Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: shags on an Oamaru pier

with 20 comments

Click to enlarge.

We spent the night of February 27th at a B&B on a hill in Oamaru. Before settling in for the evening we went down to have a look—a rather distant and indistinct one, as it turned out—at some blue penguins coming ashore at dusk. On the way there we walked past an old wooden pier that now hosts a large colony of shags. If you’re not familiar with the shag, as I wasn’t until I photographed one during our first New Zealand visit, it’s a kind of cormorant.

The shags on the Oamaru pier that evening might have been Leucocarbo chalconotus, which zoologists recently determined to be a different species, now called the Otago shag, from the Stewart Island shag.

Plans to refurbish the pier and reopen it to people have understandably met with some opposition.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 8, 2017 at 4:54 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Haha… they look like they are waiting for the ferry to come in, or perhaps a fishing boat. Just need a suitcase each.

    Heyjude

    April 8, 2017 at 5:14 AM

  2. Quite a crowd- they obviously enjoy this spot. Fascinating to learn about these birds, so different yet similar to our Cormorants…. an entirely new bird for me.

    Birder's Journey

    April 8, 2017 at 8:50 AM

  3. That’s quite a convening. I know you referred to it as colony, but somehow I thought “gaggle.” Who knows how folks choose the names for such things, anyway? I looked it up and found a couple references, including one from a book called “Vane Pursuit,” which had the line “How long do you think Wedgewood Munce is goin’ to leave us perched out here like a gaggle o’ shags?”

    Susan Scheid

    April 8, 2017 at 9:36 PM

    • Thanks for that vocabulary find, which proves that your “Vane Research” wasn’t in vain. It never occurred to me to wonder about the group name for these birds. As for convening, when witches do it we call the group a coven, even though they probably don’t convene in Covent Garden.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 8, 2017 at 9:45 PM

  4. Hey Steve .. amazing! I must show Andrew this .. I had no idea!

    Julie@frogpondfarm

    April 8, 2017 at 10:38 PM

    • Neither did we. We’d parked the car and were walking to the place where the penguins come ashore when we passed this pier covered with birds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2017 at 7:14 AM

  5. I would imagine some of the opposition to refurbishing would come from the shags. They are obviously very happy with the current set up.

    Gallivanta

    April 9, 2017 at 5:43 AM

    • Do the shags get to vote at the Otago District Council?

      Seriously, it’s a quandary. According to the article:

      “It’s one of those situations, at some stage, either we do something about the wharf or it will just fall into the water,” Mr Kircher said. “And that will compromise the colony anyway.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2017 at 7:21 AM

      • Perhaps the council will have to build a temporary platform for them, entice them over, and then repair the old wharf.

        Gallivanta

        April 9, 2017 at 7:46 AM

        • That’s the same thought I had. I wondered, though, whether the noise and movement of machines involved in the construction of a another platform would permanently scare the birds away. Also, how would you entice hundreds of shags to make the move?

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 9, 2017 at 8:05 AM

          • A floating pontoon might work but I don’t know what one does to entice a shag.

            Gallivanta

            April 9, 2017 at 9:25 AM

            • We’re on the same wavelength again. I’d thought about a pontoon but also wondered how to entice a colony of shags to move.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 9, 2017 at 9:37 AM

  6. I very much like the way the sunlight is touching the end of the pier and the faraway hills (or sand dunes?) The shags arrayed along the pier look like some of the micro shots of moss I’ve seen, with all those little stalks sticking up into the air. They’re so evenly distributed, and look so very much like the same sort of living covering as moss on a rock.

    shoreacres

    April 9, 2017 at 7:37 AM

    • Shags as moss: I wonder if anyone else has ever seen them in that imaginative way. I saw my share of mosses in NZ but never made the connection that you did.

      We arrived near sundown, so the nearer part of the pier was already partly shadowed. I don’t know if the land in the distance was dunes or just land; we never went over there, and I’m not sure there was a way to even if we’d wanted to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 9, 2017 at 9:32 AM


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