Wild Life on the South Island of New Zealand

Biology Teacher Alert!

The first thing to be said about NZ wildlife is that it is very different. There were no land based mammals, no snakes and the cool climate and isolation have discouraged the proliferation of other reptiles so, before the arrival of mankind only 750 years ago  on the Islands, ecological niches normally dominated by these groups were filled by birds. And what birds they were! Two that were driven to extinction by the Maori were examples of “Island Giantism”, where isolated species with little competition grow to a large size. The Moa was a flightless bird like the emu but it grew 3.6m in height and weighed 250 Kg and were the dominant herbivore in the forest ecosystems of NZ. Their only predator was the Haast’s Eagle. the largest eagle to ever lived weighed about 15 Kg with short broad wings suitable for flying in forests rather than soaring. The Kiwi has survived, but only just!


Not my photo (thanks Wikipedia) although we saw a live one but in strict no photo circumstances.This is a male who does all the egg sitting for up 90 days.

It’s the worlds smallest flightless bird so related to Ostriches, Emus and Moas. It is the size of a chicken, laying the largest egg in relation to body size (up to 450g -25% of the bird’s weight). Kiwis have bones with marrow, no sternum, wings that are not visible, excellent sense of smell (only bird with nostrils at the end of their beak) and a body temperature 2 degrees lower that other birds (more like mammals). They mate for life (more than 20 years) are usually nocturnal and eat small invertebrates, seeds, grubs, many varieties of worms, fruit, small crayfish, eels and amphibians. Following are my images

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This albatross took of directly in front of me. Juvenile albatrosses spend the first 5 years of their life at sea, flying uproot 5000 km per week. This is their normal flying height within 2 metres of the water. They mate for life and raise a single chick every 2 years.

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This Penguin chick was abandoned 2 days ago by his parents – that’s what it takes to provoke him to walk the km or so down hill to the water to start the next stage of his life.

Wildlife 2 smallThis Crested Fiordland Penguin is an endangered species because of predation of the nesting colonies by rats, cats, dogs and stoats. This one was washed ashore in a bad way and has been in hospital but soon to be returned to the wild.

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Another very young penguin hospital resident

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Large Gull

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Young fur seal having an afternoon rest on the rocks at the entrance to Ottago Bay  Wildlife 6 small

Mother Seal not far from her pup. The males left for the ocean weeks ago.Wildlife 4 small

Two seals pups at varying stages of development.

The penguin photographs were taken at Penguin Place in Dunedin, a self funded conservation project developed on farmland which incorporated a natural penguin rookery. The bird and NZ fur seal pictures were taken on a Monarch Wildlife Cruise which went past Taiaroa Head into the ocean outside


A Day on the Road on the South Island

This is a collage of images taken during a day on the road travelling to Dunedin.

This is what can be described as a New Zealand roadblock. That is a G rated sheep related joke.

The Moeraki Boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the wave-cut Otago coast. When driving long distances we make stops every 1.5-2 hours for toilets and a break.

Ten km or so from Dunedin  is the Larnarch “Castle” where we had a guided tour.  

A tour of a penguin ecological institute had a new born within a day of leaving his birth nest for the ocean.The house was built between 1871 and 1887 as the residence of William Larnach. It contains 43 rooms and a ballroom and required a staff of 46 servants. After a series of personal and financial setbacks he committed suicide in New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings in October 1898. Two of his 3 wives died young as did one of his daughters. Another of his sons also killed himself.

A boat cruise took us past female seals sunning themselves while their new pups play. The Males have returned to the open ocean.

Albatrosses customarily fly only a metre above the water, 10 metres is their maximum altitude during flights of up to 1000 km in a day. They are capable of staying at sea for up to 5 years before returning for land. There only need of land is to mate and nest.