Birds Children Family Landscapes Normandale Weather

January 30, 2014 … counting my blessings

I have much to be grateful for.

High on the list are our six beautiful grandchildren, of whom two have been staying with us for the last few nights. Having them here tends to bring different and often chaotic elements into the day’s agenda. Mary was at work yesterday morning, so after I pried their iPads from the children, we went up to the local playground to get some oxygen.

… on death row, about to be cut down in their prime

On the way, we passed a lady mowing the berm outside her house. I noticed that she was turning a colourful expanse of dandelions into neat but bland green lawn. I dropped prone to get the worm’s eye view of the flowers before they were mowed. The lady may have been briefly worried that an ambulance was required, but I bounced back.

Maggie swings
She’s moving fast

The children are still young enough to enjoy swings, and I took the opportunity to try some blur shots … a bit tricky to avoid them merely looking like I got the shutter speed wrong, but I like the blur.

One of our lovely grandchildren

Back at home, Maggie, having had her hair in plaits overnight in order to introduce some waves to her normally straight hair,  was persuaded to pose for me. You can see why she, and the other children bring joy to my heart.

Piwakawaka or fantail … they flit about and I find I get more empty photographs than hits

In the late afternoon, a quick circuit of Pauatahanui Inlet was mostly without success though I like this delightful little fantail. Lots of people are unaware of the fine set of whiskers they have.

Southern sky
As a friend commented, “the wind child with his paint brush”

My last shot of the day was taken when I was cajoled into taken a walk for exercise. From Poto road at the top of our hill, the Southern sky was striking and it looked even better through the viewfinder than with the naked eye.

That’s my quota for the day.



Birds Evans Bay harbour Maritime Miramar Plant life Weather Wellington

January 29, 2014 … around the peninsula

Sunshine returns.

IMG_1374White fronted tern
For some reason, I am reminded of Sid the sloth, from “Ice Age” whose family moved on but didn’t tell Sid. 

On the other hand the terns seem to have gone back to wherever they were. A solitary bird remained on that decaying wharf in Evans Bay.

Little shag
Handsome bird

As a friend observed, there are too many people at Scorching Bay for them to have shifted their roost to there. On the other hand, a little shag was sitting on a rock nearby watching me cautiously.  The little shag is distinguished from the pied shag by its smaller size and by its stubby beak.

San Antonino
This is typical of the trawlers that serve the domestic market around Wellington

On the way back round the Peninsula I spotted this sturdy little fishing boat coming into Evans Bay. She is the San Antonino, and I believe her to be owned by the Muollo family, one of the long-established Italian families of Island bay. I am not sure if it was the same boat or a predecessor of the same name that was involved in the rescue of passengers from the stricken Wahine in that dreadful storm on 10 April, 1968.

Shelly Bay
A new coastal forest

Passing through Shelly Bay, I observed that the derelict wharves that were once part of the flying boat base seem to have sprouted a veritable forest. Wind-blown seedlings have established themselves, but they surely can’t be deep-rooted.

That’s the day.

adversity Architecture Birds Landscapes Maritime Porirua Tawa

January 28, 2014 … new vantage points

Wasn’t it Christmas just the day before yesterday, and how can January be nearly over?

It’s the last week of the school summer holidays in New Zealand. A little juggling has been happening to assist with the care of our nearest grandchildren, Maggie and Cooper while their parents are at work.  Yesterday, to collect them from their other grandparents, I had to go out to Tawa. I collected them in the part of Tawa to the East of the motorway up in the hills on the ridge that looks down to Central Tawa in the West and the Takapau Valley in the East.

Ferries cross over
The Straitsman (L) and Arahura (R) in the harbour mouth


On the way there I paused before heading up the Ngauranga Gorge to catch this shot of two interisland ferries crossing over near Ward Island in Wellington Harbour. The Bluebridge ferry, Straitsman is on the left, and the much bigger Interisland Line vessel Arahura is inbound on the right. The fuzziness at water level I attribute to wind-blown salt spray.

