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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.


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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July 17, 2020 … everything changes

I seem to have let things slip for a few weeks. Ah well, the solution is to pick them up again.

In Avalon Park

Stillness speaks louder than the strongest gale. It demands my attention. The first thing I do every morning when I pull back the curtains is check whether the fronds on the ponga tree are waving or still. If they are still, life speeds up and after shower and breakfast, I head out. If they are waving I spend time at the keyboard. This still moment occurred at the end of the day and I was driving through Naenae. The duck pond in Fraser park was free of ripples and I was able to get low enough to separate the tree from the background.

Naenae Fog

On several mornings recently, we have experienced river fog drifting slowly down the valley. It doesn’t always follow the river exactly and takes a shortcut through Naenae. The various heating equipment at Hutt Hospital contributed to scene and showed the generally Southbound movement,

Someone left the plug out

There was a mist in Evans Bay. The ex-naval whaler owned by the Sea Scouts was in need of a good baling out. but was still afloat, and separated from the other nearby boats by the fog.

On the road to Shelly Bay

It was an unusually thick fog, so I went around Shelly Bay road to see what opportunities might arise. I was setting up my tripod for a shot across the bay when two cyclists emerged out of the mist behind me and were disappearing away to the North. I swung the camera and seized the moment.

In Shelly Bay

Back to the view across the harbour and the old jetties at the former Air Force flying boat base. I got the shot I wanted and within thirty minutes the fog had lifted and the view across Evans Bay was back to normal

What a mighty mountain

Mary and I chose to spend four nights away recently. We looked at the various AirBnB opportunities and settled on Opunake on the Taranaki coast. It’s about half an hour North of Hawera and 50 minutes South of New Plymouth. I had driven through it before but had spent no time there. Just getting there fulfils the first rule of landscape photography: first go somewhere where there is a good landscape.

Sunset in Opunake

The weather was variable while we were in Taranaki but we had a few memorable sunsets. Though there was a chill Southerly breeze, the sky was clear apart from some haze on the horizon. This shot was made in Middleton Bay, just North of Opunake beach.

North Island Tomtit

A nice thing about Opunake is the number of interesting places that are with less than an hour’s drive. One such is Dawson Falls at the edge of the tree line high on the South Eastern side of Taranaki. The day we went up there was complicated with low cloud, and though I made some shots of the snow and glimpses of the summit, the mountain was not displayed to best advantage. I was happy however, to see this delightful little North Island tomtit (Petroica macrocephala). It was happy to see me too since my passing by stirred up insects for it to catch.

Carved life-sized hawk

While we were in Taranaki, we visited our friend Wayne Herbert. I posted an image of his tui last edition. This is one of an American hawk . What a gift this man has. I swear I can see life in the eye of this wooden carving.

Waxeye in the red-hot pokers

One of my favourite places near New Plymouth is Lake Mangamahoe. We stopped in there on our way back to Opunake. It was a grey overcast day, but colour was provided by the extensive growth of red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria) along the lake’s edge. And then there were the lovely waxeyes browsing among the flowers, presumably for insects.

Live steam

Steam Inc, at Paekakariki was having an open weekend recently and I happened to be driving past when I spotted the plumes of steam as the locomotives were being fired up for the event the next day. There were two locomotives out in the sunshine. One was Ja1271 and the other was Ab608 “Passchendaele”. Both were hissing gently and occasionally blowing steam.

The dog walker

On Petone Beach late this week, I saw a dog-walker with nine or ten “clients” which he had walked oolong the stormwater outlet. Several of his dogs were off the leash and he seemed to be calling them to heel with varying degrees of success.

That will suffice this time. Stay safe and well everyone. I look forward to catching up in two weeks or so.

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March 15, 2017 … to the provinces

Our seasons of weather woe continue. An occasional redeeming day causes me to seek frantically for photographic opportunity before it evaporates.

A tiny fraction of the school kids prepare to race on Pauatahanui Inlet

On an otherwise fruitless trip to Pauatahanui, I was returning via Paremata and spotted a line-up of some thirty or more small yachts about to be launched from the beach. I assume that this was some sort of school exercise, but after a seemingly endless procession up the channel into the inlet, they were soon lined up in race-formation.

