Animals Birds Zealandia

October 31, 2015 … spectacular change

Yesterday’s edition was about a surfeit of rain.

Kereru fledgling enjoying a siesta in the nest

Today I am happy to report a splendid warm sunny day. I had the very great pleasure of lunch with a friend at the Rata cafe  in the wildlife sanctuary, Zealandia. Lunch was excellent, and the stroll though the reserve afterwards was beneficial to us both. It was especially good for me because my friend Allan is married to one of the volunteer guides so he knew where to find all the habitats that most of us walk past without seeing.  This shapeless bundle of not-quite feathers is a kereru chick, sleeping in the nest. It was at eye level, no more than three metres from the main track. Hard to believe that this will become and irridescent green, grey and purple vision that is our native wood pigeon.

Not many of us can claim a 200 million year family tree as this tuatara can

Then we found a tuatara … in fact several tuatara. According to Wikipedia, “tuatara are the only surviving members of their order, which flourished around 200 million years ago“.  The jewelry behind its neck is the reptilian equivalent of the bands used  by scientists to identify birds. A stainless steel wire is inserted through a skin fold and the coloured beads added and held in place by keepers similar to those used on ear rings. I hate seeing them, but understand the scientific need.

Kaka, like most parrots is gregarious, perhaps even extroverted.

Then we came to the kaka feeding station. The kaka is an endangered native  parrot, found mostly in lowland forest. It is foolishly unafraid, and not much liked by local gardeners because it can ringbark trees as it uses that fearsome beak to get at the underlying sap.

Kaka beak
The wicked hooked beak looks easily capable of removing bark

Within Zealandia, they have flourished, and have spread to neighbouring bush areas where they seem to be breeding successfully as evidence by the number of un-banded birds seen at the feeding station. Their plumage is darker than that of their alpine cousin, the kea but handsome nevertheless.

That’s all for today.

adversity Kaitoke Landscapes Rivers Weather

October 30, 2015 … if the river doesn’t rise

It had rained steadily for a day or two, and the river was rising when I wrote my previous blog.

Hutt River in flood at the Silverstream weir

Nevertheless, I find myself startled by the speed with which it subsequently rose. It rose so much, in fact, that it undermined the central support of a bridge to a small community in Birchville, Upper Hutt. Seventy houses have road access by that bridge, and without it, they are cut off. Furthermore, water and gas supplied are carried on it, so they may be in for a few weeks of severe inconvenience. I decided to avoid that area as the news came in, and went instead to the weir on the Hutt River. Except in very high water conditions the weir itself is usually visible.  Yesterday it was totally submerged as the river raced towards the sea.

Turbulent thundering water bouncing off the rocky river bed beneath the wear.

This was not a day for taking risks, and I am certain that the force of the water will have scoured out the river bed beneath the weir.

Flood conditions

A slow exposure gave a nice impression of the river in flood at the weir, and to some extent cleaned up the silt laden flow.

Water catchment collecting our water supply

I carried on up the river and then out to the Kiwi  Ranch side road at Kaitoke. A nice misty view into the water catchment area for Wellington gave some hint as to where the river was getting its energy.

Another day tomorrow.

Architecture Light Machinery Maritime Petone Weather

October 29, 2015 … dishing the dirt

For as long as we have been in Wellington, they have been there.

Dish (1)
The business end of the biggest of the dishes

On Parkside Rd, opposite the Waiwhetu Stream in Gracefield, Lower Hutt, there is a cluster of large satellite dishes. I am guessing that the largest of them is four or five metres in diameter. My attempts to learn their function and ownership have come to nothing. A friend thought that they were broadcast receivers belonging to the long defunct Saturn TV network. They are looking weary with age and point at a variety of odd angles to the sky. Against a sky, they were fair game for a desperate photographer yesterday.

Family photo

Whether  or not they are still in use, the shapes make an interesting contrast with the somewhat scruffy assortment of light warehouse buildings in the neighbourhood.

y=ax^2+bx+c … or at least that’s how I remember the general form of the equation for a parabola

These are  definitely not your average pressed metal dishes that hang off the side of the house. Even the support structure looked interesting to me. The mathematics of creating a parabolic dish are fascinating.

Offshore guardian
Offshore Guardian … it looks as if the hulls were designed by drawing a line around the outside of a corn flakes packet. Seriously, though, I am certain she was very competently designed and will be fit for many years of fitness for her assigned role

From there I was  heading home along Petone’s Esplanade when I saw one of the world’s newest and perhaps least attractive vessels  on the harbour. Built in Palmerston north, the two hulls of the diving tender “Offshore Guardian”  were transported by road to Foxton Beach where they were joined together with the accommodation section. The vessel was then placed on some large inflatable bladders and she rolled down the beach into the water. She will work in Australia and New Zealand and perhaps as far afield as PNG.

Something different tomorrow, God willing and  if the river doesn’t rise (and that’s a real possibility).

Architecture Camera club Maritime night Weather Wellington

October 28, 2015 … late rescue

My afternoon was spent in Mt Cook.

