Animals Birds Pauatahanui Reflections

June 30, 2013 … better luck this time

The pendulum swung again.

Yesterday was just perfect out at Pauatahanui, though the bird life was a bit sparse.  I seem to keep finding kingfishers perched on weirdly shaped perches to make symmetrical reflections.  This was as  close as I got to a kingfisher yesterday.

Kingfisher and its alter ego
I love it when the great expanse of the harbour is so still

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my time out in the reeds on the edge of the harbour. I was kept company by numerous chaffinches finding food among the shells and other detritus of the storm.

female chaffinch
These were numerous

Another thing that you don’t expect to see when out shooting bird images is a horse cantering through the still water.

Horse and rider at speed
The young woman rode out a fair way and then cantered back.

My final shot of the day was another of those pied stilts among the reeds.

Pied stilt browsing
Those reeds are a marvellous colour

That’s my lot for the day.


adversity Cook Strait flowers Food

June 29, 2013 … good food and company

I had a good day yesterday, except with the camera.

Photographically speaking, yesterday is an embarrassment. On the other hand lunch with my youngest son at the local Belgian beer restaurant with a steaming pot of mosselen met mosterd en roqueford (mussels steamed in a Dijon mustard and blue cheese cream) and a foaming glass of the Belgian Leffe Blond was great.  I felt virtuous in sending the delicious frites met mayonaise away mostly untouched.   I enjoy being in the company of each and every one of my kids, though sadly, geography intervenes most of the time.

On the way to the Restaurant, Anthony and I went around the South coast and enjoyed the distant vista of the snow-capped Kaikoura ranges across the turbulent Cook Strait.

Across the strait
Those peaks are over 120 km away

By way of attempting to fill the void, I attempted a macro shot of a miniature kowhai blossom (Sophora prostrata).

Miniature kowhai
The larger trees in the Sophora family bloom in August and September

As I indicated, I am not pleased with the day’s shots, but my blushes are eased by the certainty that I got some better ones today.

adversity Cook Strait harbour mountains South Coast Weather Wellington

June 28, 2013 … seasonal lows

Winter is with us, though the worst may be yet to come.

Colour images are irretrievably grey. However, I like the challenge of trying to capture the chill, the bleakness, and the beauty that still shines through.

Oriental Bay is relatively sheltered in a Southerly. Not so much yet it can still be a place of considerable misery as the temperature drops and the wind rises. Yesterday the wind seemed to be all over the place. The Carter memorial fountain shuts down automatically if the wind is such that the salt water plume blows back onto the road. It had not yet reached that stage.

The Carter Fountain, Oriental Bay
On a calm day, the plume falls back on the plinth. There are such days

In Breaker Bay looking Southward to the open sea, there was a nice contrast between the deep green sea, and the red rocks on the nearby shore. A partial rainbow against a thunder-dark sky adds to the atmosphere. Those are the two Pencarrow lights on the other side, with Baring head hidden in the murk beyond.

Rainbow and heavy weather
Rainbows usually signify better things to come

Near Moa point there was a view across to the high peaks of the Inland and the Seaward Kaikouras.  Despite the snow, it fails to convey the deep chill in the air.

Distant snow-capped peaks
The Kaikouras across the Strait

Having enjoyed an excellent “steak and cheese” pie for lunch  from the amazing and highly recommended “Trisha’s Pies” in Kilbirnie, I decided a siesta was appropriate so drove to the end of the road at Owhiro Bay and snoozed in front of the cascading green rollers.

Relentless pounding waves
Owhiro Bay

On my way home after my nap, I noticed a man in  fluorescent jacket out on the rocks near Island Bay. I was not entirely sure he was in a secure place , and have no idea what he was gathering. I hope he survived.

Risky harvest
That fluorescent jacket would not help much except for recovery

More cold weather ahead


Art Birds Pauatahanui Reflections

June 27, 2013 … bright, bright sunshiny day*

It seems to have ended now, but yesterday was another of those perfect crystal days.

My friend Adam sent me a text to alert me to the flat calm state of the Pauatahanui inlet with the added attraction of mist in the early morning sun. As soon as breakfast was one, I was off, and as I drove onto Motukaraka road, the first thing I saw was an Australasian harrier hawk (Circus approximans) perched on a bush at the water’s edge.

