Birds South Coast

March 31, 2014 … gulls just want to have fun*

Something keeps drawing me back to the South Coast.

Black-backed gulls
All perfectly weather-cocked into the breeze

Sadly, my hopes are not always fulfilled. I arrived in Owhiro Bay yesterday and saw hundreds of Black-backed gulls (Larus dominicanus). It seems to be a nursery area for this particular type of gull.  As I drove into the Bay area, I noticed a large portion of the flock bobbing in formation out on the water.

The nursery
Washing in fresh water

Parking the car, I got the long lens out and in my best stealth mode crept closer. From the little bridge across the Owhiro Stream, I got a view down into the part of the nursery where many juveniles were enjoying a good splash in the only unpiped stream on the South Coast of Wellington.

On the beach
A wider but closer view of the nursery

One careful step after another, and trying to impersonate a non-threatening lamp-post, I got closer to the birds on the shore.

The flock takes flight
Blind panic

Disaster! One step too many, and to my dismay the flock took flight. I am dismayed because no birder worth his or her salt will ever deliberately cause the birds to fly from a place where they should be safe. On the other hand, since they were airborne, I had to take the shot (in fact, many shots). It was quite a spectacle.

A few gulls stayed
Where did everybody go? What’s happening

When the noise stopped there were a few birds left on the beach. I try not to anthropomorphize too much, but I had to wonder whether they were sneering at the panic-stricken flight of the others, or were they perhaps short-sighted, hard of hearing or simply unaware of what was going on.

Something else tomorrow.

* with apologies to Rober Hazard and Cyndi Lauper


night Railway Sport Wellington

March 30, 2014 … into the den of the Tiger

Rarely do I go to a sports event.

Westpac Stadium
A busy part of the stand. Large tracts of seats were empty. The few Tigers fans were wearing orange

Even so, a Rugby-league game is a first for me. I have to confess that I would not spend my own money to watch a league game. In this case, however, my ISP gave me two free tickets as the prize in a draw. Mary said she wasn’t interested, so my youngest son Anthony joined me. We took the train from Ava to Wellington and then walked up the ramp from the platform to the stadium. All very convenient. However, Wellington is not a stronghold for league and it is relatively rare for a first class game such as this to be played in the city. Despite its rarity value the crowd numbered a mere 22,100 in a stadium with 34,500 seats.

Tigers fan
A dedicated Tigers fan, full of hope, but broken-hearted at the end

Most of the crowd were wearing the colours of New Zealand’s only first class team, the Warriors. Perhaps 5% of the crowd, if that, had the orange of the Australian “Wests Tigers”  who were the opposition for the night. Despite the odds offered by the TAB, in favour of the Warriors, most media commentators seemed to be picking a Tigers win, so their supporters came in with a spring in their step.

Segway-mounted photographer
Perhaps the ultimate photographic accessory

Waiting for the game to start, I took an interest in the equipment being used by the media contingent on the sidelines. Of course, the broadcast media were well equipped and as well as the various cameras in fixed positions they also had an especially mobile camera on a Segway.  Deep envy.

Sports photographer
Big lens, and clever software

More envy still, looking at the huge lenses in use by the still photographers, and their tethered cameras connected to their laptops to ensure razor-sharp images, and immediate transfer back to the office.

Curtain raiser
Juniors entertain the crowd before the start

The game itself  was preceded by a couple of games from the juniors which was lustily cheered by the parents and families in the stand.

Rugby League action
Close to the goal line though this movement didn’t quite make it

The main game was a typically physical affair, and to the surprise and delight of the crowd, after a slow start, the Warriors began to pull ahead. The tails of the Tigers fans began to droop. The full-time score was 42-18 to the Warriors.

Home again
Leaving the train at Ava

On the train home the fans were fizzing and very happy, and I imagine that those who stayed in the city to party onwards had a good night, unless they were wearing orange.

See you tomorrow.





Architecture Aviation Sport Wellington

March 29, 2014 … in pursuit of my nose

Yesterday was a “follow your nose” day.

Jervois Quay
Evening traffic is starting to build up on the Quay

I got into the car and went towards the city. On Jervois Quay, I saw from the corner of my eye, that the ice-skating rink is back at Queens Wharf.  After navigating the one-way streets I found a park on Harris Street and crossed the busy traffic on the Quay.

