent penguin photos! So funny! I enjoy your caption very much. We saw three penguins in the Petrified Forest in the morning but no such interaction. We thought one might be on medical leave, we saw it vomited several times. Another one hurried to the sea, perhaps overslept. Then one more turned back early from the sea, it could have forgotten something or wanted to check on its chicks too :).
    Yesterday we saw the entrancing gannets in Muriwai, at last. Perhaps you won't remember that 8 years ago you answered my question on seeing gannets in late April. We ended up in Piha instead of Muriwai that visit. So glad we got to see them this time. Last night we didn't have luck with kiwi spotting at Trounson Kauri Park. Now we are in Kaitaia, tomorrow will be heading up to Cape Reinga, perhaps won't be able to see your part 3 for some time...

    1. Hi Offstone, you saw 3 more penguins than most people who visit the Catlins. Some people don't have the time as they race through on a day visit. I think they think they'll be sitting in the carpark waiting for them to arrive. Once we overheard a lady asking what time do the dolphins arrive.
      Hopefully the weather is behaving up north and you're enjoying your travels, it'll be very strange for you after, how many is it?, 7 trips to the South Island. Safe journey home.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing experience! We are heading there next week, and I am inspired by your article and photos to really look hard. How fortunate you were...but maybe not just luck! Effort tenacity and dedication all played a part. ��

    1. Glad you enjoyed my Hoiho blogs and I hope you had some luck finding them. Sadly this breeding season has been one of the worst on record, with many chicks not making it to fledgling stage due to parents not returning from sea to feed them.


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