It’s always interesting to spot another person taking photographs. My curiosity gets the better of me. What are they looking at?
Yes. I was there to see the wooden lighthouse at Katiki Point, still standing on the edge of the wild Southern Ocean since 1878. But I had to keep an eye on that photographer.
Couldn’t catch the birds flying past + the waves breaking!
My Zoom wasn’t as big as his.
What are the odds he’d get this close to a big seal? Just look at the expression on its face. What is it thinking? Get back. You’re too close? Oh my goodness, not another nosey beak!
I’m reminded of something that happened on an earlier trip to New Zealand over twenty years ago –
My friend and I expectantly trotted down the track, through low scrub towards the beach on the edge of nowhere. We couldn’t see the sea but we could hear it. It was a beautiful, clear day and the sign had said that the rare Yellow-Eyed Penguins could be sighted at this time of the afternoon.
On this driving holiday of New Zealand’s South Island, we were free as birds to stop, explore and move on when we felt like it. We were having a good time. We didn’t need binoculars. This landscape was large.
The Hide which ended our trek was small and dark, but with a step up and a viewing gap where we might scan over the low trees to the beach below. I swung myself up and in, surprised to find another person already inside.
Arms folded, she was leaning against the wall with a cigarette in her right hand. We said hello. She raised her eyebrows in a nod, and exhaled. I stepped up to the wide view. She sat down on the plank, along the back wall. When asked about any sightings, she replied that no, she hadn’t seen any. We waited. She lit another cigarette.
We waited. I was happy just to watch the sea move. Time passed. She suddenly stepped up beside us and looking out said, “They’re late!” I was speechless.
“The sign said they get here at 3.30pm every afternoon, and it’s past that now.”
My ‘compadre with total recall’ sprouted some of what we’d read on the sign – the hundreds of kms adults swam every day to bring back food for their young, how small the colony was, the size of the birds, how much fish they caught …
She sat down again. We waited in silence: motionless; just smoking.
“I’m not waiting any longer,” she suddenly muttered, as she screwed the butt into the ground with her boot. Relieved to see her go, I said, “Hooray!” ( No …truly, it’s an Aussie way to say “Cheerio!”) and settled back into the chin-on-hands position and stared down at the surf crashing onto the shore.
No ‘parcel of penguins’ landed on that golden crest. But we did, finally, spot one dark shape flounder thru the foam – only to be hurled unceremoniously onto the beach. This solitary Yellow-Eyed Penguin, picked itself up and, after staggering a little like a drunk waiter, made its way up the steep sand, head down. It was awesome to watch each determined, tiny step. The bird was gone in about ten seconds. We stayed on for a while longer but saw no more penguins.
Today, these “rarest of penguins in the world” are more endangered than ever. The latest challenge has been outbreaks of avain diphtheria … amongst other things. For more info see the highlighted link.
Nature really is up against the odds. We humans are the oddest creatures.
Now, having written this down, I wonder what that woman was really looking for.
All text and photos by Meg
Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.