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Adventure adversity Art Birds Evans Bay Landscapes Light Maritime Normandale Reflections Wellington

September 27, 2022 … changing times

Queen Elizabeth II was a remarkable women who became queen in my 9th year. Despite my distaste for the notion of monarchy in general, Queen Elizabeth has served all her peoples with grace, dignity and unswerving commitment over seventy years. I do not intend to enter into debate with anyone on these matters, but it seems appropriate to acknowledge such a span of service.

Meanwhile, life continues at the coal face. Sometimes I find the routines of life a little uninspiring, and even depressing. Still, I love the process of making images. On the other hand, if I am not seeing or finding the images that bring me joy, the mood barometer swings downward again.

Hutt Valley rainbow

Mary and I had driven up to Palmerston North in the hope of finding birds or signs of spring. While I enjoyed travelling with Mary, the day was photographically, a bust. Then, as she was serving our evening meal back at home, Mary said “look out of the front window!” I begged a slight delay in the meal and grabbed my camera and a wide angle lens and went out onto the front lawn. Ever the sign of hope, the rainbow made up for much that we had missed earlier.

Cloudscape over Pt Halswell

It’s slightly weird when I am lamenting a down mood, that I can take pleasure in heavy clouds and grim outlooks. From Balaena Bay across Evans Bay to Point Halswell and the Miramar peninsula, I was attracted to the imposing cloudscape.

Rosemary in the rain

At the back door, Mary grows various flowers and herbs. They are just so ever-present that I often fail to see them. Now and then, they catch my eye. In this case, the rosemary’s blue flowers took some time on an otherwise damp and dismal day.

Evans Bay ripples

Evans Bay is a frequently visited site that occasionally yields a nice image. The still patch of water near the shore was disrupted by a row of incoming waves. Why do these waves differ from the chop on the water further out?

Interesting art in the back alleys

As I often do, I arrived too early for an excellent yum char lunch with friends and former colleagues in Courtenay Place. I filled the time by exploring nearby laneways. This image was made in Forresters Lane and is the front of a cocktail bar called “Love Bite”. Foreign territory to me.

Old familiar territory

Although I have done it many times before, I can’t resist still water in Oriental Bay marina.

Australasian shoveller

Despite the number of trips I make to Queen Elizabeth Park wetlands, I have not been rewarded with the hoped for birdlife in recent months. The only capture on this trip was this Australasian shoveller.

Tumbling water

Wellington’s Botanic Gardens are full of little surprises. This little waterfall is perhaps only a metre high, but adds to the music of the garden.

Tulip display

It’s tulip time again. Sadly it’s all too brief , but the gardeners always manage to arrange a good display of tulips for a few weeks. I got there the week prior to the annual tulip festival, so was limited as to the available colours.

Single bloom

I find it hard not to love tulips, singly or en masse.

Kaiarahi returns to service

Here is Kaiarahi (formerly Stena Alegra) just back in Wellington after many months sitting in Picton with a broken gearbox. The required parts were finally installed and here she is ready to resume service.

Urban forest

A splash of colour at the head Evans Bay. Urban forest’ (2008) by Leon van den Eijkel and Allan Brown is a stack of cubes designed to spin in the wind, of which there is plenty at the site. Sadly it fails often and just sits. Nevertheless, it is interesting and nine metres high.

See you next time, I hope.

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adversity Airport Arachnids Art Birds Cook Strait flowers harbour Landscapes Light New Plymouth Seasons Waves Weather Wellington

24 August, 2022 … mostly birds and botanicals

I can’t recall a more miserable winter than this one. Not in the sense of a Northern hemisphere snowy winter. Rather, it has been a season of persistent rain and sustained strong wind. Not a season to encourage much in the way of landscape photography in my opinion. And so it has been that I have made fewer images, and that the images were constrained by the subjects available, and by the often unkindly light of bleak wet winter’s days.

Apart from that, I somehow let time slip by, so I have accumulated a few more images than usual.

Little black shags getting ready for a hunting foray

The little black shag intrigues me. As far as I know, it is is the only shag that hunts in packs. All of the others are solitary hunters.

The flock in pursuit of a shoal of fish

It fascinates me to watch the flock herding a shoal of fish into the shallows where they can feast on the fish which have no escape route.

Winter weather in Island Bay

I mentioned the winter weather. One aspect of it that I rather like is the Southerly swells. Big slow moving waves with long intervals between each crest are so impressive. This is at the Western end of Island Bay.

Weight of water

Huge swells (by local standards) seem to glide almost silently towards the coast. Of course, the wind is shrieking but that seems separate from the water.

Welcome swallow

We’ve met this guy or one of his relatives before. For whatever reason, the wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park have not had the usual variety of bird life. No coots or dabchicks have been seen in my recent visits. It’s a really tough day when there are no Welcome swallows. The flax branch just outside the bird hide is a favourite resting spot for them, and if I am lucky, it is open to the occasional shaft of light.

Tui in the rain

The tui was named Parson bird by early colonists because the white throat tufts have the look of a clerical collar. It is a member of the honeyeater family. Many people tend to think that its plumage is dark, almost black. If you catch it in the light, however, you find that its coat is an iridescent blend of blues and greens, brown and white. It seems to be increasing in numbers over recent years and that brings me joy, despite its bullying behaviour towards the smaller passerines.

Hard to keep the lens dry in such squalls

Somedays it sucks and then it blows. Though it’s warmer than the Southerlies, the Northerly wind can produce miserable conditions. Here we are in Evans Bay as the strong Northerly squalls rip the top off waves on Wellington Harbour.

Tui tries exotic foodMana

Another tui shot, with the clerical collar in full view. As I said above, it is a honey eater, and likes any source of nectar. I was surprised to see this one slurping on a banana that Mary had placed there for the waxes.

Mana marina

One of my struggles is to find different ways of looking at the broad scenes in front of me. In this case, I was at the Mana Marina. Normally I would choose a wider angle that reveals more of the boats, but on this occasion I liked the pattern or texture of all the boat bows nosed into the marina gangway.

Flowering cherry appeals to the tui

I promise this is the last tui in this edition. Spring is with us next week, but some of the flowers are ahead of the officially approved timetable. As I said, this is a nectar feeder so the sudden outbreak of new flowers is a delight to it.

The answer is always on the web

I think I have done this before. The bird hide at Queen Elizabeth park is not always productive, and I fill in time by making images of the spider webs around the view ports. I suppose the existence of the webs suggests that not much photography has happed here in recent days.

Pride of Madeira

There are some cliffs near the Seaview Marina, and as I was driving past, I spotted a beautiful splash of deep blue. Later investigation identified it as a member of the borage family called Pride of Madeira (Echium fastuosum) . Anyway, I snaffled a single bloom and photographed it in my dark box and quite liked it.

Sea shells from the sea shore

Wet windy weather persisted. Mary had braved the weather to walk Petone beach and she found some shells. OK, still life is good practice. I have no idea which particular mollusc this is but I liked the translucence.

Nuts

More still life – guess what the weather was doing. These walnuts have sat in the bowl for several months now.

