Adventure Bayou Birds Lakes Landscapes Light Maritime Paremata Reflections Rivers Trees Wairarapa

July 1, 2019 … celebrating the stillness

This edition appears earlier than I intended because I am scheduled for a surgical procedure on Wednesday. Nothing unusual for a man of my age, nor is it particularly sinister, but it will apparently slow me down for a few weeks. Some might ask how much slower can I go 🙂

Since the last edition, there have been more still days than not. Yes, in Wellington! In fact every one of the images in this edition was made in conditions of flat calm. I love this, but I need to avoid slipping into a wind-dependent rut.

In fact, having been asked for a photograph of a particular topic, I did a quick skim-browse through about 100,000 images in my back catalogue. The way in which my photographic style has changed over the last decade was very noticeable. I also decided that I have a lot of very diverse images that I really like, and that would benefit from current post-processing techniques. That’s something that I might start on during my recovery period. I seem to have narrowed my range of subjects in recent times.

A cluster of Pukeko

My youngest son Anthony and his wife Sarah had been cycling on the Hutt River trail and drew to my attention, a park and lake that none of us previously knew. Just to the West of SH2 where the River road rejoins Fergusson Drive in Upper Hutt, is beautiful Te Haukaretu Park.

It is probably little known because it is at least 500 metres in either direction from the nearest vehicle access. The small lake is a delight and is enriched by the presence of many ducks, geese, pigeons and pukeko. The pukeko is an iridescent blue swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus) which seems to fly only as a last resort. There were a dozen or so at the lake when Mary and I visited. Look at the massive size of their feet. Perfect for walking on the weed that covers many swamps.

Trees in the lake
Some of the trees in and around Te Haukaretu Park

I am unsure what the trees are, that sit in the lake, but their wide bases reminded me of the visit Mary and I made to the Louisiana bayous back in 2012 Neither alligators nor Spanish moss here, but I had that fragmentary reminder of a very pleasant memory, with no noisy airboats or garrulous tour guides to spoil the peace.

Little blacks
Little black shags

On some calm days, I am prompted to revisit old familiar haunts. In this case I went around Port Road in Seaview where there is a substantial dead tree that has drifted downstream until it wedged in the Waiwhetu stream. It is a much used resting place for shags of all kinds. On this day, two little black shags (Phalacrocorax sulcirostris) in breeding plumage were whispering sweet nothings to each other. The green and gold reflections from the toetoe grass on the far bank helped to transform an ordinary scene into something special.

White-faced heron
White-faced heron browsing at Pauatahanui

Though I hope for the local re-appearance of the kotuku, the white heron, its smaller cousin matuku, the white-faced heron shares the same elegant form. They are numerous in the Pauatahanui Inlet. They move with grace through the shallows. One step after another, they stir the mud with the free foot and spear anything that is dislodged or is foolish enough to move. If they are provoked into flight, their slow deliberate departure is pure poetry to watch.

Unknown boat
A work boat at Paremata

Ivey Bay seems not to be a familiar name to many people. Wellingtonians drive through it often without registering its name. It is that little corner of the Pauatahanui inlet where SH58 meets SH1 at the road and rail bridges. It has some colourful boat sheds and character-filled work boats that have long since been adapted as pleasure boats. I haven’t found a name for this boat (above), but it is my current favourite for its honest workman-like simplicity.

Ivey Bay (1)
The boat sheds at Ivey Bay

Though it is less picturesque in rough weather, Ivey bay is just gorgeous when the conditions are right. It combines a beautiful natural environment with a quirky human settlement and some interesting old boats. The mudflats that appear when the tide is low do not spoil it.

Ivey Bay (2)
Some people are lucky enough to live here

The Eastern end of Ivey Bay has a Kindergarten on the beach and a number of rather nice houses along its steep banks with some of the best views in the region. Certainly their sunsets must be spectacular.

Whitby reflections

I don’t often venture into abstraction, but the reflections of Whitby on the inlet just begged to be used. When Mary and I moved back to Wellington in 1980, Whitby was much more sparsely populated. Now it is a densely packed area of relatively upmarket dwellings. Whereas it is not an area in which I would choose to live, the houses offer some interesting patterns on the water.

Foggy lake
Lake Wairarapa in the fog

And then came the foggy day. Somehow that rarely carries to the Western side of the Haywards hill so I stayed on SH2 through Upper Hutt and over the Remutaka hill to Featherston. In the Wairarapa, the fog was a bit selective. It came down the Tauherenikau River and followed the Western side of the Lake leaving the East bathed in sunlight. I wanted the fog so I began my exploration at the Lake Reserve near Featherston. There, the only things visible from the shore were the sad rusty piles that are the sole reminder of the Wairarapa Yacht Club’s long defunct Hansell’s Jetty.

Old jetty
The jetty’s sad remains

I have made other images of the derelict jetty in other conditions, but different light makes different pictures. I have a weakness for delicate blues and greys and this one really seemed to fit. Apart from a few black swans in the hazy distance there was nothing to see beyond the end of the piles.

The old 180° trick

Whenever I think I have exhausted the possibilities in one direction, I need to remember to look behind me. There is often something to see in the other direction. On this occasion the trees across Barton’s Lagoon offered a ghostly appearance which I liked.

Karapoti in the frost

Just a little to the East of Upper Hutt on the Akatarawa road is the Karapoti forest. It is much loved by cyclists for its mountain bike trails, and disliked by the ambulance crews for the same reason. Considering how close it is to Upper Hutt City, Karapoti is a really wild and rugged area. It even seems to have its own climate.

As I drove towards the park where the trail begins it was nearing mid-dayand there was still thick frost in the shaded areas. Across a farm paddock, there was smoke rising from a small building and the unmistakable smell of frying bacon The occupant certainly knew how to ward off the cold. Luckily, Mary had made a delicious lunch to help me on my wandering. she’s a keeper.

All going well I should publish another edition in two or three weeks. See you then.

Animals Bayou Birds Landscapes Louisiana Plant life Travel Uncategorized

July 25, 2012 … farewell to the bayou

The very word “swamp” has a dismal connotations.

My preconceptions were of gloom, mud, gas, frogs and reptiles. Well some of those are true, but it never occurred to me that they could come together in such a beautiful package. Having done the airboat trip the previous day, we elected to take a different, and slower tour.

As before, the bus was late, but this time, the driver had personality. She was an absolute character. Think Whoopi Goldberg on speed. She had us all attempting to pronounce New Orleans as she did … “N’ahlins” and, “it ain’t no ‘Loo-easy-anna’, it’s ‘Loooozy-anna’”. She filled the 40 minute trip with non stop chatter and hilarious and outrageous banter, and earned her tip.

We took a different route to the previous day, and arrived at a jetty in a different place than before, but as we looked across the canal, we were looking at the base for yesterday’s trip, just 200 metres away.  This was not really a problem because, unless you grew up here, you go into a bayou and you can’t tell whether you have been here before or not. Each visit is an entirely new experience.

By the way, I was really impressed at the navigational skills of the “salty old sea-dog, descendant of Jean Lafitte” guides, until I spotted the GPS on the binnacle of yesterday’s boat.

The slow boats are basically rectangular boxes with rows of bench seats down each side and in the centre, a canopy overhead, and two stonking great 175hp outboards on the back behind a control binnacle. Off we went.

This guide was more laconic than yesterday’s airboat skipper, but no less knowledgeable. He took us to different and quieter places, though all too often the quiet was shattered by the bellow of a passing airboat popping out of the trees nearby and across the opening we were in. Thunderous intrusion - airboat passingThe only consolation is that there is no way for an airboat to sneak up on you. By the way, the wearing of ear-defenders is supposedly mandatory, so any ill-effects or hearing damage suffered by the people in the front row of this boat are self-inflicted.

There are boats all over the swamp, and when you are on an airboat the sound of your own propeller tends to deafen you to others nearby.  On the slow boat with well muffled engines it’s like navigating through a beehive.

There are wonderful moments of blessed silence, however.  On such occasions you can see the other inhabitants of the swamp such as this red-eared slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) basking on a logRed-eared slider turtleHowever, even though our boat was relatively quiet, many swamp dwellers leapt hastily into the water as we approached, or as in the case of this beautiful “Great blue” heron (Ardea herodias), took to the air.Great blue heronThough I was disappointed not to encounter the mammals of the swamp, especially the raccoon and the nutria, we did get a goodly interaction with several alligators of varying sizes (Alligator mississippiensis). I liked this one’s bright smile. Never smile at a crocodile, don't be taken in by his welcome grin ... (I know he's an alligator)

Tomorrow we leave for Washington DC so just one more report from New Orleans to come.

Animals Bayou Birds Plant life Trees

July 24, 2012 … alligators and egrets

Great shrouds of Spanish moss, cool shaded trees, deep dark water, snowy white egrets, and cold dispassionate eyes peering up through the weed assessing your value as a potential meal.

Oh how magical are the swamps and bayous of Louisiana.

Sure the tourism operation is as cynical and opportunistic as any you will encounter, but for all that, the tour guides have an engaging personality, though even that is probably aimed at enhancing the likelihood of a generous tip.

The afternoon in downtown  New Orleans was sullen, with thunderstorms and periodic rain. The bus was late, and the transit from there to Jean Lafitte, reputedly the base for the legendary (or infamous, depending on your cultural alignment) pirate was rapid, bordering on the uncomfortable, with a minimalist commentary.

At the town of Jean Lafitte, we boarded our airboat with a family from the Netherlands, and went out into the waterways and bayous around the Eastern side of Lake Salvador. The airboat is a quick and effective way of getting around the swamps, but it is not a comfortable vehicle. It offers no shelter from the hot Louisiana sun, gives a bumpy ride in areas of choppy water, and forces you to wear ear defenders when the throttle is open. And when the throttle is open, the noise is truly an unbearable roar. The tour guide had to reduce the throttle to idle or shut down altogether whenever he wanted to communicate.Airboat opens up the throttle

Personality is the stock-in-trade of a tour guide, and ours had it aplenty. Furthermore, he was intimately familiar with his surroundings and the wildlife so he was able to show us a variety of wildlife.

As you know I love herons and all their relatives, and the bird we know in New Zealand as the White Heron or kotuku is merely the “common egret” here. But in a lovely setting such as this it is still a truly majestic bird, but quick to flee with a bellowing airboat approaching. Egret departs as noisy new neighbours arrive

Of course, every tourist expects to see alligators, and our guide knew where to find them. Some were quite tame, bordering on the “well-trained” as the guides throw them marshmallows which they seem to love. Anyway, the alligator seems to come to the call of the guide. Most of those we saw were quite small compared with a big salt water crocodile from Queensland, but sinister enough anyway.

AlligatorJust cruising by

We saw turtles, and the odd squirrel, and a reasonable variety of wading birds, but regardless of the wildlife, I think the real beauty is in the swamps themselves. Spanish moss is as much an unwanted misguided transplant here as gorse and blackberry and rabbits were in New Zealand. But it lends an undeniable charm to the bayou.

Beautiful bayouSpanish moss is everwhere

If you get to New Orleans the swamp tours are highly recommended. We enjoyed the airboat but for tomorrow decided to do the slower cruise.