Happy World Wildlife Day


I am running out of time to celebrate World Wildlife Day! One of my favorite travel purposes is to view and enjoy wildlife doing their wild thing. (Not that, get your mind out of the gutter!) I especially love penguins. I have made a point of viewing penguins whenever I go to New Zealand and now Australia. Most of the time I was not allowed to take photographs, so I went a little crazy and took hundreds of photos of these Fiordland penguins when I had the chance.

My son Tevis is knocking around Asia for the next 9 weeks and he has discovered a fascination with elephants. I understand this. I could watch elephants all day. I have fond memories from the one time I was able to go on a wildlife safari in South Africa. Here he is experiencing elephants at the Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park.


From salmon swimming upstream, to an echidna meandering or a koala sleeping to a giraffe browsing on tree leaves, they all help me get in touch with wonder and add to my already huge appreciation for God’s creation.

What is your favorite animal to watch in the wild?

Three reasons to Celebrate World Penguin Day!

1.  Penguins always bring a smile to your face.

Admit it. There is no staying a grumpy-pants when you click through a slide deck of penguin photos.

Read more about Fiordland Penguins and the
Read more about Fiordland Penguins and other penguin adventures by clicking the Penguin category on this blog.

2.  Their clumsiness and vulnerability on land entertains and creates an emotional bond with us.

We laugh at what seems like their slapstick pratfalls on the ice, but we also have empathy as who among us has not literally fallen flat on our face. We recognize the penguins incredible commitment to raising their young, sometimes in nasty conditions, and we like to think we are as committed to our own children.

Even in captivity, the penguin can charm!
Even in captivity, the penguin can charm!

3. Penguins can withstand the harshest weather; raise chicks on ice; and yet the 18 species are all at risk because of us.

Whether it is climate change, depletion of food from overfishing and human pollution, loss of habitat from human development, and other causes, we need to care for penguins as they are the proverbial canary of Antarctica.


Test your penguin knowledge with this quiz from the Pew Charitable Trust. Then sign the petition (on same web page) to encourage the US State Department to reach and sign agreements to protect penguins in the Ross Sea and Antarctica.

Share why you love penguins!

Happy Penguin Awareness Day!

Fiordland Crested Penguins

It is Penguin AWARENESS Day not Penguin APPRECIATION Day.

Fiordland Crested Penguin

Because man is doing a lot of unhelpful stuff threatening penguins.

Fiordland Crested Penguin

Melting ice and overfishing in Antarctica is crashing the food web the penguins depend upon. For specifics from an eye-witness, read Fraser’s Penguins: A Journey to the Future in Antarctica by Fen Montaigne.

Fiordland Crested Penguin

People are doing a lot of good stuff to protect their habitat and make it to another generation. Like Dr. McSweeney in New Zealand.

Beach without penguin

Be aware. Do good stuff before they are gone.

This post “Happy Penguin Awareness Day!” is featured on blogs associated with On Your Radar Media Company.

Best Penguin Adventure Yet

symbol of New ZealandrainforestI sat on a rock on beach nestled near the rainforest. The rain was dripping down my nose and onto a towel protecting my camera. We hiked down from the road through thick rainforest and across streams. It was near the end of the penguin nesting season, so my guide Dr. Gerry McSweeney did not guarantee we would see a penguin. I was the only guest on the guided hike and yet because of Gerry’s great enthusiasm to share these rare birds he did not hesitate to take me on my own. We waited patiently for our reward.

Fiordland Crested PenguinsThe Fiordland Crested Penguin nest in the rainforest and go to and fro all day to feed themselves and their chicks. At last we saw a shy fellow peek out of the foliage on a steep trail down to the beach. The trail looked like a slip and slide and it was hard to believe the ungainly penguin could navigate it. He/she saw us as I moved closer to get a better view I spooked her and he retreated. After more patient waiting we were rewarded with two penguins.  All together we saw 15 penguins throughout the morning, plus starfish and sea urchins, a gorgeous coastline and a rare orchid in the forest.

penguinsThey emerged from the forest moved down the bank and onto the rocky beach. They are ungainly on land and yet completely charming when hopping from rock to beach. They slipped into the water and displayed their true grace.  coastline

penguinI have enjoyed many adventures to view penguins in New Zealand, and this was the best yet. There are three types of penguins living in New Zealand. The little blue penguin can be found almost along every coastline on North and South Islands. The yellow-eyed penguin can only found along the southernmost coastline of South Island. And the rarest of the three, the Fiordland Crested penguin, lives along the west coast of South Island.

Dr. Gerry McSweeney, guide and host at Wilderness Lodge. Also keeper of the habitat along this stretch of coastline.
Dr. Gerry McSweeney, guide and host at Wilderness Lodge. Also keeper of the habitat along this stretch of coastline.

Penguin viewing is seasonal–beginning in December the penguins begin to go to sea for long months of swimming and eating. They return again in July and August to raise their chicks in a creche. I was able to arrange a guided penguin viewing on November 29 at the Wilderness Lodge at Lake Moeraki.

starfishTo get there I flew into Queenstown and rented a car, then drove 3.5 hard miles to 30 miles north of Haast on the coast. I arrived just in time for a wonderful dinner at the Lodge. Staying at the Lodge includes dinner and breakfast. The guided penguin experience is an additional NZ$160.00 and totally worth it! The Lodge provides adventurers boots and raincoats, and hot tea and biscuits.

It was so thrilling to watch them in their habitat being penguins. I just look at the pictures and it takes me back. As in the best adventures, I want to do it again.penguin

Powell’s Books Box Arrived Today

It is like Christmas. Or the day the Scholastic book order arrived in my classroom!  I forgot some of the books I bought: some great used books on cycling and World War I. In among the treasures lay a book called Antarctic Antics: A Book of Penguin Poems by Judy Sierra. Enjoy the poem below while you watch the video from YouTube.

