Adventure Animals Arachnids Birds Brisbane Landscapes Waves Weather Wellington

July 23, 2017 … there and back again

Since I last wrote, Mary and I spent eleven days in Queensland with our eldest son and his lovely family. In so doing we missed most of the wildest and coldest storm Wellington has had in four or five years.

Fishing at Tinchi Tamba Wetlands Reserve

The very first evening in Brisbane was just the opposite of hat was starting to happen already back in Wellington. It was a warm evening  with a delightful rosy sunset starting to happen on the North Pine river at Tinchi Tamba wetlands.

Wild Kangaroos at Tinchi Tamba

On the way in, Mary and I had spotted the mob of feral kangaroo and I really should have taken the shot then before the sun disappeared.  I am told this is a mature female with its immature offspring.

Glass House Mountains
Glass House Mountain sunset

Rowena and David had arranged for us all to spend three days on the Sunshine Coast at Noosa. On the way there, we visited the stunning Mary Cairncross reserve. If you are in the area North of Brisbane and like nature this is not to be missed. Regrettably we arrived rather late in the day, so it was very dark inside the rainforest area. Happily, there was a lovely view out over the Glass House Mountains, before we carried on to Noosa.

Lagoon at Noosaville

As luck would have it, it rained on our first day at Noosa, but it didn’t prevent a nice sunset glow on the lagoon behind our accommodation.

Brush Wattlebird at Noosa

On our last day there,  we went out on Noosa Sound on a rented boat, and during a brief walk ashore at the Noosa Spit Recreation Reserve, I managed a shot of this handsome Brush Wattlebird.

Golden Orbweb Spider

Not to everyone’s taste, but equally handsome to my eye was this Golden Orbweb spider … apparently a small one at about the size of the palm of my hand.

There’s always one who can’t keep the rhythm – Pelicans

The youngsters went back to school and parents back to work, so Mary and I spent some time exploring the delights of the Brisbane River on the excellent Rivercat ferries.  It was a  delight to see the formation of Pelicans flying over us against a clear blue sky.

Water Dragon
Water Dragon – Gardens Point

Back in the city, in the magnificent gardens at Gardens Point, we encountered a water dragon. In summer there are dozens of them, but since this was midwinter and the temperature a mere 22 deg C, they were harder to find.

Goodbye to Brisbane til next time … not bad for an iPhone shot

All to soon it was time to return to reality. Having stowed my camera in the overhead locker, I resorted to my iPhone to capture a departing shot of this lovely city.

Into the storm over the Marlborough Sounds
Adventure Architecture Art Birds Brisbane Family Light Maritime Melbourne Weather

December 7, 2016 … a happy conclusion

Now I am home. No matter how much I love being with my sons and daughters and grandchildren, there is an inevitable time when being home is the right place to be.

A bright day in downtown Brisbane

Last Wednesday in Brisbane started off in spectacular Queensland fashion, with bright sunshine and high temperature. I went to town to meet my son, David and the day seemed perfect. After lunch, he went back to work, and I set out to take in the sights.

Bush Stone Curlews in Brisbane’s botanic garden

The Botanic Gardens in Brisbane are intrinsically beautiful but are also a place where you can find exotic wild life such as water dragons and lizards of various types. For me, the greatest joy was coming across a family of the somewhat rare bush stone curlew. I got down on my belly and wriggled close. These birds have as their first line of defense the habit of freezing in place when disturbed, so I was doing quite well. Then a pair of lead-footed runners came galloping through and scattered them.

storm (1)
Coming back towards the city on the River Cat, into the approaching storm

From there I used my Brisbane transport card and boarded one of the River Cat ferries and went upstream to St Lucia and then back down to the city terminal. Remember that perfect weather? It disappeared before my very eyes and the sky got dark very quickly.

Victoria Bridge and everyone knows the rain is coming

I got off at the North Quay and looked over my shoulder across the Victoria Bridge from Queen Street. This was starting to look serious.

