One of the nicest stretches of coastal scenery we've come across while traveling on New Zealand's South Island has been the Otago Peninsula, outside the city of Dunedin. In turn, probably the most interesting part of the Otago Peninsula (at least for us) is Taiaroa Head, situated at the mouth of Otago Harbour (see map).
Taiaroa Head is quite scenic. (That's it looking like a picture postcard in the second photo, taken just a few days ago.) But in addition to being pretty, it also serves as a wildlife preserve. Fur seals and sea lions frequent the waters around the headland, and haul out on the rocks and nearby beaches. There are breeding colonies of several kinds of seabirds.
One species of seabird that lives at Taiaroa Head is the Royal Albatross (Diomedea sanfordi), an endangered species. These magnificent birds are huge, with a 10 foot (3 meter) wingspan. You can see one soaring above the lighthouse in the photo at right.
The albatrosses spend up to 85% of their lives at sea, feeding on fish and squid, and sleeping on the water, but they must come ashore to nest and breed. The colony at Taiaroa Head currently is home to a Royal Albatross breeding population of about 140 birds.
Two species of gulls also nest in this area. In fact, if you click on the second photo to enlarge it, you will see what look like myriad white spots along the face of the cliff. Those white spots are gulls -- hundreds and hundreds of gulls. They dominate this particular cliff face.
And if you click on the third photo to enlarge it, you will see why that cliff face, and the top of the wall where the gulls are standing, look white!
Next time we'll show you some of the other wild residents of Taiaroa Head -- on land and in the water.