Birds Pauatahanui Sunset Wellington

August 31, 2013 … a variety of feathers

As foreshadowed in yesterday’s blog, the weather was dismal.

There was wind (no calm water) and periodic and quite heavy rain, and low temperatures. Nevertheless, I had to get out and about. Whenever I am in desperation mode (and sometimes when I am not) I go to Pauatahanui. Sometimes this is rewarding, sometimes not. All of today’s shots are from there.

The kingfisher looking for crabs
I suspect he is “stumped”

First, the ubiquitous kingfisher. I have not succeeded in a good diving shot for weeks, and even when this one left its perch, it was to move to a more distant perch, rather than to catch a crab.

White-faced heron
Low and slow

A white-faced heron passed overhead at an obligingly low altitude.

Chaffinch in a tree
I think the kingfishers would chase the impertinent chaffinch away

A chaffinch was sitting where the kingfishers often choose as their lookout, a sure sign of fewer than usual kingfishers.

The last light of the day
White-faced heron in silhouette

On the way out of Motukaraka point, I saw another white-faced heron, this time silhouetted against the reflected glitter of the setting sun.

That’s it for Winter. It’s spring tomorrow.

adversity Birds Pauatahanui Porirua Railway

August 30, 2013 … to seek without finding

Another case of the barrens.

Pied stilt browsing
They are pretty birds even when their surroundings are drab

I took shots but they were not what I hoped for. Pauatahanui provided me with a pied stilt and a white faced heron.

White-faced heron
This depressed looking bird was concentrating hard as it looked for food.

Up on Whitireia Park near the radio masts I found a skylark.

Skylark on Whitireia Park
They are plentiful in the park but much easier to catch on the ground than in the air

Back at ground level, I was coming around the Western side of the Porirua harbour when I noticed a train heading South. I confess to having always been something of a “train-spotter”. This one caught my eye because it was headed by four locomotives. There are parts of the world where this is commonplace. New Zealand however, has a narrow gauge railway system (3’-6” gauge) and the landscape forces it to follow some tight curves. This is not usually conducive to long heavy trains such as those in the US or Australia.

A multiple headed freight train
That’s a lot of horsepower

Tomorrow may not be much better as the weather today was atrocious.

adversity harbour Sport Sunset Weather

August 29, 2013 … it’s an ill wind

Wind is the biggest hazard for my preferred styles of photography.

A full-blown storm is fine. Flat calm is much better. However, those days when the wind is there, but in the 15 to 40 km/h range, are just unproductive for anything that involves the sea. It is hard to do much with water that is merely choppy.

Kite surfer near Seatoun
That’s the Eastbourne coast in the background

A kite surfer can sometimes rescue that situation. Yesterday I was at Seatoun near the Wahine memorial park when a solitary kite surfer shot past at a much higher speed than I could legally do in the car. He turned and came back.

Kite surfer
He was clearly making the best use of the slight breeze

As far as I can tell, he was the only person in Wellington who was enjoying the wind.

Stormy looking sunset
Those clouds were scudding along

With nothing else “in the can”, I was a bit desperate as the day was coming to an end, and grabbed this shot of a threatening Western sky from my back door.

See you tomorrow.


Architecture Landscapes Seasons Wainuiomata

August 28, 2013 … down on the farm

If you don’t do it when you first think of it, you may not get the chance later.

On at least two prior occasions, and maybe more, I have posted images of the picturesque old barn on the Wainuiomata coast road. None of the images posted were entirely satisfactory, by reason of light, or weather, or distracting elements nearby.  I knew that I needed to seek permission form the land owner and go back at a suitable time. By “suitable time” I mean on a day when the weather is suitable for the picture I have in mind, and during the “golden hour” at the beginning or end of the day. That was the plan.

The old barn has gone
An opportunity missed

With a  real sense of grief, I have to tell you that the opportunity is now lost forever. What a shock to drive past yesterday and see the old barn reduced to a pile of rubble.

Wainuiomata stream
Lots of greenery

Further down the Coast road, the late afternoon sun offered some nice opportunities. The Wainuiomata stream meanders down the valley gaining strength as it goes, and occasionally offering attractive views as it crosses to one side or the other.

Meanwhile, the seasonal change gathers momentum, and lambs were everywhere, even on the road in some places. I was impressed by the number of twins being produced.

Patient ewe
Most sheep in this paddock seemed to feeding twins

Down at the East harbour Regional Park,  the farm managers were mustering cattle from the comfort of their well equipped “ute” (US = light truck). The cattle stayed in the shade at the foot of the hills while the sheep with their lambs stayed in the sun.

Afternoon on the farm
Farming is not what it used to be

Alas the sun has disappeared now so I shall have to seek other sources of inspiration for a few days.

flowers Industrial Machinery Normandale

August 27, 2013 … the neighbourhood is “pumpin'”

Ours is a quiet neighbourhood.