With a capacity of just 88 prisoners this is the smallest of the three women’s prisons in NZ

Arriving at the entrance to Takapau Valley, I drove up the hill to the ridge and got some views of parts of  Wellington from viewpoints that were new to me. Looking back to the South West, the first thing that caught my eye was a regrettable necessity, the Arohata women’s prison. With a capacity of just 88 inmates, it ranges from minimum to high security. Like me, it was built in 1944. It’s a bleak blot on the landscape, but then so are the crimes that brought its inmates there.

A very green suburb

Looking directly Westward, the centre of Tawa is easy to pick up by the cluster of churches along its main road. Sometimes you need to get to a viewpoint like this to realise how enriched our city is by the trees that make it green.

Coastal hills
Hard to believe that this is adjacent to the city

Indeed swing just a little to the North West, and suddenly we seem to be in some fairly wild-looking hill country. I must find out about those roads that climb the hills.

Porirua City
It looks very benign from up here. Life is a little tougher at street level

Further round to the North again, and there is a view over the centre of Porirua City with its harbour to the right. Whitireia Park is above it, complete with the radio transmission tower, and beyond that the deceptively calm waters of the Tasman Sea.

House sparrows
From the front bedroom

I’ll conclude my efforts of the day with another “sparrows on the flax” shot taken at home as I experiment with other placements and viewpoints near the bird feeder.

What will today bring?

Birds Light Maritime Seaview Weather

January 27, 2014 … “my roof’s got a hole in it and I might drown”*

“Oh no don’t let the rain come down”*.

Bird bath splashes
The rain has almost stopped but still has the odd downpour up its sleeve

I had forgotten the Serendipity Singers, and I used to like them a lot, back in 1964. Anyway, in sharp contrast to the previous sunny day, the rain came down in almost unbelievable quantities yesterday. At one stage there was accompanying high wind so the water was flying past the window at a 45 degree angle. Happily it eased off, but didn’t stop, so as the day was running out of light, I set out for some rain shots. The first one was in the bird bath right by the front door.

Roses on the memorial
The roses will pass, but the memories linger

At Sladden Park,  Te Omanga hospice has a garden of memories. Of course it was deserted when I was there, but someone had left some roses on the memorial and they had been thoroughly beaten up in the downpour.

Yacht berths
Summer, they say, but the boats are still tied up, and the rain still falls

At the Seaview Marina, I was looking for water effects, but was attracted to the various colours of the sail protection material. At least for this shot I didn’t need to get out, shooting instead through the open window of the car. There’s that 45 degree rain again, though in far less volume than earlier.

House sparrows
Finding a space in the waiting room

Back home, Mary had relocated her bird feeder and it is now ideally placed for shooting from a downstairs bedroom window as the birds perch on the flax waiting their chance to catch or create a vacant spot at the feeder. The Sparrows were there in great numbers, despite the still persistent rain.

Well, I didn’t drown, and the rain has stopped.

*”Oh no don’t let the rain come downby the Serendipity Singers, 1964


Birds Otaki Weather

January 26, 2014 … hot time at the coast

As I said, I had a wedding to shoot yesterday.

Mouth of the Otaki River
Recreational variety

I’ll regard the wedding images as private, and move on. It was at Otaki Beach, and uncertain of the locations, I chose to arrive early. The locations were very easy to find, so with time to spare, I went to the mouth of the Otaki River and ate my lunch by the water. The weather was ridiculously fine, bordering on “stinking hot” at 28°C. I think Wellington might have made it to 21°C. While I was eating, I watched families fishing, swimming and playing in the river. I am not sure that those activities are compatible, but nobody seemed worried by anyone else. Across the water, Kapiti Island looked enticing.

Waterfowl at Otaki Beach
Bird variety

A little back from the river is a lagoon of sorts which seems a haven for water fowl.  I shall return there and set up my hide and spend a day there at some future time. The numbers of birds was astonishing, and there were many varieties.

