Monday, November 21, 2011

New Zealand Critters

You didn't think I was through posting New Zealand photos, did you? Not if I haven't shown you photos of animals, I'm not!

Heaven knows, I love me some critters.

My NZ hiking buddies got used to me running back for "just one more!" photo of some cute four-legged thing. After a day or two of seeing me flop down on my belly or stand up on a picnic table to get the right shot, they tolerated my odd photo habits with good grace. They even started pointing out potential good pictures for me to take. (Thanks, guys!)

But it was all so I could share with you the best, the cutest, the most intriguing animals we saw in New Zealand.

Aaaaaaand, here they are.

We start with Wellington, where the streets were curiously devoid of dogs on leashes. But I found this cutie right outside our hotel:

This is "Fritz," and he was the beloved companion of a 19th-century Wellington businessman named Plimmer. The man ran several businesses down by Wellington's harbor. Plimmer's little white dog was always at his side as he made his daily rounds to check up on his various endeavors, so the two of them are immortalized in a life-sized statue on Plimmer's Lane, just a few yards away from our hotel.

With so few live animals to capture my attention, I turned my camera on some stationary ones.

This is part of one of those ubiquitous memorials to the fallen soldiers of WWI and WWII that every city seems to have. It's got the normal heroic, idealized figures of men and women in it:

It even has a dog. See him/her above, on the far right? But what caught my eye was the cat. He/she looks like he's playing with the child's hoop:

Ya just don't see a lot of cats showing up on war memorials, do ya? Dogs; yes. Cats; not so much. I wonder what that says about cats, or war, or memorial art?

Eventually I saw dogs, but I had to get out of Wellington to do so. This trio was out for a stroll in Christchurch:

This redonkulously cute dude was in Christchurch, too, helping his mistress pick out the right shade of makeup for her mom:

Out of the city, the dogs got bigger and more down to business.

This is "Mazie," a working dog at Gibbston Winery outside of Queenstown. Her job is to keep rabbits out of the vineyards and away from the juicy grapes. But Mazie seemed to think her job was to hang around the vineyard's alfresco restaurant and beg for food from soft-hearted visitors:

This is Maizie's coworker, a Border Collie keeping an eye on us guests as we toured the vineyard, the inner workings of the winery, and the wine cave. He was too busy doing his job to stop and give me his name:

This is "Meg," a 7-week-old Border Collie, and soon to be inducted into the ancient and honorable business of sheep herding. Meg lives at Arthur's Pass Wilderness Lodge, which is both a beautiful retreat in the mountains and a working sheep station:

This is Meg's dad, "Ty," doing what he does best. He's what sheep folks call an "eye dog." He herds the sheep silently, by running around the flock and giving them The Evil Eye. It creeps them out and they run away from him:

Ty works with "Scamp," a breed known as the New Zealand Huntaway. Scamp herds sheep by jumping up and down and making a lot of noise. The sheep can't stand that, either, so they move away.

I'll get back to the sheep in a minute. But I had to introduce you to "Louie," a 10-year old pug I met in Queenstown. Louie stopped his daily trot to pose very nicely for me until I said, "Say chicken!" just for fun, and he whipped his head around and said, "Chicken!? Where?!" so this blurry shot is all I got before he was off and running toward wherever the chicken was:

Oh, pugs!

New Zealand split off from a land mass called Gondwana a bajillion years ago, and it just happened that no mammals (except for a couple of species of bats) are native to the island nation. What the country does have, however, is lots of species of birds. Some folks come to New Zealand specifically to see the many unusual and often rare breeds that call it home.

I saw these black beauties on the eastern shore of South Island. Don't know what they're called, but I love their fashion sense:

This is a male Paradise Duck. The female has a white head and a slightly different pattern of colors, but they both sport handsome feathers in shades of cinnamon, white, teal, and charcoal:

This is a Tui, a type of honeyeater, and it's about half as large again as a robin. They have glossy black feathers that flash with iridescence and a funny little tuft of white feathers at the throat of both sexes. They also have two voiceboxes, which gives them a huge range of sounds they can make:

This was my favorite bird, the Kea. It's a parrot that lives in the alpine regions of New Zealand, and it's a very intelligent bird.

Nearly as big as one of my pugs, these bad boys have fierce claws, a long, sharp beak, and a keen interest in mooching off the human population.

You have to be careful not to leave your things unattended when you're hiking in Kea territory, because they know that backpacks often mean something yummy is inside. They'll gang up on your pack and tear it apart, trying to find the goodies.

They are very bold and saucy, and will walk or fly right up to you if they think you might have something they'd like.

Most New Zealanders are annoyed by them, because they're so aggressive and destructive, but I was enchanted by these cheeky birds. I took so many photos of them that The Hubby started hollering out loud, "No more Kea pictures!"

Of course, the day we saw Fjordland Crested Penguins was so memorable--and so funny--I wrote a whole post just on them:

Oh, what a sight this was!:

In the ocean off the coast of Kaikoura, and we saw a pod of 100 or so Dusky Dolphins leaping and spinning and riding our bow wave:

On that same boat trip, we saw this Fur Seal doing what looks like a High Five, but he's actually warming himself up a bit by putting one flipper up to the sun:

At the ocean's rocky edges, we saw lots and lots of Fur Seals. They were snoozing:

And posing:

And imitating sausages:

And watching out over their babies:

In the freshwater rivers, we saw teeny little crayfish and even teenier snails:

Also in a river, we saw some semi-tame eels. This is a female, and she's easily three feet long, as big around as a man's arm, and all her teeth point backward toward her throat, so whatever she latches onto, she must swallow:

She is eating a piece of raw beef out of the fingers of our naturalist. Brave man!:

If you hike the countryside of New Zealand, you are going to see horses, for sure:

And you're gonna see cows. Cows hanging around in impossibly gorgeous places:

But eventually, you come to realize, the New Zealand countryside is all about the sheep:

Lots and lots and LOTS of sheep:

Sheep getting sheared:

Sheep saying Hello to the tourists:

Sheep with their lambs:

Aaaaack! Lambs!

Is there anything cuter than a month-old lamb?

How about TWO month-old lambs?

Yup, they're cute.

Sheep are such a big deal in New Zealand, there's even a statue of one, in Queenstown:

Okay, he's sharing the pedestal with some guy. But I love how they both have the same uber-noble expression on their faces:

Nooo! Not him! That's a common Brushtail Possum, and he's not so well loved.

THIS is the dude. In New Zealand, sheep rule.


  1. Fun, fun, fun! Loved all the birds/animals. (BTW, those birds are Oystercatchers.) Looking forward to more from NZ!


  2. Ah! I thought you might know what they are. Thanks!



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