North Mole
Despite the sun glittering on the water, there was a bleak wind blowing in from the sea

Last week, I had an appointment as a trainee photographic judge in Whanganui. We combined that with Mary’s ambition to walk the Pouakai Crossing on the NorthWesterly slopes of Taranaki. We found accommodation in Whanganui on Wednesday and prior to the judging session that evening, I went down to the North Mole at the mouth of the River and enjoyed the light on the seas rolling in from the Tasman. Coincidentally, today, Wednesday 15 March is the day of the third reading in parliament  of the Te Awa Tupua bill which “makes the Whanganui River and all its tributaries a single entity with the rights of a legal person.” If you want to know more, follow the link for the text of the bill.

Light house
Cape Egmont Light house

On Thursday, we drove to New Plymouth taking the coastal road through Opunake, and diverting briefly to Cape Egmont, and the lighthouse to the West of the mountain. Don’t be fooled by the blue sky. It was intermittent at best, and totally grey again by the time we reached New Plymouth. After checking in, we drove up to the visitor centre at North Egmont where they showed us the Mountain Forecast for the next few days. It predicted heavy rain on Friday and a few light showers on Saturday. The Doc rangers recommended that we ignore Friday and make the crossing on Saturday.


Len Lye Centre
The exterior of the Len Lye Centre is almost as fascinating as the art works within

And so it was, that on Saturday, Mary visited her beloved aunt Marie at Fitzroy while her brother and I explored bits of the city.  Paul is an artist in his own right, so the Govett Brewster Gallery and the Len Lye Centre were inevitable destinations.

This huge kinetic work by Len Lye was painful without the ear defenders

Len Lye is perhaps most famous for his kinetic art and the largest of his featured works at present is called “Flip and Two Twisters”. It consists of large strips of stainless steel sheet. The two outermost strips (twisters)  are connected at one end only, to a ceiling-mounted motor that has a vertical axis. The centre piece (flip) is a longer strip, attached at both ends on either side to another motor that operates in a horizontal plane rather like a skipping rope. The motors are computer controlled and put the strips in precisely controlled motion. The surprise for visitors who turn up for one of the scheduled showings is that they are offered serious industrial quality ear defenders. When sheets of steel that big are shook and twisted the noise is calamitously loud.

The Te Rewarewa bridge at Fitzroy, in New Plymouth is photographed often. On a fine day, from the North side, Taranaki is framed in the curve of the bridge. On this day, there was no view of the Mountain so I shot from the South

Saturday came, and contrary to the forecast, was very much wetter than the previous day, on which hardly any rain fell at all. The rangers told us that our intrepid duo could possibly do the walk, but that they would be in danger of being swept away by waterfalls, and that the tracks themselves would be like rivers. Wisely, they chose not to brave the mountain and instead did the coastal walkway from Te Rewarewa bridge at Fitzroy to the port 9 km away.

Kaihihi Stream
The Kaihihi Stream at Okato was carrying far more than its usual volume

We set out for home on Sunday. and having enjoyed the emptiness of the coastal road on the way up, took the same route back.

Patea Freezing works – most of the fragile bits have been demolished and I suspect the remains will be there for many years to come

We passed through Patea on the way home and I took the opportunity to look at the solid remains of the old freezing works.  And that’s all this time.


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1 March, 2017 … oh what a week it has been

Looking North along Himatangi Beach at the end of a beautiful day

Most of my week was centred on the RNZAF’s celebration of their 80th year with an airshow at Ohakea. If you have no interest in aviation skip to the end. The last shot is worth it, in my opinion.
Mary and I booked accommodation at Himatangi Beach for three days so as to avoid the peak traffic coming and going. We arrived on Friday evening and Mary persuaded me to walk to the beach to observe the sunset.

As the sun sinks towards the horizon, Taranaki is visible 155 km away to the North

The weather was most promising for a good day for the airshow the next day and Taranaki stood proud and clear in the distance.


I was caught quite unawares by a pair of RAAF F/A-18 Hornets streaking low and fast down the coast, presumably as a rehearsal for the next day. The sun was moving considerably slower and so I caught that without trouble.

Sunrise somewhere near Oroua Downs on the way to the airshow

Next morning, show day, I was up early and on the road in the dark, soon after six. During the 37 km drive, the sun made its first appearance and revealed a ground mist which I feared might disrupt things. It didn’t.

Before the crowd built up – an F-15SG from the Singapore Air Force and a Boeing KC-767J of the Japanese Self Defense Force

Despite my early start, there were several hundred cars in the park ahead of me, and a couple of hundred camper-vans on site. We lined up waiting for the gates to open. The advertised time was 7 am, but they didn’t admit us until 0740. It was good to get access to the aircraft in the static displays with the sun at a low angle and relatively few people around compared with later in the day.

