As promised, we returned to Muriwai. The weather was a bit overcast for summer, but we were still excited to see the main attraction: baby birds!
The gannet colony had babies of varying sizes, depending on how quickly the parents had got the nest put together I guess. Some couples seemed to still be working on this step, but since the young gannets don’t leave the colony until March, they still have plenty of time. We arrived there during the afternoon, so most birds were taking a nap after a morning of feeding.
There was still some activity, of course. Some gannets got too close to the nests of others, which led to squawking and biting while other birds looked on with interest:
On the other hand, mated pairs of gannets were affectionate with one another, clacking their bills together when one arrived from the sea and preening each other while both of them were on the nest:
We could have watched the gannet soap operas all day, but there were other baby birds to see! The white-fronted terns that also nest at Muriwai already had mostly-grown babies. These chicks could fly well enough to leave the nest and head down to the beach, but weren’t strong enough to hunt for themselves yet. They hung out lower on the rocks and on the beach while their parents ferried them food, which let us get a close look at both chicks and parents:
Also on the rocks below the cliffs were some red-billed gull chicks. The rest of the colony seemed to be on a rock just off the beach, but these two were right at eye level on the cliffside. Just to the right of them, their parent screamed at us while we took their picture:
Like that stopped us at all!
We explored the beach on the other side of the gannet colony as Muriwai Beach proper, which is smaller but also often less crowded. The rocks under the colony were covered in green-lipped mussels and, since it was low tide, starfish. At Muriwai Beach, tiny mussels grow on some rocks, but the big ones seem to be harvested pretty thoroughly (there’s a limit of 25 per day, per person).
We also briefly explored a cave under the cliff. Luckily the tide was out so we could walk through it on bare sand; at high tide, the sea flows in and out of it (though it never gets too deep). The walls weren’t quite as purple as they look in this picture, but they were still surprisingly colorful.
So far Muriwai rates as one of our favorite beaches, but there are still many more that we want to explore this summer!