Invincible youth
The shimmering along the skyline tells you it was warm

Since it was getting near time to set up for the wedding, I walked back along the dusty road to my car and heard an angry hornet behind me. Actually it was just a helmet-less youth racing down to the beach on his motorcycle.  He was followed soon after by another youngster on a motor scooter … sealed roads are fine, but the inherent instability of most scooters makes them unsuited for rough rural roads, and this guy was bouncing from ridge to ridge and occasionally bottoming out in the troughs. Again, no helmet.

Bikes at the beach
Additional variety to the ways the beach is used

They met up down by the river mouth again.

That’s all for the day.


Aviation Birds harbour Light Weather

January 25, 2014 … scattered choices

Waiting for a friend to arrive for lunch is an opportunity.

Rock pigeons
In the heart of the city … these pigeons are in a planter box on Courtenay Place

I spotted this cluster of common rock pigeons (Columba livia) foraging in the base of a street planter box outside our chosen restaurant. These birds are regarded by many as “rats with wings” and are found throughout New Zealand except Fiordland For the most part they seem to live in symbiotic relationship with humans, though I am not sure what we get out of it.

Juvenile white-fronted tern
Not sure if a fish has been spotted, or deep contemplation occurring

After lunch, I drove past Evans Bay in case the terns were still about. There were just a few left, and where the rest of the flock had got to is a mystery. Two photographic friends were looking for them around Shelly Bay and environs at the same time, with limited success. A few were out on the water and though they were some distance off, the sparking and splashing suggested they were among a school of fish.

Convair CV580
Grand old lady soldiering on

Though I am less of an aeronut now than I once was, I am still easily distracted by aircraft of a certain vintage, so I had to seize the opportunity when the Convair CV580 belonging to Chathams Air whistled up from Rongotai, presumably on its way to the Chatham Islands. The basic airframe of all these ancient Convairs derives from the CV240 designed in 1947 as a potential DC-3 replacement. They were clearly engineered for longevity, and this handsome specimen belongs to my “golden age of aviation” 1945 through 1965.

Running Free crosses behind Kota Lukis
Big and small

Homeward bound, I saw a yacht crossing the inner harbour. Close inspection of her transom reveals that she is aptly named “Running Free“, while the transom of the large (39,906 GT 4,253 TEU) Singaporean container ship “Kota Lukis” is much easier to read. I said “large”, and among the freighters that come to Wellington, so she is, but compare that with the newest generation of container ships such as the Maersk “Triple-E” series which, at 18,340 TEU has more than four times the capacity.

It’s a fantastic day outside and I have a wedding to shoot.


Birds Evans Bay Maritime Weather

January 24, 2014 … a happy bird day

Wandering in search of who knows what, I found a tern colony.

White-fronted terns
The flat concrete wharf is not only sheltered from the wind,but would retain the sun’s warmth

They have been absent for a while, and seem to come ashore to seek shelter from gales. There was a very strong wind yesterday and it was really churning up the harbour. The North West corner near Petone was flat, but down in the South and towards the heads, there were long strong waves, white-topped in green water. That suggested that I should go to the Miramar Peninsula.

I had reached Evans Bay and was crossing the old Patent Slip when a flock of birds on the adjacent derelict wharf caught my eye. Terns are instantly recognisable from other seabirds. They move quickly and precisely, and always with exquisite grace.

Juvenile white fronted terns
It was a surprise to be able to get this close

I swerved to the roadside, and grabbed the camera with the long lens and moved with all possible haste and as much stealth as I could muster, to get close to the wharf where they were sitting. Sheltered from the wind by the hills and apartment blocks adjacent to Greta Point, the wharf made a warm but ugly resting place for the colony.  Most of the birds seemed to be juveniles, all capable of flight, but still loudly dependent on adults for food.