Lines to get inside the big aircraft

There were fighter aircraft from Australia (F/A-18), Singapore (F-15SG) and the USA (F-16). There were transport aircraft from the UK (A400M), France (CASA 235), Australia (C-17) and New Zealand (C-130), Japan (KC-767J) and the USA (KC-135, C-17).

Inside the mighty C-17 of the RAAF

We lined up for a look inside and I was mightily impressed by the vast cavernous fuselage of the C-17, and a little surprised at the exposed ducting in the roof.

RNZAF C-130 taking off, leaving spirals behind the props.

Flying commenced at 10 am and I had missed a trick by not claiming a spot on the flightline. Nevertheless, the planes are big enough to make themselves seen.

100% of the RNZAF’s long-range VIP transport capability

Some of the earlier movements were simply logistics associated with the show. The RNZAF owns two converted Boeing 757 aircraft which are pressed into service as VIP transports. It’s relatively rare, outside of their home base, to see them both together.

An improbable but impressive formation of heavies

Among the morning’s displays were a lot of “heavies” and one such flight was a formation flight involving one B757, one Lockheed P3C Orion and two C130 Hercules. They passed over Ruapehu which was sparking clear in the morning sun and then swung in from the South at which time the two C-130s peeled off.

TBM Avenger restored in the colours of “Plonky”, the aircraft flown by NZ aviation personality, Fred Ladd

Some historic aircraft were involved, and as well as the inevitable Spitfire there was a beautifully restored Grumman TBM Avenger.

Beautifully restored DH104 Devon

One that I remember form my days in the Air Training Corps was the De Havilland DH104 Devon which was used in the RNZAF as a light transport and a Navigation trainer.

USAF F-16 creates some pressure at low altitude

In the afternoon, came the fast movers which, in reality amounted to the USAF’s F-16 and the Australian F/A-18

RAAF F/A-18 puts its wheels away before starting its show routine

The thunderous crackle of a fighter at full throttle is surely as effective as a bowl of prunes for curing certain ailments and I enjoyed the sheer power of the displays. While all this was happening, Mary , who has scant interest in airshows, walked from Himatangi Beach to Foxton Beach and back (a mere 22 km round trip). I got out before the end of the airshow because I have no real interest in formation aerobatics which was the final event.

On the sandbank in the river at Foxton Beach

Next day we spent enjoying the rural quiet apart from the distant thunder of the airshow’s second day in the distance, a mere 20 km away as the crow flies. We drove down to Foxton Beach where there was abundant birdlife on the sandbar. Oystercatchers, pied stilts, bar-tailed godwits, red-billed gulls, black-backed gulls, and lesser knots were all crowded into one small space.

Her majesty, the Queen – Asian Paper Wasp

Later in the day, Mary and I were walking and she spotted the nest of the Asian Paper Wasp, so of course I got up close and personal. I think, from the described behaviour, that this is the queen.

Tararua ranges under morning cloud near Levin

The next day, with all the airshow traffic having dissipated we made the leisurely drive back down SH1 to home, pausing for a shot of the Tararua Range near Levin.

Boat sheds at Pauatahanui

Yesterday, officially the last day of what we have laughingly called “summer”, was perfect. I went for a wander to Pauatahanui and Queen Elizabeth Park.

Dabchick with chicks

The long-sought dabchick chicks were at last visible. As you can see the parents often carry the chicks nestled deep within their own plumage, but as the youngsters get older they become more independent and often branch out on their own.

Herons reflecting

My last shot in this extended edition, is possibly my best shot of the year to date. Two white-faced herons perched on a piece of driftwood, reflected in the mirror-calm waters. I am pleased with this.


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September 14, 2016 … like a box of chocolates

The week since I last wrote, began and ended with rain, but somewhere in the middle, we got a real soft centre.

Heavy water on the shore at Cape Egmont

Mary and I had arrived in New Plymouth and settled into our rented house (my first Airbnb), but there was still intermittent rain. Meanwhile, I was reading of all the great waves I was missing back in Wellington. This got me to wondering what was happening at Cape Egmont, just a little way back down the coast.  Despite the heavy cloud, we set out in the afternoon and were soon on the wild and rocky western coast of the North Island. Yes, there were waves, and a vicious offshore wind.

Windsurfing at Cape Egmont

They weren’t as big as those reported in Wellington, but wonderful to watch anyway. And there were crazy people wind-surfing in these conditions, though a little to the side of the wildest conditions on the cape.

