New Zealand's Sub-Antarctic Islands - 2008

Now that the rigors of the hike are behind us so to speak, it is appropriate to rhapsodize on the splendors of the island. The rata forest is an alien-appearing growth to be sure. Slender and twisted, the trunks grow about 15 feet high in search of the sun that does not shine all that often down here in the subantarctic. The foliage at the top is both thin in terms of the tiny leaves and scarce since the leafy component of the trees is not fulsome at all. The trees seem to strain to intertwine with one another more than they struggle to reach the canopy.

The forest appears impenetrable at first look because of this tangle of trunks. However, we had to pierce through the maze because the forest was to be our best hope of seeing the yellow-eyed penguins up close and with babies in their nests. These birds are one of the few non- colonial species of penguin in the world. Instead of huddling close together in huge rookeries, these penguins are solitary except at breeding season and even then the pair do not join others of their kind. Instead, they seek shallow depressions, burrows, or caves to deposit their eggs far removed the other breeding pairs. Then like other birds both sexes tend the chicks alternately— while one parent is at sea, the other sits the eggs and guards the chicks. They are also very different from other penguins in that they are very quiet—no sitting around braying at one another for these birds. They sit silently or walk without speaking back and forth to the sea. Because of these traits, the yellow-eyes are much harder to find. Sight and sound do not help locate the birds. And

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