Graffiti colours

I despise most forms of graffiti, especially the ones that are the equivalent of a dog marking its territory. Now and then, the colour choices catch my eye, as in this case in Lyall Bay.

Beautifully flat landing

I was eating my lunch in my car on the corner of Lyall Bay near the airport when this Pilatus PC12 approached the South end of the runway. It’s not a great shot of this fine little 9 seat aircraft, but I paid attention because it was making the perfect three-point landing without the usual nose-high flare more commonly seen. OK, so I’m a nerd.

More graffiti … I wonder how much this paint cost

More graffiti. This example is on one of the water reservoirs at the top of the Haywards Hill. If I had my way, the manufacturers and distributors of spray cans would be taxed annually based on the estimated square footage of external private property that is covered in their product. That includes every rail wagon and every wall defaced.

Elizabeth St, Mt Victoria

I don’t often look at Wellington from the East. This is from Elizabeth Street on the lower slopes of Mt Victoria. Those who know the city will recognise the Hunter building at Victoria University across the valley.


Pou Whenua

Further up Mt Victoria, near the summit lookout, is this fine pou whenua. I suppose a pou whenua is roughly equivalent to a totem pole. It is a statement of heritage by the tangata whenua (the people of the land).

Central city

Somehow, I find panoramic images are rarely satisfying, yet I keep attempting to make them. This one is a stitch of eight or nine images. I knew something was different in this one and struggled to identify it. It was only as I was checking that the stitching between images had worked that I realised there was no scaffolding on the Post Office headquarters building (extreme right). Scaffolding has surrounded this building since before I retired in 2011. Apparently apart from many other issues, this has involved asbestos remediation.

And so ends another edition. Sorry for the long gap this time. The weeks slip by ever faster. If you want your copy emailed, please subscribe below

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Architecture Birds Butterflies Cook Strait flowers Landscapes Light Maritime mountains Paremata Porirua Rivers Sunset

July 17, 2022 …

One of my favourite mentors, Alastair Benn this week asked his subscribers what makes a good photograph/photographer. Any of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that this is a sure way to trigger all my anxieties and self doubt. He also asked whether we thought it was feasible to judge your own work.

Solely in relation to my own work, I regard a good photograph as one that I like, that I am pleased to have made and one to which my first reaction is not how much better it could have been “if only I had done something else.” In my view, although I love to get affirming opinions from others, the vital component is that I like it myself. I take it for granted that the image is made competently. After that it is a matter of what I saw and how I extracted that seeing from all that was in front of me.

So here follows the usual collection of images made since the last edition of this blog. I like some of them. Others not so much.

Cape Halswell Light in the mist

Winter mist on the harbour and all is blank beyond Pt Halswell. The Hutt Valley is probably still out there, though there is no evidence of it.

Little Black Shag hanging the laundry out to dry

I like the little black shags. Their plumage is beautifully patterned but not coloured. This one was hanging the wings out to dry in whatever thin substitute for sunshine was available.

Misty on the Wainuiomata Coast Road

Misty conditions appeal to me, though the resulting images rarely match the vision I had when I made them. This was on the road South to the Wainuiomata coast. Silhouettes against the mist always appeal to me.

A constrained view from Wright’s Hill

Now and then I get the urge to go up Wright’s Hill at the Western end of Karori. The problem with geographic lookouts such as Wrights Hill, is that they are constraining. Every time I go up there, I end up in the same place looking at the same view. Only the light, time of day and the weather change. I need to get more inventive.

Evans Bay looking inland

Unlike Wright’s Hill, Evans Bay offers myriad different vantage points. Some face East, some West. Some look into bays, others look out. I liked this view because it is an angle not often seen.

White cabbage butterfly

As far as I can tell, this caterpillar is going from left to right. I will further venture that this is probably a white cabbage butterfly seen here hanging under a parsley plant. Two aspects caught my eye. A droplet of water on the caterpillar’s back was interesting because I have no idea where it came from. The other thing that drew my attention was its pointy little feet.

Sunset over the Hutt Valley

A seemingly perfect day seemed to promise a spectacular sunset. Sadly, it didn’t happen. Instead, a wall cloud developed to the West and we had a fairly ordinary sunset. The only consolation were the glittering reflections in the Hutt River and the Waiwhetu Stream.

On Ivey Bay (again)

Ivey Bay is a frequent haunt of mine. Among other things, I like it because of the character of the boats moored there. As I have observed before, these are not plastic “gin palaces”, but rather, honest working boats, probably built by the original owner.

Tapuae-o-Uenuku

Looking from the top of the Wainuiomata Hill across the Cook Strait, there is usually a splendid view of the Kaikoura mountains. Tapuae-o-Uenuku is always magnificent, especially considering that summit is 130 km away.

Tākina – the Convention centre

Here is the new kid on the block. This is Tākina. It is the almost finished Wellington Convention Centre. I quite like it, though birders are not pleased with so much glass that could injure the birds.

Aquilla coming home

Aquilla is one of the local fishing trawlers seen here returning from the Cook Strait with a swarm of sea birds hovering hopefully in her wake.

Porirua Harbour

Porirua Harbour has its moments. I especially like it when there is no wind, and that is much more often than you might think. This is a multi-image panoramic stitch made between two trees near the Whitireia Polytchnic.

Tulips

Mary had a birthday recently and the family turned up and provided morning tea at a local cafe. Jack (15) arrived with a bunch of tulips for the occasion. Flowers for the win!

And that’s another edition in the can, though I had a repeat of that sudden loss of editing. I might have to see if there is something more reliable than WordPress.

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adversity Architecture Birds Cook Strait flowers Industrial Landscapes Light Machinery Maritime mountains Seasons Vehicles Waves Weather

July 3, 2022 … winter is upon us

Winter solstice was in the week just ended. Spring seems so far away. And yet there are signs already. We have had a few bright winter days but for the most part, strong winds, cloud and rain. I try to convince myself that there is beauty to be found even in bad weather, but some days do not encourage me to venture out with the camera.

Nevertheless, I do get out in rough weather now and then, especially if there is the hope of large swells on the South or West coast. If, however the water is merely ruffled, and the weather is grey and bleak, I stay home. I seem to have got out reasonably often since my last posting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pukerua Bay normally offers a view across the water to Kapiti Island. On this day a howling Nor’Wester was driving swells in excess of 4 metres directly towards the beach. I chose to make my images from inside the car, using the passenger window as my portal to the storm, and the width of the car to protect my lens from the spray. I got some reasonable wave shots, but my favourite of the day was this image taken after I rolled the window back up. And that’s when I found that the passenger seat was absolutely soaked!

Seed spreaders

Aaaghhh! I had finished typing this edition when WordPress suddenly decided to stop saving and to go back four days and lost everything from here forward. Everything from here on is a rewrite.

Another dull day and my attention turned to the birds in the tree just outside our dining room window, Common house sparrows were doing battle over access to the birdseed bell that Mary had hung out there. They are messy eaters so if there any viable seeds on that thing, there is a strong likelihood of something exotic growing from fallen seeds around the tree. Last season, it was sunflowers. Who knows what next.

