New Zealand fur seal

Pilots Beach, Taiaroa Head, Otago Peninsula

In which Miles meets northern royal albatrosses, little blue penguins, and possibly the most chill marine mammals in New Zealand, on Pilots Beach.

You can view the full gallery of 20 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Ten years ago I toured the Royal Albatross Centre, located at the tip of the Otago Peninsula, near Dunedin.  New Zealand is usually windy, but it was a still day, and the great birds, build to soar on the winds, just sat in their nests.  This year I skipped the tour, but enjoyed watching the northern royal albatrosses flying over the carpark.

Northern royal albatross
Northern royal albatross

The Taiaroa Head colony is the only albatross colony found on a human-inhabited mainland in the Southern hemisphere.  There are about 60 breeding pairs at Taiaroa Head.

Northern royal albatross
Northern royal albatross

When they are not breeding, northern royal albatrosses undertake circumpolar flights in the southern oceans, and in particular like the Humboldt Current and the Patagonian Shelf.

Northern royal albatross
Northern royal albatross

Northern royal albatrosses are listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.

Northern royal albatross
Northern royal albatross

There are short walkways near the carpark.  One offers views of the Pacific coast and lighthouse.

Lighthouse at Taiaroa Head
Lighthouse at Taiaroa Head

Stairs lead down to Pilots Beach.  It’s a small beach, and it’s crowded with seals and sea lions.

Otago Harbor and Pilots Beach
Otago Harbor and Pilots Beach

Female and young male sea lions can be a cream color, but males are very similar in color to seals.  Male sea lions can also grow to be much larger.  The other main feature that distinguishes seals from sea lions, as far as I know, is that seals have very pointy noses in comparison to sea lions.

My best guess is that the pictures below shows a seal on the left, and five sea lions to the right of him – but we don’t have a good view of the faces of three of them.

Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?

While taking pictures of the sea lion below I noticed that I had almost stepped on one that was lying quietly behind me.  It just looked up at me without moving or making a sound.  These guys are very used to people!  Part of the beach is fenced off, so there is plenty of space for any creatures that are less fond of humans.

Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?

 

Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?

It was a great chance to watch these guys playing in the water.

Seal or sea lion?
Seal or sea lion?

Enjoy the video below of seals and sea lions on Pilots Beach.

I had left the beach without seeing the nests of the little blue penguins, but a helpful kiwi couple told me that there were at least two penguins in their nests, so I went back to look for them.

Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin

Little blue penguins would usually be out fishing for most of the day.  I suspect that this one was at home in the afternoon because he was molting, or shedding old feathers.  If you have a close look at the picture below, I think you can see some of the old feathers that haven’t yet fallen out – and plenty that have.

Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin

Like yellow-eyed penguins, little blue penguins don’t go out to fish when they’re molting.  They live off of their fat during this time, and use up a lot of it.  This fasting makes them a bit grumpy, which may or may not explain the expression in the picture below.

Little blue penguin
Little blue penguin

The trip out to the Royal Albatross Centre is very scenic.  Below are some views of the coast along the Otago Harbor.

Otago Harbor, Otago Peninsula
Otago Harbor, Otago Peninsula
Otago Harbor, Otago Peninsula
Otago Harbor, Otago Peninsula
Otago Peninsula
Otago Peninsula
Otago Peninsula
Otago Peninsula

You can view the full gallery of 20 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

#PilotsBeach, #TaiaroaHead, #OtagoPeninsula, #RoyalAlbatrossCentre, #Seal, #SeaLion, #Albatross, #LittleBluePenguin, #Dunedin, #SouthIsland, #NewZealand

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