Birds Maritime Reflections Weather Wellington

December 31, 2015 … new high places

One more in the daily series after this.

Duck hoping for food on Dead Man’s Bend in Sladden Park

Despite a gloomy forecast, yesterday continued the string of great days. I began my journey at “Dead Man’s Bend” on the Hutt River. More important to me than clear skies is calm water. I have a good friend who prefers photographic grit to pictorialism, but for my part I prefer scenic beauty wherever I can find it.

The tide is very high, almost over the jetty. I have no idea what the fibrous mat in the foreground is.

With the river in this state, perhaps Hikoikoi would be interesting. In a way, it was, but with the very high tide, there was a lot of floating fibrous material and driftwood. Nevertheless, the scene appealed to me.

Straitsman passes Pencarrow. Baring Head is just out of frame to the right

Then I went looking for a new point of view near the Wellington Harbour Signal Station on the hill above Breaker Bay. This brought me onto a section of the Southern Walkway which stretches from Oriental Bay in the city to the Ataturk Memorial above Tarakena Bay on the South Coast.  The path follows the Eastern side of the hill but the view is often obscured by shrubs and trees, so I was pleased to find a gap. The ferry Straitsman was coming in, so I had to scramble to set up the tripod before it passed out of the gap.

The bays at the mouth of the harbour

Just around the corner was a view to the South. I drive that road quite frequently, but like most Wellingtonians, tend to treat the whole area as part of Breaker Bay. In fact the image shows Eve Bay,  Flax Bay, Reef Bay and Palmer Bay culminating in Palmer Head . Tarakena Bay is around the corner.  As the image shows, the growth on these slopes contains a high proportion of gorse and other unfriendly trees.

Mystique passes close to the rocks

By now it was time for lunch, so I got something in Miramar and then went to the park on Houghton Bay on the South Coast. I watched the small fishing vessel Mystique come racing up from the East. As far as I can discover, she is based at Kaikoura so she is a long way from home. Nevertheless, her skipper was very confident, travelling at some speed very close to those savage rocks.

Sparrows in the flax by the beach

As I enjoyed my lunch, I was kept company by many small passerines flitting in and out of the low scrub and long grass by the seashore. A pleasant way to spend the day.

And it’s still fine, so I am off to shoot the last daily shots which have been uninterrupted for five years. I am NOT giving up photography or blogging, I am just not doing it EVERY day after this.


Cape Palliser Children Cook Strait Family Machinery Maritime Waves Weather

December 30, 2015 … the seals of approval

And still the great weather persists.

One of the smaller tractor-trailer combinations hauls a small fishing boat from the water at Ngawi

Yesterday (Tuesday), we took our grandchildren over to Martinborough where their parents David and Rowena have rented a holiday cottage for a few days. Ants and Sarah came too, in their own car since we had insufficient seats for everyone. Then, in a three-car convoy, we set out to Cape Palliser. A candidate for the most photographed place in the Wairarapa must be the fishing village of Ngawi where the boats are launched and retrieved on the steep pebbled beach by means of heavy welded trailers, each towed by its own bulldozer.

Bigger rig
A bigger rig hauls a catamaran up the beach.

The trailer wheels look as if they are salvaged from old earth-moving machines. The trailers are made from old girders welded to make massively over-engineered cradles into which the boats drive at some speed until they can lash themselves to the sides. Then the big diesels open up and the long draw-bars haul the whole arrangement up to the roadside where family wait with plastic fish-baskets and ice to carry the haul away to a chiller. On previous visits, most of the fleet was out of the water. On this occasion, the fine weather resulted in a lot of retrievals as I watched.

New Zealand fur seal

From there, we  carried on through the village and beyond to Mangatoetoe and over the ford, around the rocky foreshore road to the seal colony at Cape Palliser. After a happy lunch, we went looking for the seals.

Bad breath

The New Zealand fur seals are not hard to find, and sometimes almost too easy. You know you are in trouble when a seemingly innocent rock proves to have fishy halitosis and rears up to suggest you choose another route.

Pups in the nursery

Cape Palliser is one of three major colonies around the South Coast and we were fortunate to see a school of pups playing in the nursery pool.

Caribbean ID
Caribbean ID bound for Tauranga

The family decided to do the climb (253 steps up and down)  up to the lighthouse while I went looking for images at a lower level. The vessel on the skyline may be “Caribbean ID” bound from Wellington to Tauranga to collect more logs.