Steam excursion

The observant among you may notice the red light on the right hand end of the locomotive’s buffer beam. Yes, this is the back of the train. Steam Inc were running out and back trips between Paraparaumu and Manakau. If you look closely or click to enlarge, you will see a vintage diesel locomotive down the other end. The diesel hauls the train in the Southbound trips, and the steam locomotive leads the way back North. It burned 5 tonnes of coal in the two days on which the excursions were running.

Under tow

In contrast this ship, La Richardais was burning no fuel except by the generators. She had lost power a few hundred km off the coast of New Plymouth and had been under tow ever since. The large tug is MMA Vision which normally spends her time as a tender to the Taranaki oil fields, and was released to tow La Richardais first to New Plymouth and then to Wellington. They are seen here arriving in Wellington assisted by the two local tugs, Tiaki and Tapuhi. They spent a week in Wellington. I suspect that no local firm was equipped to achieve a repair so the tow resumed. MMA Vision will take her to New Caledonia and another tug will take her onwards to Singapore and presumably a repair.

Weight of water

Long long ago, when I almost understood such things, I did an applied mathematics course at the University of Auckland. I bandied around terms like amplitude, frequency and period and knew a few formulae on how to find one of those if I had the other two. I have a lingering sense of the importance of those characteristics of a wave. The ones that impress me the most are the amplitude (Height from trough to crest) and period (the time between successive crests). I know I am in for a visual spectacle if the amplitude is greater than 4 metres and the period is greater than 10 seconds. This image was made at Pukerua Bay.

Kaitaki bound for Picton

In a different set of circumstances, I was at Owhiro Bay when the view across the strait was crisp and clear. Mighty Tapuae-o-Uenuku was soaring skyward up into the clouds hovering around its peak. The Interisland ferry Kaitaki which seems sorely in need of a paint job passed at speed across the face of the mountain., heading towards Tory Channel and Picton.

Straitsman bound for Wellington

Even as Kaitaki was heading West, the competing ferry Straitsman emerged from Tory Channel. She has recently had a major overhaul, and her crisp clean paint job was quite a contrast.

Throw no stones

From Oriental Bay, the high-rise blocks of Wellington’s CBD are eye-catching. The Deloitte building is especially so. Recent seismic losses were undoubtedly in the minds of the architects when they used such a thoroughly triangulated structure. I imagine that those angled tubular columns are a nuisance in the building’s interior, but offer some reassurance whenever the earth moves, as it often does in Wellington.

Spotlight

I have no idea which site is served by this crane, but the way it was picked out of the late afternoon gloom by that shaft of sunlight made it an image worth taking.

Ash clearance

As I mentioned earlier, the weekend of running up and down between Paraparaumu and Manakau consumed 5 Tonnes of coal. This produces a lot of ash, much of which remains in the firebox and the rest is carried through the boiler tubes and falls to the base of the smokebox. There are access hatches in the sides of the locomotives, but that is the only concession to convenience. After that, it is shovelled by hand from the collection area into a wheelbarrow, and then wheeled to a tipping area behind the locomotive shed. It is a tedious task, but these members of the crew laboured away until the job was done

Steel grey

Crepuscular rays are a magnet for most landscape photographers. This view from Oriental Bay looking North conceals the usual view of the Tararuas. It’s a full colour image that could easily pass as monochrome. The steel grey colour of the harbour is probably a good indicator of just how cold the day was.

Dandelion

I am sure there is someone who could dispute the botanical identity of this seed head. I don’t care. It walks like a dandelion and quacks like a dandelion, so … I struggle to choose an exposure that does justice to the outer sphere, and to the spectacle of the inner parts where each seed attaches to the plant.

Kelburn Park

Kelburn Park fountain is perhaps outclassed by the Carter Fountain in Oriental Bay, despite its spectacular coloured lighting at night. Nevertheless, it is worth a look. It wasn’t until I got home that I saw that I had caught a gaggle of sightseers the lookout platform atop Mt Victoria 2,240 metres away.


Pineapples and Bananas

The Kakariki is less than a year old, and her paint reflects that. The only significant marks are those left by the black rubber buffers on the nose of numerous tugs assisting her into her berth.

That will do for this edition. I hope to see you again soon.

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Architecture Birds Day's Bay flowers harbour Industrial Landscapes Light Lowry Bay Lyall Bay Machinery Paremata Reflections Seasons The Plateau Waves Weather

June 12, 2022 … back to normal

With the road trip behind me, my challenge now is to keep the photographic flame alive. That can be hard while living an everyday life in suburbia. Many times before, I have referred to seeing familiar things in a different way. Some of my photographic friends have the gift of “finding a different place” to stand when making pictures of things that I see every day. What I need to do in my search for something worth photographing is to pause, and to not make the picture until I have considered other ways of looking at it. This might be to go round the other side. It might be to include (or exclude) another element. Perhaps it is looking at the subject through a different lens. The wide angle offers a different picture to that made by the telephoto. Anyway, for now at least, we are at home on the Western Hills of Lower Hutt and Winter has officially begun.

Before I totally forget the road trip, many thanks to all the nice readers who sent kind words and affirmation. Your messages were greatly appreciated.

Fizz

A crranberry flavoured tablet made a spectacular fizz. I tried to catch it in my lightbox. That went OK, but I wondered whether a dark box might give a better image. The illusion of a reflection is createrd by the simple trick of standing the glass on the base of an identical glass inverted.

Receding planes

One trick for seeing a view differently is to make a part of the scene substitute for the whole. Looking from Oriental Parade up the harbour, Wellingtonians are familiar with the view of the hills to the North. I have tried to present that view differently. The dark mass in the foreground is Matiu/Somes Island. Behind that are three folds in the Eastern hills of the Hutt Valley and I suspect the highest visible hill through the haze is Mt Climie behind Upper Hutt. A popular track with runners runs 6km from Tunnel gully to the summit. Masochism at its finest.

Depth charge?

Big swells on the South coast tend to attract the surfing community to Lyall Bay. It also attracts photographers. I am not sure why. Though the surfers may be different, it’s essentially the same picture each time. The only thing that rescues such an image from being the same as last time is the extent to which the light conditions or the waves are different. In this case I think the explosive burst of a big swell on the breakwater at the end of the airport runway makes a difference.

Royal spoonbills

Recently a flock of Royal spoonbills has taken to spending time on the Pauatahanui wetlands. It is often the case that, even when the rest of the inlet has a bit of a chop on the surface, the wetlands are perfectly still. These birds are still not quite the equal of the white heron, but they run a close second.

Morning glory

On Ivey Bay, there is often a variety of shore birds. In this case, a pied shag is proclaiming dominance over the bay. Across the inlet, the hills to the North of Grays Rd tower above the foreshore. I mainly liked the light.

Ivey Bay anchorage

That same morning, the water was perfect and one of the classic older wooden boats in the bay served as a focal point for my image making. I have no idea which boat it was, but as with previous captures, I have a preference for the simple old-fashioned working boats.

