January 31, 2015 … scratching around

My muse was as dry as the weather.

Village

Pop-up village. I have no idea where it goes for the rest of the week.

Lunch in Wellington with a friend gave me the chance to wander the waterfront. I don’t know how I have been unaware of it thus far, but it seems that every week there is a “pop-up” village on the waterfront. This consists of a bunch of small shipping containers, each containing a complete shop of one sort or another. Many of them are outlets for cottage industries such as clothing or jewelry. Most seem to be ethnic food outlets.

Boeing

Boeing on the waterfront

Another thing I didn’t expect on the inner city waterfront was a Boeing 737. To be fair, it was the nose section only, from just behind the forward door, complete with cockpit and nosewheel. I would have sat in the cockpit, but I would have had to compete with too many other small kids. This is situated just outside the national Museum, Te Papa, and is part of a display celebrating Air New Zealand’s 75 years in operation.

Macro

Experimenting with close-up settings and lights.

Unhappy with the day’s output, I set up a macro shot at home with the seed head of a dandelion. It was the completeness of the thing that appealed.

Today has been a long day, so enough for now.

January 30, 2015 … mists of time

Normal service is now resumed.

South

From Mt Victoria looking South with low cloud crossing the airport

There were some odd clouds to the South yesterday, and from the Valley I could see that Brooklyn Hill was shrouded, and the airport was coming and going as clouds drifted over at sea level. Perhaps Mt Victoria might be a good vantage point.

West

From Mt Victoria looking West over the inner city

Looking Westward over the city you can see that Wrights Hill and other high points in that direction are missing.

East

From Mt Victoria looking East as the ferry sails out

To the East, a long roll of cloud provided backing to the Eastern hills and obscured the Rimutakas. A bank of low level cloud is blowing in to the harbour, and the ferry Aratere is heading out on its journey to Picton.

Hikoikoi

From the deck of a boatshed in Hikoikoi

It would be inadequate to present all my images taken while standing on one spot, so I went past Hikoikoi on the way home. No visible life there unless you count the fibrous mats of green weed swept in on the tide.

That’s all for today.

January 29, 2015 … this old house*

Home again and glad to be here.

Sunrise

Looking to the rising sun across Lake Taupo from the historic wharf at Tokaanu

It was a great trip in all its various parts. Yesterday began very early in Tokaanu, where I overcame my habitual avoidance of mornings. I went down the road towards Little Waihi to catch the sun rise over the lake. Click on this and all the pictures for a better view.

Colours

The duck enjoys geothermal warmth and fits right into the wondrous colours of the new day at Tokaanu

Beside the road there are places where local rivers mingle with geothermal steam and the growth in the various pools is lush and colourful The duck is incidental. It  was the colours that attracted me. Other shots not shown here show clouds of steam hovering over the surface.

Weather

Heavy weather to the East of the Desert Road

After breakfast, we completed our packing and took a fairly direct route home down SH1. The Desert Road was less clear than on the Northward journey and there were some heavy-looking clouds out to the East.

Mountains

The central mountains – Ruapehu in the Centre and Ngauruhoe to the Right

On the other side of the road, there was more clear sky, but the mountain peaks were shrouded in cloud.

Taihape

Memories of days gone by – Taihape

Down the road, a little past Taihape, there is an old derelict house. It is obviously photographed often because the sign posted beside the door is apparently a notice telling photographers that they are unwelcome. I never got close enough to see.  However a friend said it put her in mind of the lyrics to the song by Shakin Stevens Stuart Hamblen …

This old house once knew my children,
this old house once knew my wife,
this old house was home and comfort
as we fought the storms of life*

Mangaweka

Fruit trees around this old house in Mangaweka suggest it was a happy place

At Mangaweka, another old house demanded my attention. It was obviously someone’s well-loved home because it is surrounded by pip and stone fruit trees, many of which still bear fruit. Stevens Hamblen comes to mind again:

this old house once rang with laughter,
this old house heard many shouts,
now it trembles in the darkness
when the lightning walks about.*

LAV III

They take a firm approach to speeding motorists at Hunterville (kidding). The army passes by.

A comfort stop at Hunterville was made more memorable as a squadron of Canadian-built LAV III armoured fighting vehicles passed through. I think they belong to the Queen Alexandra Mounted Rifles, a regiment of the New Zealand Army, Based at Linton Military Camp near Palmerston North. I think we are blessed as a country that, except on ceremonial occasions, we very rarely encounter the weapons of war.

