It's always a pleasure to watch the yellow-eyed penguins returning from sea - and even more so when there is a juvenile among them. They are the hope for the future, the ones that succeeded in learning to catch fish, next ones to start breeding and make more penguins - we so need them: it does not look good for these guys.
The beach is frequented by the New Zealand fur seal pups who inevitably encounter a young yellow-eyed penguin - well not that young: here a juvenile is eyeing up the seal pup to see if it should be worried. Hardly, the pup is easily intimidated by a penguin and knows to keep away!
Our penguin spy-cams do pick up strange things: here it got the perfect moment of a yellow-eyed penguin poohing downhill from the box in the middle of the night! Good shot.....
The yellow-eyed penguins not only share the beach with Spotted shags but also with New Zealand fur seals: here a big male is lying near the entrance into the colony and the penguins pick their way carefully around him to get home. Although the penguins are afraid of the seals, the seals are not interested in the penguins whilst on land.
Our Spotted shags are in full breeding plumage and busy collecting nesting material: here one has landed on the beach near the yellow-eyed penguin landing and found a great bit of seaweed to take back to the nest.
Over winter when the juveniles start to hang out in our colonies they get to know the locals and some of them make them feel welcome by allo-preening - aka snogging. If it's a female juvenile she can start breeding in a year's time and so striking up a 'friendship' with a youngster may just work out later for pairing up and making chicks!
Walking can be energy intensive for penguins and a sandy beach is ok - but when it is low tide these yellow-eyed penguins have to negotiate the rocks on the foreshore and they do it slowly and deliberately with many stops to preen and think about where to go next. Notice how these have really pink feet: it might be the middle of winter and quite cold but these guys are hot and are trying to get rid of extra body heat through their feet.
This group of yellow-eyed penguin adults and one juvenile were just hanging out on the beach, preening and resting and not really doing much, when they all started to crane their necks about something happening on the beach behind them. We think it may have been a seal lumbering round. The New Zealand fur seals are not a threat to yellow-eyed penguins but they share the beach and they are rather big. So anything that is big on the beach and moves around is cause for concern - that's why people should never be on a penguin beach: it causes stress for the birds.
The foreshore of the yellow-eyed penguin colonies really ought to be free of vegetation (we are working on that with our chain saws....) - something we didn't know way back 30 years ago when the trees were planted on the foreshore of this colony. As with this pair the penguins sitting on the elevated parts of the foreshore are visible well out to sea and are thus advertising this place to passing penguins. This can attract them to this place and maybe they even stay and settle.