Someone out there is in trouble

The next day, the sky began to clear, and as Mary was preparing our evening meal, I ducked out to catch a view shots of the mountain from a place that I knew would give me a clear view from base to summit. Alas, from that position, there were clouds obscuring the summit. I drove back into town along Devon street, and as I neared the base hospital, realised that the cloud was now further West and no longer in the way. I went up the hill to the hospital grounds and was rewarded with a full view of Taranaki as the day was coming to an end. I got my shot, but as I was about to pack up, I was “photo-bombed” by the Taranaki rescue helicopter backing out of its base to fly off and rescue someone.

The mountain from the dinner table

Back at the house, Mary was about to serve dinner when I realised I had a pretty good view through the dining room window, and that the trees and clouds added a little drama. Look at the rosy tint on the snow.

Cardiff, NZ

On Sunday, we set out to visit Dawson Falls which is a visitor centre high on the mountain, near Stratford. A little to the South of Midhirst, we left the main road and drove along Monmouth Rd to Pembroke and then on to Cardiff. Obviously some homesick expatriate was dreaming of his native Wales when giving European names to the localities hereabouts. Ignoring the fact that they all had perfectly serviceable Maori names, they also ignored the wild mismatch between the place and its namesake. I would guess that there are fewer than a hundred people here, compared with 340,000 in the Welsh city. But our one has the mountain.

Clear sky
No cloud to spoil the view

At the edge of the nearly perfectly circular park which surrounds the nearly perfectly circular mountain, there was a lovely view of the mountain, showing Fantham’s peak which, from this side, spoils its symmetry.  The snow-line seems a long way up, so we ignored the sign saying chains were mandatory, in the erroneous belief that we wouldn’t be up that high. There was snow in the car parks and most of the walking tracks were closed because of recent weather.  But, as you can see, it was a flawless day.

Across the island to Ruapehu

From the lookout platform near the visitor centre there was a view across the 136 km to the mountains in the centre of the island. From left to right, the three snow-capped summits are Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu.

Lighthouse and mountain

We came back down to the plains below, and knowing that the road was just 15 minutes longer, headed back round the Western side of the mountain. After a pleasant picnic lunch in Opunake, we carried on towards New Plymouth. We paused again at Cape Egmont where this time, no cloud obstructed the view and I could get the lighthouse and the mountain in the same image.

Hutt River
The Hutt River at Te Marua – in the rain

And now we are home again and the rain is with us. Yesterday I followed the mist and clouds and went to the Hutt River near Te Marua and in splendid solitude, took this long exposure of the stillness. Birds sang, and rain dripped to the ground but otherwise, no noise. That’s all for now



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Thursday 8 September, 2016 – perverse nature

So much for the automated reminder for a weekly Wednesday edition. Of course I have an excuse, but I won’t waste your time with it.

Marina (1)
Are you beginning to see a pattern to my plan B yet?

I had a project in mind for a photographic qualification. It depended on there being some dramatic winter storms and big waves. This winter it just didn’t eventuate, so I have activated a “plan B”, and by now you will recognise the Seaview Marina as the place where it is mostly located. On one of the recent “non-storm” days, I went down there as the day came to a blissful end.

Marina (2)
Reflections on still water may be a cliché, but I like trying to do them justice

I used my newest ND filter to ensure still waters as the last of the daylight was disappearing.

In line
Waiting patiently for access to the food, common house sparrows and a waxeye

Then there were a few rainy days, so I set my camera up in its rain jacket and controlled it wirelessly from my iPad. Mary likes to feed the local birds, sparrows, finches, waxeyes and the like.

A waxeye seeks a higher perch to assess the chance of getting into the food

I was grateful to avoid the weather from the warmth and comfort of our lounge.

Heavy surf and sand blasted at about 100 km/h

Today (Thursday), Mary and I have driven to New Plymouth. Of course this was the day Wellington chose to deliver swells estimated at seven metres to the South Coast. Accommodation had been booked and a deferral was impossible, so I grabbed a few shots on the way up. The first was at Waverley Beach, where a tumbling surf, diatomaceous foam and wind-blown sand made photography close to impossible.

Mouth of the Patea River in a storm

We broke our journey for lunch at a clifftop lookout in Patea. As I munched my pie, I watched as the incoming rollers overwhelmed the moles on either side of the mouth of the Patea river. In calm weather, people clamber out along the moles and fish. It would be a fatal mistake today.

More next week, hopefully on Wednesday.

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December 9, 2014 … surprises on the homeward journey

Yesterday was the day for coming home.

