Jan 28, 2007


So getting back to the best day yet in New Zealand the earlier part of the afternoon was spent as already mentioned on the beach. Our main reason for heading out on the expedition however was to venture out to the local penguin sites.

First stop was the Yellow Eyed Penguin nesting grounds on the far end of the Peninsula. The only way to go see them was by booked tour. So our adventures on the beach were carefully timed to have us at the Penguin centre for 7:30pm sharp. This was amusing as between me and Shannon we had arranged for 45 minutes of leeway. On my part to counter "Craig time" and on Shannon's was belief in covering ones backside. When this was realized in the car (50 minutes early for our tour) a good laugh was had at our teacher like attention to temporal issues.

Arriving at the Penguin centre it was something of a pleasant and amusing discovery to find that the nature preserve was located on a Sheep Station (stations are the New Zealand equivalent of Ranches). Making the whole operation a pleasant mom and pop kind of affair. In addition to a quaint little visitor building (a refitted farm house by the looks of it) was a huge open air sheep feed storage shed in the middle of the parking lot.

The arrangement was very Tyrrell like with a bus drive out to the site. On the drive out we saw a pair of New Zealand Hawks which were quite elegant birds (I'd just bought a bird guide for the Dunedin area). The bus parks on the top of an escarpment overlooking the beach. A quick 5 minute hike down a series of stairs is needed to get to the viewing area. Though initially we didn't know what that meant. Before we could discover what this area would entail we had a interesting encounter on the walk down the stairs...

This baby Yellow Eye Penguin was at the bottom of the last set of stairs. We would end up seeing a lot of this little fellow and its sibling over the next hour. However seeing us he ducked back into the bush on the right in the picture, but he'd come back... They always come back LOL

So on our decent down the stairs this was our view of the flatlands around the beach. Across the plain was an intricate network of tunnels, trenches, and huts. Procedure for watching the Penguins to prevent from disturbing them was to walk through the covered trenches that snaked along the landscape till you got to a viewing hut close to Penguins. This gave it a very "in the field" feeling, and was immense fun.

Inside the trench view. We ended up running through various tunnels and trenches like this to pursue or "cutoff" birds during their return to their nests. The fun part was the hunting kinda of feel yet the fact the Penguin never even knew you were there (after a fashion... They seemed fairly used to low key human interaction... but it was demonstrated later on that direct human contact still upset them).

The view of the beach from the foremost viewing hut. On the beach you can see two Penguins landing from a day of hunting for prey. In the sky is what I THINK was a Otago Shag, but I couldn't tell exactly. Earlier in the day they'd had a Southern Right Whale just off the shore visible for a group. Sadly there was no repeat performance for us.

One of the landing Penguins began its trip up to its nest while we were watching the beach front. It would turn out we'd see this particular bird a lot over our visit.

We ran to another viewing hut to get us closer to that Penguins walking path. Allowing this nice closeup shot.

When we tried to switch to a different circuit of tunnels exiting our junction we discovered where the bird had been heading to. This Penguin was the parent of the little guy we'd run into at the bottom of the stairs. The problem was that the parent chick and chick's sibling cut us off, and trapped us in the tunnel entrance.

Soon after this picture was taken another group would exit another tunnel and clearly freak the parent out. However the 3 birds held their ground (more out waiting to see what the humans were going to do then actual disconcern) as that group walked around them fairly close to get back to the bus path.

We then snuck around them to get into the other tunnel series.

Here we saw several other Penguin groups (from something of a distance so most of my pictures didn't turn out so well). Including a few firsts for some of the chicks. This little guy as of this photo had just exited from his first swim. Its sibling and parent were also swimming around the pond in a little cute display (sadly my pics didn't turn out so good for that though).

On the tour we befriended a German traveller named Trosten (I probably misspelled that). He reminded me of a European Jody. Both in his appearance, but also Bird watching gusto. When he saw me looking at my bird book he excitedly asked if he could share the book.

At the end of the tour we then proceeded to head to the very end of the Peninsula to Pilot's Beach located just down the hill from the Albatross Colony. I'd visited this beach before in the daytime, and seen both Seals and Sea Lions on the shore. However at around Dusk, conveniently the time we arrived at, one of the beaches more interesting occupants came in from the sea.

These were the tiny little Blue Penguins who are at most 45 cm tall. The way to view them is to watch from a small hill above the beach. After a day of fishing these birds then come ashore in mass groups for protection, and all walk up the hill, and then disperse to go and find their little nooks and burrows to find their young.

Watching the birds come ashore was very cool as they fought their way through a crowd of sea gulls (the Gulls being the same size if not bigger then the Penguins) of both the Red Bill and Black Winged varieties. With the Penguins having landed the volunteers from the Department of Conservation had the 100 or so watchers spread out on the field at the top of the hill.

At this point the plan was to sit still, and the Penguins would just run through the gauntlet of still sitting humans. Everything worked according to this plan. If not better. I picked a really GOOD spot. Three Penguins walked right past my leg. One of them was less then 10cm from bumping into me!!! Was way TOO cool!!!!!!!

Anyways everyone saw the little guys. In fact just as the volunteers had warned we ran into a couple of them on our way back to the car. Here we bid Trosten farewell (he was off to Christchurch the next morning), and set off for home as we had our first class the next day. On the trip back home we not only had to stop for a Blue Penguin crossing the road, but we also got a spectacular view of the comet that has been in the news a lot as of late.

All in all I'd give this day a 15 out of 10!

Jan 27, 2007

Grand Expedition

So the day before skool started this week (Tuesday for us here in New Zealand, but likely Monday for most of you out there) me, and some of the other Canadians set out on a last day of freedom tour of the region around us.

It was a nice last touch before the grind of classes and homework. Not to mention it was the first day of good weather we'd had in a little while (at least devoid of rain, and actually sunny out... the humidity here is amounting to a roasting Craig most of the time). So we piled into a car, and set out for a tour of Otago (the region is located in)

Here I offer you some of the better sights and events of the first half of the trip.

Our trip was mostly checking out the Southern arm of the Otago Peninsula. If you head up into the hills this is an example of the scenery. Yeah I'd love to go running through the hills too. So when I do I'll keep you in mind.

More of the hills, and also the ocean off in the horizon. Our primary goal, but how you get there is the worthier part.

Here's a pretty good view of the Dunedin/Otagian Bay area. If I end up staying here this would be the area I'd look hardest for a place to live. Just so nice out here.

So our first big stop for the day was Alan's Beach on the South side of the Peninsula.

Again I'll let the picture do the talking. It is worth a 1000 words after all (I'm going to have enough papers to write as is soon. No point wearing myself out LOL)

So like all great expeditions ours was comprised of a grand crew. Headed by the diligent and resourceful Shannon. Her flatmate (in kiwi apartments are flats by the by) was EXTREMELY generous and lent her his car. It was with this that we made our way about for the day. She did an amazing job as pilot driving perfectly along the inverted roads (the biggest culture shock to us Canucks by far are the reversed roads... we sometimes take our own lives into our hands while stepping onto the road).

Rebbecca fellow Salmond Haller partook as well. Both her and Shannon are in the primary education program with me at skool.

Not be left out Joanna from the secondary program was there as well.

We were not the only ones at the beach this day though. A pair of sea lions were dozing on the beach (and apparently when I went to check out the other end of the beach these two woke up and put on a display for Rebecca and Joe). That makes it 4 for 4 on sea lions on Otago beaches I've been too. One also visibly swam by in the water which was cool. Sadly no Great White pounced on it, but one of these days I'll get lucky!

There were lots of birds too. I managed to get up to this Oystercatcher and its chicks pretty close (I posted this pic as it was the best of the lot, but I have some of the cute little fluffy babies too). On a side note I popped into the museum gift shop the other day and picked up a Dunedin Bird guide the other day so that I can now start to identify all the varied kinds of birds I've been seeing around here.
Speaking of Birds the goal of this whole day out was to see some of the most special and rare of birds of Otago. Penguins. However as I have nearly a dozen pics of that part of the day, and I'm needing to run for a bit that'll be my next post. So stay tuned.