This young man was by far the most confident skater on the rink. Look at the wake behind his rented skates

Eventually I got to the rink. I had to laugh at the tiny rink, the only ice in Wellington, outside of a refrigerator, and compared it with descriptions from my friend who lives on the shores of lake Huron and speaks of solid ice as far as the eye can see. The equipment seemed to be really struggling to freeze the surface as skaters were leaving wakes behind them in the excess water on th rink. A pair of assistants were skating about with big rubber squeegees trying to push the unwanted water through the drain holes at the sides. Despite its shortcomings, the rink was giving its customers some fun.

The Kumutoto precinct
Tugs at rest

Walking back towards the car, I found a viewpoint that included all four of Wellington’s tugs. I haven’t seen the two older ones Toia and Ngahue move in quite a while. The building behind them is the Wellington headquarters of the Bank of New Zealand. It suffered damage to ceilings and other suspended fittings in last year’s earthquakes, though the main structure is sound. It is only just coming back into service.

IMG_84Robinson Helicopter1
“If your wings are moving, either your plane is broken, or you are in a helicopter. Either situation is dangerous”

Further along the walkway, I had a good view of one of the Helipro helicopters coming in from a  joyride. If my life absolutely depended on it, I might get into a Robinson, Because they are relatively cheap, they are in widespread use, and they seem to get pushed beyond their design limits by some operators.

Something different tomorrow.


Birds Maritime Reflections Seaview

March 28, 2014 … an absent friend and maritime reflections

Flat calm is my favourite situation.

White-faced heron4
Missing George … this white-faced heron was a frequent companion to George, the white heron

Yesterday was pretty good in that regard. Flat calm requires water, in my book, so I went first to Hikoikoi reserve, to see if my old friend George, the white heron had returned. Alas he had not, but I was not the only one pining for him. Often when he was there, his faithful companion was a white-faced heron. I can’t guarantee that this is the same bird,  but there wa a white-faced heron poking desultorily around on the boat which was George’s favourite perch before the big storm back in June. This one explored the bow, the bridge, the engine bay and as seen here, the cabin roof. Alas George was nowhere to be found. I suspect a “Madam Butterfly” situation … like Lt Pinkerton, George has found someone knew while his faithful companion pines away.

Seaview Marina
A lovely Autumn afternoon at the marina

Seaview Marina has been the site of several previous images and I make no apology for three more today. Conditions like these have been hard to come by in the last few weeks.

On the fingers at Seaview
A variety of boats large and small

This Marina seems to me to be a “working class” area. Though there are a few boats in the large and very expensive class, many seem to be in the “home handyman’s dream” category, with obvious signs of amateur craftsmanship. And there are many that come somewhere in between.

I love this stillness

Regardless, the boats made a lovely picture on the still water.

And that will do fo today.

adversity Birds flowers Landscapes Porirua

March 27, 2014 … wandering in the desert

Things seem to have gone a little flat.

A large driftwood log at the Okowai lagoon … note the drapes of dried out weed

Nevertheless I went out more in hope than expectation, and went over towards the Okowai lagoon near Porirua. The Northern part of the lagoon was totally devoid of life. The water level was low and everything seemed to be covered in some sort of fibrous residue. A heavy log which seems to be a shelter for pied stilts at some times of the year was the most interesting object to be seen.

Colonial Knob
From the bottom up

Behind me, Colonial Knob was clear, and I could see the compound from which I had shot my images on Monday.

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind (Dylan)

On the track beside the lagoons that leads up to Aotea College, the toetoe (Cortaderia splendens) plumes were blowing about and were nicely backlit.

Masked lapwings
Fleeing in noisy panic

On the way home, I went around Gray’s road and spotted a significant flock of masked lapwings (formerly known as spur-winged plovers)  (Vanellus miles). Unfortunately , they spotted me before I was in position, so you see here the North end of a South-bound flock.

And that’s the day.



adversity harbour Maritime

March 26, 2014 … contradictory weather

After a few days of rich opportunities, an occasional drought is to be expected.

Tugging at the moorings
The little yacht was really bouncing around. In the background, the bus to Eastbourne flashes past

Yesterday afternoon, the harbour was in a paradoxical state. On the one hand there was a reasonably strong Southerly wind driving waves into Lowry Bay where the few yachts there tugged vigorously at their moorings.