Swells in Owhiro Bay

We have been blessed with a relatively mild winter thus far. No deep cold, no sign yet of snow on the Tararuas. The only real symptom of winter has been a few heavy swells from the South. I like to try to catch these big waves, and hope to convey the weight of water behind each one. I am fascinated by their slow ponderous advance. I know conditions will be interesting when the gap between each wave is about ten seconds.

Lodden Lily

In the grounds of St James Church, Lower Hutt, shared by the public library except on Sundays, there is a lot of history and a great deal of horticulture, mostly carried out at the expense of the Lower Hutt City Council. I spotted these little beauties and thought they were some kind of spring flower that got confused. These Loddon lilies, however, are a winter flower so they were perfectly on schedule and it was only me that was confused.

Abandoned

Unilever has been part of Petone’s scenery scenery since 1919. The big factory building with its constantly steaming exhaust stacks came much later, sometime mid-century. At its peak, about 600 people worked there. Automation in the latter years apparently reduced the on-site numbers to about 30. The distinctive glass office block was built in the 1980s. In 2014, pursuant to global restructuring, Unilever transferred its New Zealand operations to Australia and the Petone factory fell silent. Some of the lesser buildings at the Eastern end of the 5 hectare property seem to have been leased or sold to small businesses. The office block remains dark and reflects the equally still factory block.

Wet feet

A long-proposed cross-harbour pipeline will improve resilience of Wellington’s water supply. The present sole pipeline runs alongside the main highway and crosses known seismic fault lines in several places. Construction began on the new line this year and is expected to be complete in 2025. A barge with some heavy machinery has been in Lowry Bay for several months now and has established some piles. I saw these two intrepid workers being lowered on a work platform to inspect one of the piles. I got the impression that they were controlling the crane themselves. If so, they were not afraid to get their feet wet.

So many still days lately

I shouldn’t tempt fate with a caption like that. We have endured some vile weather in recent days. No surprise then, that when conditions are good, I seize the day. This image is from the walkway beside the marina below Pt Howard. You can see traces of the morning mist dissipating over the Western Hills.

May I urge you to click on any image that appeals to you to see a larger version.

I don’t know why I didn’t discover it earlier, but WordPress has a feature that allows its readers to sign up to receive each new edition of a blog by email. Simply enter your email address once in the space below. Once only and not if you are already getting it by email.

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Adventure Animals Birds Mangakino Rivers Rotorua Waikato

25 May, 2022 … Waikato road trip (part II) … Wingspan

This is the part 2 of our three part road trip story. Part one ended after visiting the magnificent reserve and wildlife sanctuary at Maungatautiri. With my diminishing fitness and agility, I didn’t do Maungatautiri justice. It is a wonderful wildlife reserve well worth the visit for anyone of average mobility.

Mangakino continued to be a total delight. Morning mist on the river and bright blue afternoons and cool nights with log fires were just magic.

Having damaged my lightweight Olympus camera, I was slowly re-learning how to use the big Canon cameras after having left them idle for a year or two. Meanwhile, Mary was enjoying walking on the Waikato River trails while I enjoyed not walking the same trails. You can see how I did so poorly at Maungatautiri.

I have previously quoted Scott Kelby’s rule for making good landscape images: “first go somewhere where there is a good landscape”. There is no excuse for not finding good landscapes in the beautiful South Waikato.

This second part of our road trip is mostly about our adventure from Mangakino across to the truly wonderful Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre in Rotorua. If you are in the region, do not miss it (Monday to Sunday). If you are not in the region, go there. This is the best hour or 90 minutes a birder can spend.

Mangakino mist

We had learned that Wingspan had a school visit on the Thursday , so we deferred our booking until Friday. Kids should of course be encouraged to visit, but we preferred not to have to compete with them for access to the front seats. So it was that on Thursday Mary set out on the three hour walking trail from Mangakino to Whakamaru while I drove around looking for the magic of the mist. This tree appeared at just the right distance from the road.

Waikato river at Dunham’s Point

Then I went the 16 km back to Dunham Reserve where, sadly, there was no mist whatsoever. As I said last week, if you don’t capture the scene when you first see it, it is unlikely you will see the same conditions or light again. So, back to the Whakamaru Dam where I met Mary and we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the sun beside a small pond near the dam.

Arohaki in flight

Then came the day of our visit to Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre. (Check that link) They specialise in conservation, education and research for birds of prey. They also put on a superb hour long public display at 11:30 am every Thursday through Sunday. Seats are limited so book before you go.

We drove across the fondly remembered countryside from Mangakino to Atiamuri and then across SH30 to Rotorua. From there we went North on SH5 to Wingspan’s big new display area on Paradise Valley Rd in Ngongotaha. It was a beautiful morning and with our promised front row seats, we watched the show with perhaps twelve others.

The MC was Shannon, a young lady from Lower Hutt. She did an excellent job, and filled in all the gaps when the unpredictability of the birds disrupted the programme. The first bird to appear was Arohaki, a male NZ Falcon with his trainer, Heidi who is also from the Hutt Valley. Arohaki has obviously been doing this performance for quite a while, and settled himself on the wooden post set up in the field for that purpose.

Arohaki

Arohaki sits with a haughty demeanour and the certainty that, despite weighing a mere 300g, he can take on almost any bird in the neighbourhood. After chasing and catching a number of lures, he was brought closer to the audience and saw no problem in flying to perch on the head of the visitor at the end of the front row. Those are sharp claws so I advise visitors to wear a hat.

Ribbon dealing with a bait

The falcons are unapologetically and exclusively carnivores. Like me they have not developed a taste for broccoli or kale. They make short work of any chicken or duck on offer. They are not delicate eaters and quickly shred the morsels that the trainers offer for tasks achieved.

The second avian star of the show was “Ribbon”, a female who was displayed by the amazing Noel Hyde MNZM. Noel received that honour for services to wildlife conservation and research taxidermy. Ribbon weighs in at about 500 gm, almost half as much again as Arohaki. Foolishly, I went along to the end of the row for a different photographic perspective and next thing I knew was that Ribbon was sitting on my hat. It’s a lightweight fabric hat so I can testify that her claws are very sharp. Not only that, but with a long lens, its impossible to photograph a bird on your own head.

The staff brought the falcons along the row of audience seats and allowed people the opportunity to get really close. Another member of the audience caught the moment with Ribbon on my sitting on my hat as I had done for him with Arohaki on his hat, so we swapped images. I had not intended to include these two, but what the heck, it was all part of the delight in the day.

Mary gets to handle Ribbon (I think)
Ribbon sitting on my head – photo courtesy of Denis Came-Friar
Robo-magpie

The staff at Wingspan take great care for all aspects of each bird’s welfare and ensure that they get appropriate and sufficient exercise. One way they contribute to this is by the use of the “Robocrow” which was invented by the internationally renowned expert in falconry, Dr Nick Fox. Of course we don’t have crows in New Zealand so the wingspan version is dressed as a magpie. Basically it is a simple polystyrene radio controlled model aircraft, powered by an electric ducted fan, or as trainer Heidi says, a “hair dryer”. Here we see Heidi launching the Robo-magpie for Ribbon to chase.

