Blue Penguin Blues

When I got to New Zealand, I spent one night in Auckland having a farewell city-life pint with a couple of good folks, then shipped off to Tiri the next morning. Hence Tiri has been my whole New Zealand experience, and in my mind-constructed version of the mainland, it was just a bigger version of Tiri, except you didn’t need to take a boat to reach the nearest bar.

I hadn’t realised how much I had taken this island for granted, until I kept stumbling across tourists marveling at Saddlebacks, when I spent most days grinding my teeth and wishing they would shut up (the Saddleback, not the tourists. They have an annoying Heeheeheeheeheehee mocking laugh). The people who come on the island, tell me that the forests on mainland are silent, and how special a place Tiri is. Never a moment goes by where you are not surrounded by a panoromic cacaphony of cheepings from the Whiteheads, the Hihi stitch calls resembling the sound of two tiny pebbles clicking together, the peeps of the Robins which gradually increase in speed into a rapid burst of audible excitement and occasionally, we are graced with the mournful flute like notes of the Kokako.

The diversity and density of birds found here bring tourists from all over the world, and also keeps the island suitably interesting for Will and I. I spend most of my time on the island working with Hihi, but I haven’t even written much about them. I’m afraid they’ll have to wait again.

Today’s evening entertaiment (which consists of The Wire over dinner), was duly interrupted by a penguin rescue mission.

When Will is not busy in bed playing his PSP, he can be found chilling out on Hobbs beach with a book. Today however, he was distracted from his recreation by a clumsy waddling Little Blue Penguin chick who was wandering around the beach. The poor little fellow, christianed Bernard McSnipperHoven, suffered from deadbeat parents.

We went back down to rescue him task-force style. Cruised down to the wharf on the Kawasaki mule, screeching to a halt in and in slow motion, swung ourselves off the vehicle. Pet carrier in one hand, purpose in every step, we marched on a mission to save abandoned Bernard from the unfriendly hostility of daylight on Hobbs Beach (they only come on land nocturnally you see).

Well…of course we had to take the customary “Look I’m holding a penguin chick!” photo before packing him away.

We like to fondle birds. Especially the young kind. Ornipaedophilia.

Little Blue Penguin chicks are well adorable. They actually are a clean metallic sheen of blue. Like most seabirds they’re covered also in a fuzzy down, which falls off their heads last, leaving them with a rather hilarious 80’s ‘fro. They are wee sized as well, being the world’s smallest penguin.

Just call me Lionel.

We brought Bernard back for the night, intending to send him to Auckland’s famous “Bird Lady” the next day, a selfless bird recovery specialist. To feed the little fella, we had to chisel off oysters from the beach again, and Will chewed them up in his mouth and spat them into Bernard’s in a romantic mouth-to-beak transfer.


Just kidding. Will who had by this time gotten properly broody and protective over his ward, had the fine job of holding Bernard against his tummy like a child cuddling a too small teddy, and hold his bill open, while I force fed oysters into his gob, which he merrily chomped down in beak-smacking satisfaction. Thank goodness we figured out how to force feed it. Our original plans were to leave the bowl of saltywatery oysters in the box but Bernard had taken a penchant to face planting himself in it, or sitting in the bowl like a little wet shellfishy penguin.

The next day we went down bright ‘n early in the morning to check on Bernard.

But he was dead.


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