Saturday, November 26, 2011

State houses for penguins...

Claire and I booked to participate in a guided walk at Pohatu/Flea Bay, a fundraiser for the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust. Come the Saturday it was tipping down and the walk was postponed  to the following day, which dawned misty and damp. We drove across to Akaroa, met up with other trampers there and, in a small number of vehicles, negotiated the amazingly steep, narrow, unsealed and mist-shrouded Lighthouse Road. High above Pohatu we met up with Francis Helps, local farmer and conservationist who was to guide us down the steep valley, pointing out features of the native flora and fauna. (Pohatu/Flea bay in bottom right-hand corner).

The descent was muddy and slippery and we all came to grief at various stages, but the stream and bush were stunningly beautiful.

'My' part of Banks Peninsula (Lyttelton Harbour/Whakaraupo, the Port Hills, Mts Herbert and Bradley) is dry and has lost most of its original bush cover. So to find significant waterfalls in the gully was a surprise. The photo below shows Brooke (the BPCT employee who organised the walk and was a day-long bundle of joyful energy) pointing out tiny insects on a rock.

As we dropped below the bush and approached the old cottages at Flea Bay  the mist gave way to brilliant sunshine.

And here was the highlight of the day for me. Francis, Shireen and volunteers have built hundreds of little wooden shelters ('state homes' says Frances) for the white flipered penguins that frequent the bay. Some were in residence with their chicks while others (the adolescents maybe) bobbed about in the bay below, keeping company with a sleek, solo seal.

I couldn't wipe the grin off my face :-) 


  1. The first penguin looks as though he has a glint in his eye. I think he'd peck if you dared to touch.

    I haven't heard of Flea Bay. Can I ask a silly did it get its name? I call the chook house - Flea Shed. :)

  2. Hmmmm - I'm guessing that, because it's a hangout for seals, penguins and lots of sea life, fleas might have been part of the package?? The mozzies have just started biting here :-( Despite all the Vit B tablets I've been taking. Misery :-(((

  3. Ahhh---such a beautiful hike. Here's to preserving areas like this! Does "tipping down" mean raining? Wonderful expression.Can't imagine being so close to a penguin. What a day this must have been.
    No kissing that mama, Niki. She looks to me to be on high alert, as in protecting her young.
    We have "sand fleas" on the Georgia coast---sometimes called "no-see-ums"---microscopic insects that bite hard and constantly when in season, making it nearly impossible to be on the beach at that time---might Flea Bay be named for something similar?

  4. Ha! didn't even think about 'tipping down' Yes Deb it means raining - heavily. In NZ we have 'sand flies'. They are black, small but large enough to see and they hang out in warm, bushy, moist areas and BITE. Bad enough to ruin a holiday :-(((

  5. And hosing down.

    I was going to mention the sandflies at Ashley Gorge. They're rotten!

    Do you not spray insect repellent on, AJ? But then I guess you wouldnt want to put that on your skin everyday.

    The mozzies must find you extremely tasty! :)

  6. I think it's just about to hose down here!!

    Last summer I had to put on repellent a lot for the mozzies - but I hate the stuff on my skin and I am suspicious of its effects on humans too. I must be allergic. I come up in great big, hard blisters - ie it looks like a blister but touch it and it is solid with liquid (that doesn't seem to make sense but, trust me, it does). They drive me crazy with itching.

  7. Prefer sandfly to flea bites .. great walk and good description of accomodation cluster. How long did you walk to get there ?

  8. About 4 hours PG - but all downhill :-) Bit tough on the knee joints :-?

  9. OK thankyou .. bit long during work then .. did you get a boat out or is there a special lever to make the walk downhill both directions ? ;o)<

  10. Haha! - if only...
    Got picked up at the bottom and ferried back to the cars. Cheat's day.
    A boat out would have been great - could have seen more closely the groups of little penguins in the bay.