Open ground near the Basin Reserve awaiting a developer

No, not the mountain in the Southern Alps, but the Wellington suburb of the same name. I began on Tasman Street, and from a side road, looked across a piece of recently cleared land towards the Basin Reserve on the right, and the National Carillon on the left. The strange lattice structure in the Basin Reserve is part of the staging for an act by someone called Robbie Williams.

A narrow view-window

Mt Cook has something of a Bohemian reputation with a very large number of student flats, and the Wellington campus of Massey University nearby. The houses are mostly weary from a century or more of continuous occupation. Many are in severe need of paint. There are narrow gaps between the house that provide glimpses down towards Adelaide Road.

Quiet side Street

Some of the quiet side roads have neatly restored villas, painted fences and tidy gardens.

Still water
After days of surly blustery wind, a night when the boats hold still for a whole 60 seconds of exposure is a miracle of sorts

It was camera club night and knowing that there were only six images in the camera, I went out after the session ended and looked for some night subjects. I’ve done it many times before, but I find still water and moored boats irresistible.

That will do for now.

Architecture Whiteman's Valley

October 27, 2015 … in a parallel universe

One of the things I like about our region is the pockets of difference.

Almost in the nation’s capital

There are many places that, though they stay in close proximity, are somehow far from the mainstream existence nearby. Parallel to the Hutt Valley is Whiteman’s Valley, named for the Whiteman family who started farming there from 1871. Though just a ten minute drive overt the hill from the Hutt Valley, this place is almost a different country. There is a lot of rust-red corrugated iron and dry unpainted timber in the farm buildings.

Bottom farm has been replaced by top farm

Indeed some of the older dwellings are almost as quaint. This one at least is no longer inhabited. I met the former owner who had lived in the house for decades before building a new house further up the hill. Her description of the house definitely belonged to a different century.


On the road that crosses from the valley to Upper Hutt at Wallaceville, there is a set of farm buildings that are being slowly absorbed by the landscape. I have made pictures of it before but it has never seemed to have looked as frail as this, especially the middle building. You shouldn’t get the impression it is all hillbilly stuff over there. Many large expensive new houses exist, but they are less interesting.

The tree

From the same spot I looked over my shoulder and loved the tree I saw. It belonged in a Halloween setting, so I confess to adding a bit of “grunge” to heighten the illusion.

That’s all for now.

Birds Children Family Rimutaka Forest park Weather

October 26, 2015 … a sudden and unexpected burst of summer

It’s a long weekend in New Zealand.

Our sunshine girl sets out the rolls to prove before baking. The form of each roll was her choice.

On the fourth Monday in October, we observe Labour Day. As a statutory paid holiday, it celebrates the struggle 175 years ago, for a universal eight-hour working day, though many still don’t have that protection. It also tends to mark the return of the golden weather. And so it has been this weekend. However our weekend began with our own little ray of sunshine – granddaughter Maggie who will soon be 11 years old, came for a sleepover. Yesterday, with guidance form her grandmother she made bread rolls to accompany a picnic lunch planned for later in the day.

The finished product

In due course, after the rolls had been allowed to prove for the required time, they were committed to the oven, and duly emerged as small masterpieces.

In the shade of a handsome oak

We went to the Catchpool Valley in the Rimutaka Forest Park and laid claim to a suitable picnic spot in the shade of a nice oak tree.

A view across one of the many picnic spots … the covered structure to the left is a barbecue

For most, the Catchpool Valley is the starting point for much longer walks heading towards the Orongorongo river, but the area surrounding the car parks are widely enjoyed as a picnic area and camping ground. I am pleased to see the provision of stainless steel gas-fired barbecues in the park. They are everywhere in the parks around many Australian cities, and usually free. Here, perhaps because the hot plate is gas-fired and not electric, they are coin-operated.

Nervous but lazy

Anthony and Sarah took the kids to a lesser known swimming hole through a long disused trail through the bush and some of them braved the chilly water. I was not one of them. It is easy to be fooled by the bright blue skies into thinking this is really summer. As I made my way back through the bush, I encountered a kereru which looked nervous but was way too lazy to interrupt its siesta unless real danger was imminent.

May the sunny days continue, preferably without the wind.

Industrial Maritime Weather Wellington

October 25, 2015 … at the water’s edge

One of the great losses in life, is free access to the ports of New Zealand.

Strait Feronia
Strait Feronia in Wellington , ready to load for its next trip to Picton

I know that today the ports are subject to the same threats as airports. However, as a youngster at school, I recall wandering along the wharves in the Port of Auckland,  beside ships unloading general cargo in those distant pre-containerisation days. There were no safety officers back then to be horrified at the idea of a school lid wandering among swinging loads, net slings full of  chilled mutton carcasses, pallets laden with butter, inbound sacks full of mystery. There were the rough but kind-hearted watersiders who would “accidentally” put their hook into a sack of peanuts and reach in to give me a handful of nuts to munch on as I explored. There are very few spots from which to get close to working ships these days. Yesterday I found myself near the new ferry Strait Feronia. She is a handsome beast, of her kind.

