He's a Marsh Sandpiper and was first reported last weekend. On Tuesday I suggested that Miss 16 plow through her work in the morning so we would have time to find him in the afternoon before she had to go to work. She convinced me to go in the morning since the light is better then and the wind can get up in the afternoon, making small birds harder to spot. So we spent the morning searching likely sites along the edge of the lake. After several unsuccessful searches we thought we were going to have to leave empty-handed so-to-speak, but we finally found him on what would have been out second to last stop. Miss 16 has seen this species a couple of time before when she's attended bird camps in the North Island, but it's been 7 or 8 years since one was last recorded in our part of the country so this was my first view.
We'd just arrived home from this expedition, literally 10 minutes in the door, when Miss 16 came rushing excitedly up, announcing that a crested penguin had just been seen - as in less than an hour ago - on a beach 40 minutes north of home. Time was tight since she had to be at work later that afternoon but we figured we could make it, so we skipped lunch, ran back to the car and quickly headed north. We spent an hour scouring the beach but couldn't find a penguin anywhere. Turns out he'd been moved to the rehabilitators less than an hour after arriving at the beach. We'd also just missed seeing another crested penguin during our trip south last month. That bird kept going onto the road so was moved to a remote, undisclosed location for his own safety. Clearly we weren't the luckiest penguin spotters.
So, after all that, it is no surprise that the real highlight of this week - definitely the first prize winner - was this guy.
He's an Erect Crested Penguin and they breed on remote offshore islands, so our chances of seeing one were slim. However, this guy conveniently came ashore on the mainland to moult (and yes, the piles of white around him are his moulted feathers) so Miss 16 convinced me to take a road trip. She managed to find someone to cover her class on Friday giving us time to make the six hour round trip. The roads were rough in places, with several diversions and places where the road was down to one lane - a large earthquake in November caused a lot of infrastructure damage and the town we visited was isolated for a week or two before road access could be partly restored. The road to the north is still blocked and the one to the south that we used is only open during daylight hours and can be closed as a result of heavy rain or larger aftershocks. Thankfully neither happened while we were there. The trip was also notable for the flat tire we got, the second in as many weeks. Thank goodness for the AA. Still all the hassles were worth it as Miss 16 was so pleased to finally get her eyes on a crested penguin. Luckily we went when we did since his moult is nearly finished - just a small patch of his older feathers remain - and he'll soon return to sea.
On our trip back from penguin spotting, and after our flat tire had been changed, we took a quick diversion to an area where Indian Peafowl can sometimes be found. We couldn't immediately see any and were about to give up (Miss 16 didn't want to miss training so we didn't have a lot of time to spare) when we saw these heads pop up from among a field of cabbages. We were amused as they reminded us of submarine periscopes, just more colourful and ornamental.
On one other day this week, we joined a group of local birders for our monthly mid-week ramble. This time we visited some local ponds and were surprised to discover one, possibly more, pure Grey Duck. Pure Grey Ducks are rare since they have hybridized so much with the more common Mallard Ducks.
One of the items Miss 22 bought back from her travels was a box of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans and we finally got around to divvying them up and trying them out. Apparently earwax, soap, vomit and earthworm taste disgusting. Who would have guessed? I didn't eat anything worse than sausage and black pepper, strange flavours in a jellybean but perfectly palatable. We do feel the need for a Harry Potter reread following the beans though!
Despite all the birding we did actually spend some time at home, engaging in activities that other people would recognise as homeschooling. Miss 16 started The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for literature, completed two grammar lessons and one vocabulary lesson, investigated standard deviation for statistics, rewatched Shane and answered questions from the guide plus viewed Emma for the first time, finished a chapter in her animal behaviour text, and learnt about the life of early Maori in history.
The big news in our city this week has been the bush fires in the hills on the edge of the city - thankfully not close to us. We've just had lots of helicopters and planes going overhead since we're between the airport and the fires and the smoke only reached us once. However some friends were evacuated, some acquaintances lost their house and everything in it and others had a very close call. Thankfully the blazes seem to be contained now, if not yet extinguished.
Linking to the Weekly Wrap Up and Homeschool Highlights