Coming nd going the Kaitaki is inbound and the Stena Alegra is on her way to Picton

With such a strong breeze, it seemed odd to me that the view out to the South was impaired by a very heavy salt haze. For quite a while I could see the gleam of the sun on the white hull of the ferry Kaitaki. She seemed to be stationary off Oriental Bay, and I wondered why. Eventually another white hull emerged through the haze and the answer became apparent. The leased ferry Stena Alegra is, like the Kaitaki, and unlike the disabled Aratere. a bow loader, so the two vessels must share the one berth.  It seems the Stena Alegra was leaving later than usual, so the Kaitaki had to wait for the berth to become available.

And that’s all for today.

Airport Cannon's Point Landscapes Maritime Paremata Paremata Porirua

March 25, 2014 … conspicuous weath and riches beyond compare

A slow start to the photographic day saw me in the city.

The Motor Yacht "A"
She is a metre or two longer than the navy’s frigates

If nothing else, there was the ultra yacht “A” anchored in the harbour. Her owner, the Russian oligarch, Andrey Melnichenko reportedly spent NZD$350 million for this toy. And another $30 million has apparently been spent in Auckland to remedy defects in her original paintwork. She was in Wellington waiting for her big-spending owner to rejoin her after a break in Queenstown. Opinion is sharply divided about the aesthetics of the yacht. I think it is a spectacular piece of engineering manifested as one of the ugliest vessels afloat. Luxurious beyond my wildest imagining, she was built by the German company Blohm & Voss who count the battleship Bismarck, and the heavy cruiser  Admiral Hipper as well as a very large number of U-boats among their more notable earlier achievements. I suppose there is a trace of the U-boat’s DNA in her lines.

Fishing from a rock. He will either get wet, or stay there until the tide goes out

Coming around Evan’s Bay, I was stunned to see a man standing on an off-shore rock, fishing. The rock was not  much larger than his own footprint, and he was several metres off the beach with a  noticeable chop on the water. A very large flock of Buller’s shearwaters and white-fronted terns were competing with him for a school of fish passing by.

From Colonial Knob
Looking down on our airport

Though I took many more shots in the harbour, they have been bumped from consideration by a delightful and unexpected surprise 4WD trip up Colonial Knob at the back of Porirua. Colonial Knob is the high point of a very popular walkway, and forms a part of the as-yet incomplete Te Ara Roa … the long path which traverses the country from North to South. The first shot offered today is from the summit looking past the trig station on the next knoll, down past Johnsonville and across the harbour to the airport.

Wind farm
The West Wind wind farm

A little to the South West, is a fragment of the West Wind wind-farm. on the hills behind Karori and above Makara. Another significant extension is in progress at present.

South Island
Across the Strait

Out to the West across the wild blue waters of the Cook Strait, the South Island looked wonderful despite the salt haze.

The two arms of the Porirua Harbour

There were many other shots made but I chose this view of the bridge at Paremata with the Pauatahanui inlet behind it. I am enormously grateful to my kindly benefactor who gave me this opportunity. I can’t afford a boat like that in the first picture, but my friend gave me riches beyond compare

I’ll stop for today.



Animals Birds Foxton Beach Horowhenua Palmerston North

March 24, 2014 … a two horsepower journey to see the birds

The deferred plan mentioned in the previous post came to pass yesterday.

horse-drawn tram
The tram operates from 10 am to 4 pm most Sundays

Mary had planned a picnic and asked where might be suitable (photography was allowed). I had chosen Foxton Beach, in the hope that some godwits might be still present before their long trek to Siberia. A pause in Foxton township gave us the opportunity to take a ride on the horse-drawn tram. Two big  Clydesdales hauled the rubber tyred tram along at a brisk clip around a surprisingly long circuit and I have to say that it was a pleasant experience.

Out on the mud
Dedicated “twitchers”

Down at the sandbar near the river mouth, there were indeed godwits, though they were a considerable distance away across an expanse of very sticky mud. There were others interested in their presence, and a pair of “twitchers” were out on the mud with their big tripod-mounted spotting scopes. They told me when they came back that they had counted thirty-seven of them. I never really got close to the godwits, since I was reluctant to disturb them by getting that far out on the mud.

Banded dotterels
There is something very appealing about such tiny fragile birds

However, to my surprise and delight, there were lots of banded dotterels (Charadrius bicinctus) sitting on the sandbank, quite close to me. They were quite tolerant of me as long as I moved slowly, and not too obviously in their direction. These birds are extremely vulnerable to all kinds of threat since they choose to nest on open sand with nothing more than a little scraping in the beach for shelter.