Bridge and mountain
The ribs of the Te Rewa Rewa bridge frame Taranaki/Mt Egmont (2,518 metres). This is an active volcano, though it hasn’t exerted itself since about 1860.

As I said there is much to commend New Plymouth. A few grumbles too, like the world’s slowest traffic light cycles, and the meanest most suspension-busting speed bumps. On the whole though, it is a city I could live in. Mary went out for her customary early morning walk (whatever that is), and I was enjoying the comfort of my bed. She came back almost immediately and said the mounting is pristine this morning. Get out there! Ever the dutiful spouse, I did and caught this view of Taranaki/Mt Egmont  as framed by the ribs of the Te Rewa Rewa bridge.

Paradise shelduck taking a bath

And then it was onto the road South. We didn’t go far when we saw the sign for Lake Mangamahoe, just ten minutes out of the city. It is a man-made lake of about 31 Hectares with many nooks and crannies, and is contained within extensive parklands with many trails for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. Of course I wanted the birds, but didn’t have the time to look for the bush birds. However the lake well populated with waterfowl. This paradise shelduck is having a good shake to clean her feathers.

Taranaki pastoral landscape

It was nearing lunchtime when we were approaching Eltham. A sign that said Lake Rotokare was just 12km to the East attracted us and so we took that road. The hillside paddock  with its curving lines seemed worth a shot. I liked the clouds too, though some of them are attributable to contrails from aircraft flying 5 kilometres overhead on their way to or from Wellington or Christchurch. If if you are a conspiracy theorist perhaps they are “chemtrails”.

Lake Rotokare – near Eltham

Inside a strong predator-proof fence is pretty Lake Rotokare (rippling lake). There is a reasonably friendly 4.5 km walk around the lake. By friendly I mean that it stays fairly close to lake level all the way with no serious climbs or descents, though it got very muddy and treacherous underfoot in places.  There is a much more strenuous ridge track for those whose life is incomplete without serious climbing.

Glimpses of the lake from the bush walk

Again there were waterfowl on the lake, but for us part of the great joy of our time walking the track was the continuous volume of birdsong. We hear bellbird, tui, waxeye, warblers and even a shining cuckoo. The bush was magnificent with frequent gaps through which life on the lake could be seen.

And so we are home again.



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December 8, 2014 … the magic of the back-country

Lake Rotomanu can be translated as “the lake of the  birds”.

Terrorizing the ducks on Lake Rotomanu … in fact the ducks just glided out of the way, and seemed unperturbed.


Perhaps it once was. Now it seems to be a recreational lake for the power-boating community of New Plymouth.I suppose everyone needs somewhere to have fun, and many activities are exclusive of others. There are winners and losers. Taking shots of the water-ski people seemed like a foot in both camps. As you can see from the ducks in the path of the skier, they are not easily dislodged.

Water skier
It’s a very small lake for such high-powered craft, but they were clearly having fun


With  the sun behind them, I have to confess that they put on quite a show.

The Mokau River


We went North to Mokau where we hoped to join the once a day birding trip up the Mokau river. Sadly I looked at the schedule for the other company, and the only boat that went that day left an hour before we got there. Not to worry. We drove up Te Mahoe Road on the Northern bank of the river and were utterly entranced by the beauty of the landscape and the peacefulness of the river. Every few metres there was a small jetty with a rudimentary shelter from which keen whitebait fishers seek their elusive quarry. Thus inspired we went back to Mokau village where I enjoyed a magnificent whitebait fritter for lunch.

Herding sheep on the Mt Damper station


We explored other back roads and loved it all, from Mohakatino and Tongaporutu, until we saw a sign that mentioned Mount Damper Waterfall. We drove thirty or so kilometres in wild and rugged county until at last we reached Mt Damper station. Some drizzle was falling and in the distance I could hear the shrill whistle of the farmer, and the barking of the dogs as a huge mob of sheep was being moved. The pattern along the hillside  was a delight.

A brief impasse while the sheep decided if they were more scared of s or the dogs yapping at their heels. The dog won.


What we had not realised, was that they were being driven around the head of a valley and were soon coming along a narrow ridge straight towards us. We had to get of the track to let the sheep progress, but it was interesting to be among the mustering action.

Mt Damper
I wish I had been better able to convey the scale and grandeur of this landscape, despite the rain


When the flock had passed we carried on towards the waterfall, about 20 minutes from the gate. Again the bush had a wonderful serene quality to it and was a joy to walk in. We emerged within earshot of the falls and looked out through the mist and drizzle to the valley very far below. That’s quite a wide river down in the gully.