It was a wonderful day.




Adventure Children Day's Bay Family Maritime

December 29, 2015 … a family outing

Our run of extraordinarily fine weather continues.

Our grandsons Isaac and Cooper (centre) paying soccer in Williams Park

We used it yesterday for lunch on the grass at Williams Park, Days Bay.  It was also the occasion of granddaughter Grace’s Maggie’s eleventh birthday. While the adults (OK, the ladies) were setting up lunch, the youngsters raced around the park playing soccer. The skills these youngsters displayed was quite impressive.  Lunch was relaxed and delicious.

Once he became accustomed to the water temperature, Isaac kept jumping in.

A little while later, those who were dressed for the occasion went swimming. Our grandchildren Grace and Isaac live in Queensland so there was initially a sharp intake of breath as they felt the chill of Wellington Harbour, but once they got going there was no stopping them.

Crazy uncle Ants leaps from the upper position as his daughter Billie Maggie and niece Grace watch on

They were encouraged in their daring by their uncle Anthony (Ants) who seems to know no fear. They all took turns at diving or jumping from the platform erected for the purpose by the local council.

Days Bay ferry
Another ferry-load of passengers pour into the bay.

Day’s Bay was busier than I’ve ever seen it, and the ferry from the city kept bringing more people.

The family rest on the pontoon before making the return swim to the beach

The youngsters swam from the wharf out to a diving pontoon, accompanied by  Ants to make sure no-one got into difficulty. After a rest on the pontoon, they returned to the park to resume the games.

I am inordinately proud of all my family.


Adventure adversity Maritime Pukerua Bay Reflections Weather

December 28, 2015 … winding down

When you have little to say, then it is wise to say little.

Jet ski
Jet ski racing around the Pauatahanui Inlet

Yesterday was an anticlimax after the flying the day before. I went looking for images in he afternoon, and though I pressed the shutter several times, achieved little that I am happy with. Others were out enjoying life in their own way.

Paddling to shore with a non-working motor

At Pukerua Bay, the beach was busy, and people were swimming, boating, or just soaking up the sun. I watched as a well equipped power boat towed a smaller boat to shore. The lesser boat had perhaps run out of fuel or suffered a mechanical failure, but a little offshore, it was cast off. The two young men used their oars as paddles to complete the last 100 metres to shore. A pair of kayakers passing by looked more capable.

Enough for now.

Adventure Aviation Children Family Masterton

December 27, 2015 … aviation paradise

Those of you who know me well know that I am an “aeronut”.

This was an immense panorama so I hope you can see it well if you click to enlarge. The scene from the hangar doors at Masterton

Not an aeronaut, you understand, but a nut who is obsessed with aviation. This condition escalates to extreme proportions when my eldest and similarly afflicted son, David, is in town. With him and his son, Isaac, I drove to Masterton yesterday, to one of the periodic flying days put on by The Vintage Aviator Limited. If aviation bores you, please excuse me, avert your eyes now and come back tomorrow. We arrived quite early, and were astonished that the car park was all but deserted. Despite being there before opening time, we were made welcome by the gentleman at the door to the hangar. To our unbounded joy, their were a few aircraft displayed free and clear in the hangar, and the remainder of the current fleet were basking in the glorious Wairarapa sunshine outside under a nearly flawless blue sky.  With such open access and hardly any other members of the public, I used the tripod and went for the highest quality I could achieve. I wish I could give you the full-sized image here. It is a composite of seventeen high-resolution shots and is a huge 36,000 pixels by 6,600 pixels. Click on it to get the best I can manage through WordPress.

The real thing … these are beautifully restored and presented. Most of these are almost a hundred years old

Looking a little closer with a single high-resolution image, here are the aircraft to the left of the hangar door. In the distance an Airco D.H.5 and an SE 5A. Out to the right is an Avro 504K and next to it, a Sopwith Triplane, and nearest the camera, a Fokker DVIII. These are the real thing, restored from original aircraft though sometimes it has been necessary to manufacture replacement parts from the drawings, including complete engines.

More from the same collection

To the right of the hangar door, we have in the far distance a Nieuport, a Hanriot HD1 which, three BE 2 aircraft, and an Albatros DVa. All are real aircraft with real service histories.

