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December 28, 2021 … what lies ahead?

Another year reaches a conclusion, and what a year it has been for the world, and for our country, for my family and for me. Despite the fact that I try to live with hope in my heart, I look forward to 2022 with trepidation. On the personal front, I seem to crumbling at the edges. As well as the cataract, I have now been fitted with hearing aids, and hope to become accustomed to them. Then, following some sort of event that resulted in double vision, vertigo and nausea (unconnected with the cataract procedure), I ended up in hospital for a couple of nights undergoing a CT scan and MRI. No clear causes identified, but nothing sinister found. And thank heavens for free public health care which was superb for me. Nevertheless, with the vertigo and visual disturbances, my doctors say I am not permitted to drive for four weeks. Grrr.

Christmas has passed and family is scattered in Melbourne, Brisbane, Queenstown and Gisborne. Happily youngest son Anthony,, his wife Sarah and our lovely grandkids Maggie and Jack are at home nearby, so we spent some of our Christmas with them. OK, enough with the babble, what images did I get this round?

Black fronted dotterel

Fine days have been rare in recent times, so when one occurs, I select from one of my preferred locations. On this occasion , it was Hokio Beach (again). Since the whitebait season is ended, it was peaceful with no whitebaiters to deter the bird life. In fact, we had the beach entirely to ourselves. Mary went for a walk along the beach to the South while I lay back on the water’s edge and waited. In just a few minutes, I was blessed with a visit from one of my favourite birds, the black-fronted dotterel. These tiny creatures move very quickly and their legs are almost invisible in motion. They appear to hover across the sand and water. Just beautiful.

Also present at Hokio were the bar-tailed godwits, champions of long distance flight. They fly to tidal estuaries in New Zealand from Western Alaska in epic non-stop flights lasting 8 to 9 days. Barring the great albatrosses, they are the olympic athletes of the bird world. And they are handsome birds, aren’t they?

Feed me mama!

It was a great trip. Dotterels, godwits and even dabchicks. In this visit, the chicks have grown too big to be carried around on the parent’s back any longer. In fact they seem even bigger than the parents now, Nevertheless, they are still dependent on the parents for food. As always, the water in the Wetlands at Queen Elizabeth Park is reasonably sheltered and echoes the deep green of the surrounding bush.

Californian Quail

On another damp but windless day, Mary drove me up to the regional waterworks at Kaitoke. I was delighted to spot a small cluster of female Californian quails browsing in the lawns there beside the road. The males are more spectacular, I suppose, but the females as seen here are beautiful in their own way.

Stick insect

Stick insects are always problematic for me. They are interesting but very hard to make an attractive image with. They seem to need a context, so in this case it was moving slowly among the flax and lavender at the back door. It’s the first time I have seen a stick insect with a face.

Gold

It drives me nuts that, every year, the mainstream media are surprised to discover the existence of Metrosideros excelsa aurea. Breathless headlines about “rare yellow pohutukawa” appear without regard that they used the same story last year and the one before that. To be fair, I probably make the same complaint about them each year too. The yellow variety is definitely less common than the more familia crimson variety, but I think they are far from rare. There are plenty of very fine yellow specimens in the Wellington region.

Coat of many colours

This little Hebe moth is, like many others quite spectacular when up close. Mary drew it to my attention on our stairwell, so I switched to my trusty macro lens and got really close. Do click on the image to see it in the larger version. It reminds me of some of the more spectacular weaving that I have seen, though I think it would be a talented weaver indeed who could produce work as beautiful as this.

Rata in the rain at Kaitoke

Like the pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) , the rata (Metrosideros robusta) is a member of the myrtle family and of the genus metrosideros. The flowers are, to my eye, indistinguishable from those of the pohutukawa. If you get close, the leaves of the pohutukawa are larger and a darker green, and have small hairs on the underside. Rata leaves are smaller, glossy on both sides and have a notch on the tip. A good friend alerted me to the spectacular colours of the rata trees in bloom in the rain up at Kaitoke. He was right.

Waterloo railway Station, Lower Hutt

Most people think of somewhere else when Waterloo Station is mentioned. Our local version would probably fit in the cafeteria of the other one. Nevertheless, it is a locally important interchange between the Upper Hutt/Wairarapa railway line and the Hutt Valley bus services. The wind-shelters in the station are an interesting and necessary feature. As I said before, I am not permitted to drive until early January so I decided to use public transport and roam around the region by train and bus for the day.

Wellington commuter traffic

On arrival at Wellington railway station, I made this image. It occurred to me that not much has changed since the first time I passed through here in February 1954. Well, there are no steam locomotives, and the electric units have advanced through two generations. And then there are the face masks, and the cell phones. And the women wear trousers and the men don’t wear hats. No-one is smoking. Apart from that, nothing much is different

Top deck

Part of my day wandering the region by public transport was to take a trip from the railway station to Island Bay by double-decker bus. Like the schoolboy I sometimes am, I grabbed the front row seat on the top deck, and enjoyed the different perspective from up there. A feature of the city at this time of year is the proliferation of pohutukawa trees in magnificent bloom. This specimen is about midway along Kent Terrace.