There are a lot of gaps in the verandahs in Brisbane. I think I found most of them

Then there was a flash and the stunning crash  to signify that the skies were now officially open.Oh Lord, didn’t it rain!  I was unwilling to stand out in the open with almost continuous lightning strikes and a calamitous downpour.  By the time I got back to David’s work, I was drenched.

Brisbane Panorama from High over Southbank

The next day, the family took me out to dinner on the city’s Southbank area where we were able to look at the brand new workplace where my daughter-in-law Rowena works. Outside another storm was threatening but I took the opportunity to compile a nine shot panoramic stitch of the the view from her floor. I like Brisbane very much.

Port Melbourne
On the beach at Port Melbourne

The next day I flew out to Melbourne to visit my elder daughter Catherine and her husband, Mark. Though still warm by Wellington standards, Melbourne was being gentle with me. Port Melbourne is a delightful suburb and gives access to some wonderful views out over the vastness of Port Phillip Bay.

Prince’s Pier, Port Melbourne

One of the great cliché photos from Port Melbourne is Prince’s Pier which was once a busy working wharf, but is now a mixture of preserved piles and a work of art. My stay was over all too soon, and it was back home. I loved visiting the kids, but being back home with Mary and in our own house just feels right.

Adventure Architecture Art Brisbane Butterflies creativity Family Landscapes Light Museum Reflections Sunset

November 30, 2016 … on the West Island

Here I am in the big brown island next door. It’s 8:20 am and already the thermometer is telling me it’s 26 deg C, and heading for 28. I am enjoying the hospitality of my eldest son David and his wife, and loving being here with them and our two beautiful grandchildren. Apart from the weather, a slight bonus is that the earth has not moved at all while I have been here.

Sunset at Bald Hills

I came over on Wednesday, flying into the Gold Coast airport at Coolangatta. An old friend and former colleague kindly transported me the 20 km or so from the airport to Varsity Lakes railway station, which is the southern limit of Brisbane’s commuter rail network. It was a pleasant run of about 90 minutes into Brisbane Central station where I met up with David who drove us home. Nearing Bald Hills in the heavy evening traffic, I enjoyed the magnificent sunset.

Swan plants
This was a tiny part of a vast field of swan plants

On Friday, David took me to a favourite location nearby, the Tinchi Tamba wetlands. Unlike Wellington, South East Queensland has been experiencing a prolonged dry spell, so the “wetlands” were not so fruitful as they have been in the past. However, there was a large open area full of swan plants, that favourite food of the monarch butterfly. It seems we missed the peak event but there were still a lot of butterflies flitting about.

Grace’s art project

The next day, David, Grace, Isaac and I went to Kelvin Grove where Grace is a student at the Queensland Academy of Creative Industries. I can’t say I understood the assignment, but she got very high marks for the project, and she produced a piece made with cane and tissue paper … as I understood it, the mark was for the exploration in writing of the artist(s) who inspired the work and analysis of the creative process.

Scarborough Harbour

On Sunday, with Isaac, David and I drove North to Redcliffe. We had a great fish and chip lunch at the Scarborough harbour where you can be sure the fish in your lunch is fresh.

Brisbane Port
Brisbane is a big city and has a big port whose cranes are visible across Moreton Bay

We came back along the coastline from where there was an interesting view of the distant cranes of Brisbane’s port.

Restoration nicely done

Yesterday, Grace and I went to Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art (more her thing than mine, but you don’t often get an excuse to hang out with your 15 year-old granddaughter. The museum is on Southbank and has some interesting architectural neighbours.

Reflections in a table

From the third floor of the gallery, I spotted a reflection of the city across the river. It wasn’t the river doing the trick though, but a large glass-topped table up against the window. Brisbane’s river is customary brown and silt laden, so the glass did a better job.