Ribbon defeats the noisy enemy

As soon as Ribbon saw the robo-magpie, she was off. There ensued a vigorous pursuit around the skies above us, with Ribbon getting ever closer, and Heidi trying to evade capture. Ribbon won and Heidi throttled back, whereupon Ribbon took her capture up the hill into the scrub to eat the bait that was strapped to the robot’s back. Heidi and Noel had to trudge quite a way up the hill to retrieve both.

Jarli

Forgive me if I get a bit excited now. Wingspan has acquired an Australian Barn Owl whose name is Jarli. Yes, it is an Australian, but Barn Owls have been breeding here since 2008, and according to the experts at Wingspan, have thereby become our newest “native owl”. The Morepork and the Little Owl are the only other owl species in NZ and even they are not often seen. Isn’t she beautiful?

What did you say?

One of the many things that fascinate me about owls is the flexibility of their necks. If I heard correctly they can rotate through 270º so it should be hard to sneak up on them.

Totally silent flight

Surprisingly (to me), owls are receptive to training in similar fashion to the falcons. Jarli put on quite a show under the guidance of Heidi. In this image, she is launching off the pole that is at the centre of the displays, and on her way to receive a reward for a job well done.

If you are squeamish, I recommend you skip the next two shots. There were a few squeals of horror from other audience members on the day, but dinner was already dead and felt no pain.

We all enjoyed this except the mouse

Apparently Jarli can swallow three or four mice a day, and it was a somewhat gruesome spectacle, even though the mouse was already dead. Well at least it was not struggling. I saw these birds described as hyper-carnivores. Their food in the wild is exclusively of other small birds and animals that they catch and occasionally carrion.

Mmmm… bliss!

I framed this image way too tightly, but couldn’t resist showing it. The expression on the bird’s face is of sublime satisfaction … a bit like me after a dozen Bluff oysters. I am sure that I am guilty of anthropomorphism, and perhaps I just caught her as she blinked. I still think she looks satisfied.

Star

Our final performance was by “Star” under the guidance of the remarkable Debbie Stewart, NZM. Debbie is the Director of Wingspan and a major force in its founding. She received her MNZM “for services to birds of prey and raptor conservation.” Jarli was theoretically the last official performer of the day, but Debbie wanted to give star, a recently acquired bird, some training time, so we got a free extra display.

Star in pursuit mode

No complaints from me. I could watch them all day. Here is Star launching from that same pole in pursuit of a lure being towed across the paddock attached to a winch. I had hoped to see Noel’s Harrier Hawk, Fran fly. Alas, Noel noted that her plumage was not in good condition on the day.

As on my previous two visits, the display was an absolute joy. I can not recommend a visit highly enough.

Pohaturoa

After a pleasant lunch on the shores of Lake Rotorua in perfect weather, we headed back towards Mangakino. I was still buzzing from Wingspan, so no lakeside images.

Like many thousands of motorists every day, we drove past Pohaturoa near Atiamuri. Did you know, as you drove unthinkingly past, that this rock is up to 500,000 years old? Or that there is a long history of fierce inter-tribal battles on the hill from about the year 1400 onwards. Its one of those landmarks that tells an old Tokoroa boy that you are near what once was home.

Pohaturoa again

As we drove beside the river towards Whakamaru, I noticed a different view of Pohaturoa in the mirror, so we paused for the last photograph of the day. And that will do for part II.

The next and final part in this three part series will take us through Benneydale and National Park to Horopito and Raetihi and thence to Whanganui and Home. Perhaps I’ll see you then.

Categories
Adventure adversity Birds Forest Lakes Landscapes Light Mangakino Maungatautari Military mountains Rotorua Seasons Travel Vehicles Volcanic Plateau Waikato

23 May, 2022 … Waikato road trip (part 1)

Travelling to foreign lands is but a distant memory. Even our closest neighbour presents some interesting bureaucratic hurdles these days, and I am hearing people say that going is relatively easy, but coming back can be tricky. Travel insurance is ridiculously expensive now too. The risk being trapped by the bureaucracy of a sudden lock-down due to the pandemic are, for now at least, deterring us from leaving New Zealand.

So, we decided to do a road trip. As long as there are places to walk, Mary tends to defer to my photographic obsession so asked me to choose a location. My somewhat random choice was dictated by the memory of a photograph that I should have taken in 2016 but didn’t.

Any photographer who sees something worth photographing should do it now! Those of us who say “I’ll catch it on the way back”, or “I’ll come back another time” will rarely see the same scene. Do it NOW! At this time of year, it is quite common that mornings on the Waikato river are characterised by no wind and drifting mist. In the hope of finding such conditions, we booked a week in the nearest Airbnb house to that area. And so we begin with the first part of the journey:

Hunterville in Autumn

Monday was wet in Wellington. It was wet all the way up SH1 through Levin, Bulls and Hunterville. Happily, Autumn colours were all the more vivid for being freshly washed. This image is on SH1 as it leaves Hunterville to the North. Mary was driving at this stage, and I was not at all sure that I would get a clear shot through the windscreen between the strokes of the wipers. I think I got lucky.

Following the Army through Taihape

Soon enough, we were at Taihape which claims the title of Gumboot capital of the world. It was once a significant railway town, though trains seem to pass straight through these days. It is a significant business centre for the local farming community, and has a couple of popular cafes used by both locals and long distance travellers. It is not at all uncommon to find yourself behind a convoy of trucks heading through the town towards the Army training base at Waiouru.

Ruapehu dons its cloak

Waiouru is a place of both misery and beauty. Those who have trained in the army base, especially in the winter will understand the misery aspect. The landscape provides all the beauty you could ask for, whatever the weather. Mighty Ruapehu is an active volcano that stands 2,797 metres (9,177 feet) above sea level on the volcanic plateau in the centre of the North Island. As we approached Waiouru, I could see that the mountain was wrapping itself in cloud and would soon disappear from view. A shot from the roadside in a biting breeze caught that cloud rolling over the summit.

Along the Desert Road

The “Desert Road” is the stuff of legends in New Zealand. It runs 63 km from Waiouru in the South, to Turangi in the North. It passes to the East of the mountain, through the Rangipo desert, and to the West of the Kaimanawa Forest through a wild and barren landscape. There are neither sand nor camels in this desert but its very barrenness justifies the description. Regardless of the weather, there is always something to see and appreciate. Even after the clouds blocked off the view of the mountain, I found drama in the march of the power pylons beside the road. Signs warn of army exercises with live ammunition on either side, so stay in your car or risk staring down the barrel of a 25mm cannon on an armoured fighting vehicle. The other feature of the Rangipo desert is its herd of wild horses. Those I have yet to see.

Tragedy on the Desert Road

Though it has some long straight stretches, the Desert Road has some tight and nasty bends that can bring drivers to grief in the wet and icy conditions that are common at this elevation. If you look a little to the right of the second black and yellow sign, you will see the wreck of a car that has departed from the road at speed and embedded itself in the bank. I have no information as to the fate of its occupants.

Maraetail Mist

Mangakino as it is today has its origins in the mid-late 40s as a dormitory town for the workers who were engaged in the construction of the hydro dams on the Waikato. The houses are modest but sufficient, and the one we rented for the week was very well equipped. Mary loved lighting the fire each day and using the copious supply of firewood included in the rental.