Back to the station

On my return from the Southern suburbs, I decided to take the train out to Upper Hutt and thence back to Petone Station from where I would catch a bus back up the hill to home. This was all for the pleasure of riding the rails and seeing our city from different points of view. I paused for a pizza lunch in the station before heading North. Since I wasn’t driving, a glass of Pinhead Supercharger IPA helped that go down.

Once was a high school

Through the train windowI was intrigued by the extent of the “Bob Scott Retirement Village”. This was built on the site which was once Hutt Valley Memorial College and before that Petone Technical College. In its latter days as it was rotting, graffitied and increasingly vandalised, it suffered an arson attack and was totally destroyed. It has taken several years but the retirement village that stands in its place is now complete. Despite its somewhat forbidding appearance, I know many people who enjoy living there, and liken it to living on a cruise liner. I am happy for them, but the lifestyle does not appeal to me.

A favourite corner

I am very blessed that Mary works so hard to compensate for my driving prohibition and she made a picnic lunch and drove us over the hill to Lake Wairarapa. We also visited Boggy Pond and had our lunch on the shores of Lake Onoke at Lake Ferry.

Time was when the trip over the hill was a long and arduous journey, especially with kids in the car. Now you wonder why it was such a big deal back then. Heck there was even a greasy spoon cafe at the summit to break the journey. Obviously the places have not got closer together, but modern cars are more powerful, more comfortable and more reliable. The journey from Te Marua to Featherston is a mere 25 minutes. My favourite spot is a corner just to the North of bridge number 6 where there is a bank of trees down a steep ridge. There is no footpath and no safe space to stop to get my desired view. This shot is not what I desired. I should have waited until we got to where that next car ahead is, but it will do as a grab shot. As a passenger I can stick the camera out the window and point it in the right direction.

That is my last blog post for the year. I hope the festive season treated you kindly and you all had a great time. For any who are locked down or constrained by Covid, my sympathies. I look forward to your company in 2022. I enjoyed a cartoon I saw (but can’t find) which depicts the occupiers of 2021 cowering behind a corner in a dark corridor, reaching out tentatively with a very long pole to nudge open the door to 2022. I would like to hope for a much better year than this has been for the world, and I wish all the very best for the new year to all those who share my journey in this blog. Thank you for being with me and for the kind words from so many of you.

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Birds Waikanae Weather

August 27, 2015 … a change in the weather

A beautiful day with no commitments is always tempting.

Stilts
Pied stilts browsing at the Pauatahanui ponds

Waikanae popped into my head, so I went that way. Of course, this takes me past Pauatahanui so I had to pause for the beauty of the ponds, reasonably calm and unruffled. Perhaps it is my imagination, but it seems that the pied-stilts have established territorial dominance there.

Piles
Waikanae Estuary

I was about to do some landscapes on the inlet itself when my phone rang. I talked with a friend from camera club for two or three minutes and when I hung up, the wind had come up and spoiled the perfect surface. My friend who sometimes reads this should not feel guilty. I would not have got into position in time anyway. Instead I carried on to the lagoons at Waikanae. Sadly they were ruffled too, and there were no birds of interest. I did like the rows of piles which I presume are there to stabilise the sand where the river curves to the estuary. Kapiti Island is in the background.

Clouds
Unusual cloud inbound

On the way home, I had just come off the Haywards Hill when the cloud layers coming in from the South hit me. They seemed to be advancing in perfectly straight horizontal lines from horizon to horizon. I diverted up the hill to Kelson to get the widest possible unobstructed view.

I’ll call it quits for today

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Birds Waikanae Weather

February 9, 2015 … it’s an ill wind

Our climate sometimes moves past very quickly.

Shag
A Little Shag in a clearing in the flax.

A former colleague told of his first day in Wellington and as he watched the clouds scud by, he remarked to his wife that it was like watching replays of the weather channel on fast-forward. It has been like that for several days now, an ugly vicious Nor-Wester. Mary and I chose to go to the Waikanae Estuary (on the Paraparaumu side) to see what life was to be found in the wetlands. Wise woman that she is, she set out on a brisk aerobic walk, knowing that my photocentric meandering would drive her mad. The pool that I explored first was surrounded by high flax, and it was very hard to find a clear view through to the water as the leaves thrashed in the wind. My first sighting was of a Little Shag (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos) in a small clearing in the flax. As its name suggests, it is the smallest of the shags, but is still a big bird.  It eyed me with distrust.The smear of green across the picture is that wind-driven flax.

Battle
The shag is typically 56 cm tall compared with the 38 cm of the coot, but it was clearly intimidated by the brash Australian

It shouldn’t have taken its eyes off the water because next moment, an Australian Coot was confronting it. The coot (Fulica atra) is a much smaller bird than the Little Shag but what it lacks in size it makes up in attitude. There was a brief hissing match and then the shag lost its nerve and with a splash and a few frayed feathers it broke out of the clearing, leaving the coot in triumphant possession.

Coots
Family group of Australian Coots

It seems there was a reason for the territoriality on the part of the coots, because when peace was restored, its mate emerged with two chicks. Coot chicks make me laugh. They are the bird equivalent of the camel, they were obviously designed by a committee.

