Adventure Architecture Birds Clive Family harbour Hawkes Bay Kelburn Landscapes Light Lower Hutt Napier night Pekapeka Tararuas Trees Wellington

January 10, 2018 … Happy New Year

Thank you for staying with me. Some of you have been Internet friends since about 1994, and I value your continued company on this ever-changing journey. My presence on the Internet, and then on the Web, has evolved over the years, from its initial purpose of providing home news to disconnected kiwis. It has been through several stages since then and is now a vehicle for the photographic expression of my love for this region, this country, and wherever else I find myself.

If you have been with me for a while, you will know that I am somewhat insecure when it comes to the evaluation of my own skills.  This is not false modesty. I know that I make some really nice shots now and then, but I also produce a regrettable number of mediocrities. My journey is about changing the proportions of each. I want more really nice shots.

My challenge each day, is to be a better photographer than I was yesterday. For the sake of clarity, I regard photography as the making of images using whatever tools help me to illustrate the possibility I saw when I picked up the camera. I am an unashamed user of Lightroom and Photoshop to bring my vision to life in print or on the screen. So, 2018, bring it on. Here are some of my first efforts for the year.

When you see that descending line of trees you know you are almost at Featherston

When our family came to Wellington in 1980, the trip across the hill to the Wairarapa was much more challenging than it is now. The old “greasy spoon” cafe and the awful rest-rooms at the summit are long one. The road is now well sealed, and there are safety barriers on all the nasty corners. Only the landscape is unchanged. On the last sharp corner before the road crosses the bridge to head into Featherston, there is an iconic stand of trees that I have long wanted to photograph. However, there is no safe place to stand, and you would need to be on the outside of the Armco barrier at risk of falling into the valley below. On this occasion, Mary was driving, so I would the camera strap around my wrist, adjusted the swivelling rear screen and held the camera out of the window firing as we drove.  It’s not the image I envisaged or aspire to, but it’s a start.

It’s 2018 already but the Christmas decorations are still up. The inner harbour from Kelburn

A few days later I was wandering the quiet city and found myself in Kelburn where the university campus was closed and quiet. I drove to where I used to park when I was a staff member there, and looked out over the moody city. As you can see the pohutukawa was making its seasonal presence felt.

Gun emplacement.
1942 Gun emplacement on Brooklyn hill intended to defend the city from Japanese air attacks which never eventuated.

From there I drove up to the wind turbine at Brooklyn and thence down the hill again, pausing at the Polhill Reserve to have a look at the old anti-aircraft gun emplacements. The 109 men who were stationed there at any one time in all weathers from 1942 until the end of the war would probably not comprehend the desire to be there at all, and even less the desire to waste so much paint on the pointless graffiti. And yes, the despite reserving the right to process my images, the sea to the South  really was that blue on the day.

Kingfisher having a bad hair day at Pauatahanui

On some of the grey days, cabin fever was prevented by some wandering in the direction of the Pauatahanui wildlife reserve. I was in the Forest and Bird hide with not much happening when I realised that the large rock a few metres away had changed shape. It has been a long while since I was this close to a kingfisher, even one as scruffy as this. Nice to see you again, little fellow.

Water lilies
A glimpse of a secret garden with water lilies at Pauatahanui

I crossed the road from there to see what was happening in the fresh water ponds. The answer was that there was nothing, not even water there. Where the ponds are normally, found there were  moon-craters, cracked and dry. And, in the words of Farley Mowat, “no birds sang”. Trudging back to the car, I caught a glimpse  between the slats of the boundary fence of somebody’s “secret garden” (Wow – two literary allusions in one paragraph).
And then it rained.

Didn’t it rain, children?
Talk ’bout rain, oh, my Lord
Didn’t it, didn’t it, didn’t it, oh, my Lord?
Didn’t it rain?*

Though I didn’t go back to the dry ponds, they would surely have been filled, at least temporarily.