The two islands of New Zealand? A piece by Michael Parakowhai who is also responsible for a statue of an elephant standing on its head outside the gallery.

A piece in the gallery was eye-catching. It was by New Zealand artist, Michael Parakowhai and according to the tour guide it referenced the two islands of New Zealand with all the culture in the North and all the fun bits in the South.


Architecture Birds Brisbane

August 30, 2014 … nature at its best, close to the city

At home again and Queensland is rapidly receding into memory.

Coochiemudlo Island is a small slice of tropical paradise near Brisbane

Of course, photographs are a wonderful aid to memory, and yesterday I made a lot of images. We went to Coochiemudlo Island at the Southern end of Moreton Bay. It is accessed by a ferry that runs a half-hourly service to and from Victoria Point in Redland. It is just over an hour’s drive from Brisbane through very pleasant country, though the farmland is under pressure from growing suburbia. The first thing you see on the island is a classic tropical island white and beach. Yesterday’s weather was perfect for this.

Brahminy kite nesting in a tree on an inhabited street in Coochiemudlo

The locals seem friendly and offered a lot of helpful, though not always accurate advice about where to find birds. I was looking for the Bush Stone Curlew (of which, more later) but one old gentleman suggested that if I went up this street and along that street until I found the blue house and then looked for a certain tree, we would see a Sea Eagle nesting. We followed the instructions and indeed found a handsome raptor nesting in the tree. However, according to the field guide, this bird is the Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus). She had a substantial nest and like the osprey from a few days earlier, was defending it from lesser birds.

Black-chinned honey eater on a Pandanus fruit

We resumed our walk around the island in pursuit of the curlews, but I was side-tracked again by the proliferation of honeyeaters of various sorts. The first I saw was a Black-chinned honey eater (Melithreptus gularis) sitting on the fruit of a Pandanus tree.

Blue face
Blue-faced honey eater on garden shrubs

On a nearby suburban street (on this remote tropical island) we next encountered the Blue faced honey eater (Entomyzon cyanotis) extracting honey from the flowers of garden shrubs.

Wetland bush on Coochiemudlo

Soon we found ourselves in the Melaleuca wetlands on the North East corner of the island and the bush there was full of birdsong, though the birds remained cleverly hidden.

A group of Bush Stone-curlew

Around the corner, facing North, there were nice views back in the direction of the city which may have excused me from seeing the very birds I was hoping to meet. Fortunately, David has younger and sharper eyes than mine, and he spotted a group of three. By means a forceful whispers and urgent hand signals, he indicated that he had seen something, so I did my twinkle-toed pink panther imitation back to where he was pointing. Oh great joy, there were three birds. The  mainly nocturnal Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) is reportedly secretive by day, and hard to find.  And there were three of them in plain sight. Their defense mechanism is to stay perfectly still if they sense danger. This may be the cause of their rarity except in the far North of Australia. I speculate that what we saw was a cock bird guarding two hens on the nest.

These seemed to be sitting on a nest

In the end as we walked the island, we encountered no fewer than seven of them, and as a photographer, I was delighted that their defense mechanism posed them perfectly.

Back to civilization (?) … I was pleased with this shot through the front windscreen of the car.

Sadly, a problem at home meant we had to curtail our walk and head back towards the mainland. Never mind,  what we had seen already was a delight. My last shot of the day was of the Gardens Point vicinity as we came back through the city on our way back to the North side. As you can see, there is no shortage of construction in this city.

And so to bed.


Animals Birds Brisbane Light Rivers Trees

August 29, 2014 … a close encounter of the marsupial kind

Our time in Brisbane is almost at an end.

Bamboo is nice to look at, but in my experience is host to a million biting insects.

Yesterday afternoon, I went with David to collect Isaac from school. I liked the textures of the tall bamboo growing near the classrooms, though I have the idea that they are a haven for all sorts of biting insects in a land where there are too many already.