Parent bring fish back to the juvenile

There was a slow but steady stream of adults bringing fish back to the youngsters.

Juvenile stretching wings
This youngster is standing on one of the rails on which the patent slip’s cradle rolled

There were two problems associated with this. First, the youngsters got bored, so tried out their wings by fluttering over to the concrete ramp where the patent slip mechanism once hauled ships out of the water and across the road to be worked on.  Traffic would be held up during the laborious transition, but once the vessel was in position, traffic flow would resume behind it. A picture of the ferry Tamahine on the slip  is on the NZ History website. 

Guarding the catch
The juvenile has strayed and the parent has to be wary of that hungry gull

This was problematic for the parent bird with hungry gulls quite willing to relieve them of their hard-won catch. The parent would take off again listening for the call of its wandering juvenile, and would then transfer the fish to the youngster.

Successful transfer and the parent must now go and get more

Far from being grateful, the youngster would then start asking for more and the parent would have to set out in search of another fish.

Tern in flight
The tern is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and delicate of birds

I did go over to the peninsula hoping to find even more at their regular haunt in Scorching Bay, but it was empty. There was a spot near the Evans bay oil terminal where the fishing was good, but the birds are fast movers and were a distance from shore so it was a struggle to capture them in flight.

Must go to lunch now.

harbour Landscapes Light Maritime Seaview Weather

January 23, 2014 … evening mists

Grey misty evening light has its possibilities.

Seaview marina again
The same marina as yesterday but in a different mood

Given that I missed all the opportunities during the day, I had to take the chance. Rain was still falling, though softly. There was just the barest of wind so water was relatively calm, and I helped that along with the aid of the neutral density filter and a long exposure (2.5 seconds). The Western hills of Newlands and Horokiwi have disappeared in the mist, but the marina seems calm.

Seaview Marina moorings
Green water

On another pontoon, looking south to the less expensive moorings you can see that the workboat with the blue trim has a wind turbine to generate electricity. It is telling me that the breeze is much more vigorous than I thought as the blades are whirling around.  I liked the green colour in the water.

The wind was obviously not strong enough to move the clouds along

My last shot from yesterday brings up an old favourite … the receding planes of a misty landscape. This was taken from Sorrento Bay look Southwards past Lowry Bay, York Bay, Mahina bay, Sunshine bay to Days Bay and Eastbourne.

And the grey fades to black.


adversity Architecture Maritime Petone Seaview Weather

January 22, 2014 … smoke and marinas

Even as I watch, the seasons are cycling through all the options.

In the last thirty minutes, I have seen rain, a glimmer of sun, a period of calm, and a blustering wind. The only option untried is summer, though there was a weak patch of sunshine for a moment or two.  Yesterday was at least consistent. It was grey, damp, and relatively calm all day.

After the fire
Nothing useful remains. I expect demolition will occur with the material put in a landfill to become a toxic problem for future generations. There is NO known safe level for asbestos.

I decided to see the aftermath of the fire from the previous day. Predictably, the ugly smell of burnt wood was pervasive, and the destroyed building was little but a wet skeleton of its former glory. A security guard sat glumly in his car, uncomfortable in the drizzle masquerading as summer. It seems improbable that there is anything left to protect, though some of the other buildings still stand.

Wanton destruction
For some reason I hear the music of West Side Story … the Sharks and the Jets.

Hutt Valley Memorial College (formerly Petone Technical College) closed its doors in 1998 as it was deemed unviable to have two large secondary schools so close together and Hutt Valley High School become the main state secondary school in the area. Since that time, squatters and vandals have reduced the empty buildings to a state of advanced decay. The land was recently purchased from the Crown by the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust as part of a treaty settlement claim and is subject to a long-term lease by a provider of healthcare for the aged. The buildings will need to be demolished anyway, contaminated as they are by asbestos, but it is a concern that there are so many youngsters who think vandalism and arson is fun.