From our front door towards Seaview in heavy rain at night

Though not exactly forty days and forty nights, it rained quite heavily, and I decided to see if I could catch the experience in a night shot from our front door looking down towards the Seaview oil terminal

This is a small section of the competitors at the Clive river. Apart from the rattle of the seats sliding and the oars splashing, it was an eerily silent armada

In the weekend just ended, Mary and I went up to Clive, just South of Napier. Some of Mary’s family were having a get together at Te Awanga. It was a joyous occasion with much laughter, good food and great company.  Before we went out exploring on the Sunday morning, I strolled the 100 metres or so from our rented accommodation to the banks of the Clive River where there was a rowing regatta under way. The river was still, though somewhat clogged with weed. Down at the river mouth, heavy swells after the recent storm could be seen crashing on the bar, but I loved the steady procession of rowers moving steadily down the river to the start line. Though the racing shells would be wildly impractical in that situation, their purposeful passage looked like a latter-day Dunkirk.

Tern and gull
The local bully waiting to steal the little kid’s school lunch

My brother-in-law, Gerard later took us to a place along the beach where the was a  significant nesting site of shore-birds. There were white-fronted terns, pied stilts, banded dotterels and New Zealand dotterels. The dotterels are very hard to see on the rocky shore but the terns and stilts were more visible. A recent storm had disrupted the season and many eggs were washed away, according to a birder I met. There were juveniles aplenty, squawking loudly and demanding ever more fish. I felt for the term parents who would dash in at high speed from the sea with a fresh fish and attempt to get the youngster to swallow it before the marauding red-billed gulls could snatch it mid-transfer.

Old house
I have done this before but the rate of decay is accelerating

Homeward bound the next day, I had to pause just South of Hastings to record the latest stage of the slow and inevitable decay of an old house. I have shot this house many times and perhaps even shown it in this blog. Last time I was there, there was a blackberry thicket at the rear. It has been cleared, and perhaps that has allowed the house to lean gently inwards towards the earth.

Wellington Harbour in brooding weather

Yesterday was a moody sort of day in the Capital and I went up the hill to the entrance to the Horokiwi quarry and from there caught the wide view of the Eastern side of the harbour, The island to the left is Matiu/Somes and the hill to the right is the Miramar peninsula.

road and rail
Tenuous link

From the same spot, looking ninety degrees to the right, the winding path that carries road and rail between Wellington and the Hutt Valley shows just how vulnerable that vital link would be in the event of an earthquake like the Kaikoura one last year.

  • “Didn’t it rain” is a Negro Spiritual, according to Wikipedia, that long predates Mahalia Jackson’s version


Adventure Birds Cars Clive Family Hawkes Bay Lakes Landscapes mountains Napier Te Mata Peak

April 3, 2016 … road trip

Mary and I set out for a week in Napier,  We chose to take a back road because I had seen an image taken by a fellow club member of the Waihi waterfalls.

The limeworks at Mauriceville where there was once a Dairy factory

I had never previously heard of these falls, but from the South, they are most quickly accessed on SH52 through Mauriceville, Alfredton, Tiraumea, Pongaroa and Waione.  To be honest, most New Zealanders would need to use Google to find where most of those places are. Even after driving that route, I am still not sure I am any the wiser. Most of them seem to consist of a disused community hall. I had the sense of having driven through 92 km of deserted farmland. The scenery is beautiful but it seems empty.

Waihi Falls near Waione

The falls themselves are worth the journey. However, be warned that there is absolutely nothing else there. No commercialization, and the only facilities other than some reasonably formed paths are toilets and a shelter over some picnic tables.

Automotive graveyard tangle

We drove on towards Dannevirke, and on the Weber road, I spotted a car graveyard. It was fenced and heavily padlocked and chaotically overgrown with blackberry and other weeds. Unlike its better known counterpart at Horopito, there is no  visible semblance of order in this place, and in my opinion, no way of retrieving any of the rapidly decaying vehicles. On the other hand, many photographers of my acquaintance would sell their own body parts for unfettered access. My images were taken across the fence from the road side. We had lunch in a park in Dannevirke and resumed our journey to Napier, where we celebrated the 60th birthday of my brother-in-law, John.

