My adrenaline was rushing again but this time it wasn’t about activities like Skydiving or Bungee Jumping! In fact it was quite the opposite; we had to stay still and be quiet for as long as we could. It was the time to watch one of the world’s rarest birds, the Yellow-eyed Penguin!!!
I was very excited and I tried my best to take a close up picture of the penguins. I loved the idea that my pictures could make history, as in August 2010 the yellow-eyed penguin was granted protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
With an estimated population of just 4000 the Yellow- eyed Penguin is not only considered one of the Southern Hemisphere’s rarest Penguins but it may be the most ancient of all living Penguins as well. Sadly this species is now endangered, the main threats including habitat degradation and introduced predators.
I drove just five kilometers from Oamaru town to this place to see these special creatures. Awesome!!!
Oamaru is a small town in the South Island of New Zealand, but the reputation of penguins here is huge. I came to this place for that reason. There are two penguin colonies in this township, one is a family of little blue penguins that are fairly common and you could just walk into town and see, the other is the rarest one – Yellow- eyed Penguins.
If you want to see Yellow- eyed Penguins in Oamaru, you have to drive to the end of the Bushy Beach road, which is about five kilometers from town. It was a super easy ride in the car but it was a bit of a steep slope walking.
I went here twice; the first time I stayed from around 6pm to 8 pm and I saw about six penguins. The second time I went there a bit late and saw none. The number of penguins ashore depends on seasons as well, in my case was it was December.
These two penguin colonies have the same habits in that they would venture offshore in the morning to find food and then return to their nests in the evening. The first Yellow- eyed Penguins could arrive around 5.30 pm.
In the picture above, you can see within the red circle one of the Yellow- eyed Penguins walking back to the nest from the beach. Each species is individual, so the movements of the Yellow- eyed Penguin is not the same as the little blue penguins that come back as a group. Even the penguins themselves have different behaviors, interesting huh?
The yellow eyed penguin is a mid-sized penguin, measuring 62–79 cm (24–31 in) long, making it the fourth largest penguin. Its weight varies through the year, being at its greatest- 5.5 to 8 kg (12–18 lbs) just before molting, and least 3 to 6 kg (6.6–13.2 lbs) after molting. The males are larger than the females.
The Yellow-eyed Penguin may be long lived, with some individuals reaching 20 years of age. Males generally live longer than females, leading to a sex ratio of 2:1 around the age of 10–12 years.
If you were as lucky as I was my first time watching the penguins, you could see them coming up from the shore one by one and walking around, and you would have plenty of time to photograph them. Don’t forget to bring the zoom lens!
Even though I had not brought the nice zoom lens, I still got some great pictures of them. Have a look how cute they are!
After they hang out on the beach for a while, the birds walk up to their nests. These are usually found in forest or scrub, among native flax (Phormium tenax) and lupin (Lupinus arboreus), on slopes or gullies, or the shore itself, facing the sea.
Several mainland habitats have hides and are relatively easily accessible for those wishing to watch the birds come ashore. These include beaches at Oamaru, Moeraki light-house, a number of beaches near Dunedin and The Catlins on the Southern Coast. In addition, commercial tourist operators on the Otago Peninsula also provide hides to view Yellow-eyed Penguins.
Trust me on this, in my experience I went by a car to Moeraki light-house, did a paid tour to watch the Penguins in Dunedin. But Bushy Beach in Oamaru is by far the most easily accessible place to watch the Yellow Eyed penguins.
AND IT IS FREE!!!
(Bonus VDO )