This is the largest, and probably the most numerous of our raptors. I suspect the main source of its food these days is road kill which may explain why so many of them fall victim to the same fate. Anyway, they are shy, and it is hard to get them to stand still.

Australian harrier hawk knows that someone is watching
Within a second it will be airborne

Screeching to a halt, I grabbed the camera with the long lens, and pointed at this beautiful bird. I swear that the birds can hear the ultrasonic mechanism of the autofocus, because a millisecond after I did that “half-press” it was off. I got just one shot of it sitting and the rest were of its rapid departure.

The hawk departs
We have no eagles, vultures or condors. Apart from the albatross and giant petrel this is amongst our largest birds

Magical mirror reflections were everywhere. Gumboots on, I walked out onto the very stick mudflats and enjoyed the misty view back up towards Moonshine Valley.

Misty hillside near Pauatahanui
This is within a kilometre of very dense housing

In the hope of close kingfisher encounters, I set up my hide on the edge of the water, but forgot about the incoming tide, so had to relocate. The kingfishers’ normal pattern seems to have been disrupted, and I speculate that the disturbances in the harbour caused by the storm may have diminished the crab supply.  One kingfisher posed briefly, but everything else was at a distance.

Isn't it a handsome bird
I think the kingfisher was out of luck with its crab fishing

However, the bright sun took the chill of the air, despite the recently departed frost.

This is the same tree as the one the kingfisher was sitting on above
It was a really still day

The water was reflecting nicely, and the driftwood branches favoured by the birds were themselves the subject of my attention.

Nature makes its own art works
Perhaps I should rotate this through 90 degrees

The colourful houses across the inlet in Whitby were creating interesting reflections and I was put in mind of the great Dutch painter, Piet Mondrian.

Kingfishers on the branch, unaware of the colour below them
De Stijl? (Google is your friend)

But now the weather has broken.

*I can see clearly now by Johnny Nash

Birds harbour Light Pauatahanui

June 26, 2013 … off to a good start

And still the glittering days continue.

I am under no illusion that it will last forever. Greyness with wind and rain will return,  but for now these bright brittle days are just beautiful. Since I had made a mess of capturing the supermoon’s rising the previous day, I decided a moonset would compensate.  However, the problem was that the moon was not yet ready for bed, while I was not sure I wanted to get up. After morning ablutions and a little more awake, I looked to see what was happening on the other side of the house. Though it was clear in the West, the sky was a little cloudy, and the imminent arrival of the sun was setting off some fireworks in the clouds.

Morning glory
Anticipating the new day. The clouds disappeared

On the Western side of the house the moon was finally ready to depart and I am reasonably pleased wit this shot as it prepares to make its exit.

Moonset over Maungaraki
No cloud in the Western sky

My brother-in-law was briefly in town, so with Mary, we went to lunch at Soi near Greta Point. It was a very pleasant lunch and while Mary and her brother were catching up on matters of mutual interest, I was allowed out to roam the vicinity. As I said, it was a beautiful day, though very chilly.  The water in Evans Bay was just perfect, though debris from the weekend’s storm was everywhere in evidence.

Soi restaurant, Evans Bay
It was a very nice lunch

Afterwards, Mary and I went home via Pauatahanui where I looked for birds while Mary went for a walk. Though I took pictures of a kingfisher in flight and a song thrush just hanging about, she had better luck than I in finding a small flock of banded dotterels.

Kingfisher in flight
Most kingfishers appear blue. This one seems much more green

I took a picture but they were so far out across the mud that it is not suitable for anything but identification purposes.  What the heck, I’ll show it anyway.

Banded dotterels
Photo for identification purposes only

See you tomorrow.

adversity Birds Hutt River Lower Hutt Maritime Moon Petone

June 25, 2013 … a mixture of good and bad

The golden interlude continues.

My morning began, and why not, at the Pauatahanui inlet. I don’t know whether the storm has disturbed the normal food supplies but there were far fewer birds than usual. However, it was a beautiful morning to sit on my folding chair at the water’s edge and contemplate life, and to be grateful.  The colours of the day, and the calmness of the harbour deserved to be celebrated.