Balls Clearing
A tiny glimpse of the magnificent Balls Clearing Scenic Reserve

On Tuesday, Mary and her youngest brother Gerry went hiking in the Kaweka range while I satisfied myself with lesser walks including the stunningly beautiful Balls Clearing Scenic Reserve near Puketitiri. This is a remnant of the podocarp forest that used to cover this entire area, and which was spared the axe by way of public petition to parliament and was finally made a public reserve as late as 1945. Many of the great trees in here are 600 years old.

From Puketitiri looking West to the Kaweka range

A little further on, closer to the Kaweka range, there was a lovely view over part of the Makahu station through which it is necessary to drive to get to the popular Mangatutu Hot Springs on the edge of the Mohaka River. We dined on venison from Makahu station that evening with Gerry and his wife, Vivienne before driving the remaining 50 km or so back to Napier.

From the top of Gentle Annie towards the Mountains. Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are all visible.

On Wednesday we drove part of the “Gentle Annie” road from Napier to Taihape, and turned around after the steepest and most winding parts were over, and where we could see across vast open high country to Ruapehu on the horizon. If you look near to the right hand of the image you can also see the summit of Ngauruhoe peeking across.

Te Ngarue Stream at the foot of the Tangoio Falls track

On Thursday, we drove up to beautiful Lake Tutira which is presently toxic due to an infestation of blue-green algae. After a very nice lunch beside the lake, we returned towards Napier, but Mary was keen to walk the 4.5 km Tangoio Walkway, so I dropped her at the top of the hill and then drove to the bottom end of the walkway by the Te Ngarue Stream to wait for her.

Australasian shoveler at Clive

On our last day in Napier, I went looking for birds at Clive while Mary walked the 14 or so km from there to Havelock North on the magnificent walkway system throughout the bay. Among my captures was this handsome male Australasian Shoveler duck. Jimmy Durante would be proud of a nose like that.  I then drove to the end of the trail to collect Mary and we had lunch at the summit of Te Mata Peak.

That’s all for now.


Birds Clive flowers Landscapes Machinery

December 1, 2015 … on the downhill run

The drive home from Clive to Lower Hutt was a pleasant one.

Azolla rubra, doubling every five days … can you find the coot?

Warm and sunny weather make a drive more enjoyable. I was less pleased, however, with what I found at the Pekapeka wetland reserve just South of Hastings. I have visited it many times before, in conditions varying from flood to drought. This time, the problem was the infestation of the floating fern, Azolla rubra. Though it has many uses including stock feed, it is not doing the bird life a lot of good at Pekapeka. It can double its biomass in 3 to 5 days  and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything else. These wetlands are normally home to swans and swallows, coots, dabchicks, shags and ducks. In my first cautious stroll around the walkways, I thought the place was deserted. It was not until I processed this image on the computer that I found the distinctive white blaze of an Australian coot (about one third in from the right, on the centre line).

Black swan in briefly clear water


There were a few small patches of clear water, and after a while a pair of black swans appeared from under the boardwalk.

Apiti wind farm

After a nice coffee and slice of Louise cake in the excellent Vault cafe in Dannevirke, we carried on South to the Manawatu Gorge, where I stopped for a slow shot of the spinning turbines in the Apiti wind farm above the river.


At home, the weeds in our garden had proliferated, but some are quite photogenic, including this heartsease or wild pansy.

This is the first day of the last month of this as a daily blog.


Architecture Birds Clive Masterton Weather

November 29, 2015 … to Hawkes Bay in the rain

Our niece is getting married today.

Old house
Farm building a little North of Masterton

As a consequence, we drove  to Clive, near Napier, yesterday. Unkind weather made the trip less pleasant than it usually is,but on the other hand offered some opportunities for mood shots. Most photographers at some stage have the “original” idea of photographing old farm buildings.So did I.

Hawk circling in the rain

Somewhere South of Dannevirke, I saw a distant possibility for a misty panorama. I took the shots, but was then distracted by a circling Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans) and decided it was a more interesting shot.


The temperature when we left Wellington was showing as 9 degrees on my car’s instrument panel. When we arrived in Napier, it was showing 29 degrees. A trip to the Clive Estuary was called for. Though there was less variety than I hoped for , I enjoyed an encounter with a New Zealand Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae).

White-faced heron in flight

White-faced herons were visible, but wary as always. This one made a rapid departure to the other side of the waterway.

