Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Thrills & Spills of Phillip Island

My Sonofagun No.2 loves penguins.

He loves penguins as much as I love crochet. And chocolate. And the sound of my own voice. But that's irrelevant.

A couple of months ago he made this statement:

"Mumazona. I haven't seen a real life penguin in YEARS. I need to see one soon."

This isn't quite true as I'm sure he's seen one in a zoo sometime in the past year but as school holidays were coming up, I thought we were long overdue for another trip to Phillip Island.

Phillip Island is only 2 hours from Melbourne and is home to colonies of Australian Little Penguins (aka Fairy Penguins), Swamp Wallabies, Seals, Cape Baron Geese, Koalas and loads of wonderful wildlife.

Every night of the year (except maybe Xmas), you can attend a wonderful event called the Penguin Parade.

Just after dusk every night, the penguins who have been out at sea fishing come into a particular beach.

And you can watch them as they parade up the beach, and into their natural nesting area.

It is very special!

We went about 3 years ago and I always wanted to go back. Not just for the Penguin Parade, but because Phillip Island is such a beautiful place. There is several small villages (I would think of them more as suburbs but probably not the right description) on the island as well as farming land and loads of wildlife sanctuaries.

On the last trip we made the obligatory stops at the Chocolate Factory and the Koala Sanctuary. This time we were just going to drive and walk around the town, enjoy the atmosphere and see the penguins.

Sonofagun No.1 opted to stay behind with the Bear. As far as he was concerned, sitting in the cold and dark was far less desirable than sitting at home with his laptop playing war games.

Sonofagun No.2 and I made the very easy drive down, and went straight through the town of Cowes down to the pier for beach walking and tidal rock pool investigating.

The weather was glorious! As we walked along the pier , there was a sign advising visitors about the local inhabitants.

And we spotted one just below!

We walked back and down onto the beach and rocks and looked at the amazing green algae stuff.

We carefully climbed around rock formations looking for crabs.


I was taking a photo of these mussels on the rocks when Sonofagun tipped sideways into a rockpool.


I said something cranky like, "Oh seriously? Now your clothes are wet!!" when he stood up, and a single drip of blood made it's way down his forehead to drip on his shirt.

He started screaming over and over:

MY BRAINS ARE DRIPPING OUT!!!
MY BRAINS ARE DRIPPIIIINNNNNGGGGGG!!!!!

I quickly pulled his shirt off and after checking his head to make sure that a) his brains weren't dripping out and b) the size of the wound was small enough for me to take him to a medical centre and not scream bloody murder for someone to call the ambos, I bundled the shirt up and held it to his head.

Then simultaneously reassured him his brains were not in fact dripping out, carried him up to the car and googled on my phone for the nearest medical centre.

To keep SOG amused, we played Pokémon Go in the medical centre. I found it amusing there was a Koffing... (PokeHunter joke)
It was only a kilometre up the road and after 2 hours, during which Sonofagun No.2 was checked for concussion, given 3 stitches to hold his brains in and looked after by the very lovely doctor and nurse, we headed to the motel to check in, rest and get ready for the Penguin Parade.

The Penguin Parade phone app told me to be there an hour before penguin time.  That gave us loads of time to get a good carpark, get through the ticket gate, grab a coffee, admire the stuffed penguin display and proceed to spoil my poor injured Sonofagun with all the penguiniest penguin things from the gift shop.

Have you seen Sonofaguns penguin collection?  He has about 18-20 toy penguins. I keep losing track. He has extra special favourite called Baby Penguin. Actually 6 of them are called Baby Penguin. The others have random names like Fluff, Fluffy, Big Fluff, Squishy and Dit. But when anyone talks about Baby Penguin, we all know we are talking about THAT Baby Penguin.

This is not all of his penguins. THE Baby Penguin is the very well loved little fellow in the front row, 3rd from the left. On the left is his favourite penguin blanket.

So we bought another penguin at the Phillip Island Penguin Parade gift shop. This penguin was appropriately named Phillip. Phillip was one of the penguins which has a special penguin jacket.

Meet Phillip!
When the penguin wildlife rangers find penguins who are sick or injured or have been in an oil spill, they are nursed back to health wearing a warm woolen crocheted or knitted jacket.

Thousands of caring people all around the world make these gorgeous little jackets for sick penguins and send them to Phillip Island. The only problem is now they have tens of thousands of excess jackets. SO many that the Phillip Island Penguin Centre now sell these beautiful toy penguins wearing a selection of the jackets. They add a few extra dollars to the price and those funds go directly to Penguin Conservation projects.

Phillips jacket had this cute little Finnish flag sewn on. When we went to pay for him, the shop assistant told us a package of hand knitted penguin jackets arrived from a lovely lady all the way in Finland, all with different Finnish Flags or the word 'Suomi' (Finland) on them.

Sorry for the blurry photo. Just as I took this, I broke the coffee table I was sitting on. Yes I really did. Then my phone refused to take anymore photos because the battery was dying. And I was too lazy to charge it and take another. I am that type of slack blogger.
Before heading outside to the boardwalk, we peaked into some of the nest displays at the edge of the Penguin centre. All nesting boxes had access to outside.


Apologies for the glarey picture. It was taken through a clear plastic window into the nesting box of one of the penguins. And it's sitting on eggs!
We then headed out to the boardwalk. There is a system of boardwalks towards the Penguin Grandstand that go through the penguins natural nesting sites. You can see lots of other animals hanging out such as swamp wallabies...



Occasionally you can hear the soft 'duk- duk' of a penguin left behind to guard the nest, but they don't come out until after dusk.



We got a great seat in the middle of the grandstand and pulled out our warm blankets. 


Then a ranger came up and said because it appeared we had thick warm blankets, would we like to come all the way down the front onto the sand? 


Absolutely!! The sand was damp so we were able to sit on our thickest blanket right at the very front of the rope line.

One last gratuitous sneaker photo before all cameras had to be put away. See the rope line above my shoes?

When the first group of Australian Little Penguins wandered up from the choppy surf, just after sundown, one of them broke away from the group and walked right up under the rope line to peck Sonofaguns shoe with his little beak. He was very still and quiet so as not to scare the little penguin off, and exhaled a huge super happy sigh when it wandered back to join his buddies to follow the well worn penguin paths up into the bushland behind the seats.

 

These two images are courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks

www.penguins.org.au







After half an hour of watching groups of penguins come up the beach, we climbed the steps up the stands to go up to the boardwalk area. This is a system of wooden bridge pathways that wind through the penguins natural nesting habitat to the Penguin Centre. It was dark, but there are plenty of dim lights to see the Little Penguins waddling back to their nests and everywhere you can hear the 'Duk duk' sounds they make.
One of the penguins finding their nest around the penguin centre.
The whole area from the beach, through the boardwalk, around the Penguin Visitors Centre to past the carpark is the penguins natural nesting area. So check under your cars as you leave!!
The next morning Sonofagun No.2 said, "I'm NEVER going to Cowes again. That's where I had my head injury!"
"Rubbish" I replied. I very much wanted to visit a cute little church craft market before we headed home and wasn't letting a 7 year olds case of PTSD get in the way of my selfish need to browse...

I love markets. Especially markets with the most amazing tea cosies!!


And markets that are close to funky coffee shops with random old furniture and board games!!!


And markets that are sort of, but not quite close to antique shops!!!!!

It's a very laid back atmosphere on the island...



I would have LOVED to have bought this!!!
All of the vintage clothing- SIGH!!!

 
And then at the gentle, constant nagging of Sonofagun No.2 ("when are we going home? when are we leaving? Are we going yet? why do we have to look in ANOTHER shop? I'm bored, I wanna go home. Muuuuu-uuuuum, the car's THAT way! Srsly mum!"), we headed across the bridge to the mainland and back to Melbourne.
 


But the penguin lurve didn't end there.

On the 4th of October, the Blonde Bombshell sent me one of those Facebook Iphone Memories thingos of a photo taken 3 years previously.


It was taken the day we bought Baby Penguin for SOG No.2 at the Melbourne Zoo.

So we decided that night to surprise both BP and SOG2 with a Penguin Party.

With Black Forest Cake.
Baby Penguin (on the right with the gold hat) was extremely chuffed we FINALLY remembered his birthday.


xox
Louise
The Red Haired Amazona

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