Birds flowers Lakes Light Weather Zealandia

November 30, 2014 … same walk, different outcomes

Back to Zealandia again.

Juvenile pied shag


Yesterday was a very nice day on which the wind almost disappeared. Our morning plans were interrupted, so Mary and I went to Zealandia with the intention of having lunch there.  The first environment you meet on passing through the gate is the lower dam, where there are several varieties of waterfowl. A significant colony of pied shags nest in two large trees on either side of the lake.  For some reason, when they take off to the South, they seem to do a standard procedure turn and come back over the  nearer shore line. I think this one is a juvenile bird.

The dabchick is a member of the grebe family. They are small and that yellow eye makes them look angry all the time.


A newcomer to the dam is the dabchick. As far as I am aware, this is a singleton, and as yet there are no signs of more. I continue to be entranced by the colour contrast between the dark plumage and the brilliant green of the nearby bush reflected in the lake.

Scaup family


At the top end of the lower dam, there was a family of New Zealand Scaup (Papango). I counted eight ducklings though they kept diving for food so it was hard to keep track. The behaviour of the male was at best, furtive, as if trying to dissociate himself from the consequences of his actions.

Bush trail
Whether or not you see anything else the sights sounds and smells of the bush are worth the journey.


Leaving the lake, we followed the lower path and enjoyed the walk in the bush for its own sake. We could hear bird song all around, but in this part of the reserve the bush is so dense that the birds can stay hidden if they so choose. On a warm day with little wind the dappled light was a delight.

Kaka – the lowland parrot


When we rejoined the main path, we saw several Kaka (Nestor meridionalis) , the lowland parrot. These birds are similar in size to a chicken and that beak looks as if it could inflict injury.

Hihi – the stitchbird. Only the male has the yellow patches


Up in the discovery area, where there are feeding stations, many Stitchbirds were fluttering in and out. I estimate there were perhaps twenty of them, occasionally augmented by the bellbird with its clear chiming note. Pure delight for me.  I still have not regained my control over the use of the long lens in deep shade, but definite improvements are happening.

Toutouwai – North Island Robin


We carried on around the Round the Lake Track, as I had done with my visitors a few days earlier. To our great pleasure we were accompanied some of the way by a tiny North island Robin  (Toutouwai). These birds are fearless and will advance towards you and sit on your boot in hope of catching the insects you disturb. This can be a problem with a big lens that won’t focus closer than 1.8 metres. I had to keep backing away.

Greenhood – native orchid


My final picture of the day is of a less agile subject but one which is almost harder to find. The native New Zealand Greenhood orchid (Pterostylis australis) flowers in November to December. It is small (about 10 cm)  and hides itself well among the various grasses on the bush floor.

That’s all for now.




adversity Birds flowers Normandale Seaview Weather

November 29, 2014 … it was a dark and stormy night*

Yesterday’s journey began in Porirua.

Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) in early bloom in Porirua


After a pleasant lunch with a photographic friend, I  headed up to the hills of Whitireia Park after first pausing to observe the early bloomers on the Pohutukawa trees.

Long wind-blown grasses are home to the skylark


I had hoped to see skylarks in the long grass on the hill, but the wind and rain were such that all I took were a few shots of the long grass itself.

Weather (1)
Weather from the South … viewed from the top of Normandale


By the time I got home, the weather had cleared. After dinner Mary observed that there was a noteworthy dark cloud front approaching from the South. Mindful of the relatively empty photographic cupboard, I excused myself and went up to the top of Normandale Rd. From there, I compiled a four-shot panorama of the weather coming our way.

Oil operations at Seaview


Down at the oil terminal at Seaview, our old friend the Stena Polaris was offloading petroleum products and its lights against the darkness of the incoming storm offered a little drama.

Weather (3)
Southerly weather

Halfway down the hill, towards home I paused for one more shot before the weather became more intimate. As I was collapsing the tripod after this shot the first fat drops of rain began to fall.

That’s enough for now.

*with acknowledgement to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, the true father of purple prose

Architecture Landscapes Railway Waikanae Weather

November 28, 2014 … on the road less travelled*

Lunch happened at Waikanae yesterday.

Electric unit
The English Electric unit wearing the blue and silver colours used from 1938 to 1949, leaves Paekakariki by truck to become a restaurant


On the way there, I drove past the Paekakariki premises of Steam Inc, where I saw the highly unusual sight of one of the old electric rail units being loaded onto a house moving trailer. Most Wellingtonians referred to these as the “Red Rattlers” since, for most of their operational lives, they were painted red. This one was painted blue with a silver stripe. Inquiry reveals that this was the original colour scheme way back in July 1938. It seems this pair are destined to become a restaurant in Paraparaumu.

