All these foreign pests are a huge threat to Kiwis, penguins and Wekas. We think we've heard the call of the Kiwi at night but these nocturnal birds are notoriously shy. Shy is not a description ever levelled at the similarly-sized Weka however; these flightless birds appear at lots of our camp sites, cadging food. At the last site we were delighted to have a pair of Weka with three very fluffy chicks in tow - the adults turned over the undergrowth with their sharp beaks and the chick would then dash in to snap up any grubs or worms they unearthed.
The highlight of our bird-spotting so far hasn't been in the wild at all. During our brief stop in Christchurch we visited the excellent Antarctic Centre where there is a colony of twenty little Blue Penguins - all rescued from the wild with injuries that mean they can't be returned to the wild. They are cared for by the wonderful keeper, Dianne Lim, and we were lucky to get a 'back-stage' tour with her before feeding time. The average Blue Penguin will live for about 6 years in the wild but at the centre they enjoy a very happy life and live for up to 22 years!
|"This is my ball"|
|Two Diannes with 14 year old Oblex after a routine vet check. Dianne handles the birds as little as possible - they bite!|
Another bird we didn't know before we came here is the Kea. A mountain parrot unique to South Island, there are only around 5000 remaining (they were hunted almost to extinction as they were said to kill young lambs until they became a protected species). Up in the mountains at Arthur's Pass we met a couple of these very clever birds; in spite of lots of notices asking people not to feed the Keas, it's obvious that they do. As we stopped in a car park two Keas sidled towards us wanting food.
|When we refused to give him food, this Kea tried to destroy the spare wheel cover in revenge!|
|Sheep are no longer the mainstay of NZ but we met a few Merino flocks on the move|
|"Move along there now". The police lend a hand|