Another image that should be clicked to see it to best advantage

Remembering the basic rule of looking behind, I next set up a panorama inside the hangar and was again grateful for the absence of the usual crowds.  The hangar was almost empty with so many aircraft out on the grass. From left to right we have a Curtis P40, an Albatros DVa, an FE 2b, another FE2b, and obscured in the rear corner a replica of the Curtiss F8C built for Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong. Also obscured is the Sopwith Snipe. The Sopwith Camel is wearing stripes and then there is another Albatros  DIII. In the right hand corner is the Goodyear built Chance Vought FG-1D Corsair.  They do have more in their collection but they were elsewhere yesterday.

Aviation photographer, Isaac

It was a delight to me to see Isaac putting his new digital camera to work to capture all the activity. Like his father he likes making models so I suspect the aviation/photography gene continues.

Nieuport 11 Bebe … a fully effective fighting machine which entered service in 1916 so next week it is 100 years old

But this was a flying display. Truth to tell, this was not a formal scripted air show. Rather, it was an opportunity for the various pilots to get stick time on the different aircraft in the collection, so there were usually no more than two aircraft in the air at one time. Few of these aircraft  have starter motors, and most of them have rotary engines (not to be confused with radial engines), such that the whole engine rotates with the propeller while the crankshaft remains affixed to the airframe at the firewall. Swinging the propeller to start a rotary engine requires a lot of effort and often many attempts before it coughs into  life and settles down to a noisy rumble.

Fokker DVIII … though more streamlined than its biplane siblings, the DVIII was reputedly less effective than the DVII

They look cute on the ground, even with the replica machine guns, but make no mistake these were fighting machines designed to kill, and this becomes obvious in the air as they climb and dive, bank and turn.  Despite their serious history, I loved seeing them, especially in the company of my son and grandson. The crowd did grow a little, but during our time there, never exceeded about thirty.

It’s been a long day so goodnight.


Birds Children Family Festivals and fairs Food Titahi Bay Whitireia Park

December 26, 2015 … a day to treasure

Christmas Day in Wellington, 2015 was one to treasure.

Mary’s pavlova before the addition of cream

It was fine, warm, and clear. We had family gathered, and held those who couldn’t make it in our hearts. All six grandchildren were with us for brunch , as were two of our five children and three daughters in law. Food was eaten, gifts exchanged, fun was had and all was right with the world. In the evening, we were a smaller group for dinner, though we enjoyed the company of a friend. Mary produced an excellent pavlova with fresh Wairarapa berries and cream for those who needed it.

For the skylark, Christmas is just another day

During the day, after a pleasant siesta, I judged that I was superfluous to requirements and took myself off for some photographs. At Whitireia Park, there are usually skylarks hidden in the long grasses that cover its hills.

Titahi Bay
From Titahi Bay beach looking across the strait to the South Island

Heading homeward, I stopped briefly at Titahi Bay and the scene there was just idyllic, people in the water, on the beach, having picnics, having fun as you would when Christmas comes at midsummer.

Sand castle
A bigger than usual sand castle

Of course a family trip to the beach is a great opportunity for sand castles.

Christmas Day was great.

Family Festivals and fairs Landscapes Light Seasons Weather Wellington

December 25, 2015 … Christmas greetings from me to you

My warmest Christmas wishes to you all.

Mt Vic
Wellington Harbour from Mt Victoria on Christmas Eve

To those of you who have other traditions, may I send you warmest wishes for whatever festivals you celebrate. I am looking forward to family coming round to join us soon, but while the house is quiet, I’ll deal with today’s analysis of yesterday’s wandering. It seemed to me, on Christmas Eve, that I wanted to make pictures of this city that I love so much. The weather was very pleasant, though still a little windy so I went up to Mt Victoria.

Luminous grass

On my way down the hill, a stand of grass seed heads caught my eye. If you saw the Lord of the Rings, and remember the seen where Frodo and his Hobbit companions are fleeing the Shire pursued by the dark riders, there was a scene where they were hiding down a bank and you could see just the black legs of the horse. This was where that scene was shot and this grass was probably fertilised by that very horse.

Southern suburbs of Wellington

After crossing Constable St., I went up Coromandel St, and walked up into the southern part of the Town Belt. It seems strange to me that, after five years of daily images, I am still finding new places from which to see my city. I wish you could see a high-resolution version of this image. It is a panorama taken from the Town Belt near the Zoo, looking back to Newtown and the city. Made of seventeen images, this picture seems to have more detail than any of my previous panoramas. Give it a click to see it as big as possible.