Pukeko
The Pukeko uses its equipment to chop off bits of reed stalk.

Across the road in a different pond, there were a pair of pukeko (Porphyrio porphyrio). It intrigues me how fit for purpose these birds are. Their gigantic feet are good for getting through mud, and that bill is more effective than an electrician’s side-cutters in biting though those tough reed stalks.

No birds tomorrow.

 

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Birds Food Waikanae

November 24, 2014 … calories and waterbirds

A chance encounter a month or so led to a reunion.

Meringues
Brown sugar meringues … magnificent, and yes I know I shouldn’t, but I did and I loved them.

 

Our friends Martin and Catherine and their daughter Elizabeth were host to a reunion of four couples who have known each other for something like thirty years, but who have moved away in recent times. Catherine and Elizabeth are wonderful cooks and entertainers and they turned on a classic high tea in their lovely new home in Waikanae.

Cakes
Scones served with cream and jam, and some delicate cup capes.

 

I don’t often do food shots but the various treats were spectacular to look at as well as delicious to eat. I will entertain no criticism at the dietary level and say that I enjoyed everything.

Scaup
Scaup hoping for bread

 

Since we were out that way, we made a diversion to the lagoons at the Waikanae Estuary before we set out for home. There are often birds of interest in the area. Yesterday the variety was small, but I always like the New Zealand Scaup or Papango. The ones here have become accustomed to being fed so they tend to come towards humans rather that scuttling away as they do elsewhere.

Shag
Pied shag on the nest

 

In a large tree beside the lagoon, there are many pied shags, and this one seems to be nesting quite a long way.

Time for bed, goodnight all.

 

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Birds harbour Maritime Waikanae Weather Wellington

December 15, 2013 … from soaring with eagles to plotting in the mud

Fitting photography in around other family and social commitments requires tact on my part and a great deal of patience from my nearest and dearest.

Gandalf and Gwaihir
These massive birds are hanging over the patrons in the food court below

Yesterday I went with Mary to the airport to meet my brother-in-law John coming in from Brisbane. The flight was  a good 25 minutes ahead of schedule so we had to scramble to get there in time to meet him, and went through the Mt Victoria Tunnel to save time. Mistake! After he arrived, we had a coffee in one of the outlets in the main atrium of the airport. When the catching up was done (because he was going one way and we were going another), we walked though the area to show him the Weta Workshops Eagles.

I have pictured them before, but I remain impressed by the remarkable craftsmanship that produced these. Apparently each eagle weighs about a tonne, and the Gandalf figure which bears a very credible full-sized likeness of Sir Ian McKellen just adds to the realism.  A few nervous looking kids weren’t very sure about them.

Celebrity Solstice and Oosterdam
Two giant freighters that specialize in the carriage of self-loading cargo. This view is from Oriental bay looking towards Aotea Quay with the suburb of Wadestown behind

On the way North to have dinner with our good friends in Waikanae, we passed through Oriental Bay which is always our preferred, and I believe, quicker, route. Two large cruise ships were in, the Celebrity Solstice and the Oosterdam. Both have been here recently, but the city’s retailers could not have had a better Christmas gift than two giant ships full of  Christmas Shoppers on a sunny day.

Breezing across the harbour
This is taken from the base of Pt Jerningham looking North up the Hutt Valley to the Tararuas

Mindful of best practice, I checked around to see what else was happening and saw a small yacht sailing with the steady breeze.

Oystercatchers
As Captain Queeg (Caine Mutiny) might have said, “a mutinous assembly if ever I saw one”

Since we were now a little ahead of schedule, we made a flying visit to the Waikanae estuary before going on to our friends’ house. A pair of Australasian Shoveller ducks were cruising around, and a trio of oystercatchers were obviously plotting the overthrow of their government.

Apart from that all was quiet.

 

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Architecture Birds Pauatahanui Waikanae

April 16, 2012 … creeping boundaries

Cities grow, but I don’t have to like it.

When we came back to Wellington in 1980, the South East corner of the Pauatahanui inlet was rural. There were cattle, sheep and pine trees on the slopes to the South. The Taylor-Stace cottage, one of the oldest buildings in the region (1847), was a long way from the suburbs.  Now the suburbs have crept round the hills to become its neighbours. Ostentatious homes, overlook the estuary.

I don’t dislike the suburb, or even its predominant affluent architecture. I just have a wistful memory of green fields and livestock that appeals even more.

Our seven year old Granddaughter Maggie has acquired a sudden interest in birdwatching, and knowing that her Grandmother is a birdlover, she phoned and asked if we would take her to see some birds.  Her interest was aroused by a little waxeye which stunned itself on one of their big windows.  So she and five-year old Cooper joined us for the day.

Our first stop was at Pauatahanui. Nothing interesting in the Southern hide. A few Pied Stilts in the one on Grays Rd, so we paused on Motukaraka Rd, just off Grays Rd. As an aside, the little peninsula over there was the site of a US Marine base in WWII. From there, in the middle of the estuary, we could see Royal Spoonbills, Canada Geese, