Two house-sits ago.
One house-sit ago.
Three diaper blow-outs ago.
Most recent dinner party - baked Alaska!
Four precious moments ago.
Last night after dinner Elias and I set out to look for penguins. We had heard of a colony of little penguins (Eudyptula minor) right here in suburban Hobart, on the Derwent estuary, and sure enough after a quick drive and a ten minute walk down a narrow track in the dark, holding hands and shining a red-filtered flashlight so we didn't trip over roots, we found it.
We only saw one penguin who happened to stumble into us on the track in the dark and went squawking into the undergrowth to escape. A local had told me to put red cellophane over our flashlight to reduce the impact of the light on the birds. But even with that precaution I didn't want to shine the light around the colony too much, and the brief stabs of light that I did allow myself revealed thick bushes that would make seeing any more penguins pretty unlikely.
But we could hear the penguins calling around us. We were in a little drainage above a tiny pocket of beach between the cliffs that dominate that part of the coastline, and all around us in the dark penguins were calling, sounding very much like common murres from the northern hemisphere and also very much like the dinosaurs that they are. So Elias and I just found a comfortable place to sit down and listen to them. He was very good about whispering so as not to disturb the birds, and though he was disappointed at not seeing any more, he was happy enough to sit there and listen to them, and now he can do a mean penguin imitation to boot.
We likely won't go back. Little penguins can be very tolerant of people at their colonies, but the population that nests in the Derwent is facing the same sort of pressures from urbanization that are slowly killing off the belugas and salmon of Cook Inlet in Alaska. So I figure that the local penguins have enough to worry about without being harassed by an ex-seabird biologist and his kid.
But what a moment that one visit was. It made me remember how exotic Tasmania really is to us. Sitting on the cool ground in an oceanside forest, moonlight shining down through the trees, surf breaking on the beach, the penguins calling out their lust from the bushes. And Elias whispering into my ear with his four-year-old's sweet voice: "Daddy, I'm smiling."