Birds Lower Hutt Pauatahanui

May 31, 2013 … magic morning moments

There are some diems that just have to be carped.

Yes, I know, I did Latin in school too, and that is a travesty … but despite the list of incomplete tasks at home, yesterday morning had to be seized.

On the way to Pauatahanui, the misty outlines of the hills to the North looked attractive, so I pulled off onto a side road and set up this shot while trying not to get squashed by concrete trucks or quarry traffic. The Hutt River is just on the other side of those trees, and Taita is on the other side beyond that.

Looking North up SH2 towards the Tararuas
Morning mist softens the view

At the beginning of Gray’s Rd, the ponds at the wildlife reserve were picture perfect. A few pied stilts were wandering about and against the background of the reeds they were irresistible.  I would be quite pleased with this image, except that I discovered afterwards that I had inadvertently left the camera set on 4000 ISO for some low-light activity, and as a result I have a low resolution image. I could kick myself, though I am not that flexible these days. I must make myself a check-list to run through before any shoot.

Pied stilt and reflection
I hope the reeds compensate for the low technical quality

Low tide is a mixed blessing for birds. Though it brings the waders out, they tend to be far away from the firm ground. The mud in the inlet is very sticky and offers no possibility of concealment so I shall probably start looking to different parts of the tide cycle. Nevertheless the kingfishers did make themselves available.

Kingfisher in flight
These birds are reputed to achieve 45 km/h

After packing up to come home, I was driving around the point when I spotted these two (and their neighbour). The mildly comic situation appealed, so here they are.

Friends and neighbours
I am not sure if people still use the term “gooseberry”

A more mixed day ahead.

Birds Landscapes Machinery

May 30, 2013 … the day after the wintry blast

Yesterday, and for that matter, today have been brilliant, weather-wise.

Across the valley, the first thing that caught my eye was the season’s first dusting of snow on the Eastern hills. It was even more stark and white in the North on the Tararuas, but the sun was shining, the forecast was for weather getting better as the day went on.

First snow of the season
Looking across the city of Lower Hutt to the Eastern Hills

Lunch in the city was scheduled, so I went to Oriental Bay. There, I found that the beach was closed for the regular seasonal redistribution of sand. This beach is artificial and if nature were left to itself, the sand would all wash out into the harbour. Most of the sand was excavated from Golden Bay and is periodically augmented and redistributed. If nothing else, it is a heartening promise that there will be another summer.

Redistributing the sand at Oriental bay
Summer will come again

As the digger was carrying great bucketloads of sand, the Carter Fountain in Oriental Bay was playing. As the image shows, there was a North West breeze shifting the water across the bay.

Sand and sea
It was a lovely day

After lunch, I went up the main road to Plimmerton and then along Gray’s Rd to the kingfisher haunts. I am sure they are gathering in greater numbers than I have ever seen before. I am accustomed to thinking of them as solitary birds that hunt alone. This is definitely not the case at Pauatahanui where as many as eight birds gather at one time and place.

Cluster of kingfishers
These are beautiful birds and skilful fishers

Interestingly, the same is true of bird photographers. Usually it is a solitary occupation, but there were three of us there yesterday. We were all astonished to see a pair of tui attack and vigorously pursue the kingfishers. However, the smaller birds just took a circle route and came back to where the chase started.

This guy was probably feeling quite smug having circled around behind an aggressive tui
The tree is a favourite launch site when the tide is high

It was a good day.

adversity Day's Bay Weather

May 29, 2013 … lowering the spirits

Make no mistake, I love Wellington.

On the other hand, I think the MetService (our weather people) need a new measure for Winter weather in Wellington. I propose the establishment of the Mf (misery factor) which would be a measure of the impact of the weather on the more normal state of happiness and wellbeing which comes from living in Wellington. Let’s designate that as  a Mf 1.0 day. Total misery is Mf 0.0

Winters here rarely fall below 0°C, but cold grey days with rain, and wind gusting around 80 km/h have an impact on the soul. I recall when I first told my then colleagues in Auckland that I was moving to Wellington, they shuddered. One of them remembered the special misery of struggling up the Terrace into the teeth of a rain laden Southerly Gale.

Of course, we Wellingtonians know that the good days far outweigh the bad, so we stay here and keep our secret.  I have to say that yesterday was a downer. At best, I estimate that yesterday might have reached Mf 0.35 (approximately 35% of total satisfaction with the weather).