Cloud obscures the hills behind Waikanae


After lunch, I decided to go home via the Akatarawa road. This road may best be described as “hairy” with some steep grades, and very narrow winding sections. However, some low cloud shrouding the hills as I left Waikanae promised some interesting landscape possibilities.

St Andrew’s Church hall, Reikorangi. One of its musket ports can be seen between the two large windows


Not very far up the road, in Reikorangi, a St Andrews Cross fluttering bravely on a tiny church looked interesting. I jumped to the conclusion that this was a Presbyterian Church, but I was wrong. St Andrews in this case is Anglican, and the flag was in honour of St Andrews Day which occurs on November 30.  The church hall was moved on site from Parewanui, in the Rangitikei district. A very distinctive feature of this former church was the musket ports on either side, apparently intended to defend the occupants in case of attack during an intertribal war in the district. They were never used.

At the top of the Akatarawa Rd, looking West


At the summit of the climb out of Waikanae, there was a very obscured view back towards the coast and if you look carefully near the top of this image you can just see the coastline.

That will do for the day.

* M. Scott Peck The Road Less Travelled

Birds Zealandia

November 27, 2014 … bird successes and failures

Friends from out of town are fun.

A shag looking the wrong way and the main reason I selected this image was that glorious green water


Mark and Mary were generous with their time when we were in Washington back in 2012, so it was a delight that I could spend time with them yesterday at Zealandia and Makara. Outside the valley and on certain exposed spots, we felt the full force of the wind. Down in the valley, the sun shone and it was sheltered. Wonderful!  Sadly I had some sort of lapse in the brain and stuffed up my camera settings for the dark parts of our walk through Zealandia and got little but the black images. This was doubly tragic because we saw plenty of Saddlebacks, Stitchbirds. Bellbirds, a North Island Robin and even a few Whiteheads. And not a single useable photo of any one of them. Thus I have had to use the birds I found in open air.

Tui everywhere, yodelling chiming, mimicking.


Tui were plentiful to the point of overload and this one sat less than two metres from us.

A fine couple of Kaka


Halfway up the valley, there were five or six kaka and though they seem drab at first sight there is some real colour in that plumage.

Californian Quail


My last image today is a Californian Quail, and a particularly handsome specimen too.  I think Mary and Mark enjoyed being re-acquainted with the flora and fauna of their native land after so long away. I certainly enjoyed their company.

Come again.


Animals Birds flowers Maungaraki

November 25, 2014 … the mysterious swamp sheep

There were parts of Pauatahanui that I had yet to explore.

Wildflowers in the swamp


On Monday I decided to explore the parts of the reserve to the North of Grays Rd.  At first I found little of interest, though I liked the splash of colour in the patches of wildflowers along the path. I have no idea what they are, but I got down really low for the shot and got grass stains on my trousers as a result.

Sheep lurking in the swamp


As I followed the winding path through the rushes that typify this salty wetland, I became aware of some sheep grazing in the boggy areas on either side. I must say I was surprised, as I recall from my year 8 geography lessons in school that sheep don’t do well if the ground is wet, and that foot rot is a likely consequence.



After reaching the Northern boundary fence I came back and spotted this handsome kingfisher perched on pine trees and retrieving insects from the grass below.

Panorama … looking South from Maungaraki


I had not long been home when Mary came in from work, keen to show me a hill and lookout she had visited over the weekend. I’m glad she did. From the little knob called Puketirotiro on the Western side of Maungaraki Road there was a view I had not previously seen. This is a nine-shot panorama stitch which you might need to click on to see the detail.

That’s enough for the day.

adversity Camera club Maritime Seaview

November 26, 2014 … annual general meeting

Yesterday was the annual general meeting of our camera club.

Reflections in a barber shop window


In the absence of an alternative candidate, I was re-elected unopposed. Before the meeting, I thought it appropriate to have a haircut and beard trim to look almost respectable. On the way to the barber shop (not a hairdresser), I noticed the reflections in the window.

Marina in the rain


At the end of the day, after the meeting, I realised that reflection was the only shot I had taken all day. Aaagh. It was dark with drifting drizzle, so of course I went to Seaview. The Marina is a dark and lonely place in this kind of weather though there were a few lights in the boats.

Night shift at the flour mill


Nearby, the grain silos of the local flour mill were glistening under the floodlights as the rain drifted by.

I was a long day so that’s all.

Birds Food Waikanae

November 24, 2014 … calories and waterbirds

A chance encounter a month or so led to a reunion.

Brown sugar meringues … magnificent, and yes I know I shouldn’t, but I did and I loved them.


Our friends Martin and Catherine and their daughter Elizabeth were host to a reunion of four couples who have known each other for something like thirty years, but who have moved away in recent times. Catherine and Elizabeth are wonderful cooks and entertainers and they turned on a classic high tea in their lovely new home in Waikanae.

