Wrote May 2nd, 2008
Five years ago I found myself on a river boat shooting up the saltwater canals on the Caribbean ocean in one of the rainiest places in Central America. The trip is incredible, lots of Crocs, lizards and rare birds. All of which are fascinating from a distance and viewed in a timely manner, especially when it is a 4 hour boat ride in a small, open skiff with pouring rain. On this particular trip, I was so fortunate to share this pleasure cruise with four elderly ladies from the UK who were avid “birders”. I had never met a “birder” before then, but it didn’t take for me long to realize that they are a unique breed of humans that should not be let into society without some kind of warning. This boat ride turned into an all day, soggy, sore butt adventure as every bend in the river brought some new species of bird that these ladies have never seen. Each bird forced the poor skipper to stop and allow them to find some kind of new excitement with every squawking nu sense. To me they all looked the same. I really couldn’t tell the difference. They were just birds. Almost 7 hours later we finally get to our destination. My legs slowly regained feeling and I seriously contemplated taking up bird hunting. That trip permanently engrained an image of “birders” in my head and I vowed to never become one.
The point of me telling you this story is to let you know that I’ve never really liked birds. With the exception of the Pelican, I’ve never really seen anything cool or exciting about them. Pelicans surf and dive-bomb, so naturally they’re a cool creature. But all other birds, in my book, are stinky, smelly, weird looking rats of the sky. But I have to confess. I have fallen in love with yet another bird. The Penguin.
They’ve always fascinated me. It’s true. I feel embarrassed to admit I really like them. I will never become a “birder” but this creature is so awesome. Coming to New Zealand I found out that they have a few types of Penguins here. It has been my mission to see one since arriving on these crazy islands, but it has yet to happen. Until the other day. As Craig and I headed deep into the South Island, we decided to stop and try our luck at a Yellow-Eyed Penguin reserve and see if we could spot one of these rare creatures one evening. Sure enough, it happened. I first sighted them walking up the beach as we stood from the bluff. I can’t even begin to describe to you how funny they are when they walk. If you’ve ever tied your shoelaces together and tried to walk, it looks something like that. Then we started seeing them swimming towards the shore from the ocean. They really do look like birds underwater. It looks just like flying, only not in the air. They are fast! As the sun went down, more penguins started showing up. They spend all day in the water come to spend the night on the beaches and bluffs surrounding the reserve. When they get out of the water and onto land, they just stand there readjusting their eyes and body to being back on land. They look very confused and sometimes walk all the way back to the water, get wet and then back up the beach. Soon, one of the funny little dudes made his way all the way up the cliff almost right to where we were standing. It was truly a rare treat. And I really do mean rare. The Yellow Eye is only home to Southern New Zealand and they estimate that there are only around 4,000 of these birds left. One of the most amazing things about them, that I find anyways, is that they dive up to 330 feet deep to get food! How crazy is that? Not to mention how beautiful they are with all their bright colors and amazing looking eyes.
Anyways, I’m still not a “Birder” but I was really excited to get to see some of these penguins. So enjoy the pics!