Day's Bay
A bleak cold wet day at a popular beach and park

My first image from yesterday would have been impossible later in the day. I was on the hill looking down on Day’s Bay. Any fans of Katherine Mansfield (I am not one) should think “At the Bay”. The buses in the foreground are the school buses waiting for the pupils from nearby Wellesley College.  At the wharf, the very one on which Mansfield alighted from the old steamer “Cobar”, the Day’s bay ferry is preparing for its next voyage to the city. I expect it would have been very lumpy out there, and later in the day the ferries were replaced by a shuttle bus taking passengers around the long way.

Even that became impossible in the evening, as a “King tide” brought waves crashing over the road and roadblocks  prevented people going to or from Eastbourne until the tide receded, and the City workers could clean the road. Some fellow members of the camera club were unable to attend our meeting last night because they were turned back at the roadblock.

Japanese maple
Autumn colours

Knowing that few outside subjects were possible yesterday, I paused for a grab shot of the little Japanese Maple in front of the house.  Then the heavens opened and a short but vicious hail storm drove me inside.

Short sharp hail storm
It was very cold

My last image is an indication of how low the weather took me.


Birds Cook Strait Hutt River Maritime mountains Petone

May 28, 2013 … if a fish falls in love with a bird, where will they make their nest?*

Wild weather is upon us.

Since it was still quite reasonable yesterday, I went prowling in search of images, and just followed my nose.

On the South coast, near Moa Point, I could see the Arahura about halfway across the Strait, heading for Tory Channel. It had already passed the high peaks of the Kaikoura ranges, so I had to settle for lesser mountains. On the other hand, a light dusting of snow  made them quite imposing.

The Arahura with the Seaward Kaikouras in the background
Plain sailing

I carried on around the bays, through Seatoun heading towards the lure of good coffee and perhaps a scone at the “Scorch-o-rama” café in Scorching bay.  At this stage, the weather was still coming in from the North, and the grey skies and red rocks appealed to me.

From Scorching bay towards the Hutt Valley
Grey skies

After my excellent coffee I went back to the valley and, since the tide was low, checked in to see if “George” was in residence at the Hutt Estuary. He was, as was his regular companion, the white-faced heron who I shall hereafter call “Harriet”.

George the white heron with Harriet the white-faced heron
The odd couple

If this is love, it is biologically doomed to fail, but they are often together. Then to my amusement, George picked his way delicately up onto the breakwater and began experimenting with various sticks and branches. I almost believe he was considering setting up house.

George the builder
“Can we fix it?”

Harriet just sat there, shoulders hunched, and took no part in the building.

* A half remembered quote from the movie Corinna Corinna, starring Whoopi Goldberg

Makara Weather

May 27, 2013 … out in the fresh air

Local scenery is good.

I just have to work harder to see it in new ways. Yesterday I chose to explore the Ohariu Valley to the West of Wellington. I came in from the Johnsonville end , and instead of heading straight to Makara as I usually do, I turned right into the Ohariu Valley. That loathsome real estate marketing tag “lifestyle” was on full display here. Of course those of us who live in ordinary suburban dwellings have “lifestyles” too, though usually at a less luxurious level.

However, part way through the valley, I came to Boom Rock Rd and saw signs about construction traffic for something called the Mill Creek Wind Farm. This project is a collaboration between Meridian Energy and a number of local farm owners. According to the website for the project,

The landowners chose wind farming to support the ongoing viability of their farms. It will preserve the environment, lifestyle and rural character of the area better than other options such as major housing subdivision or forestry.”

Some neighbours are obviously sceptical about this and in a glorious mix of Julius Caesar and Scripture, a hand-lettered placard on one gate says “Et tu Brute. For thirty pieces of silver!” The project will add 26 turbines to the 62 already in place just up the road at Makara.

Wild landscape 3km from the city
Down Boom Rock Road

Down Boom Rock Road, I drove through some beautiful landscape, past the earthmovers preparing the site of the wind farm, until I reached private property.  From there comes my first image of the day. It is hard to believe that this is less than 3 km as the crow flies from suburban Wellington.

Then I resumed my journey,  travelling along the winding road through the Takarau Gorge towards Makara.   Pausing at one of the very few possible places where it is safe to park (a farm gate) I tried for a shot of the stream flowing prettily through the gorge. I might have another shot at this some other time.