Scones served with cream and jam, and some delicate cup capes.


I don’t often do food shots but the various treats were spectacular to look at as well as delicious to eat. I will entertain no criticism at the dietary level and say that I enjoyed everything.

Scaup hoping for bread


Since we were out that way, we made a diversion to the lagoons at the Waikanae Estuary before we set out for home. There are often birds of interest in the area. Yesterday the variety was small, but I always like the New Zealand Scaup or Papango. The ones here have become accustomed to being fed so they tend to come towards humans rather that scuttling away as they do elsewhere.

Pied shag on the nest


In a large tree beside the lagoon, there are many pied shags, and this one seems to be nesting quite a long way.

Time for bed, goodnight all.


Maritime Waves Weather Wellington

November 23, 2014 … a grey mist on the sea’s face*

Wellington Harbour is a constant source of pleasure to me.

ski boat
Ski boat with no skiers


I like flat calm and perfect reflections. I like blue seas and white sails. I like wind-driven green seas surging ashore. I like squalls shrieking across a storm flattened sea. And I like a grey sea through the delicate veil of rain or fog. In all its moods I like it. Yesterday, it was grey, wet and with winds gusting to 140 km/h.  As I went towards the city yesterday, from Petone beach, I spotted the local water ski club doing some high-speed runs in their tow boat. The city and horizon were gone.

Lady Liz
Lady Elizabeth IV. I have known all of the boats in this series and remember well seeing the Lady Elizabeth II powering into massive swells as sh went out in a Southerly storm on an exercise from which she never returned. Two lives were lost.


In Oriental Bay, the police launch, Lady Elizabeth IV was returning to base, and from there looking North, the port had disappeared.

The pilot’s job is to prevent the ship and the rock from overlapping.


At Seatoun Beach, the bulk carrier, Super Challenge was departing, apparently unladen. The pilot launch Tarakena was keeping abreast, ready to take the pilot off once they were clear of the harbour.

That’s the end of my day.

* Sea Fever by John Masefield (again)

Architecture Weather Wellington

November 22, 2014 … in the heart of the city

I arrived early for lunch as I often do.

Two Lions glare at passers-by


Wandering around the Pipitea campus of Victoria University, I notices some very imposing carved lions on the back gate of the Law School. These are really solid gates with two lions on each gate, and it is hard to figure out when, and by whom, it was decided these were an essential component of public spending. But there they are and I thought them worth a photograph.

Beehive with the ensign in a strong wind


Coming around the Northern side of the old Government Building, I found a pleasant view of the Beehive as the fierce wind streamed the flag  out stiffly.

Reflecting pool


The Supreme court, as I have observed before, is boring on the outside and miraculous in the interior. Rather than photograph the bland box of the building itself, I shot one of the reflecting pools, though the wind hammer-glazed the water.

Wood glow in the courtroom


The almost spherical interior of the courtroom itself is panelled in silver beech, in a way that is intended to mimic the seed cones of the kauri tree, I love the warmth of polished timber.

Lunch was good.

Birds Industrial Landscapes Light Seaview Vehicles Weather Wellington

November 21, 2014 … scrap metal

Another grey day in late spring.

Beautifully restored 1931 Ford Model AA

The wind was whistling, though the sun was out in a fairly half-hearted sort of way. I chose to head towards the Eastern bays and as I drove through the Seaview area, I spotted a magnificent old truck outside a scrap metal merchant. A 1931 Ford AA was obviously not long out of the restoration process. The tyres were so new that the sprues (soft bristles from the moulding process) had not yet worn off. The vehicle was immaculate and in the tray a pile of scrap steel was artfully arranged and carefully spot-welded in place to prevent it falling off or being stolen.

Looking up through a scrap metal Christmas tree. If you look closely the steel wrapping has nasty teeth


Behind the truck was the weirdest Christmas tree I have ever seen. Constructed on a spine of steel pipe with carefully arranged pipe branches, the tree’s “foliage”was a careful wrapping of industrial bandsaw blades. My first thought was that it was some sort of razor wire, but the teeth were even more vicious than that. Dangling throughout the tree were decorative pieces of scrap metal. Very clever,  but not a thing of beauty.

Pied Oystercatcher


In Lowry Bay I spotted an oystercatcher. Normally shy birds, this one allowed me to get quite close as I peered around he edge of the colourful boatshed. As you can see the wind is getting under its plumage.

Boatshed at Lowry Bay with Kaukau in the background


From the other end of the bay, the boatshed’s vibrant colours stood out well against the hazy grey of Mt Kaukau so I got down to the waterline and tried to capture that contrast.

Something different tomorrow, perhaps