My desk is at the back of the house, facing away from the road and it is rare for me to hear much external noise.  However, my neighbours are having lengthy and expensive landscaping work done.

Truck-mounted concrete pump
It’s amazing how far that hydraulic boom can reach

A small truck-mounted concrete pump made an appearance. Engineering of all sorts has always intrigued me so I was interested to see how it worked. It turns out  to be a peristaltic pump. A pair of hydraulically driven rollers squeeze the concrete through a heavy rubber hose inside that circular drum on its back deck below the folded boom. The same technology is used in surgeries where small peristaltic pumps can substitute for the heart during surgery.

Big truck, tight corner
He got round eventually, but not without making a mess of the grass on either side of the driveway

A much heavier diesel noise, and a lot of yelling was the next distraction. It seems that the truck  they sent to deliver the concrete was rather too big for the tight corner on the driveway, and its driver got somewhat tangled up trying to negotiate the steep tight bend.

With a lot of rude words and a few dozen short backing and filling manoeuvres the truck eventually made it to the delivery point.  The pump positioned its delivery hose onto the massive new stairway being poured, and delivery began. It took about 20 minutes for the required volume of concrete to pass through the pump and no wheelbarrows were required.

Concrete dribbles into the intake hopper on the pump
I was pleased to catch the swirling action of the auger throwing the wet concrete towards the pump inlet

I was somewhat housebound yesterday as I waited at home for a courier delivery that was in fact scheduled for today, not yesterday. I cast about somewhat desperately for topics of photographic interest. Our “garden” consists mostly of rockeries and shrubs, and Mary likes to collect interesting rocks and bits of driftwood. (I often enjoy the vision of some future archaeologist trying to figure out how a piece of this particular rock came to be in this place).

Weeds and rocks
I am no gardener

Down by the letterbox where I went four or five times checking without success for the expected delivery, I notice that a neighbour’s overgrown section was blessed with a beautiful magnolia. Despite having done a couple of magnolias recently, I thought this was worth looking at.

This magnolia is tucked away in a hidden corner
Unless you went looking for it, it flowers in hidden splendour

I hope to go further today for a better selection tomorrow.

Birds Landscapes Light Lower Hutt Zealandia

August 26, 2013 … a very splendid day in the park

Yesterday was special.

Misty morning in the valley
What do they do in Upper Hutt to generate all that mist?

Out in the valley, there was some morning mist flowing down from Upper Hutt to create an ink-wash effect. The forecast, however was for mainly fine weather.

Mary and I had decided the previous day to visit “Zealandia”  formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. We followed the path down to the wetlands beside the lower dam, and were fortunate to see some net building in progress. A pair of pied shags have chosen a site in tree near the walkway to make their home for the season. While the male goes out to gather suitable construction materials, the female does all the weaving and construction. As the male arrives back on the water near the nest the female get excited and throws back her head and squawks. The male with the mouthful of twigs or weed emerges, dripping, from the water, scrambles up onto the nest and then stands on her back to hand over the precious cargo.

Pied shags nest building ritual
I can only presume this to be a display of dominance

As on some previous occasions, as we went around the tracks, I began to think there was not much happening, and even in the “discovery area”, where I would normally hope for a great variety, a solitary bellbird made an appearance. It was a handsome specimen so I was pleased with that.

Belbird with blue pollen
The green plumage is not spectacular but the bellbird’s pure notes are just beautiful

However, the further we went up the valley, the fewer people there were around us, and the louder the chorus of birdsong became. Tuis were everywhere. A few kaka (parrots) were making a lot of noise, but the real characters of the day were the North Island robin.

North Island robin (1)
Such a delicate little bird

Everywhere we went they came close. It seems that as we walk, we stir up insects, and they are eager to cash in on the bounty. These tiny birds are very brave and at times were within inches of our shoes.

North Island robin (1)
A quick shake of the wings for exercise

A brief appearance by a saddleback was another highlight. These handsome birds have a lovely patch of rust-red colour across their backs, and are among the few coloured birds in the new Zealand Bush. On the other hand, as the All Blacks demonstrated in Wellington on Saturday night, mastery of your craft is more effective than a gaudy colour scheme (sly grin).

Saddleback (Tieke)
This was the only saddleback I saw, and it was high in the canopy above me.

On the way out of the park, we saw a few Tuatara, but for my purposes the little coloured beads added by the scientists for identification and tracking tends to spoil any images. It was a delight then to see a very tiny juvenile (about a fifth of its adult size) which has yet to be marked.

The littlest dinosaur


Tomorrow may be less picturesque, but let’s find out about that tomorrow.






flowers Lower Hutt Maritime

August 25, 2013 … the seasonal change is on a roll

Signs of spring continue.


In Lower Hutt, the magnificent civic gardens seem to have fallen victim to budget cuts by people who seem not to understand the value of intangibles like beauty and civic pride.