More tomorrow.

Birds Clive Family Hawkes Bay Napier

May 18, 2014 … from bird-hide to the high country

Surplus to immediate requirements again, I was free to amuse myself.

White-faced heron among the reeds

To the South of the Clive River estuary, there is a wonderful wetland area which is often home to a great variety of shorebirds.  I took my hide, my gumboots, my camera and a borrowed 200 mm lens to see if I could overcome the woe of not having the 400 mm. I am quite pleased with what I got, though I think they would have been better with more horsepower. I just have to include more of the environment and persuade myself that the picture is the better for it.. So we begin with a  white-faced heron striding purposefully through  the reeds.

Sacred kingfisher
Kingfisher in flight

Next, we have a kingfisher. A little camera-shy, this one moved promptly to a more distant perch.

White heron in flight

And then, great glory, a white heron. I took several shots but almost all were too far away. Happily when it finally took off, it came towards me.

Amorous suitor in hot pursuit – dabchick

Things went quiet for a while and I amused myself with the Kindle app on my mobile phone, while keeping a watch for sound or movement outside the hide. It was the patter of little feet on the water that alerted me to the next scene. A lovelorn dabchick was in hot pursuit of a reluctant female, and the walking on water was just funny to watch. He didn’t get lucky, at least while I was there.

A pleasant driveway in Puketapu

In the afternoon, we set out from Taradale to visit my brother-in-law and his wife who live in a tiny settlement called Patoka. I recommend  that you use Google Maps to find it. After leaving Taradale, the first little settlement is Puketapu where I found yet another pretty tree-lined driveway.  From there another thirty-plus winding miles of splendid pastoral scenery brought us at last to Patoka. It consists of a school, a hall and a few houses. That’s it. The road carries on for another 40 or so kilometres until it finally expires on the edges of the Kaweka Range.

From Patoka back towards the coast

As I said. it is a stunningly beautiful landscape, but I couldn’t live there. It is just too far from anything else. This shot looks back to the East, but there is nothing but the infrequent farmhouse until you come at last to the coastal settlements.

Enough for now, the repaired lens arrived at home while I have been away.



Aviation Birds Clive Hastings Landscapes Napier Te Mata Peak

January 12, 2014 … no goatherds up here

Getting to the top of Te Mata Peak on a mountain bike is no mean feat.

From Te Mata Peak
With the Hawkes Bay spread out before me

I never could do it, but admired the ease with which the very athletic man we were driving behind was achieving it. At the top I set up a four-shot panorama looking to the West and North. If you are familiar with the Hawkes Bay you will see Havelock North immediately in front of the hill, with Hastings City out beyond that. Over to the right, Napier is on the Coast and Clive is just on the nearer side and that the river on the right emerging from behind the railing is the Tukituki. You may get the impression that the hill drops away very steeply almost 400 metres to the valley below.

A few seconds earlier she was quite a way below us

This steep drop makes it a very attractive venue for the paragliding community  who like to launch from the top of the hill. As we arrived there were four enthusiasts preparing to do exactly that. From here it may be imagined that the only way to go is down. It is not so. Within a few seconds of launching each of the pilots in turn was rising rapidly, and I could hear the rising and falling tone of their electronic variometers telling them when they were in lift or in descending air. I imagine that they were making good use of the wave lift over the hill, though the day was warm enough for there to be thermal activity as well. I was a bit surprised that the young woman in the picture was flying cross-legged. Anyway, there were soon a bunch of paragliders circling very high above us.

Pukeko on guard
The periodic raising and lowering of the “periscope” from different locations was comical to watch

In the afternoon while Mary was doing the family visit, I was turned loose in search of birds or other subjects of photographic interest. In all honesty I was not very successful yesterday. I saw fewer bird species than I have in the past, mainly black swans and shags. On the wetlands just South of the Napier airport, there were hundreds of black swans still guarding their grey fluffy offspring. A few ducks and gulls mingled but nothing that I regarded as a photograph. A squawking from the long grass on the other side of the track alerted me to the presence of some Pukeko or swamp hens (Porphyrio porphyrio). I think I must have been near a nest because there was a heightened degree of alarm, and every so often a red-tipped periscope would peer above the grass to see where I was.