Diver with underwater camera

The two trucks near her bow belonged to a commercial diving company, and from what I could see the divers were engaged in some problem solving near the foremost of her three bow thrusters.  I watched the diver drop into the water from the wharf, then  leave a trail of bubbles across to the thruster. From his hand-held camera he seemed to be transmitting live images back to his workmates by way of a large screen in the truck.  After a while, he swam back with the camera in front of him.

Random items ready to cross the strait

Being a Ro-Ro ferry, most of her cargo consists of trucks which might contain almost anything. Among the trucks lined up for the next journey South was a low loader carrying a very solid-looking rubber-tyred log skidder, The next truck over had a wide-load tracked digger, but mostly the trucks were canvas-sided B-train rigs carrying wh knows what.

In sunny weather the bean bags on the grass outside the bars are very popular. The passing Hare Krishna troupe didn’t seem to attract much attention

From there I went along to the lagoon at Frank Kitts Park and since the weather was a brilliant  warm day, the bars and cafes were in full swing. A group of Hare Krishna devotees came through the crowds dancing, twirling, chanting drumming, and the crowd took scarcely any notice.

That’s all for now


Animals Family Wellington

October 24, 2015 … to the zoo

Rarely do I do zoo photos.

Otters waiting for fish to arrive

Yesterday, however, the school where our grandchildren Maggie and Cooper attend had a “teacher only” day. I volunteered to look after them for a few hours and asked them what they would like to do. They voted for the zoo.  And so it came to pass.

Capuchin monkey threatens to blow the place up with his mortar unless bananas are delivered immediately.

Wellington’s zoo is small, but well presented, and as zoos go, is among the more humane in the space it provides its animals.

The percussion monkey at play

Not every activity in the zoo is related to animals, and Cooper liked the recycling exhibit which gave him a great drum set to play.

Golden Lion Tamarin

I enjoyed watching the smaller primates at play and the Golden Lion Tamarin is amongst the most photogenic.

That’s all for now.

adversity Landscapes Machinery Mangaroa Valley Moonshine Valley Silverstream Weather

October 23, 2015 … low cloud and drizzle

The last few days have been freaky, weather-wise.

At the top of Haywards Hill, the land to the North of the road is being clear-felled. The log hauler is on the knob to the right of the picture.

We have had strong winds alternating with low cloud, mist and rain. Normally I would suggest that these are incompatible, but that’s what we have had.  Low cloud is not necessarily bad and wreaths around the hills off interesting opportunities. In the hope that the conditions at Pauatahanui would be special, I went over the hill. Alas, it was merely grey over there with ruffled water. I cam back and paused at the top of the Haywards Hill for a view of the clear-felling logging operation that has been taking place there. As you v=can see there is little left standing.

Somewhere in the Silverstream Pinehaven area

From there I went North and saw a misty landscape near the Moonshine bridge.

Remote small farm in Mangaroa Valley

At Upper Hutt, I carried on to the Plateau road and from there into the Mangaroa Valley which was also buried in the mist. On days like this there is a silence in the valley and a sense of being isolated from the rest of the world.

That will do for today.

Architecture Lower Hutt Railway Weather Wellington

October 22, 2015 … reliving old memories

Every so often, I get to have lunch with a group of former colleagues.

Trolley buses at the Lambton terminus

Five of the seven in our group are retired, and we are always grateful to the remaining two for continuing to fund our superannuation through their taxes. The chosen venue yesterday was “The Thistle Inn”. Built in 1840, it is New Zealand’s oldest surviving tavern. Leaving my car near Ava station, I took the train into the city.  This gave me a little time to wander around the parliamentary precinct in search of images before lunch.

Parliamentary office space

Despite the strong wind, the day was bright, and the city was looking clean and fresh. I notice that Parliament was being shrouded with scaffolding, but the beehive and the parliamentary office building on Bowen Street were standing out nicely.

The Parliamentary library in all its restored glory

By way of contrast with those two relatively modern buildings, the Parliamentary Library building dates from 1883 and 1899. It has now been restored within an inch of its life and I suspect it looks more splendid now than at any other stage in its history. I did take another shot after the lady in the red jacket moved away, but decided she added something.

St Paul's
Inside Wellington Cathedral of St Paul

Across Hill Street is the Anglican Cathedral of St Paul. From the outside it seems brutally modern in its style. Inside, I find it to be well suited to its purpose, and a very restful place.

Reading between the lines – Wellington railway station

After lunch (a very fine, if somewhat small whitebait fritter and a delightful glass of wine),  and a lively debate on matters of obscure economic theory, the railway station provided an opportunity to look for images. The next train through Ava was 20 minutes away, so I wandered, looking for other ways of seeing the everyday. I shot across the buffer block between platforms 6 and 7 . On the left, one of the aging Hungarian Ganz-Mavag units, and on the right, one of the new Korean Hyundai-Rotem units provide a viewing channel to the Westpac Stadium.

It was a very pleasant day.