The irreducible minimum of flowering trees and perennial bulbs in the Riddiford Gardens were putting on a good display. Magnolias provided strong colour, while the ever-present daffodils and jonquils in between trees  made a strong showing.


My last stop yesterday was at the Seaview marina where I was intrigued to see one of the few working boats manoeuvring among al the pleasure boats. This little trawler does a thriving business selling fresh fish directly to the public in Lowry Bay each Saturday.


I am exhausted from the efforts of getting more interesting pictures for tomorrow so it’s a short edition today.

Birds Cook Strait Makara

August 24, 2013 … looking westward

Roller coasters were never my favourite ride as a kid.

Sensitive inner ear or other issues always made me queasy.  Much the same is happening photographically. Some good days, some less so. However, the WYSIWYG portion of this blog’s title is “What You See Is What You Get”

Makara seemed like a good idea yesterday. It is a little bay on the West coast which is sheltered from the South but can be very bleak in a Northerly. The wind was from the North yesterday. The waves were pounding noisily on the rocky beach, but there was not a great deal of interest happening. I tried to catch the backlight on the surf, but the waves were not really impressive enough for that.

Westward from Makara
If you sailed in this direction from here you would probably hit Tasmania, eventually

A very slow exposure with the aid of a neutral density filter  was worth a try to see if I could achieve more atmosphere.

Slow exposure to see what developed
Six whole seconds

On the way home I swung by the estuary at Hikoikoi. A solitary kingfisher was making the occasional forays from a weed covered log.

Kingfisher arriving
The perch is almost as picturesque as the bird

A juvenile royal spoonbill walked the length of the beach, obviously on a mission, but having apparently forgotten that it was possible to travel by air.

Juvenile royal spoonbill
It was a very purposeful stride

Tomorrow will be a new day.


Birds Botanic gardens flowers Landscapes Pauatahanui

August 23, 2013 … seasonal gladness

I may be too old to gambol, but spring is here, no matter what the calendar says.

Who cares if it's ahead of schedule
Daffodils gladden the heart

Lambs and daffodils abound, and gardens are just full of the good news. In fact, the lovely state of the botanic gardens is such that I heard comment about it on the morning news. Now where shall I go today? I know! I’ll go to the botanic gardens! Glad I thought of it.

Magnolias blooming in the botanic gardens
Though they suffer from wind or frost, they are magnificent while they last

Though I suspect the best is yet to come, the magnolias, camellias and azaleas are putting on a great display.

Raindrops on the magnolia blossoms
I needed the permission of park staff to get this close

Wellington has always been blessed with a particularly expert department of parks and gardens. So was Lower Hutt until budgets got in the way and almost all of its wonderful civic gardens have been turned into bland lawns. Anyway, the botanic gardens are superb, and I was particularly taken with the splendour of the magnolias.

Magnolias about  to open
Rich colour

From there I went home via SH1  and over the Haywards. By some strange accident of fate this took me past the Pauatahanui inlet where I could practice my rusty kingfisher skills.

As I have been discussing with my photographic co-conspirators, catching kingfishers actually doing things needs practice and they are really fast.

Kingfisher makes a perfect entry
Note that the water is not yet disturbed. Entry is usually clean … the emergence is more explosive

The image above is a tiny fragment of a full-sized image hence all the digital noise, but it catches the bird in a vertical dive with the tip of its beak already in the water.

Coming up with the spoils
The kingfisher emerges with a crab

Next it emerges from the depths like a Poseidon missile, but with a crab in the beak.

Returning home
Have launched, the bird makes a sharp turn towards home

It takes a second or two to reorient itself as it flies off and this one had to do a sharp u-turn to get back to the perch where the crab was consumed.

So endeth the 600th  edition of this blog. See you tomorrow.


Birds Landscapes Light Lower Hutt mountains

August 22, 2013 … random wanderings

Variety is not necessarily a virtue.

It may just mean I am floundering around. Yesterday I wandered around a bit, and is often the case when inspiration fails, I go back to the inlet. I have been frustrated by my failure to catch kingfisher diving shots lately.

An explosive emergence from the depths, complete with crab and a shower of spray was some consolation though the image still has technical shortcomings.

Triumphant kingfisher
The shower of spray is fun

At Plimmerton, I hoped to find the rare shore plover, but alas no such luck.  I had to settle for this somnolent oystercatcher.

Wary oystercatcher
Though taking a nap, one wary eye is watching me

Back at the Hutt Estuary, there was little visible bird life of any kind, but the man in the cherry picker bucket installing a new cell phone tower was a point of interest.

New cell tower
I don’t do heights, myself.

All in all, it was a disappointing day and my last shot was from my bedroom window looking up the valley to the South wall of the Tararuas catching the last direct sunlight of the day.

Looking North to the Tararuas

Perhaps something different tomorrow for my 600th post?