A place of peace
The stillness within the seawalls is obvious, but the rain hides the hills of Newlands

Down at the Seaview Marina, the mood was just as grey as at the college, but the view was decidedly more attractive. The gentle rain scarcely disturbed the surface of the water, and the little splash of bright colour here and there helped to lift the spirits a little.

Masts and spars
I have no idea what the tanker is delivering. It all flows through pipes beside the road to the nearby tank farm.


Beyond the forest of masts, a Panamanian-flagged chemical and oil tanker with the incomprehensible name “STX Ace 7” was offloading at the Point Howard terminal.

That’s all for now.

adversity Architecture Children Lower Hutt Machinery Petone

January 21, 2014 … starting one place, ending somewhere else

Another grey day, another narrow time window.

St James cemetery, Lower Hutt
Many of these markers have lost their inscriptions to erosion and weathering, so it is difficult to find who is buried where

I decided to put on the wide-angle lens, to leave the long lens at home and see what eventuated.  I confined myself to the area around the library, the Riddiford Gardens, and St James’ Anglican church. This is one block of Lower Hutt City and an unusually narrow field for me.  My opening shot is in the cemetery behind St James and the Library. I have taken pictures there before, but the viewpoint with the wide lens was a little different.

The golden elm
The church is a celebrated piece of architecture. I think the tree is the greater work of art

In the other direction, across the carpark is one of my favourite trees. This golden elm is absolutely magical in its spring colours, and now at the height of summer (ha!), it offers the most beautiful spreading sunshade. All we need is the sun.

Hutt War Memorial Library and Little theatre
It’s a clean design

Around the front of the Memorial Library complex, the wonderful civic gardens have been reduced to mere lawns. Nevertheless there is a good view of part of the library and the Little Theatre. These buildings and the neighbouring St James church were the early poster children for a 1950s reinforced-concrete architectural fad of clean spare design. They have aged reasonably well.

Children's playground
That tractor seems to have been there forever. Our own kids played on it. I think their kids have played on it

Behind the library are the Riddiford gardens and  a children’s playground. It was deserted when I passed through so I took the opportunity to grab a shot. In comparison with my own childhood, the children of today are cushioned against bumps and knocks as witness the rubberized squares on the ground. We climbed and fell, and learned to avoid things the hard way. Only the old Fordson tractor can still administer a solid knock. After that, I went home thinking my photographic day to be over.

Smoke from Hutt Memorial College
That’s a lot of smoke

We were watching the Australian Open Tennis on TV and were about to switch to a detective show when Mary looked out the window. Billowing smoke was rising from the site of the old Hutt Memorial College (formerly Petone Technical College). It has been empty for almost 15 years and its decay has been hastened by vandalism, graffiti, squatters and a series of arson attacks. There is not a single pane of unbroken glass anywhere in the once busy school. I hung my camera from an upstairs window with the strap round my neck and caught this shot of the early stages.

The fire is in control
Spectacular view from Maungaraki

Then Anthony called and said there was a spectacular view of events from his house, so I abandoned the detective show and went round to Maungaraki. He was right, and by now the fire had really taken hold. Sirens were coming from all directions and police, ambulance and fire appliances were converging on the site. Already the local aerial appliance was in action, and the larger one from Wellington city was arriving and getting ready to join the battle. There is a lot of asbestos in those buildings so the firefighters were mindful of the need for protective equipment.

Cheap grandstand
It’s as well that the trains were out of service after earthquake.

My last shot (I took dozens) zooms in on the “spectator gallery” … people used the pedestrian overbridge at Ava railway station as a grandstand. Others wandered up the railway line to get a view. Normally this would be very dangerous, but since we had experienced a very solid earthquake (6.3) earlier in the day, the trains were all cancelled pending track inspection. I have the suspicion that the miserable specimen of humanity who set the fire was in the crowd watching. The fire was eventually suppressed though the smoke persisted for a long time.

And so the day came to an unexpected end.