And now, as I said, we are home again.

* This Old House by Stuart Hamblen

Note: The use of the lyrics to This Old House is not intended to refer in any way to the real owners or occupiers, past or present of the houses pictured.

January 28, 2015 … an unexpected inland “island”

From Miranda, we headed South.

Plains

Hauraki Plains and Coromandel from SH27

Within a very short space of time, we were following SH27 Southward along the Eastern flanks of the Hapuakohe Range. There were some nice views back across the Hauraki Plains in the light of the early morning. The hills of the Coromandel Peninsula are on the horizon.

Kaka

Kaka anticipating feeding time

We passed through Matamata and then via SH29 to Karapiro. From there, the road took us through the rolling back country of the South Waikato district to the Maungatautari Ecological Island. This place lays claim to being the worlds largest such park having 3,400 hectares enclosed with 47km of fence. completely enclosed within a predator-proof fence. The moment you pass through the gates you enter a different world. At the first clearing, there is a feeding station for the Kaka (Nestor meridionalis), the native parrot that dwells in lowland bush.

Ponga

This fragment of the forest was filled with Ponga (silver ferns)

For our taste, the chatter of other park visitors was unwanted so we set out on the longest of the walkways within the enclosure and, as we expected,  were soon alone in some of the most beautiful bush I have seen.

bush

As you can see the nature of the bush changes rapidly depending on where you are walking, and you can feel as if you have moved to a different place entirely in just a few metres

There was so much of it in so many different forms I tried out using panorama techniques on close scenes.

Saddleback

Saddleback in full-throated song

It was neither my intention nor my expectation to have another bird feature so soon, but I can scarcely help myself. At the peak of the track, we heard what sounded like hysterical laughter. It was the call of the Tieke or Saddleback (Philesturnus carunculatus). This bird is rare and endangered and what a joy it was to see not one but three frolicking in the wild, free to come and go.

Robin

North Island Robin (Toutouwai, or Petroica australis)

I am convinced that the best bird shots cannot be had on your way to somewhere. You have to be able to spend time, to sit patiently, quietly and wait for the birds to resume their normal activities. Sadly we were on our way somewhere, and had to move one. Further down the trail, we encountered several other small birds, most notably the Toutouwai or North Island Robin. This little thing is either brave or stupid. It is smart enough to harvest insects disturbed by the passage of human feet, foolish enough to sit on the boots that move.

Stoat

Stoat with freshly caught prey

We had our lunch in the reserve and then resumed our journey. We had decided that doing Auckland to Wellington in one day is fine when you are young, but causes unnecessary discomfort as the years go by. Accordingly we came down the Western side of Lake Taupo and stopped for the night at Tokaanu, famous for trout fishing and its plentiful thermal hot springs. It was a fine warm evening and Mary and I were dining at a table outside our motel unit, when Mary spotted movement in the garden across the little car park. It was a stoat, so abandoning customary meal-time etiquette, I grabbed my camera and took several shots. The best and most distressing one was of the nasty little beast with a bird it had just killed.

The last leg of the journey happens tomorrow.

27 January, 2015 … almost done with the shorebirds

This was our second full day at Miranda.

Wrybills

Wrybills. I had never seen even one before.

 

Armed with yesterday’s experience, things should have gone better and to some extent they did. On the other hand, the wind ruffled the water, and there were less than half the number of birds compared with the previous day. Still, we were blessed with more expert knowledge by way of guides and experienced “twitchers” to fill gaps in our knowledge. My first shot of the day is of a flock of wrybills. These are apparently unique to New Zealand, and for some reason, their bills are curved sideways, but always to the right.

IMG_2832

Pectoral sandpiper

 

A solitary bird was browsing in front of the hide, and I was informed that this is a Pectoral Sandpiper.

dotterels

Banded dotterel flocking

 

Next, a flight of banded dotterels filled our view. It’s amazing that such delicate and endangered little birds can make such an impression.

Godwits

Bar-tailed godwits shifting to the pond

 

As on the previous day, the godwits were by far the majority presence, and I am struck by their sleek appearance in flight. If you are going to fly 12,000 km non-stop you had better have no drag.

Various

Various birds, mostly golden plover

 

On the way out, we paused at one of the ponds where a mixed group was sitting. Something startled them and they took to flight. This shot has many birds, most of them are Pacific Golden Plover so I am told.

Heron

The sun has gone …

 

My last shot was almost not a bird shot, but a sunset. How could I resist the heron in the tree?