Penguins First Swim by Judy Sierra

Ten little penguins all in a line–

One jumps in, and now there are nine.

Nine little penguins, how they hesitate–

One tumbles in, and now there are eight.

Eight little penguins pushin’ and shovin’–

One slides in, and now there are seven.

Seven little penguins, scarcely more than chicks–

One slips in, and now there are six.

Six little penguins can’t decide to dive–

One falls i, and now there are five.

Five little penguins huddle on the shore–

One flops in, and now there are four.

Four little penguins fidget fearfully–

One hops in, and now there are three.

Three little penguins wonder what to do–

One rolls in, and now there are two…

Two little penguins missing all the fun–

They both leap in, and now there are…

Ten little penguins, brave as they can be,

Splashing in the waves of the salty southern sea.

Antarctic Antics


Boulders Penguin Colony

photo by Mara V. Connolly

Guest blog by Mara V. Connolly

During my recent trip to South Africa, we traveled to Cape Town where on the eastern side of Cape Peninsula lies the Boulders Penguin Colony, a part of the Table Mountain National Park system that includes Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, and Table Mountain.

Boulders is home to a declining, and endangered rarity of land-based African Penguins, often called Jackass Penguins as they bray like donkeys.  The Boulders website stated that in the 50 years from 1956 to 2009 the worldwide population of African Penguin breeding pairs declined from 150,000 to 26,000;  an 80% decline over 50 years attributed to human interference from habitat destruction to oil spills. Boulders colony also declined from 3,900 birds in 2005 to only 2,100 in 2010.  (http://www.sanparks.org/parks/table_mountain/tourism/attractions.php#boulders)

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

photo by Mara V. Connolly

For 550 South African Rand (about $5.50 US at the time) you gain entrance to both Boulders Beach where you can lounge and swim amidst penguins who also appear to be vacationing from their colony a couple of beaches down the way, and the Boulders Penguin Colony itself that you view from boardwalks.

photo by Mara V. Connolly

We arrived just after the park opened at 7am to having the place all to ourselves.  We started at the colony and were amazed at the flurry of activity going on with hundreds of penguins and cormorants making a racket of noise.  The “braying” of the penguins had me in amazement because when I closed my eyes and listened, I envisioned a whole herd of donkeys, yet when I opened my eyes, a whole beach of tiny little penguins belting out ‘hee hawing’ is what confronted me!  Watching the penguins’ transition from beach to the ocean was awesome and mesmerizing.  They are go from being intensely awkward and limited on land to graceful and powerful instantly by tipping over and freeing themselves in the water.

Photo by Mara V. Connolly

After a thorough investigation of the colony we headed back to the beach which was now thoroughly crowded a short hour later.  Still, an incredible experience climbing over boulders to the outer beach area with curious penguins watching us as much as we were watching them.  Floating about in the frigid ocean with penguins gliding around you is an experience of a lifetime.

photo by Mara V. Connolly

Mara V. Connolly is a professional photographer, coach, facilitator, resume writer, and leader.  Her life purpose is to be radiant illumination igniting passionate possibilities. You can read more about her leadership adventure at http://maravconnolly.com.

Coo Coo for Penguins at Kelly Tarlton’s

Do you remember the ad, “Coo coo for Coco Puffs.” I could not help but think of that when I listened to my reaction to the penguin exhibit at Kelly Tarlton’s in Mission Bay, Auckland.

Maybe it was too many days of squinting to see penguins in the wild. Maybe it was the penguins’ joy in swimming. I was a little kid again.

Our little friend interacts with us through glass
Our little friend interacts with us through glass

The five months I lived in St Heliers Bay I must have passed Kelly Tarlton’s Sealife Aquarium 5 times a week and I never visited. People gave me mixed signals. On the one hand, people were proud of Mr. Tarlton’s inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit building a unique facility ahead of its time. On the other hand, people suggested it was a little cheesy.  And then there is the whole objection of zoos or aquariums in general keeping animals in captivity.

I enjoy a good zoo. Sometimes it is the only way we can observe species and appreciate the tremendous variety in creation. While I hope to get to Antarctica someday, it may be awhile before I can see gentoo and emperor penguins in their native habitat. What a thrill to observe them here.

The admission price is reasonable ($36 NZ per adult; discounts on-line and with coupons) and there is much more to see than my funny penguins.

Royal looking emperor penguins at Kelly Tarlton's
Royal looking emperor penguins at Kelly Tarlton’s

I met Diana at the entrance. She is studying in NZ on a scholarship and we were introduced through our mutual friend Deb. We bonded over this curious gentoo penguin who seemed genuinely interested in us. We giggled and ooohed and ahhhed through the rest of the aquarium exhibits, and lingered longest with the penguins.

There is a great deal of useful information offered in each exhibit, and plenty of interactive displays for those with short attention spans. You experience the main aquarium by either walking “through” it or riding the conveyor belt around–always surrounded by the aquarium. The sharks are menacing. (How is it that even those of us land-locked all of our life have an almost innate fear of sharks?)

We both were drawn to the stingrays. They are graceful and exude calm. Yet, like so many paradoxes in the sea, they still have the ability to seriously hurt or kill you.

There is a great tidal pool exhibit and a window where you can look out directly into the bay. The entire aquarium is like a giant optical illusion as it is built below the parking lot and you are below sea level the whole time.

It was a fun afternoon and anyone with an ounce of curiosity and a smidgeon of child’s heart will enjoy Kelly Tarlton’s.

Beautiful stingray swimming by at arms distance
Beautiful stingray swimming by at arms distance
Photo bomb! at tidepool.
Photo bomb! at tidepool.