adversity Cook Strait Kaikoura Landscapes Maritime South Coast

July 6, 2015 … regardless of the weather

A deep depression hangs over Wellington.

Half mast
Rugby fans mourn the defeat of the Hurricanes in Wellington

This has nothing to do with the weather. On Saturday night, our favourite sons, the Hurricanes, were trounced by Otago’s Highlanders in the final of the Super 15 Rugby competition. Our boys were odds on favourites, in front of a home crowd, Somehow the Southerners snatched it away. Congratulations to them. A house on Breaker bay captured the local mood.

It seems much lighter over there. Tapuae-o-Uenuku catches the sun while a heavy cloud hangs over us. The fishing vessel Daniel leads the Interisland Ferry Kaitaki home to Wellington.

Now that I think of it, the mood carried over into meteorology. Wellington was overcast, but across the Strait, the sun was shining.

A sea-level view across the water and the sharp red rocks to the mountain behind Kaikoura

I go my tripod out, got down low and pulled things a little closer. Yes, the sun was shining over there, while in Wellington our hearts were leaden. In the words of the Sufi poets, this too shall pass.

red sky
Red sky at night … hope for a new day

In fact, the blazing sky as seen from our back door last evening promised better things to come.

That’s all for now.


Birds Canterbury Cook Strait flowers Kaikoura Lakes Landscapes Rivers

October 31, 2014 … and fair as these green foreign hills may be*

Home is best.

Rakaia Gorge
The road coming down towards the bridge is SH72 from Methven. In the foreground, where the car lights can be seen, is the same highway heading towards Christchurch, Oxford, Rangiora and Amberley

Of course I loved every moment of the visit to the South Island and the precious time with family. All five of our children were there to celebrate Andrew’s 40th birthday, and I like to think it says something that they all came. But that was last week, and now it was time for the journey home. I decided that the inland scenic route (SH72) from Windwhistle to Amberley, and then up SH1 through Kaikoura to Picton was the best way to get to the ferry for a mid-day check-in time. So for the second time in recent weeks, I rediscovered 6 am.  We were staying at the Mt Hutt Lodge in Windwhistle, and it is beautifully situated overlooking the Rakaia Gorge. The snow was even more spectacular against the flawless sky at dawn.

Rakaia River
Looking down the Rakaia River from the Mt Hutt Lodge

Looking downstream for one last shot before we got on the road, first light on the bluffs across the river was worth recording. Then it was on the road driving straight into the blinding light of the new day.

South Canterbury panorama – near Sheffield

About half an hour later, a little North West of Sheffield, the landscape demanded a serious attempt at a panorama. Click to enlarge (as for all of the images I post).

Shoveler duck near Cheviot

A little North of Cheviot, Mary said “there’s a wetland, do you want to go in?”. I dithered, she was driving, we went in. The first bird I saw was a New Zealand Shoveler. I have a real soft spot for these ducks with their seemingly disproportionate beaks. They have real character.

St Anne’s Lagoon and Wildlife refuge, near Cheviot

The lagoon itself is a thing of exquisite beauty though we didn’t have enough time to linger, so a few shots of the reflections, and we were off again.

Rampant broom near the Kaikoura coast

Coming down the long hill beside the Conway River towards the Kaikoura coast, I was struck by the prolific and vivid flowing of broom over the steep hills.  We paused for morning tea at the excellent Albatross discovery cafe in Kaikoura, and then I resumed driving duties.

Tapuae-o-Uenuku towers above the South end of Clifford Bay

By now I was getting anxious about getting to the ferry before check-ins closed, so I passed up opportunities on the magnificent Kaikoura coast, and we did in fact get there with about 40 minutes to spare. The marshalling yard is a dull place, so my final shot of our “overseas adventure” is a nostalgic look back towards Kaikoura from the upper deck of the Kaitaki as it emerged from the Tory Channel into the Cook Strait.

And now we are home.

*A Scottish Soldier by A Murray “and fair as these green foreign hills may be, they are not the hills of home”




Birds Camera club Kaikoura Maritime

April 27, 2014 … majestic seabirds

Saturday was the day for field trips.

Kaikoura beach
Kaikoura beach looking North

The one I chose was the albatross encounter at Kaikoura. We waited outside the convention centre in Blenheim from about 6:30 for a 6:45 departure. The moon and Venus were spectacular in the starry sky overhead. A large comfortable tour bus took us down the coast road and soon we were in Kaikoura where the sun was shining, and the sea appeared to be flat calm. Since I am a notoriously poor sailor on small boats, this was a huge relief.

A swell
Though the water appeared flat calm in the first photo, this was the reality half an hour later.

The sea lied. Within minutes of leaving the little bay on the South side of the peninsula, I noticed that other boats nearby kept disappearing into holes in this supposedly flat sea. Happily, I had taken “Sea Legs” and I was lucky to avoid “mal de mer

Royal albatross knows that food is coming

Almost as soon as we left the jetty there were birds following us in ones and twos

Buller’s Mollymawk … a very handsome bird

Before very long we were a few kilometres offshore and a bag full of bait was dragged behind the boat. I am not a hundred percent comfortable with the ethics of this from a pure animal welfare perspective, but the birds weren’t complaining and it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity.

Walking on water
Slap, slap, slap as the birds run to follow the food. In this case, a giant petrel and a cape petrel

Every so often the skipper would give a little thrust ahead with his engines and suddenly all the birds would have to engage in the comical walking on water routine, running after the boat with their bizarre feet slapping at the water trying to keep up with the food source.

Cape petrel
Cape petrel or Pintado …. there were hundreds of them

We saw a great variety of albatrosses and kindred birds. The Royal albatross, the white-capped albatross, the wandering albatross, Buller’s mollymawk, as well as various petrels and shearwaters, and the most common of all were the Cape petrels.

One of the worl's great wanderers
Another royal attracted to free food


We were at times surrounded by birds and the knowledgeable young lady who was assisting the skipper of our launch was keeping us informed of the various birds coming and going.

giant petrel
The giant petrel was an ill-tempered and aggressive bird


At times the birds would squabble though there was a definite pecking order, mostly related to size. The exception was the giant petrel which seemed undaunted by the bigger albatrosses.

It was a fantastic day.