It’s really cold outside. Not just a little bit cold. It’s bitter, but without snow. I think the wind chill factor is -15C. But despite the icy outdoors, we’ve still managed to get sunburnt!
We spent 2 days in a little charming town called Oamaru. It is famous for its Blue Penguin Colony, and we were treated to 115 penguins on arriving to their slumber after a big day out on the ocean fishing for a sardine-like fish called sprat.
They’re quite funny to watch as they form group of 10 or so penguins out in the ocean called a raft, and they swim in together. The raft provides them safety from predators. As they arrive the waves knock them over, and knock them off rocks, and the sea shore momentarily becomes a mess of penguins. They quickly waddle out of the water, and then they sit as a group drying off. It is said that they are actually cooling down too, as the big swim home causes them to overheat.
Kaj and I also took a tour at the colony where we were able to walk all through the breeding boxes and little mummy penguins come out to get nasty at us. We saw 4 fluffy chicks too, without nasty mummies. Their parents would have been out at sea catching fish to bring home. Just like other birds they regurgitate their food to feed their young.
It’s hard to believe but we spent hours watching these penguins, and didn’t get home until midnight. There’s still light in the sky right up until 10pm though, and this is really when all the penguin action happens. Just as the last light is beginning to fade.
The next day we were checking out all the old buildings in Oamaru, and we found a little chick behind some crates at the back of the building. He was quite a cutie as you’ll see from the photo, and just starting to lose his baby down feathers so he looks like he’s wearing a luscious fur coat. We decided to come later that night to check that his parents come home from sea, and we found 3 other chicks in various places hidden around the building. These old buildings obviously provide a warm safe haven to raise young.
Oamaru also has a rare colony, and these penguins are much bigger, but shier too. We waiting in the very cold wind until they were waddling in and were treated to them calling and quacking at each other to check who had arrived.
From Oamaru we’re heading further south to Dunedin (Done-ee-din, not dunny-din as I originally though) and it’s likely to be even colder yet. The chill is still a novelty, although the novelty is likely to wear off soon.