Over the edge to splatter on the rocks far below


And there, to our left, Mt Damper Waterfall was spurting out over a sheer drop and falling in a feathering veil to some spot down in the bush beyond our ability to see. It’s not a huge volume of water, but it is a very long drop.

It was a splendid day.

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December 7, 2014 … at the foot of the mighty mountain

New Plymouth has much to recommend it.

Te Rewa Rewa bridge, Fitzroy, New Plymouth


Allegedly, there is a mountain nearby, though there was no sign of it for most of yesterday. However, the city seems very well equipped with recreation spaces for its citizens and visitors. A jewel in that crown is the splendid 11km coastal walkway which runs from the port in the West, to Bell Block in the East. Where it passes through the Lake Rotomanu reserve at Fitzroy, is the four-year old Te Rewa Rewa pedestrian bridge. My words can’t do justice to this so here is a link to the Wikipedia description. It is probably the most photographed bridge in the country.

Common mynah flitting among the flax


Mary was visiting her Aunt, so I wandered along the walkway, and was intrigued by the number of common mynah (Acridotheres tristis) in the flax. When I was young, it was rare to see a mynah South of Hamilton.

A herd of scooters rumbling along the walkway, engulfing all who stood in its way


A new noise came to my ears, louder even than the nearby waves on thee beach. An underlying rumble overlaid with the babble of a thousand starlings was soon traced to a herd of crash helmets in the distance. Someone had organised a scooter event for the kids and hundreds of them turned out. It was quite impressive.

High on the Western flanks of Taranaki, the Pukeiti Gardens and their bushwalks are a delight


In the afternoon, Mary and I went up the mountain (still unseen) to the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust’s splendid gardens. Most of the rhododendrons had flowered and dropped their blooms, but the extensive network of bushwalks was a joy in itself.

Warbling waxeye proclaiming its dominion over all its surroundings


Late in the day, while Mary was again with her aunt, I went back to the Lake Rotomanu reserve. As I parked I heard a small bird warbling its heart out. It was against the sun so I couldn’t identify it with any certainty but thought it to be a grey warbler. When I got the image onto the computer and applied the appropriate corrections, I was astonished to discover it was a waxeye. I had never thought of them as songbirds.

Shyly, the mountain unveils


I went back to the bridge which is, by design aligned so that the alleged mountain can be seen framed by its ribs. And there it was.

More tomorrow.

Architecture flowers Foxton Beach Landscapes New Plymouth Sunset Taranaki

December 6, 2014 … ramblings from a road trip

Road trips for no reason are the best kind.

An eyesore in a noble cause


With no real deadlines at either end we could make stops and diversions as we pleased on our journey to New Plymouth. Our first such diversion was to Foxton Beach where there are often interesting birds in the estuary. Alas the tide was very high and there was nothing of great interest on the remains of the sandbank. On our way out of town our eyes were assaulted by some bright plastic hay bales. What’s more we saw lots more of them in the Horowhenua and Manawatu districts. Ugh! They are hideous. It seems some well-intentioned baling contractor had the bright idea of getting the farmers to adopt the pink wrap instead of the customary green in return for a donation to research into breast cancer. Now I feel like the Grinch. But they are ugly.

Lavender in Bulls


We paused for coffee in Bulls (which advertises itself as a town like no udder), and Mary bought some stuff at the Lavender shop. I have no interest in the lavender shots so I lined up on the lavender growing outside.

I think it’s a maize crop, on dark soil.


I have always had a special place in my heart for the gentle rolling landscape between Bulls and Whanganui. There are always interesting textures and fascinating contrasts between neighbouring paddocks.

I love the patterns in the landscape, even as we keep driving


At this time of year new season’s crops are emerging and since they are machine planted, they create some wonderful patterns. Despite our relaxed schedule, I didn’t want to keep stopping, so while Mary was driving, I would open the window and shoot on the move.

After hiding all day, there she is the mighty mountain


Soon we were in New Plymouth and in our rented holiday home. As the day neared its end the overcast we had experienced all day cleared away, so we went for a walk along the wonderful coastal walkway towards the Port. And suddenly, from a particular viewpoint on the coast, there was a clear view between city buildings straight towards the mighty mountain, Taranaki. The shroud that had obscured it all day parted and left the summit in the late afternoon sun.

New Plymouth
The foreshore and port of New Plymouth at Sunset


As we walked back to our lodging, I enjoyed the view behind us of Paritutu and the port.

More tomorrow