The marine reserveJoey grew up on a faraway sheep farm - a magical place with abundant charm.
It had a turquoise bay where dolphins would play – and feisty little penguins who would sing and bray!
She played in the ocean and loved the commotion – The waves, The wind, The birds, The fish – her magical place her dream … her wish.
Francis, her dad, would pull out the dingy over seaweeds all soft and spongy and springy, they would fish for their tea with a smile of glee and be thankful they lived so close to the sea.
So many fish in this bay - she would hear him say.
Friends, family and locals would all put on their snorkels and take from the bay, mussels, fish and crays. Plenty for all they could share their haul!
Then the Boats came along with nets so strong and the dolphins took off and stopped singing their song.
A teenager now Joey dove in the ocean and noticed with sadness the missing commotion.
The crays, The paua, The fish, The eels, even less babies in the colony of seals.
The penguins were starving and getting caught in set nets and it became time to talk of their threats.
So, Joey’s family spoke up and wanted to change, no fish for dinner now that would be strange.
The locals agreed it was time for new ways, to protect The dolphins, The fish and even The rays.
They banded together and lobbied away and pushed for a Marine reserve in the bay.
Joey is older now, a mother of three, she takes her kids to the bay to play in the sea.
She dives with her boys under the waves - and explores the bay’s nooks, crannies and caves.
They look but don’t touch at the bay with so much,
The Dolphins, The penguins, The eels and even the abundance of baby seals.
They play in the ocean and love the commotion,
The waves, The wind, The birds, The fish – her magical place her dream … her wish.
By Ave Parthonnaud
The Last Whaler
The waves crashing - Bull kelp lashing.
Back and forth in a turbulent sea – schooner sets its sails prepared to flee.
At the bow - men see somehow - a mighty sperm whale breach- so the battle’s on now.
Wives will wait – the men will be late or this job could deliver their ultimate fate.
Deep dark water – leviathans to slaughter- She places herself against the ship and her daughter.
3 whale boats are lowered – The men are sobered.
Harpoons at the ready – the boats holding steady.
Hours of chase – they are keeping their pace – advanced hunters… winning their race.
She drags men out to infinity – not allowing them proximity, protecting her daughter – as her own mother taught her.
But fatigue takes over – the men have got her.
Her little one is call-in – but she is now an orphan. - For her mother to mankind is worth a fortune.
Akaroa, they go, where the water is red – shipping oils for fire in Europe … to be fed.
This practice lives on - the ocean losing its song – even the whalers understand now, something is wrong.
Time to change – the new path is strange – But mankind is able to grow… rearrange.
The last of the whalers – adapted as sailors - go out to sea with a new light to their natures.
They protected the whales – with wind in their sails – using their skills and knowledge and paying their homage.
With history behind them – they grew as men - and taught their sons and daughters to understand… comprehend.
The next generation with the heart for conservation – Led the songs of the sea – to return wild and … free.
By Ave Parthonnaud.
Thieving little Magpie penguins.
Everyone knows magpies steal things. They like shiny objects and put them in their nests.
Well, did you know penguins also steal things? Over the years working in the Pohatu penguin colony I have seen some pretty interesting and unexpected things in little penguin nests, things that would rival anything a magpie would steal.
We do a weekly nest box monitoring in our colony. We open up the nest box lid and write down what we see. Usually, we write things like 1x adult, 2x chicks and keep a record of what’s going on in the nest like * lots of fresh poop and looks fat and healthy. We also estimate chick(s) age, their colour morph: White-flippered or Little Blue and keep an eye out for any signs of starvation, disease or parasites.
Sometimes, we see some funny and surprising things on our monitoring rounds. Especially in the early breeding season, which is August/ September. The male penguins, we think, like to impress the females by building an awesome nest.
Some penguins have huge sticks sticking out the entrance, so big the female can’t even get inside, like big driftwood chunks or off cuts of timber used for building. One crazy male penguin lined his nest with stinging nettle - not sure how impressed his girlfriend was with that!
But the funniest penguins are the ones that live around the Flea Bay farmstead. There are around 10 nesting boxes in the garden and 20 around the garages and farm buildings. One nest box which is under the laundry line had a pair of nice socks used as nesting material which we can only guess had blown off the laundry line. We think the female might had liked that, nice and soft for her eggs.
The next box over had a new tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush still in its boxes! So we believe someone must have left the kitchen door open by accident overnight, and this adventuress penguin must have raided the shopping bag on the kitchen floor.
Another nest box had some flattened aluminium beer cans which we can only guess came from the recycling bin in the garage - not sure about the comfort level of that?... But by the time we found this unusual choice of nest material she was already sitting on it with eggs, so we guessed she liked it? We did end up removing the beer cans just in case as it could be sharp and we gave her pine needles instead.
One penguin family had stolen a hair brush (no idea where it got that from, another house raid most likely) and another penguin family had stolen some rope and a huge house painting paintbrush, probably from the garden shed.
The funniest nest material was found by Shireen. She was monitoring with a group of people and when she opened the box, she found a penguin sitting on her underwear - ‘’Oh dam!’’ she said, ‘’that was a good pair’’ I remember her saying. I couldn’t stop laughing - again we think another laundry line fail - that was a bit embarrassing but Shireen decided the penguins could keep them!
But the penguin that rivals a magpie’s treasure lived in the kayaking shed. We do morning kayak trips for the Banks Track trampers and they would pay us cash. We would stick it in a bum bag and later bring it to Akaroa for banking. One day, the kayak guide found the bum bag on the ground with all the money missing. We had assumed someone had very sadly stolen it and thought we were pretty silly to have left that hanging up in the shed in the first place. We didn’t think too much more about it other than being safer where we put money.
The kayak shed penguins were pretty well hidden. They lived in a nest box in the back of the shed and behind a chair where we also hang our lifejackets on, so we kind of forgot that they were there. They were also not part of our monitoring program so we didn’t often check them as they were hard to get to behind all the kayaking gear.
One day, I noticed the kayak shed floor was completely poop covered - our kayak shed had no door so penguins always had parties in there. The poop trail reminded me that there was a box in the back, I moved things out of the way to have a check on them and guess what I found… YES, the missing money! These guys had lined the nest with $525.00 cash! Quite a lot of kayaking trips worth, now all covered in poop! They had been sitting on it for the last couple of months and we couldn’t do too much until they left. Lucky NZ dollars are kind of plastic money… so, we cleaned it as best we could (which was super disgusting and smelly by the way) no matter how much you wash something which has had penguin poop on it, the smell never goes away. Poopy fishy smell, we then bought in into the local BNZ bank branch - the bank tellers were not so impressed. (‘’Still legal tender right?’’ … we said with a smile).
The next year, the kayak shed penguins, had gotten back into their thieving ways and had stolen the kayaking guide’s, very expensive, aqua sock! So, our lesson, when living and working around penguins in the breeding season is: you always have to be careful not to leave stuff on the ground or doors open if you don’t want it being used as nesting material and ending up covered in penguin poop!
True stories by Ave Parthonnaud
A jack of all trades
Grandma Shireen the Jack of all trades -
She’s a recognized artist doing landscapes with oils
Planting of trees and flowers for bees -
A green fingered whiz with a magical garden -
The Korora were in trouble and in major decline,
So, she worked day and night, on the little penguins plight –
Trapping Predators at sun up – Baiting traps with her bum up –
The penguins started thriving and with more of them surviving -
She picked up some tourists and brought them along
This funded the conservation in Pohatu bay -
She inspired the community with her amazing ability -
Grandma Shireen the Jack of all trades,
Planting new forests, a legacy for all –
By Ave Parthonnaud