I hoped it might have been the much rarer Cirl Bunting, but I am reasonably sure it is the yellow-hammer

Another close encounter was with a yellow-hammer (Emberiza citronella) which clung to a dried fennel stalk and eyed me warily.

Looking South to Hospital Hill from a deserted section of beach North of Westshore
Napier is a pretty city

From there I went out to Westshore, crossed the apparently disused Gisborne railway line, and from the pebble beach, looked back towards the city. It was a magnificent blue day, with just a few clouds.

Windswept grasses
These are beautiful to watch, though I gather they are unwanted invasive species

I am not sure what the temperature was, but there was a sufficient onshore wind to keep it pleasantly warm without going to extremes. Perhaps 26 degrees or so.  The wind was sufficient to induce a great deal of movement in the seed heads at the top of the beach.

Back home now, more tomorrow.

Clive Landscapes Light Napier night

January 11, 2014 … into the darkness

So here we are in Clive again.

Waka ama lining up for a race
This is a very popular and very physical sport

Family duty brings us here every so often, and that is always an opportunity to explore the various wetlands around the area. Clive is pretty much at the place where four rivers arrive at the sea, the Tukituki, the Clive, the Ngaruroro and the Tutaekuri all arrive on the Pacific coast of the Hawkes Bay here. As well as the bird life that comes with four estuaries, there is great opportunity for recreation. Indeed citizens of Clive are eager to remind visitors that the Evers-Swindell twins (New Zealand Olympians) come form here. This weekend there seemed to be some sort of waka ama (outrigger canoe) event on the Clive River at the Evers-Swindell reserve.

Swan patrol
Returning at last light

I was not very successful with the birdlife yesterday, so after an excellent and convivial dinner with Mary’s brother  and sister-in-law, we walked back to our motel via a lengthy detour down the river bank. The light was fading quickly and a flight of swans came in low and fast and the silhouettes appealed. I stretched the limits of a hand held nearly night shot.


Coming back up a street beside the river, I liked the intricate lace work of the fennel growing beside the track.

Lest we forget
The Clive war memorial

Arriving back in the village I saw yet another silhouette, this time the war memorial statue of the New Zealand soldier with his “lemon-squeezer” hat. Oncoming traffic is bound for Napier.

More tomorrow.

Architecture Birds Clive Lower Hutt night Weather

October 13, 2013 … from dawn to dusk

We started in Clive.

Before the long trip home in what looked like rough weather to come, we walked down by the wetlands. Sadly, the wind prevented the beautiful calm of the previous evening. However there were plenty of birds about, especially ducklings.

Dawn ducklings
Close escort front and rear ensures a safe transit across a stretch of open water

Mostly they were being kept close to the shelter of the overhanging reeds so as not to be picked off by the circling hawks.

Other ducklings stay almost obscured under the edges of the reeds
They were hard to see but worth a try

These coastal wetlands have a great variety of birds, though yesterday’s brief visit was mostly of the duck family. One that intrigues me is the Australasian shoveller (Anas rhynchotis). It’s bill is so massive that it ought to sit nose down in the water. This one was a long distance out so is less clear than I would like.

Australasian shoveller
That’s a beak that Jimmy Durante would have been proud of (Google is your friend)

At Te Omanga, there were four groups including a kapa haka party from Wainuiomata College, a group of Zimbabwean women playing drums and singing and dancing with infectious African rhythms, a group of hospice staff who sang, and a Samoan choir who inveigled everyone present into dancing to their music.

Voices for Hospice concert
Despite an earlier passing thunderstorm it didn’t rain while we were there

As the light as fading I liked the colours it gave to the new cottage at the hospice where Mary works with rest of the therapies team.

The therapist's cottage at Te Omanga hospice ... sunset
It’s a very nice building where some great work is done

That’s all for now.

Birds Clive Napier Weather

October 12, 2013 … patience rewarded

A family health event required a sudden trip to Napier.