The stream in Takarau Gorge
Near Makara

The turbines at the “West Wind” wind farm were in full production and spinning rapidly. However the diameter of those blades is such that, even at their maximum 44 rpm, they appear to be standing still at any normal shutter speed. My new secret weapon is a variable neutral density filter which limits the amount of light entering the lens. Thus, with the camera firmly on its tripod, and a shutter speed of half a second, I could make a long enough exposure as to see the blades in motion.

West Wind turbines catching the wind

Then, in compliance with  the immutable law of landscapes (look behind you) I turned around and looked to the North. That’s Makara in the bay down below. Mana Island straight ahead, with Kapiti Island beyond, and a wall of incoming dirty weather behind that. Most of our weather seems to make its presence felt from the South so I was interested to see this coming in from the North West.

West Wind turbines catching the wind
Looking to Mana and Kapiti

Strong winds from the South forecast for today. What will come next?

Architecture Manawatu Moon Tararuas Wairarapa

May 26, 2013 … road trip

We did a big round trip yesterday in search of some specific subjects.

I didn’t really find them, and will do the same trip again soon, with a better idea of where to look.  It is well known that I rarely see the sunrise, and it is even less likely that I will see the moonset, especially if it happens before the dawn. Yesterday I caught it, mainly because it was illuminating a bank of cloud flying in from the North behind the ridge at Maungaraki. The “star” just below the moon is a street lamp on Cypress Drive.

Moonset over Maungaraki
Those clouds were whizzing by

But, on with the road trip … we were on SH1 near Foxton when I saw this sad old lady decaying in a paddock. I confess to trespassing since there was no obvious dwelling or entry to the farm to ask permission.  As a young man, I thought the Rover 2000 was a beautiful car. And so it was in its heyday, back in the mid sixties. This old girl is past her best, though I imagine a dedicated restorer could salvage her.

Rover 2000 slowly returns to the earth
Sad end for a fine lady

Nearby, an old house was decaying at a glacial pace. The former occupier lived next door and he gave me permission to go in to the paddock to make some pictures. He was kind enough to suggest that without decent boots, I was going to get wet in the shin-high crops.  I put my boots on.

Decaying house near Foxton
The broken windows add to the pathos

As we neared Bulls, an aircraft flew overhead. My jaw dropped and I pulled to the side and grabbed my long lens at full stretch. A Grumman TBM Avenger! It did turn round and commenced an approach for runway 33 at RNZAF Ohakea.  There are very few still flying anywhere, and this would certainly be the only one in New Zealand.  The distance was too great for a good shot, but here it is anyway.

Grumman TBM Avenger landing at Ohakea
Just for the record …

From there, we went through Feilding and then along the back road to Ashhurst. This little town is one of those places which has a love/hate relationship with wind turbines and there seem to be hundreds of them nearby. The Te Apiti Wind farm adjacent to the town has 55 turbines, and they all seemed to be spinning well yesterday.

Looking down on Ashhurst from the road to Feilding
Some of the wind turbines are on that ridge in the background

From there, we chose the Pahiatua Saddle road which is very scenic, if somewhat narrow and twisting road. During the recent landslide-enforced closure of the Manawatu Gorge this normally quiet road carried thousands of heavy vehicles every day. We paused at the top, and looked out to the East where some welcome rain was drenching those hills.

Rain on the hills to the East of Pahiatua
It felt cold and bleak up there

Down at the bottom of the hill near Mangamaire  (South of Pahiatua, North of Ekatahuna) this old dairy factory (I think) was being repurposed as a storage shed for firewood and hay.

A deserted dairy factory
At the height of local dairying there were over 400 individual dairy factories in New Zealand

It was an interesting round trip which may bear fruit eventually.




adversity Birds Hutt River Pauatahanui

May 25, 2013 … everything in my favour is dead against me

Sometimes my technology works against me.

Instead of a mouse I use a Wacom Intuos 5 Touch tablet.  Its primary purpose is as an input device in graphics applications, but it can move the cursor and do all the things a mouse can, and much more. It is designed to use a stylus, but it can also respond to finger gestures, and it is all to easy to brush it with the fingers and produce unexpected results.  I managed to delete yesterday’s images, and it is only by virtue of some good backup procedures and a lot of rude language that I have now retrieved them.

Yesterday was not particularly productive, though I enjoyed an hour in my hide in the tranquillity of the Pauatahanui inlet.

In sunshine with no wind, Pauatahanui
This place has a tranquility all of its own

As I was packing up to leave, I saw this very handsome song thrush (Turdus philomelos).