Jan 25, 2007

Classes Begin

In the wake of the BEST day thus far in New Zealand (be posting on it SOON, internet issues are in the middle or resolution. Thus the pathetic nature of this post) school begun.

Quite an interesting lot of people in the course with some interesting backgrounds, and the semester looks to be a challenging one. You'll be hearing all about it I'm sure. Sadly though as I'm on a terminal in the library I can't really elaborate too much more at the moment.

Jan 23, 2007

Otago Museum

So among my first days of exploring one of the more exciting discoveries I made was that of the Otago Museum. Located not too far from my home on just the opposite side of the university I would make an even more amazing discovery. Admission was FREE!!!

I had initially planned to hold off on the museum till there were other people around to go with. However with no cost in place I opted to pop in and check things out. You know in case it was on one of my prereq tests or something ;P

The building itself is a very nice modern looking one. I should have taken a longer shot as the front of the museum is really nice architecture.

Your first sight entering the lobby. A giant Moa. Probably their most prolific of natural history subject as you'll see. Not the same kind of focus here on Moas as the Tyrrell has with Dinosaurs, mostly due to it's being a general museum as opposed to natural history. This is one of 3 fleshed out mock up of the giant birds, but what makes this one extra special is it is in the front lobby to try and prompt you for money. The mound she is standing on is their donation bin.

This life size sun fish greets you at the far end of the lobby right beside the staircase to head up to the various levels and their exhibits. The first two floors were various human history galleries. Included was a section on New Zealand (go figure), the Maori (again a shock), peoples of the pacific all the way from down here up to Alaska (didn't see this coming to be honest), and special exhibit which was Antarctica at this stage in the game, and lastly the natural history halls on the third floor.
As shocking as this may seem I didn't spend a whole lot of time in the first two floors with the plan being to hit those when I had someone else there to encourage learning the stuff. I poked mostly around the top floor. With two exceptions.

First was this rather nice and impressive Green Turtle skeleton on display on the second floor.

Next was of course the Antarctic display that was setup as a white walled rat maze. Around every corner though you'd encounter interesting display pieces such as this. So an entertaining rat race in any case.

Above in this display a quick none moving preview of the Albatross colony just outside of town. At the time this photo was taken I had yet to make it out to this site to see live Albatrosses so this served to get me excited for that all the more.

Heading up to the third floor one of it's first displays as you enter the natural history gallery is this fine cast of a shark toothed dolphin. An hour after I popped into the Otago Museum I'd bump into and meet the Palaeontologist who discovered and described this critter. That is a story for another time though.

Hanging above the various cases of fossil whales was the lower jaw of a modern day Sperm Whale which was COOL. I plan on venturing North up the southern island at some point during a break, and go to see some of these guys alive and in the wild.

Of course this gallery won't be complete without Moas! Here's one of a pair of fleshed out ones they have upstairs. This guy is kinda their version of Lillian, only he's been around since 1912! They haven't gotten rid of him for renovations yet, unlike Lillian. So in 20 years when looking at this blog many people will have no clue what I'm referring too LOL.

The other part of the pair. This model has been around since the 1930's if my memory serves me (I remember specifically that the first model is from 1912).
They have an extensive collection of mounted Moa skeletons.

Though these photos of the Moa section may not give you a comprensive feel for the place. Mostly due to the bad lighting making photos in there difficult. There are probably some 20 skeletons on display. Next time I pop in I'm planning on a proper count. If my estimate is correct that would make Moas the most common animal on display. Possibly only rivaled by penguins which occur on the third floor, but also in the Maori displays downstairs.

Just on the other side of the Moas are the other fossil displays. Including this "little" guy a definite primitive relative of the Great White Shark (unlike Megalodon which is now thought to only be distantly related). This guy was only a tad bit bigger then a great white but weighed three times as much!!!