Mangakino is on the shore of the Waikato River where it becomes Lake Maraetai which provides the energy for the two power stations at the nearby Maraetai dam. When I booked the accommodation, I jokingly asked our host to arrange a week of no wind and some river mist. Well goodness gracious, she pulled it off!

Regrettably I suffered a calamity here when I dropped my Olympus camera and wrecked the mounting plate of my favourite lens. As if my insurers did not already hate me.

Dunham Reserve on Lake Whakamaru

Almost as if I anticipated the disaster, I had packed my two venerable Canon cameras (the 5DII and the 7D) so all images for the remainder of the trip were made on these huge, heavy, but still optically excellent cameras.

Anyway, back to the trip. If you are unfamiliar with the geography of the Waikato River, there are a series of hydro dams each of which creates a lake on the river. Coming downstream from Lake Taupo, they are in turn, Aratiatia, Ohakuri, Atiamuri, Whakamaru, Maraetai I and II (both on the same dam), Waipapa, Arapuni and Karapiro.

About halfway between Atiamuri and Whakamaru, there is a beautiful spot on the river called Dunham’s Reserve. This was the place that I failed to shoot back in 2016. Regrettably, on this trip, I didn’t find anything like the beautiful conditions of that earlier opportunity. Nevertheless, the river produced a scene worthy of photographing in its own right. I believe the lily pads are regarded as a pest to the hydro dams and were due to be sprayed with weed killer from the air.

Autumn tones at Dunham Reserve

As already observed, the colours of Autumn were still lingering and this clearing on the Dunham Reserve was a delight to me.

Stillness and River mist at Mangakino

The next day offered those lovely misty conditions on the river, so I went down to the Mangakino Lakefront Reserve where I took pleasure in the stillness of the water on the lake, and mystery provided by the mist. Bear in mind that this apparently still body of water is part of a river system with a mean flow rate of 340 Cumecs (12,000 cubic ft/sec)

River scene

The same morning, from a little further round the reserve edge, I found another view looking downstream towards the Maraetai dams. These are the conditions I came for.

Pastoral scene in the South Waikato

Later the same day, we drove North along the river to the stunning Maungatautiri Mountain Reserve. The South Waikato region offers some delightful scenery that ranges from heavy pine forests to soft rolling pastoral land. The reserve itself is a 3,400 hectare wildlife sanctuary on the Maungatautiri Mountain with a 47 km pest-proof perimeter fence. Within are a wonderland of native bush laced with many delightful walking tracks from which to observe the magnificent bush and the variety of birdlife.

Friendly visitor

I am less agile than I used to be and set out on the so-called Rata-trail with a view to going part of the way and then returning to the entry. The canopy is quite dark, and I struggled to catch the fast moving bird-life flitting about. Fortunately, the little North Island Robin (Toutouwai, or Petroica longipes) is not shy, and will fly around your feet chasing the insects you disturb as you walk. Many a photographer has been trapped with the bird sitting on his or her boots while having a telephoto lens that just won’t focus that close. Foolishly, I went further round the trail than I intended, and soon it seemed better to complete the loop walk than to turn back.

So that’s the end of the first part of this three-part road-trip narrative. If you like what I do, please come back soon for a trip to the amazing, the stunning, the magnificent Wingspan Bird of Prey Centre.

Categories
Animals Architecture Bees Birds Camera club Cars Cook Strait flowers Food insects Light Maritime Seasons Sunset

April 28, 2022 … catching casual beauty

Sadly, the very last exhibition of the now defunct Hutt Camera Club closed this week. Sixty one years of comradeship and photographic endeavour came to an end. No one was willing to stand for any of the essential offices at the AGM, and so it was agreed to dissolve the club. Its assets were distributed to a photographic charity and to other clubs. The bureaucratic rituals were followed, and it is no more.

And that leads me to wonder at the significance of this to my own photography. Even when the club was still in existence, I tended to be a solitary photographer, and rarely participated in field trips with fellow members. I enjoyed their company at club meetings, but kept to myself while making pictures. Though I admired the superb artistry of many of my friends, I was not inclined to mimic their work.

In short, though I am sad to see it go, it has relatively little impact on my artistic endeavour. My style is to be in the world and experience it as best I can. I look for compositions shapes and colours that, in my opinion, might make an attractive image. The result to other eyes is possibly a bit weird or at least eclectic. So, what do I have to share this time?

Say it with flowers

This lovely little cactus was a gift on the occasion of our recent wedding anniversary and it came with some deep thoughts about the nature of marriage. I love it.

Cosmos

We have some kindly neighbours who often share the beauty of their garden with us. These Cosmos flowers are beautiful, though their splendour is all too brief before the petals fall off

Long-tailed pea-blue butterfly

I am not sure how it came about, but I seem to be making more images of botanical subjects recently. Perhaps it’s that the trees and flowers move more slowly and are less evasive than the birds that I also love. Anyway, this was in a public garden on Oriental Parade at the foot of Point Jerningham. I went looking to see what was currently in bloom and loved the deep blue of the lavenders. Then came the butterfly. People malign the social media but I get much benefit from the various groups in which I participate. My bug identification group told me it is a long-tailed pea-blue butterfly (Lampides boeticus).

Sitting in judgement

Pulling away from the garden mentioned above, I ran straight into some road works and had to wait for the stop/go person to allow us to progress. I was taken by the noble pose of the dog in the car ahead of me. S/he seemed to be in a state of mild contempt over the strange antics of the humans.

Home

On a warm Autumn afternoon, I was on my way home from the far side of the valley, along Waterloo Rd. As I crossed the railway bridge, I realised that our house was directly ahead of me. It is above the car ahead of me and to the right of the middle light on the left. It’s hard to make out the shape and extent of the house through the haze, but that’s home.

Old and New-ish

In downtown Wellington just outside the central library (which remains closed pending resolution of the need for seismic strengthening), I was taken by the contrast between the old “Dominion Building” and the “Majestic Centre” behind it. I have mixed feelings about the trend to add one or two extra storeys onto the grand old ladies of the city. This building was once home to reports and editors (remember them?) and clattering linotype machines and thundering presses. Who knows what people get up to in the newer building.

Strait Feronia

A beautiful Autumn afternoon in Eastbourne and I was looking for shots across the harbour in the golden light. The Bluebridge ferry, Strait Feronia sailed in from Picton and presented a pleasant view of herself.

Royalty

Without doubt, the white heron is the head of the preference chain for bird photographers in New Zealand. I am not sure why, but the Royal Spoonbill seems to come a long way down the pecking order. It is visually similar to the heron in most respects except for the extraordinary cartoon-ish bill. These were part of a cluster that seem to have made the Pauatahanui wetlands home.

Mill Creek

Just to the North of Makara, is Mill Creek wind farm. It is a modest sized installation with 26 turbines along the coastal hills. On this day there was a light breeze, and I needed to use a neutral density filter to get the exposure down to 0.5 seconds for the blur on the slowly spinning blades.

