Saturday, January 12, 2013

A Peninsula Full of Birds

Jan. 11, 2013
We decided after the drama of the previous day, we’d do something fun – so we drove out on the Otago Peninsula.  This is a long peninsula, maybe 20-30 miles long, just south and east of Dunedin, and home of yellow-eyed penguins, colonies of little blue penguins, the only land-based colony of royal albatross, plus sea otters, seals, and more gulls and other sea birds than I’ve ever seen in one place.
It was a beautiful drive – the peninsula is fairly level along the coasts, but
has large rolling hills throughout the center, and then comes to high bluffs at the eastern point.  We saw seals diving in the water, lovely views of Dunedin in the distance, pastures of sheep and some cows.  And creatively painted bus shelters, featuring the local flora and fauna, in a variety of styles.

At the far eastern end, on the bluffs that 
jut out over the Pacific, we went to the Albatross Information Center.  We skipped the guided tours through the albatross colonies, but the center was interesting – all kinds of displays about the various kinds of albatross and other sea birds, including the various penguins – plus other sea animals, especially the seals.  There also were videos of the animals – the penguins are always just too cute!  (I forgot to add that this is breeding season, our second visit to the wharf in Oamaru to see the little blues was just as interesting, but we seemed to be intruding on a whole lot of penguin intimate moments and romantic interludes.  Although it was rather fast and noisy, LOL!)

Anyway, we wandered around the center, and could see a family of seals on the rocks below, and several seals playing in the shallow water on the protected harbour side of the peninsula.  (You need to click on this photo so you can see the mama seal and her three pups, as well as another seal lounging in the background.) 

But the sea birds – various kinds of gulls – were also nesting there: the biggest were the black wing gulls; there were the smaller grey wing gulls with their distinctive bright red beaks and legs; and then some small gull with spotty grey wings.  They seemed used to people, and tried to trip us, running along the walkways right in front of us, exactly the way pet cats do.  And, of course, the various gulls would also fly overhead, screaming and diving, because this seems to be a popular nesting area.  It was straight out of Alfred Hitchcock, all these crazy birds on the ground, in the air, on the fences, all over everywhere.  Rather creepy!  Every time I walked through the groups of birds, I kept saying “I’m a friend!  I come in peace!”  I guess it worked, since no birds attacked me.  But it was a very strange sensation to wander through all those birds. 

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