The homeward journey tomorrow.

January 26, 2015 … birder in paradise

Since yesterday was our first full day at the Shorebird Centre, there are no prizes for guessing what today’s blog is about.

grass

Aliens? Crop circles? Strangely flattened grass

The time to see the most birds at Miranda is within a window two hours either side of high tide. Accordingly we set out on the 2.1 km walk to arrive 2.5 hours before the tide.  On the way I was puzzled by the manner in which an area of reeds or grass had been flattened.  Interesting texture.

stilts

Pied stilts in formation

As we went past the “stilt pond” a flight of pied stilts flew past fast and low. I get excited to see six or so at Pauatahanui.

Dotterels

More banded dotterels than I have ever seen before

 

Moments later another squadron passed by and now I was excited.A single banded dotterel is cause for celebration at home. This is about a tenth of the flock that passed by.

Godwits

Bar-tailed godwits … a tiny fraction of the thousands there

And as we arrived at the hide, we encountered the first of several incoming flocks of bar-tailed godwits. These are the crazy long distance fliers who go non-stop to Siberia or Alaska each year, breed and then fly back again.

shorebirds

Alfred Hitchcock comes to mind …

Naturally there were other serious photographers there and I was delighted to meet one whose excellent work I had long admired on Facebook. We had a good chat and I enjoyed being in his company. Meanwhile the birds were lining up in their various battalions. Oystercatcher were on the outer bank. There were godwits, wrybills, dotterels, plovers, knots, and many more beyond my power to identify.

landing

Godwits alight on the stilt pond

Slowly at first, and then with tremendous speed the tide advanced across the mud flats. The outer birds would fly over the ones still dry and a strange game of leap-frog took place until at last there was no safe place. Then in huge waves, the flocks arose in a great welter of beating wings and flew over our heads to alight in the stilt ponds. Just amazing.

bee

And still time to marvel at the honey bee

Still buzzing from all this, we walked back though the fennel to the centre. taking a moment to be glad for the feral honey bees that still abound in this area.

More tomorrow.

25 January, 2015 … a long haul to a golden end

Here we are in Miranda, on the Firth of Thames.

Mountains

Ruapehu – Ngauruhoe panorama

 

It’s a long haul from Wellington on one of the hottest days of the year. It seems that summer has arrived over the whole country in one extravagant hit. We set out early and made relatively few stops for pictures on the way. The first was on the Desert Road where I set up the tripod for a panorama. I got Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe but forgot to include Tongariro.

Ngauruhoe

Ngauruhoe as the Desert Road flashes past

 

As we continued North, I caught Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom)  through the window. Needless to say, Mary was driving at  this point.

Pohaturoa

Pohaturoa looks down on the Atiamuri dam

 

We had our food with us, so at lunch time we stopped at Lake Atiamuri a little South of Tokoroa and looked across the lake to the dam and to historic Pohaturoa. We arrived just as the local power boat club were launching, but it’s hard to be grumpy about families having fun on the water.

Hawk

Armed escort … the cruising hawk is seen off by the white-fronted terns

 

We arrived in Miranda in late afternoon after an unintended detour through Ngatea. The time to see the birds at Miranda is in the two hours either side of high tide. That meant that tomorrow would be the day. We stayed at the excellent Shorebird Centre which has a small amount of accommodation available at modest prices. After dinner we walked in the golden evening light to see the place where the birds gather. The first thing I caught was an Australasian Harrier being firmly escorted away from the nursery by a group of very determined white-fronted terns.

Heron

White-faced heron browsing in the late evening sun

 

There were small numbers of birds about, especially Welcome Swallows, Skylarks, Terns and White-faced herons. There were even a few Godwits and Dotterels so it boded well for tomorrow. The light was pure magic, and the water was still. I could ask for nothing more.

Sunset

The end of a golden day

 

Walking back along the 2km track to the accommodation, I was mindful of the fact that the Auckland region has little or no twilight, and the electric fence beside the track would not be good to encounter in the dark. I enjoyed the sunset, but kept moving.

It was a long day but a good one.

January 24, 2015 … facing the sea from a rocky shore

Again that wind was deceptive.

Kapiti

Kapiti Island across the blue water, is even more rugged than the shoreline in the foreground.