Now I kinda altered the third floor gallery to present this guy last in this entry. He comes just after the whales in the front door, and is right beside the Moas. This is of course their Mesozoic item a medium sized Pleiosaur. It is the largest and most articulate fossil collected ANYWHERE in New Zealand and was found just an hour North of Dunedin. Making this area kind of the Drum of the South island. Especially taking into consideration the fact that most of the fossil whales and sharks are from the same general area as this marine reptile (though different aged rocks!!!)

Jan 20, 2007

Reminders of "Home"

Well it seems the further from home you travel the more you see bits of home. Or at least in this entry (it is actually somewhat different from home here, but a couple reminders of "home" still abound none the less).

One of the first places I had to go for things was a dead reminder of Peter... Not sure why though?

They had a not too bad selection of electronics, and thanks to this place my laptop now gets power.

To add to the feeling of having never left my Drumheller apartment was Kirsten's place. Though she also adds the poster set in my room is creepily like some she had kicking around her place this summer for some reason... Adding yet another Drum feeling to Dunedin.

This one's for Mike! Couldn't help thinking of you walking by this sign. Not the best deal on beer around here, but I like the pub a lot!
Now though this is a bit of a cope out for an update I'm still in the midst of getting the internet hooked up in my room, and thus I'm limited by the photo's I can upload from my memory stick.
Tomorrow (hopefully) a view of the Otago Museum, and possibly some of the other neat sites of the town.

Jan 17, 2007

Dunedin New Hometown

Well here is a overview of my new hometown (though considering the work I took to make this collage it got all pixaliated on me for some reason BOO!). This photo is taken from a hill just above my home. Salmond Hall is just out of sight in the center of this collage below the Castle looking Knox Hall (our rivals about 300 metres up the hill from us). To the right is the university, downtown, and harbour. The left is there to give you an impression of what surrounds my place. This photo only shows about 1/3 the city. This place is among the LARGEST urban land areas in the world, and man is the city spread out!

Boy do they make good use of space though. So much beautiful scenery and cool architecture. This is the aqueduct that runs from a the far end of town, through the uni, literally RIGHT beside my room (it is a soothing sound when sleeping actually), and out to the harbour. This is it as seen from the uni.

This is the botanic gardens beside Salmond. The cool structure there is a green house that contains exotic plants. Such as cactus and a small section of rain forest.

This is the church in the "Octagon" which is downtown. An example of the ubber Victorian architecture around town.

The inside of the old rail station on the other side of the university. Going to take a ride on the train tour into central Otago (the region Dunedin is located in) probably in the next week.

Lastly a sea lion from one of the MANY beaches around here. Once skool clears up this week planning on hitting the beaches to check out the wild life and such in depth.

So that's a quick sneak peek of my new home, and many of things that I've spent the last week checking out. Apart from the Sea Lion beach all these things are within a 25 min walk of my flat.

Sadly though I must cut myself off here as I have to get back to studying for my last prereq exam.

Salmond Hall

Now that I've "caught" up the blog to my arrival in Dunedin time to start off with where I'm living.

That is of course Salmon Hall. A student residence just slightly North of the University Campus and the Teachers College, the latter being the one I'm attending. It is really quite close to both, but for some reason people are under the impression it is quite a ways away due to the botanical gardens being in between us and campus.

This is a far away view of the Hall (not actually an easy spot to get to)

Close up of the front. I live just to the left of this photo (doesn't make for a great photo as it's behind a tree...)

This is me. Good old number 7 of the senior student wing.

Not to bad a setup. This and the next photo were when I first moved in, and had not personalized the room.

The surface in the left hand corner is actually my desk as opposed to the floor (neat trick of perspective I didn't notice till just now)

Our wing is the only one with personal washrooms, which is so sweet!

A few posters and it's like home.

So that's a glimpse of where I'll be living for the next year, and the homebase for all future adventures. Up next some of my exploration around Dunedin.