Egret with injury … help was called but I could do no more

I went next to the Barungwarra reserve on the South Pine River, and was delighted to see a large egret. However, I was distressed to see it was injured with a spike sticking out of its lower bill, and was probably unable to eat. We called the bird rescue people who promised to look for it and to see what could be done.

Kangaroos pause from grazing to keep a wary eye on the photographer

Next I went back to Tinchi Tamba wetlands and again to my delight, there were kangaroos browsing in the afternoon sun. The perked to attention when I got out of the car, but resumed their grazing as I drove off to do the walkway.

A big solitary kangaroo at close quarters

Halfway round the loop walk, I encountered a large solitary kangaroo. We looked at each other startled, and then it bounded off, but paused to look back at me. I am aware that kangaroos, if threatened can inflict severe injuries, so I held back. This one was about my height when standing upright so definitely not to be taken lightly. It watched me for a while then resumed its journey into the cover of the bush.

Homeward bound in the morning, but with one more day’s stories from Queens;and to tell when we get home.

Animals Architecture Brisbane Rivers Trees Weather

August 28, 2014 … weather or not

Brisbane is every bit as fickle as Wellington.

Beautiful cloudscape over Brisbane

We caught the train to the city and walked across the Kurilpa Bridge to Southbank. The view down the river was just splendid. After a bit of a wander we found a very nice Japanese restaurant and enjoyed lunch in the open air.

Looking North from the Goodwill Bridge, the weather had changed its demeanour in the space of about 90 minutes

We continued up the Bougainvillea walkway to the Goodwill Bridge and crossed back to the other side. I enjoyed a stroll through the grounds of Queensland University of Technology at Gardens Point, having enjoyed several weeks in residence there during a sabbatical while I was still employed. The view to the North as we crossed the bridge should have warned us of an impending change in the weather.

The Moreton Bay Fig

In the botanical gardens there are some magnificent examples of the Moreton Bay Fig tree.

Eastern Water Dragon basking

At the duck pond near the exit to the city we encountered some of the Eastern water dragons that abound around Brisbane. This particularly fine specimen was unperturbed when I lay down near him to meet him eye to eye. We caught the train and arrived back at Bald Hills in the midst of a lively thunderstorm and had to scramble to rescue a very large load of washing from the clothes line.

That’s enough for today.

Animals Birds Brisbane

August 27, 2014 … chance encounters of the hopping kind

Various opportunities arose yesterday.

magpie lark
The magpie lark didn’t stay long

David was at work, and Mary was doing some stuff fr the family,and I had the use of a car, so I went back to the Tinchi Tamba wetlands near Bald Hills. Like many of the wildlife zones in the region, it has excellent walkways. I had not gone far when I spotted this Magpie-lark (not to be confused with the magpie itself.

The mob of kangaroos on a coastal reserve were an unexpected delight

As I was taking the shot, a man coming the other way with his kids told me to watch for a mob of kangaroos. Sure enough in an open area in the park there were a group of kangaroos. I am guessing they are landlocked by the sea on one side and the increasingly dense housing on the other.

Coastal forest

The walkway passes through some delightful coastal bush, much of which is the casuarina tree.  It is a good place to contemplate the world.

Galahs have a reputation for stupidity. This one seemed to have life well planned.

Back at the family home, there was a solitary galah sitting in a tree beside the verandah. It seemed to sleep for an hour and then flew on.

That will be enough today.

Arachnids Bees Brisbane Children

August 26, 2014 … hidden treasures in the wetlands

Better weather than expected gave some nice opportunities.

A small spider with exquisite skills as a weaver

Isaac was starting at a new school, so there was a bit of juggling around that. While I waited for David to return, I turned my camera on a very delicate web spun by a small spider. The sun was gleaming on it nicely.

Our first trip of the day was to a nature reserve specializing in the preservation of the local osprey population. We did see an osprey being harassed by crows while we were there, but the situation was not conducive to good images.