Mouse traps

There are many variations on the recipe for “mouse traps”. I love the ones Mary makes, though she has a lightning approach (never the same twice). This batch had sweet chilli sauce, ham, cheese, spring onions, and bell peppers. I had just started eating lunch when I realised their photographic potential. Mary has seen that look on my face countless times before, and she allowed me to interrupt the meal to catch the shot.

A fully functioning death star?

The gem squash does not appeal to me as food, though I like the symmetry and colours. These were taken in my “dark box” and I saw a certain astronomical aspect. Weird.

Afternoon sun

The honey bees have been busy in recent times and I was pleased to catch this one in between two lavender flowers.

That’s all for now. See you next time, I hope.

Categories
Adventure Animals Bees Birds Cape Palliser flowers Lakes Landscapes Lowry Bay Machinery Pauatahanui Wairarapa

March 1, 2022 … diversion from the serious stuff

An old joke asks “what am I doing in this hand basket, and where am I going?” Recent world and local events seem to reflect this theme. I lack the kind of spirit that might cause me to be personally involved, other than expressing my opinion. (Putin is a war criminal and the local anti-mandate protest movement is based on culpable disinformation.) And so I divert myself by seeking the beauty around me. Mostly, I find it in small scale things. For sure, New Zealand has a lot of beauty on a grand scale, but this is not the time to be travelling and among crowds of people. In recent times, the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi has appealed to me. Crudely summarised, it seeks beauty in imperfection. Imperfection is a specialty of mine 🙂

Word of Mouth

Out in the Pauatahanui inlet there is a resident flock of royal spoonbills. They are wabi-sabi personified. While its cousin the white heron is undeniably beautiful, the spoonie wears a clown costume. The grotesque bill is efficient at dredging the mud for food, but makes it hard for me to take them seriously. Watching a pair squabbling is akin to seeing two people engaged in a duel using salad servers.

Black Swans

Near the yacht club at Foxton Beach, Mary and I were enjoying a picnic lunch on the stop bank when a flight of black swans came over low and slow. I grabbed my camera and lined them up but even so, they were past me when I finally got them in the viewfinder and in focus. If you thought the black swans were all black, then this shows otherwise.

Bumble bee with sweet pea

There was a clump of sweet peas beside the lookout platform at Foxton Beach. It was being visited by a number of bumble bees. To my surprise, they were not all of the common black and yellow bumble bee variety (Bombus terrestris). There were several others and various expert groups have suggested that the strangers were the large garden bumble bee (Bombus ruderatus). This is narrower, and is more black and white than my old familiar friend.

Wairarapa Moana

It is a rare visit to Featherston that I don’t divert down Murphy’s Line to the Lake Domain Reserve. I am often disappointed. On this occasion, the lake was perfect, and reflected the silvery blue clouds beautifully. The rusting steel piles of the old Hansell’s jetty make a delightful focal point for the photographer. Yes, I have made similar shots before, but I take joy in beauty no matter how often I encounter it.

Chicory

The lovely blue chicory flower seems to spread along the roadside grasses of the back country roads in the South Wairarapa. How does it get distributed? I assume that somehow the slipstream of passing vehicles is involved in the spreading of the seeds.

Lowry Bay in the mist

Misty weather is always interesting to me, and I always imagine a more romantic picture than the one I capture on the day. One day I shall get the picture that I envisaged when I pressed the shutter.

Waves of bark

Wabi-sabi means different things to different people. For some, it involves simplicity and beauty, akin to minimalism. Other interpretations include age and decay, and the deliberate inclusion of imperfection. I thought I saw elements of it in this sheet of fallen bark that Mary brought home for me.

Reading

There was a time when I went to the city library every two weeks and would take home a bag of eight or ten adventure novels. If I finished them all before the fortnight was up, I would refresh my stash ahead of time. Now I find I lack the necessary attention span to deal with books at that rate. Instead I load books into the Kindle app on my iPad/iPhones and read my preferred styles of adventure as and when the mood takes me. I can divert to YouTube if I wish, and go back to Kindle when I am ready to resume.

Newtown barber

As I walked the streets of Newtown, I passed the open door of a traditional men’s barber shop. I think the barbers are of middle Eastern origins, judging by the posters with Arabic script on the walls. Whatever, the shop was immaculate and attractively presented. I walked on by and then thought, if I don’t ask, how can he say yes? So I went back, scanned the QR code at the door and went in. I asked permission to shoot from the door. Both he and his client consented and here we are.

Old style greengrocer

Newton is a place of magical diversity. As well as the middle Eastern barbers, there are specialist shops and restaurants from many different countries. In the few shops nearest me in this image we have a Mexican restaurant, Mr Bun (a Chinese-owned bakery and coffee shop, a Halal butcher, a (Japanese) sushi shop, and the ever colourful Jimmy’s Fruitmart. Jimmy’s is an old school greengrocer that, as well as the fruit and vegetables with which I am familiar, sells many interesting items that are welcomed by the people of the varied ethnicities that make Newtown so special.

The graveyard

I always suggest that Ngawi, on the South Wairarapa coast is where the bulldozers of the world come to die. Despite their decrepitude, almost all of the bulldozers on this beach are hitched by a very long drawbar to a large steel trailer, crudely welded out of girder stock and on large rubber tyres. These trailers are backed down the steep shingle beach into the sea to launch and retrieve the owner’s fishing vessel. No matter how rusty and run-down these tractors, they all seem to fire up on demand and trundle down to the sea. When it finally dies, it is replaced soon enough by another of similar condition.

The iconic OLB

The most common truck of my childhood years was the Bedford OLB. I have an affection for them, though now they are either beautifully restored by enthusiasts, or else quietly rotting in rural situations. In their prime, they looked just how I thought a truck should look. This old girl is near the bulldozers in Ngawi and is slowly being absorbed by the trees growing up around and through it.

New Zealand Fur Seal pup

If you drove the 120 or so km from Lower Hutt to Ngawi, then it would not be sensible to not drive the extra 5km to visit the New Zealand fur seals nursery at Cape Palliser. There is a sheltered pool among the vicious rocks where the new season’s pups frolic and splash. They are a joy to watch if you can get close to them. The limiting factor is the protective mothers. Mostly they snooze in the lee of the rocks, but if you come between them and the sea, or worse, between them and their pup, expect trouble. A large boulder with halitosis and big teeth suddenly turns into a raging matriarch, and you had better run. This wee pup is probably a few weeks old and is curious about the guy with the camera.

Mother and child

This pup scuttled to its mother’s side when I got too close (sorry, pup!) Mother was a bit irritated to have her siesta disturbed, but make no mistake she was aware of my presence and swift action might have followed had I got closer.

Thanks for visiting. I always appreciate any constructive feedback.

Categories
Adventure adversity Architecture Birds Boggy Pond Family Hokio Beach Lower Hutt Otaki Plant life Rivers Waikanae Wairarapa Weather Wellington

December 28, 2021 … what lies ahead?

Another year reaches a conclusion, and what a year it has been for the world, and for our country, for my family and for me. Despite the fact that I try to live with hope in my heart, I look forward to 2022 with trepidation. On the personal front, I seem to crumbling at the edges. As well as the cataract, I have now been fitted with hearing aids, and hope to become accustomed to them. Then, following some sort of event that resulted in double vision, vertigo and nausea (unconnected with the cataract procedure), I ended up in hospital for a couple of nights undergoing a CT scan and MRI. No clear causes identified, but nothing sinister found. And thank heavens for free public health care which was superb for me. Nevertheless, with the vertigo and visual disturbances, my doctors say I am not permitted to drive for four weeks. Grrr.

Christmas has passed and family is scattered in Melbourne, Brisbane, Queenstown and Gisborne. Happily youngest son Anthony,, his wife Sarah and our lovely grandkids Maggie and Jack are at home nearby, so we spent some of our Christmas with them. OK, enough with the babble, what images did I get this round?

Black fronted dotterel

Fine days have been rare in recent times, so when one occurs, I select from one of my preferred locations. On this occasion , it was Hokio Beach (again). Since the whitebait season is ended, it was peaceful with no whitebaiters to deter the bird life. In fact, we had the beach entirely to ourselves. Mary went for a walk along the beach to the South while I lay back on the water’s edge and waited. In just a few minutes, I was blessed with a visit from one of my favourite birds, the black-fronted dotterel. These tiny creatures move very quickly and their legs are almost invisible in motion. They appear to hover across the sand and water. Just beautiful.

Also present at Hokio were the bar-tailed godwits, champions of long distance flight. They fly to tidal estuaries in New Zealand from Western Alaska in epic non-stop flights lasting 8 to 9 days. Barring the great albatrosses, they are the olympic athletes of the bird world. And they are handsome birds, aren’t they?

Feed me mama!

It was a great trip. Dotterels, godwits and even dabchicks. In this visit, the chicks have grown too big to be carried around on the parent’s back any longer. In fact they seem even bigger than the parents now, Nevertheless, they are still dependent on the parents for food. As always, the water in the Wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park is reasonably sheltered and echoes the deep green of the surrounding bush.

Californian Quail

On another damp but windless day, Mary drove me up to the regional waterworks at Kaitoke. I was delighted to spot a small cluster of female Californian quails browsing in the lawns there beside the road. The males are more spectacular, I suppose, but the females as seen here are beautiful in their own way.

Stick insect

Stick insects are always problematic for me. They are interesting but very hard to make an attractive image with. They seem to need a context, so in this case it was moving slowly among the flax and lavender at the back door. It’s the first time I have seen a stick insect with a face.

Gold

It drives me nuts that, every year, the mainstream media are surprised to discover the existence of Metrosideros excelsa aurea. Breathless headlines about “rare yellow pohutukawa” appear without regard that they used the same story last year and the one before that. To be fair, I probably make the same complaint about them each year too. The yellow variety is definitely less common than the more familia crimson variety, but I think they are far from rare. There are plenty of very fine yellow specimens in the Wellington region.

Coat of many colours

This little Hebe moth is, like many others quite spectacular when up close. Mary drew it to my attention on our stairwell, so I switched to my trusty macro lens and got really close. Do click on the image to see it in the larger version. It reminds me of some of the more spectacular weaving that I have seen, though I think it would be a talented weaver indeed who could produce work as beautiful as this.

Rata in the rain at Kaitoke

Like the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) , the rata (Metrosideros robusta) is a member of the myrtle family and of the genus metrosideros. The flowers are, to my eye, indistinguishable from those of the pohutukawa. If you get close, the leaves of the pohutukawa are larger and a darker green, and have small hairs on the underside. Rata leaves are smaller, glossy on both sides and have a notch on the tip. A good friend alerted me to the spectacular colours of the rata trees in bloom in the rain up at Kaitoke. He was right.

Waterloo railway Station, Lower Hutt

Most people think of somewhere else when Waterloo Station is mentioned. Our local version would probably fit in the cafeteria of the other one. Nevertheless, it is a locally important interchange between the Upper Hutt/Wairarapa railway line and the Hutt Valley bus services. The wind-shelters in the station are an interesting and necessary feature. As I said before, I am not permitted to drive until early January so I decided to use public transport and roam around the region by train and bus for the day.

Wellington commuter traffic

On arrival at Wellington railway station, I made this image. It occurred to me that not much has changed since the first time I passed through here in February 1954. Well, there are no steam locomotives, and the electric units have advanced through two generations. And then there are the face masks, and the cell phones. And the women wear trousers and the men don’t wear hats. No-one is smoking. Apart from that, nothing much is different

Top deck

Part of my day wandering the region by public transport was to take a trip from the railway station to Island Bay by double-decker bus. Like the schoolboy I sometimes am, I grabbed the front row seat on the top deck, and enjoyed the different perspective from up there. A feature of the city at this time of year is the proliferation of pohutukawa trees in magnificent bloom. This specimen is about midway along Kent Terrace.

Back to the station

On my return from the Southern suburbs, I decided to take the train out to Upper Hutt and thence back to Petone Station from where I would catch a bus back up the hill to home. This was all for the pleasure of riding the rails and seeing our city from different points of view. I paused for a pizza lunch in the station before heading North. Since I wasn’t driving, a glass of Pinhead Supercharger IPA helped that go down.

Once was a high school

Through the train windowI was intrigued by the extent of the “Bob Scott Retirement Village”. This was built on the site which was once Hutt Valley Memorial College and before that Petone Technical College. In its latter days as it was rotting, graffitied and increasingly vandalised, it suffered an arson attack and was totally destroyed. It has taken several years but the retirement village that stands in its place is now complete. Despite its somewhat forbidding appearance, I know many people who enjoy living there, and liken it to living on a cruise liner. I am happy for them, but the lifestyle does not appeal to me.

A favourite corner

I am very blessed that Mary works so hard to compensate for my driving prohibition and she made a picnic lunch and drove us over the hill to Lake Wairarapa. We also visited Boggy Pond and had our lunch on the shores of Lake Onoke at Lake Ferry.

Time was when the trip over the hill was a long and arduous journey, especially with kids in the car. Now you wonder why it was such a big deal back then. Heck there was even a greasy spoon cafe at the summit to break the journey. Obviously the places have not got closer together, but modern cars are more powerful, more comfortable and more reliable. The journey from Te Marua to Featherston is a mere 25 minutes. My favourite spot is a corner just to the North of bridge number 6 where there is a bank of trees down a steep ridge. There is no footpath and no safe space to stop to get my desired view. This shot is not what I desired. I should have waited until we got to where that next car ahead is, but it will do as a grab shot. As a passenger I can stick the camera out the window and point it in the right direction.

That is my last blog post for the year. I hope the festive season treated you kindly and you all had a great time. For any who are locked down or constrained by Covid, my sympathies. I look forward to your company in 2022. I enjoyed a cartoon I saw (but can’t find) which depicts the occupiers of 2021 cowering behind a corner in a dark corridor, reaching out tentatively with a very long pole to nudge open the door to 2022. I would like to hope for a much better year than this has been for the world, and I wish all the very best for the new year to all those who share my journey in this blog. Thank you for being with me and for the kind words from so many of you.