Song thrush
The thrush is such a neat and tidy looking bird

Looking for something else entirely, I was on one of the side roads off the Judgeford valley when I found a small area of wetland with a cluster of pukeko or Swamp hen (Porphyrio porphyrio). I think that this bird has some of the biggest feet I have ever seen.

Huge feet

My final image from yesterday was at the Hutt river estuary where a man who had been out fishing in his dinghy was rowing steadily back to the dock.

Home is the sailor, home from sea
I loved the still green water

That’s it today. A totally different collection tomorrow.

Birds flowers Pauatahanui

May 24, 2013 … chill promise of Autumn

Autumn days can be a pain in the proverbial.

Yesterday certainly we nt that way. It was cool and damp, and of course there is more to come

We have opted for a low maintenance garden, so you should be seeing nothing but pebbles and driftwood in this first shot. Instead, there are plentiful weeds and autumn leaves from the Japanese Maple.

Cool damp Autumn day
Some weeding may happen eventually.

Later in the morning, Mary and I found ourselves near the Taita cemetery and again Autumn leaves were prominent, though I confess to a little fiddling to get the effect of movement … it was done in camera though.

Seasonal colours
The blur was introduced by zooming during a slow exposure

Later still, prowling around Pauatahanui Inlet at risk to life and limb, I saw this odd couple, the black swan and the Royal Spoonbill grazing, if not together, then at least in the same neighbourhood.

Improbable pair
They studiously ignored each other

Following the road round the other side I spotted this little inlet and liked the serpentine reflections.

Tidal mudflats
The weather was clearing

Still hoping for more inspired choices tomorrow

adversity Normandale Wellington

May 23, 2013 … desperate times

I throw myself on the mercy of the court.

For the first time in 506 issues of WYSIWYGPurple, I came close to having no image to share today. In fact, I submit these by way of a bare minimum compliance with my “photo a day” discipline. I shall put more time into it today, though the weather is bleak outside.

Maggie and Cooper were coming to our house after school, so I set out to walk up the hill to meet them. I had gone about 500 metres when the heavens just opened and really heavy rain mad life uncomfortable. I was trying desperately to keep the camera dry and looking for trees that might offer shelter. By the time I found a suitable tree, the rain stopped.

Looking South after the rain
Wet view

The youngsters came down the hill from school and as we walked back home we saw several rainbows. I was still wet, as were my glasses, so I just pointed in the right direction and pressed the shutter.

Looking East after the rain
I was a bit surprised to see two different rainbows 90 degrees apart

Later in the day, aware that I had done nothing useful with my camera, I had a close look at a mushroom. Now that is real desperation.

Macro mushroom
He was a fungi to be with

Maybe tomorrow will be more inspired.


Birds Landscapes Light Mangaroa Valley Whiteman's Valley

May 22, 2013 … landscapes and feather dusters

Landscapes were my intended target yesterday.

It was a beautiful day, even warm at times. Whiteman’s valley remains a challenge to me. It is a lovely pastoral setting that ought to yield great landscapes. I just don’t have that skill mastered, which is why I need to keep practising.

Pastoral scene in Whiteman's Valley
Landscapes need more practice

In the middle of the valley, I took this shot.  As is often the case, this image was looking in the opposite direction to the view that I first noticed. The cattle dominated my original view  and it lacked those lush green slopes in the background.

Vista near Mangaroa
Autumn lingers

Further up the valley to the North, near Mangaroa, this view from a high point looks Westward across the valley to the Eastern Hills of the Hutt Valley. I liked the clouds.

Fantail on toetoe
These tiny creatures will come quite close

Then I carried on to the Maymorn area and turned towards “the Plateau” reserve. As I drove across the bridge over a  creek, I was struck by the magical quality of the late afternoon light and by the wonderful site of fantails flitting about harvesting midges or other insects.

Fantail on toetoe - 2
This was taken in a creek with dark areas as the daylight was coming to an end

Like other insectivores such as the swallow, the fantail (Rhipidura fulginosa) is a true aerobat and can alter course mid-flight with no predictable pattern. My autofocus is pretty good, but not that good, especially in such tricky light as this, so most of my fantail shots are of the bird perched on the toetoe fronds.

Fantail in flight
They don’t fly, so much as flit erratically in pursuit of insects.

I did manage to catch one in-flight shot and am well pleased with it.

Today is wet and grey so I have no idea what I might find.