Because New Zealand is so close to the South Pole, it has penguins – four species in total, though only one, the little blue penguin, or kororÄ (the world’s smallest penguin – so basically as cute as a penguin can possibly be), is normally found in the Wellington area.
Even though Wellington is a city, much of the coastline is quite undeveloped, and kororÄ still come ashore to nest. They nest in underground burrows along the coast, and will happily use man-made ‘burrow’ spaces – such as under houses, if given the chance. This is a bit of a problem, as this means they have to cross the road which divides buildings from the beach. So all along the Wellington coast you can see ‘Penguin Crossing’ signs:
For 8 years, until we bought The Castle, we lived less than 300 meters from a ‘Penguin Crossing’ sign, but, to my everlasting dismay, I never managed to see one in the wild. I finally had to go to the zoo to see a korora in person.
This summer I sewed a bunch of striped tops, and one of them, in grey and ivory cotton knit, made me think of a little blue penguin’s colouring.
Despite the signs, there aren’t actually crosswalks marked on the road for the penguins, but crosswalks are called ‘zebra crossings’ in NZ, so my striped shirt is a ‘penguin crossing’ shirt.
It’s snuggly and slouchy and super soft and relaxed. Perfect for hanging around on the beach and clambering over rocks and exploring the coastline and generally doing the things that Mr D & I do on a regular basis.
Possibly for digging burrows too, but I haven’t actually tried that.
In related, extremely happy and exciting news, I finally managed to see a penguin in the wild – not just one either, but a dozen!
I caught the ferry across Wellington harbour, and as it crossed the water we saw lots of waterbirds: shags and ducks and seagulls and terns. We had fun identifying them, and then we came up towards a group of 10 or so birds and we couldn’t figure out what they were, and then as the ferry got very close, they dived, and we realised they were a group of penguins, floating on the water in the middle of the day!
Sadly I was too late with the camera for the first group, but we saw a couple more in the distance: the two little dots in my photos
Hurrah! Penguin dreams realised!
(well, the ultimate dream would be helping with a penguin release, but I’m still counting myself lucky!)
P.S. There are non-penguin-but-still-cute-animal Easter Eggs in at least two of my photos. Can you find them?
It looks like a seagull over your shoulder in the 7th photo. Do you even have seagulls in NZ? I don’t know my birds that well.
Well spotted! There are actually two seagulls in fact – I love the way they look like parrots on my shoulder. NZ does have seagulls – the red billed gull and black billed gull are both endemic and are considered vulnerable and critically endangered respectively. I think almost everywhere coastal has them, except very small isolated islands like Hawaii, that are too far too fly to, as seagulls can’t feed at sea.
Penguins! I used to live in Melbourne and would go to see the little/fairy penguins at Phillip Island. So cute!