Saturday, 16 April 2011

Cape Kidnappers - Gannet Colony

A perfect Saturday morning in Napier New Zealand:
We had two different tramping trips planned for this long weekend, and unfortunately both got weathered out (one from snow, one from predicted rain storms). So, Friday afternoon we decided to head up to Napier and check out the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers. We have been wanting to do this for a while, but it just never worked out. While this is the time of year when nearly all of the birds have migrated to Australia, there were still quite a few to enjoy looking at.

We drove up to Napier on Friday night and stayed at the Napier YHA which was great - enjoyed playing chess (well, Travis enjoyed beating me three times and I was a bit bummed out by the end of that!).
Saturday morning brought an early start on our big track along the coast to the gannet colony. After seeing the sunrise in Napier we were in great spirits and ready to roll...This particular tramp walks along the rocky coast line and you have to time your tramp right and really move along in order not to get caught between the incoming waters and the cliffs. (VERY important to check the tide schedule!!) There were parts where we would have to wait for the water to recede and then hurry around rocks before the next wave came in.
We came across this cool fort someone had made. I will give you a fair warning that I took a ton of pictures on this tramp. The seascapes were just amazing. It was really cloudy, but the rain had not yet hit this area so we had a lovely early morning walk....Little did we know that the walk is actually 18K!!
There were several different sea birds perched along the rocks.
This was our first sighting of the Gannets. They are actually pretty large birds. We were mistaken to think that this was the beginning of the colony. After walking along for about 7K there is a sign that you still have another 2K left and then you look up and realize that the very last bit is straight up hill! While this tramp is very straight forward and basically just walking, the rocky sand and slanted beach actually tire your legs out. You definitely have to be ready for endurance.

Travis was really enjoying all of the geology around this area. The cliffs here are said to be 4.5 million years old and you could see some interesting clay and sandstone formations.

The top of that cliff there is the final destination! You can imagine the sigh when you come around the corner and think you are there and then you see that the TOP is actually the destination point! haha.
Yep, straight up the hill we go...
And another hill...(By the way, that is where the poor DOC ranger has to live and is forced to look out at this view every day...his job must suck!)
I loved this view...During the peak season that grey flat area will be covered with thousands of birds. The four main colonies are home to over 17,000 nesting birds during the nesting season. This is the largest mainland gannet colony in the world.

And at last...The gannets...The grey one is the baby - yeah, more like a pesky teenager. They were pretty noisy and demanding! When they reach about 16 weeks they will begin the migration to Australia. Gannets have a life span of approximately 25-40 years and mate for life returning each year to the same location where they link up with their mate.
You can see that there were not as many birds left, but we were still able to get a feel for what the colony is like. There are also tractor tours that ride along the beach and then you climb up to the colony or safari buses if you cannot manage the walk.
The mature birds are lovely. We also read that they have excellent eye sight and will swoop down into the water from way up on the cliff and can catch fish 4meters deep! Amazing....They also have air sacs under their chest and face that blow up and protect them upon impact! Cool...
The babies do some pretty interesting dances when they are hungry.
Impressive wingspan. This baby still can't fly, though. Their wingspan can reach 3meters.

And what would our blog be without an amazing seascape?
Had to post this one of these cute sheep spying on the gannet colony.

The Cape Kidnappers Lighthouse - I have to confess that it's one of the ugliest I have seen in NZ so far.
Happen to spot this Oyster Catcher just out for a lazy Saturday feed.
Well, that was our Saturday tramp. We managed to make it all the way back without getting blasted by the waves. It did drizzle a bit on our way back, but overall we stayed fairly dry this weekend.

We headed into Napier for a coffee and a look around some of our favorite shops (Chantals, our favorite health food store has now expanded and they have a wholefoods cafe! I would move back to Napier just for that! It looks amazing.)

After hanging out in Napier for a little bit we met up with our dear friends, Richard and Gaynor, for a catch up before heading back to Palmerston North. As predicted the weather back in "good ole" palmy is very wet/rainy/cold!

So, yes, this was a fantastic little get-away trip.

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