Our Big Blue Backyard travels from Northland to Stewart Island, exploring six very special marine environments and features the colourful and varied inhabitants as they interact in their unique locations. From the giant to the tiny and the acrobatic to the rock scrapers, the range and behaviours of these species in such close proximity is fascinating. There is plenty of action in these aquatic communities as the lives of these close neighbours weave together to reveal entertaining animal dramas.
It’s predator versus prey as surfing orcas travel the golden harbours of Northland; quality time with the big old snapper and crayfish of Goat Island; drama in the egg nurseries of the stunning Poor Knights Islands; a day out with the athletic Dusky Dolphins of Kaikoura; a fur-seal summer off New Zealand’s wild west coast and great white shark versus little blue penguins in the southern oasis of Stewart Island
From acclaimed documentary filmmakers NHNZ comes the latest blue-chip series Our Big Blue Backyard, as seen on TV One
As the tide rises in New Zealand’s Northland Harbours, Stingrays and Eagle rays swim in to feast on shellfish. But they are not the top of the food chain. Only in New Zealand, and only in these harbours do Orca hunt rays. Trapped in the shallows, the rays breach the surface and swim for their lives, as the Orca pursue – with a highly evolved practice for avoiding the rays’ stinging tail.
Just north of New Zealand’s biggest city, tens of thousands of fish school meters from the beach in one of the world’s first marine reserves. Inside the Goat Island Reserve giant snapper can live for eighty years and crayfish grow to weigh 8 kilos. Both feed on the thousands of sea urchins that graze the kelp forest, maintaining a delicately balanced ecosystem. Like many of the reserve’s inhabitants, they entrust their larvae to the ocean currents - so how do they find their way back to the reef when they take on their adult form and settle down?
The East Auckland current warms the waters around the world-renowned Poor Knights Islands, creating an astonishing environment. Caves and arches hold the only known congregation of stingrays which stack themselves between underwater walls. Demoiselles and Black Angelfish fathers protect their eggs with determination, and must keep a watchful eye on neighbors who will raid their nests in an instant! When disaster strikes and the male Sandagers Wrasse disappear, one of the harem of females undergoes a sex change to pick up the missing male’s responsibilities. On land, the Tuatara and Giant Weta fuel an ancient feud, while Gannets rest for their next attack.
Kaikoura shows the playful and perilous side of this neighborhood -- from rock pools to deep in the underwater canyon, to the Gull mothers who form an unlikely bond to protect their family unit.
It’s summer on New Zealand’s Open Bay Islands, and the local population swells. Wily octopus, foraging crayfish and darting penguins are joined by over 4,000 New Zealand fur seals. Masterful divers, they successfully straddle two distinct neighborhoods: beneath the waves, where they play and eat – and these rocky outcrops, where they’re born and mate. Mothers balance the demands of nursing pups, mating-keen males, and their own need to efficiently hunt and feed. Everyone here has new mouths to feed, including the scavenging Weka. Unable to fly nor swim, the species was introduced as food for sealers a century ago -- and has been marooned here ever since.
Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest and southernmost island, is a place of dramatic beauty and unpredictability. Here, the Pot-bellied Seahorse father has extra responsibilities, the Octopus is both hunter and hunted, and 82 Great White Sharks need to eat, too. Standing at just 30cm and weighting only 1 kg, the Little Blue Penguin is nonetheless a swift swimmer and a determined parent.