Stephen and I are lucky enough to live right on the ocean, above Nine Mile beach on the West Coast, just north of Greymouth. This morning we awoke to glorious sunny clear skies and decided to head down to the beach before breakfast – while the tide was right out. Really low tides at the moment so great for exploring on the rocks.
The dogs – Ziggy and Nico were more than happy with this early morning excursion. We headed off down our track. The beach is lovely at the moment – because of the big tides, much of the gravel and stones have been washed back to expose predominately sand.
First we head north – to see if we can find some greenstone that is often washed up on the beach. No luck this morning though. Ziggy has fun chasing and retrieving sticks while Nico is happy to meander along sniffing at anything, everything and nothing.
We head back towards the house, cross the Nine Mile creek that is a mere trickle at the moment and head for the rocks. The rocky outcrop is well exposed and covered in mussels and starfish. It is easy walking this morning with sand and small stones filling in much of the usually groves and humps between the rocks. We head right out towards to the sea – it is great to head out this far, as we can’t often do it due to the tides and lack of sand build up.
Ziggy spots a seal lazing on the rocks by the cliff face – the seal glances our way but settles back down when he realises neither us or the dogs are interested in disturbing his rest. There are lots of gulls and terns that make their nests in the nooks of the cliff-face and Oyster Catchers sit amongst the sand and the driftwood on the beach.
As we make our way back towards the beachline, Ziggy goes still, staring at a gap in the rocks. Stephen and I head over to see what he is looking at and here nestled between two rocks is a Fiordland Crested Penguin. The penguin doesn’t look particularly comfortable and has some damage to one eye. He doesn’t try to move when we come near and we are concerned for his safety as he is a long way from home. Fiordland Crested Penguins are the rarest of the NZ penguins and are usually found on the coast of Fiordland, Stewart Island, and South Westland. Very rarely do they find there way this far up the coast. We are so proud of little Ziggy – we have taught the dogs not to chase birds so thought it was fantastic that he realised there was something here, that he wasn’t allowed to chase it or disturb it, just stood and stared – almost as if he knew it needed some help.
General rule with widlife is you shouldn’t disturb them even if injured but due to the turning tide and the rarity of the bird, we decide to take him up the house and phone DOC as they will be able to look after him and know what is wrong with him and know if he can be helped. I take off my fleece and use that to cover the little fella up – to stop him stressing and pecking at me with his beak! The little fella is pretty calm and doesn’t mind too much at my carrying him. Back at the house Stephen gets a box and we line it with an old sheet and towels and lower the little fella in. Eventually he wiggles round to make himself more comfortable. We put the lid on the box so it is nice and quiet for our latest guest.
Chippy from DOC arrives and takes a look. Apart from his damaged eye, he thinks the little fella looks in quite good health – good size, weighty and meaty so that is good sign. Chippy transfers the little fella to a DOC box, loads him in the car and heads off to the DOC office in Punakaiki and a visit to the DOC vet. He is going to keep us posted with the little fellas condition and what happens to him. Fingers crossed for a full recovery. Ziggy was our star of the day – saved a little life! All in all, an eventual morning and meander along Nine Mile Beach.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation, on the Punakaiki Coastline north of Greymouth. If you find hurt or distressed animals/birdlife please contact your nearest DOC office for help. Click here for more information on the Fiordland Crested Penguin.