Red sky in the morning ...
The ancient folk-lore was right on the nail … the weather got steadily worse

A red morning sky warned of heavy weather to come, and sure enough the trip up was continuously wet.  Mary visited as required and I was turned loose. For a while the rain had stopped so I set off to walk around the Ahuriri inlet. For 80% of the walk, the most exciting thing I saw was this Little Shag (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos).

Little shag
Despite keeping a wary eye on me, it was also watching for fish underwater


Mind, it was a handsome specimen, and stayed quite close to me when it dived, affording me a good view of its descent into the depths.

Little shag diving
going, going, gone

Then the rain came down. I stuffed my camera under my thin hoodie and trudged around the walkway. I was nearly back onto Meeanee Quay when to great joy I encountered a small flock of bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica).

Bar-tailed godwits
Recent arrivals from Siberia

These astounding birds have arrived back in New Zealand in the last week or so, after their non-stop migration from Siberia. Like many other wading birds, they seem to enjoy the apparently endless supply of crabs in the estuary.  The one second from left has one in its beak.

Godwits in flight
They seem in good condition despite having flown 11,000 km in six days

Despite my staying as still as possible in the still falling rain, they decided to move further away and gave me a nice flight shot.

White heron fishing
He caught a substantial fish

To make the birding day complete, I was strolling along the walkway in the wetlands  to the South of the Clive River when I encountered this white heron in breeding plumage.  It was fishing with some success, though I wasn’t close enough to do it justice.

And that’s it for today.

Architecture Birds Clive Hawkes Bay Landscapes Napier Pekapeka

July 8, 2013 … unusual midwinter weather

Sunrise was perfect, in Napier.

Though the colour was ominous, the morning was bright and crisp, windless, just beautiful.

Sunrise from the door of the Clive Motel
If you look very closely just a little to the right of centre, you will see the last of the waning moon rising.

We set out on our journey home, and since photography was permitted in this direction, we anticipated that it would take a little longer than the journey North. My first stopping point was the Pekapeka wetland, just South of Hastings. When last I reported from there, it was in the grip of drought, and the wetlands were all but dry, with expanses of cracking mud.

Pekapeka wetlands refreshed
Lots of water, not so many birds

The water is back, though the bird life was less prolific than I recall. There were swans, swallows, ducks and dabchicks. I also saw a pukeko which for some reason chose to traverse the tops of the rushes, rather than navigating through the roots. It afforded him a better view, but also less concealment.

This swamp hen has huge feet for dealing with mud, but apparently prefers to keep them dry

Further South near Te Hauke, I stopped again to have a closer look at the derelict house which I pictured once before.

The old farmhouse at Te Hauke
Unlike many of the other derelicts, this one seems to have suffered little further damage from the recent storm

I am not sure whence the fascination with derelict buildings, but I suppose the sense that there are hidden stories has some relevance. My previous image of this house was made in the rain. This time, it was a postcard blue day. The people at the farm were happy to allow me to get closer, so with gumboots and a camera on a tripod, I crossed the fence and climbed the hill. Thought it looks picturesque and time-worn from the road,  when you get close it is a scene of total decay. Two of the exterior walls are now roughly attached corrugated iron sheets. Inside, the floor has long since rotted and the shell is now a shelter for the livestock.

Car of unknown origin in the brambles
Someone somewhere will look at that window profile and identify the make and model. I have no idea what it is.

Last time, I mentioned the old car embedded in the vines at the rear. Like the house, there is less of the car left than I thought. Perhaps the brambles have been nibbling at the shell.

Just South of Waipukurau, I saw what looked like a wrecker’s yard full of old cars of a certain vintage. I knocked on the door of the house and asked permission to take pictures, and the owner was generous in allowing me into the paddock. I was a little disappointed that they were not simple wrecks. The damage and decay were because these were stock cars. The most intriguing of them was this vile pink coloured Humber Super Snipe. In its day this was a prestige car, the top of the Humber line. It deserved a better fate.

Humber Super Snipe
The owner reckons this car is good for at least one more track outing!

The beautiful weather lasted until perhaps Dannevirke, after which the wind went all the way to gale force. Once through the Manawatu Gorge, on the Western side of the Tararuas, we were subjected to intermittent drizzle and increasingly strong winds.

And that’s if for today.