Nature’s own Christmas tree

And how can I present Christmas in Wellington without a Pohutukawa shot? This one was near the wharf at Petone.  May this season be a peaceful and happy one for you.

Time to greet the family.

Birds Children Family Normandale Sunset Zealandia

December 24, 2015 … perhaps summer

Another visit to Zealandia yesterday.

The New Zealand kaka (Nestor meridionalis) is thriving at Zealandia. It uses its powerful beak to look for insects behind tree bark. This is a problem for nearby gardeners as it is capable of ring-barking a tree.

This time it was with our eldest son, daughter-in-law and four of our grandchildren. Though the stiff breeze persisted in the outside world, the sky was blue and the park provided shelter for us all. Bird life was plentiful and audible, with a particular abundance of tuis and shags. Further into the park, the kaka were raucous and buy. These native parrots were once prolific in the canopy of lowland forests. They are certainly thriving at Zealandia. I would not want my fingers near that fearsome beak.

The lyric soprano of the bush, the bellbird (Anthuris melanura) merges with the bush. Its lovely chiming call is a joy to the ear

My favourite place in the park is the “Discovery Centre”, and it is always worth the long trudge up the hill to get there. It is the place I am most likely to find a clear view of the saddleback (tieke), stitchbird (hihi), bellbird (korimako) and North Island Robin (toutouwai). I could sit there for hours, and do when I make a solo visit. I was pleased that, despite the presence of two animated grandsons, I caught so many birds yesterday.

The North Island Robin (Petroica longpipes) is an endearing little bird that will sit on the toes of your boots as it chases insects.

The North Island robin is a problematic subject because it comes towards humans. My son had his big 150-600 mm lens with him, but with the bird sitting almost on the toe of his shoes, he could not focus. I was further away.

We are expecting a fine and sunny Christmas so this sunset on the 23rd seems to be going in the right direction

As the day came to a beautiful end, there was a gorgeous red-gold sunset. The trouble with seeing it at this stage is that, by the time I get to a suitable lookout point, the light has gone. I dashed upstairs and hung out the bedroom window, pointing the camera towards Petone and the Eastern Bays.

Another day done.



adversity Landscapes Light Maritime Weather Wellington

December 23, 2015 … low cloud in high places

I hate leaving photographic challenges incomplete.

My latest attempt at the panorama from Brooklyn

A few days ago, I attempted a high-resolution panorama from Brooklyn Hill and was thwarted by the wind. The camera needs to be absolutely still for the method to work, and the wind-induced vibration just killed it. Yesterday I tried again. Though the wind was less, it still didn’t yield the results I hoped for. I shall try again soon. The ship in port is the Explorer of the Seas.

Looking South from Brooklyn

Swinging around to the South, I liked the swirling clouds rushing out to sea.

Mt Vic
Across the slopes of Mt Victoria

Going down the hill, I went through the Brooklyn shops onto Washington Avenue and down Dorking Road and found a place that offered a new viewpoint across the harbour. The Kaiarahi was coming into the gap behind St Gerard’s monastery.

Basin Reserve
Basin reserve, the home of first class cricket in Wellington

From the same spot, looking to the North East, I saw that grounds staff at the Basin Reserve preparing the pitch for upcoming first-class matches. If you enlarge the image you will see the roller on the pitch.

I shall get this panorama eventually.


Birds harbour Maritime Wellington

December 22, 2015 … around the harbour

If I follow my nose, it always seeks out sea air.

Tarakena rounds the Halswell light

Pt Halswell is at the Northern tip of the Miramar Peninsula in Wellington Harbour. The black and white chequered lighthouse at the tip is designed to prevent vessels from running ashore on its rocky coast.  Of course, the harbour pilot vessel Tarakena should be in no such danger.

Liwia P
Liwia P enters the harbour from Nelson

Whenever Tarakena is going somewhere, it usually means a larger vessel is coming or going. In this case it was the container vessel, Liwia P registered in Monrovia.

Feeding frenzy

As she passed, I noticed a flurry of sea birds, clearly in pursuit of a shoal of fish. The black-backed gull, red-billed gull, white-fronted tern and the fluttering shearwater were all in on the act. It was a great spectacle to witness.

Pushing against the wind

By the time I had finished with the birds and driven back to town, Liwia P was lined up for a berth at the container wharf, and the two tugs Tiaki and Tapuhi were making hard work of pushing against the stiff wind towards her berth.

That’s all for now.