Colours of the day
Reeds at Pauatahanui

Hikoikoi was likewise attracting fewer birds than usual, but given the chaos caused by the recent storm, perhaps that is not surprising. My first image in this location, is of two small workboats put in difficult positions by the wind. The nearer boat was blown from the ramp in the foreground, and presumably while surging about in the storm had all its windows smashed by other floating objects.  Apart from being firmly aground the rear boat seems relatively undamaged.

Colours of the day
The boat in the foreground is the one on which George, the white heron, usually perches

The second image looks down the pathway to the sea wall and in the foreground you can see the tangled heaps of rubbish left by the storm.

The mess after the storm
This will take some cleaning

My final picture today was taken from my front door, looking down on the Hutt Valley as the moonrise begins. The green patch in the lower foreground is the soccer pitch at Te Whiti Park on the far side of the valley. It is at the foot of the Eastern hills and the moon is just showing above their tops.

A very chilly night

More tomorrow.


Architecture Birds harbour Moon Music night Wellington

June 24, 2013 … a different aspect

You may recall that we recently had a significant storm.

Well halfway through this movie, someone must have switched reels, and suddenly we have calm sunny weather. If there is food around, the birds don’t care, one way or the other. And with Mary around, the birds are always going to get fed!

Waxeye looking "cute"
Actually, I think they look the same, whether cute or angry.

This little waxeye is perched in a macrocarpa tree that was once our family Christmas tree, and is waiting for a vacancy on the feeder.

I am always intrigued by the way that the waxeye can look cute, or angry, and yet nothing changes. It’s pretty hard to make a beak “smile”.

In the afternoon, Mary and I went to a concert of Gregorian chant put on by the very talented choir of the church of St Mary of the Angles in Boulcott Street. From my first exposure to Wellington in the mid sixties, that church has always had a superb choir. Of course back then, Maxwell Fernie was the choirmaster and he was a musical giant. The current choirmaster is a former professor of music at Victoria University, and despite the very small size of the choir now, he too, manages to coax a wonderful sound.

St Mary of the Angels
The Junior choir is rehearsing at the front

The building itself contributes to this. It is a ferro-cement building in the Gothic style, built to the design of Frederic de Jersey Clere and opened in 1922. At present it is subject to severe warnings about its ability to resist earthquakes.  It has a warm wooden charm inside and provides a pleasant contrast to the larger blocks in the neighbourhood.

Unlikely neighbours
The Majestic Centre is one of the largest high-rise buildings in Wellington

After the concert, Mary and I went up to the Mt Victoria lookout in hopes of getting a good shot of the “supermoon” rising. As we waited in the clear chilly evening, I took some shots of the view from the top and in particular, of the sunset over the city.

The sun has gone
I love our city and harbour

The moon rose, and I took a few shots but somehow the settings are all wrong.

Supermoon arising over the Eastern hills
I shall keep trying over the next day or so

On the way home we paused at the bottom of the hill, and I couldn’t help but be astonished that this is the same place from which just two days earlier, I had photographed the tug struggling to hold the ferry against the screaming wind.

Can this really be the same city?
Winds of up to 200 km/h just two days ago.

Enough for today.

adversity harbour Hutt River Weather

June 23, 2013 … close to the edge

I came perilously close to the edge, yesterday.

The edge of having no photographs, that is. With no power for almost the entire day, I spent time in other places plugged into borrowed power.  I was uploading and editing my storm shots. Then, as the day came to a close, it occurred to me that I had yet to make any images for the day.

Panic stricken, with the light dying, I went down to Hikoikoi to see whether I could make an image of what had befallen the boat sheds and the places where our herons and kingfishers often come.

Travelling along Marine Parade towards the boatsheds, it was apparent to me that some damage had occurred. Though they were only pine trees, they were old, and a well established part of the landscape. Most of the big pines along the seaward side of the road, next to the sports field, were down. People had been busy with chain saws and they were being split into firewood and carted off as I passed. As I understand it, all of that land is part of a treaty settlement, so I hope the people taking the wood were the owners


Beside the boatsheds, in the little bay inside the breakwater where our friend George, the white heron often visits, there was chaos. The boatsheds themselves seemed to have survived, but the last light revealed a mess of piled up rubbish and some sunken or grounded boats.


