Note: I’d like to start by apologizing by the tardiness of the last few blog posts. They’ll all be up in a day or two! Sorry.
After the rain ended, we headed out into Kaikoura’s forests to begin studying New Zealand’s terrestrial ecology. Most mornings began with a lecture by Jody, a local ecologist. After, we went on several local hikes to learn how to key and identify trees and ferns. Our first hike took us to the base of Mt Fyffe where we went on the Hinau Loop. While hiking, the students had to identify at least 20 trees or ferns and at least six birds. Unlike birds in the US, several birds were curious enough that they stood still close enough for pictures. Some of the birds stayed well hidden and only let us hear them though. Our hike also took us through a field that was originally empty. On our way back, the students were surprised to find it full of cows and enjoyed walking through them back to the van.
In the evening, we took turns visiting the Kaikoura Coast Guard Station. Beneath the station, a blue eyed penguin colony makes its home. We were able to watch the penguins come home to their nests in the night. Since the fledgling penguins had recently left for the ocean on their own, the colony was relatively empty. A few penguins came home although most were on a long food voyage before they came home to malt. Two fledglings were still home though. The two male penguins were brothers whose mother had recently died. Unfortunately, their father also stopped coming home the first night we went to the colony. Thus, Jody’s husband who helps maintain the penguin colony fed the penguins. The drama over whether or not the two penguins will survive has enthralled the entire camp. A few nights later, a couple of students got to help Jody feed the penguins.
After learning how to identify most of the major tree species on and near Mt Fyffe, the students undertook a quadrat survey to determine how species diversity varies with altitude. An hour of constantly climbing uphill also provided some wonderful views of Kaikoura and the surrounding region.
Next, we are headed inland to Cass! Time to say goodbye to seals and penguins for now!