The legs do move but they seem to glide across the beach

The some birds hop, some walk, the dotterel seems to have no visible means of movement and seems to glide across the beach like a small hovercraft. Their tiny legs move very quickly and it is hard to do them justice.

Farmers are starting to talk about drought relief.

After lunch, when the tide had come in and inundated the areas we were watching we headed across the Manawatu plains to Shannon and then North to Palmerston North. The land was very dry, with a great deal of sun-bleached grass and in some cases a lot of dust.

Australian coots
It’s hard to imagine that the chick will one day look like its mother.

At the Hokowhitu lagoon, there were signs of seasonal confusion. Some Muscovy ducks were trailing a small team of tiny fluffy ducklings, and this one of a pair of Australian Coot chicks (Fulica atra). The chicks are spectacularly ugly, though as always, a mother’s love is blind.

That was the day.

Airport Architecture Aviation Camera club Maritime South Coast Weather

March 23, 2014 … view from a high place

Plans sometimes change, and thus I found myself free in the late afternoon.

Part of the gun emplacement at Palmer Head
That path up to the main observation post has a coat of raisin-sized crumbs of hard clay … like a covering of ball bearings. It was a challenge to keep my footing.

This allowed me to join a group of like-minded friends from the camera club. We originally set out in pursuit of landscape opportunities. After a little bit of “fluffing around” , we settled on a  trip up Palmer Head to the old gun emplacements there. This was late afternoon, so we were hopeful of some good light. I should add that the graffiti-covered gun emplacements featured in a recent guest speaker’s presentation at the club, so we were all eager to see what we could achieve.

Wellington International Airport (WLG)
“not so much a small airfield as a large aircraft carrier”

From up here, you get a very clear view of Wellington Airport and realise it is not so much a small airfield as a large aircraft carrier.  The problem for Wellington will always be that extending it is likely to involve astronomical costs. Millions of dollars per added metre.

The other side of the observation post
Given the cost per spray-can, I wonder what that coat of many colours is worth.

I have said before that I dislike heights. The bunkers are surrounded by crumbling clay slopes, so in addition to heights, I had the added problem of uncertain footing. My insurance company has already imposed added penalties in the event of any further mishaps to my cameras, so in addition to my fears for my own safety, I was nervous about the camera as well. Nevertheless, I managed to quell my fear sufficiently to get the view I wanted.

Inside one of the lower chambers
Such a waste of talent (and paint)

While I dislike all graffiti in principle, I have to concede that some of it presents strikingly as an images. This shot is a “HDR” composite … a sandwich of three images each shot two whole stops apart, By this means I was able to capture both light and shadows  in a dark space without the use of a flash.

Oosterdam drops the pilot
The ship is in the shadow of Palmer Head, but the sun is still lighting up Pencarrow and Baring Head

While my friends were still scrambling fearlessly about the gun emplacement, I wandered off up the track that leads past the airport navigation system and the trig station. From there I could look down  on the harbour entrance, just in time to watch he Holland-America liner, Oosterdam pause to drop the pilot before resuming her voyage up the East Coast to Napier.

That will suffice for today.

Cook Strait Lyall Bay Maritime Sport

March 22, 2014 … a bitter wind, time to play

Again I was deceived by the wind.

Kite surfer (1)
It takes a lot of energy to displace that much water

Calm conditions at home were not mirrored at the South Coast where a bitter South wind had me reaching for an extra layer of clothing.  But hardier souls than I were revelling in the conditions as that harnessed the wind to skim across and sometimes above the surf at Lyall Bay. Some like this one seemed to be well protected with a wet suit.

Kite surfer (2)
The wet suit may not have been enough to keep him warm

Headgear varied from full rubber through to extremely casual baseball style caps.

Kite surfer (3)

This fellow seemed extremely relaxed, and flashed me  a grin and a hang loose sign.

Wind surfer
Old school


It seems that kite surfing is dominant at Lyall Bay, though the more conventional sail boards are still in use. They are certainly easier to photograph. With the kites, if you get both the kite and the surfer in the same image they are usually too far away.

Kite surfer (4)
Lots of altitude

I know the sailboard guys can to amazing things in the right wind and surf, but the kite guys were regularly leaving the sea for quite long periods. I’ve always had a bit of a snitch on all forms of surfing. I was reading how to select the right sized board. There was a table of board lengths for various weights. It got to me and said “buy a boat”.

Spectacular to watch though