Second only to the kangaroo in the symbolism that says “Australia” it was a delight to get this close to a koala in the wild

On the other hand, someone told us that there was a koala up a nearby gum tree with her joey. She was high in the tree and the angle didn’t allow me to see the joey, but I was happy to get into a position to see her face.

The kookaburra is a large kingfisher

On the way back to town, David saw a kookaburra sitting on a farm fence so we  stopped. As I lined up the bird swooped to the ground quite close to me and began to eat something there. I have no idea what.


From there, we visited the Boondall wetlands and wandered around the walkways. There was a great deal of birdsong, but it took a while before we were able to spot them. Perhaps the most plentiful were the noisy miner birds which conceal themselves in the foliage very cleverly.


Another handsome local was the butcher bird. It is very melodious despite the sinister look of that hook at the end of its beak.


Saving the best until last, we came across a tawny frogmouth. Despite its superficial resemblance to the owls, it is in fact, a member of the  nightjar family. During the day, it pretends to be part of the tree it sleeps in, and its plumage looks remarkably like tree bark. The bird has a character-filled face with a delightful set of whiskers around its beak.

It was a good day.


Birds Brisbane Children Family Food

August 24, 2014 … candles and feathers

One of the major reasons for our visit was our grandson’s birthday.

Isaac blows out the candles on his cake

Isaac was seven yesterday, and like most boys of his age in the developed world, he was excited about it. He woke early in the morning, waited patiently for the rest of the household to emerge and opened his various gifts in an orgy of shredded wrapping paper. Later in the day, he celebrated with the gathered family at the home of his other grandparents, and got to blow out the candles on a Lego-themed cake made and decorated collaboratively by his mother, sister and father. It was a joy to be there for him.

Glossy ibis on the soccer pitch

In the morning we went to watch him play soccer. The opposing team didn’t turn up, so a game was arranged between various members of Isaac’s team. It rained steadily for much of the day and this meant that the senior grounds were closed. The unusual amount of rain drove ants and other insects to the surface, and this was an opportunity for the birds to eat very well. A bird that I have not previously got close to was the glossy ibis.

Crows flying in the rain

Crows were also plentiful, and because they are not present in New Zealand I was surprised by their size.

Low and fast, a swallow chasing insects

Also present in large numbers were swallows flitting across the fields. The seemed to fly a straighter path that the ones that gather airborne insects over the ponds at Pauatahanui.

A great egret, close cousin to our white heron

White egrets were present in the waterways, and were less skittish than the ones at home.

Australian pelican

Strangest to my eyes were the pelicans which were simply crouched against the rain.

That’s all for now.

adversity Animals Birds Brisbane Scenic Rim

August 23, 2014 … wet feathers and a bouncing surprise

It turns out that our stay in Australia will be a wet one.

Crimson Rosella hoping for food

For the most part that’s no big problem, but I would have liked a dry spell yesterday for our visit to Lamington National Park near the border with New South Wales.It’s spectacular countryside, but so much better when it’s not shrouded in mist. However when we arrived at O’Reilly’s resort the birds were immediately visible. First to arrive were the spectacular crimson rosellas which sat on the car as we got out.

Bower birds
Regent bower birds, male and female, being fed by tourists. These are free flying birds, not captive.

We went around the track that includes a wonderful boardwalk, but the rain increased in intensity as we went around. I saw honey eaters and various small birds but things were dark and it was hard to see the birds in the gloom. We were forced to give up, and went back to the centre where tourists were feeding a variety of birds including the splendid Regent bower bird.

Wallaby posing

After lunch with the rain now quite heavy we set off down the hill again. On the way. David spotted this handsome Wallaby. It sat for its photograph and then disappeared into the grass.

Bounding into the rain

Closer to Canungra he spotted what I think is a kangaroo (as opposed to a wallaby). It too sat for a while and then bounded off into the mist and rain.

Weather or not, it was a good day.