Ruffled water at Pauatahanui spoiled the shots I planned there, so I kept going. Before I knew it I was on SH1 in the early stages of the rush traffic on a Friday afternoon. This was not good, so I baled out at Pukerua Bay. That too was more difficult than I expected. It was a lovely warm sunny afternoon on the last day of the school holidays so the beach was crammed with families parked on every free spot. I finally found a space at the far end, and set out along the coastal trail.

Arch

Te Ana Puta – the Marble Arch

Beyond the first kilometre or so, the track leaves the beach behind and becomes savagely rocky and strewn with tangled driftwood. A little way along the track is that huge rock with the hole in it which is known in Maori as Te Ana Puta.

Rock

Geology near Wairaka Rock

Nearing Wairaka Rock the track becomes more rugged and the rock structure is more shattered and broken.

Layers

Uplifted layers

Looking around, it is possible to see the uplifted layers of rock. This would not be a kindly place to be shipwrecked.

Pou

Pou Tangaroa at Pukerua Bay. There are many Pou Whenua which make a statement about the relationship between the local people and the land. There are fewer Pou Tangaroa which tell of the relationship with the sea.

The return journey offers slightly different views and as the car park nears, the Pou Tangaroa takes centre stage. This carving in honour of Tangaroa, god of the sea was made by master carver Hermann Salzmann.

Tomorrow, we begin a road trip.

January 23, 2015 … neither fish nor fowl

It was an odd day photographically.

bridge

Boat sheds at Paremata looking under the road bridges

True to the title, neither fish nor fowl were photographed. There was sunshine, but though it was calm at home, when I got to Paremata the wind was lively to say the least. The reflections I sought were nowhere to be seen. From the walkway near the Mana Marina, there is a view back under the road bridge to the boats moored at the famous boatsheds. I liked the framing offered by the bridge.

Aotea

Porirua City expands up the hill at the Aotea subdivision

The seawall that separates the Marina from the rest of the harbour is walkable, if somewhat rough on the ankles. It offers some interesting viewpoints from which to see Porirua city and the one that got my attention was the view of the Aotea subdivision to the East of SH1 and just South of the historic Gear homestead. At first sight I thought I was looking at a parched landscape, but that’s bare clay as the developer does the earthworks for the next stage of the development.

Porirua

Porirua City Centre as seen from Paremata

To the South from the same point, is Porirua City centre with Tawa and Linden up the valley behind it on the way to Johnsonville. The hills to the right are near Colonial Knob.

Weir

The weir at Silverstream

Dissatisfied, I went back to the Hutt Valley and with the dinner hour approaching was wondering what I could do to provide a better selection of images for the day. One of my desperation fallbacks is the weir on the Hutt River at Silverstream. Flow is very low in the river at present, so the downstream rocks were more exposed than usual, as was the undercutting below the weir itself. That lower ledge was not visible on previous visits.

flow

Low flow on the Hutt River

I climbed onto a dry patch  and took the view along the weir and as you can see, the flow was more of a thin sheet of water sliding down the concrete than the heavy brown torrent I have captured previously. The weed on the river bed is more visible than I have seen before.

As I said, the day was “neither fish nor fowl”

 

January 22, 2015 … the dying of the light*

New Zealand bush is unremittingly green.

River

Low flow in the Wainuiomata River

Predominantly evergreen, our bush tends to be less colourful than forest in other countries. I struggle to produce images that adequately share my response to being in the bush. Over the hill in Wainuiomata, the recreation area near the water catchment the bush is leavened with some plantations of pines and gum trees. Perhaps it might offer a different opportunity. I set out to walk the Gum Tree Loop which runs beside the Wainuiomata River and involves just 1.6 km of easy walking.

Gums

Gum tree plantation in the Wainuiomata Recreational Reserve

Needless to say, on a track thus named, there are gum tees, and as a result the bush is much less dark and dense than native New Zealand bush. They are taller too, than most local trees, and are very nice to walk amongst.

clearing

The clearing

A little further along the trail, there was a clearing  or picnic area that prompted me to try the panorama feature on the new camera.

Southerly view

According to the Met Office on the radio, we were experiencing rain and thunderstorms expected to clear overnight. A few fluffy clouds is all.

Later in the evening, there was that light again. I drove to the top of Normandale Road and used the panorama feature again , this time to capture the grand sweep of the view to the South.

Landscape

Folds in the landscape

My last shot of the day attempts to convey the last light caressing the folds of the valley at the foot of Belmont as the night came closer.

That’s it for today.

* I omitted to acknowledge Dylan Thomas “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night”  thanks to my friend Cliff for picking it up