The semi-submerged boat above is the one on which George loved to perch. He will be disappointed when he returns. I hope it can be restored.

The good news is that when I got home there was light and warmth. Food was cooking. Excellent.

adversity harbour Maritime South Coast Weather Wellington

June 22, 2013 … the morning after the night before

And then the storm hit.

How it blew. I mentioned the wind speed and the power cut in the previous day’s blog, so I needn’t dwell on them here. The morning after, I had to go into town to provide transport for a friend who had been in hospital. Since all trains were cancelled (the sea had carved a significant hole in the ground under the tracks), all ferries were cancelled, no planes were flying, the conditions were always going to be interesting.

Since my path took me past Petone railway station I took the first four passengers in the line for the buses and dropped them in the city. I think they were just happy to be out of the chill wind.

Out in the harbour, the ferry Kaitaki had broken its moorings the previous night, and the tug Toia had spent a very long night helping it stay in the open water of the harbour and not bump into things.  As dawn broke it was still on duty and still pulling.  You may get a sense of the vicious wind from the spray even in the comparative clam of the inner harbour. This was taken from Oriental Bay.

The Kaitaki is kept under control by the Toia
This battle lasted through the night

The road around the coast was in a  mess. Very little asphalt as visible, and there was a lumpy layer of sand everywhere, and the odd lumps of driftwood. Roadside signs mounted on solid steel pipers were flattened to the ground. Trees were uprooted, and small buildings were demolished.

Waves breaking onto the runway
That thing in the foreground is a “Moai” … a miniature version of the Easter Island statues.

In Lyall Bay, I looked across to the seawall at the end of the airport and you can see the big swells hurling themselves a hundred metres or more down the runway. It’s as well that no planes were flying.

Hurled back by the sea-wall
The power of these waves was stunning

From the Moa Point side, you can see a closer view of the thunderous clash of big seas with solid rock. That dark rock in the left  of the image is the top of the seawall at runway level.

Houghton Bay
The storm is well past its peak, but still dangerous

Near Houghton Bay. The swells had diminished from their recorded peak of 15 metres, but were still very large and carrying a lot of power.

Small yacht at anchor
The shelter is a relative thing

Around in Island bay, a small yacht had taken shelter inside the protection of Tapu Teranga Island but in a sea of this state the poor wee thing was having a rough time. However, she seemed securely anchored and despite the gyrations, she stayed put, more or less.

More aftermath tomorrow.





harbour Lower Hutt Weather Wellington

June 21, 2013 … before the storm (delayed post)

A few days ago I suggested that things could turn nasty.

They did. Wind gusts overnight are reported at 200 km/h on Mt Kaukau. I sincerely hope that no-one was silly enough to be up there measuring it, and that it was an automated reading.

Our lights flickered at around 7:30 as the wind began howling around the house. We gathered candles and flashlights and sure enough, about twenty minutes later we were plunged into darkness. Our emergency resources were pressed into service. Happily, we have reticulated gas for heating, cooking and hot water, so unless the house failed, we would be comfortable.

Listening to the house shuddering in the wind through the night was not conducive to restful sleep but we are still here this morning. The electricity has yet to be restored some forty hours later, but that is impacting about 8,000 households. Having been out and about, and seen the conditions in which the linemen are working, I find it hard to be too critical. On the other hand, I had not finished processing yesterday’s images and since the initial capture is stored on a USB drive that requires mains power, I can’t edit them or put them in my active archive on the laptop. Thus, this issue may be published later than I would like.

Yesterday’s wandering took place in the certain knowledge of the approaching storm, and though the weather ahead of it was unpleasant, the main front had yet to arrive. I got images of the weather from Day’s Bay. Bleak isn’t it?

Eastbourne from Lowry Bay
signs of worse to come

It was no better from the road leading up to Korokoro where a bunch of commuters could be seen down below.

A long slow commute
Can you hear their wipers slapping back and forth?

There was a  certain mysterious appeal to Matiu/Somes Island, though it looked cold and miserable.

Matiu/Somes Island
What a place to be marooned

And finally, from the Maungaraki water tower lookout, the swirling mist made the Belmont regional park look interesting.

North from Maungaraki
Wet, wet, wet!

Tomorrow’s blog: the storm.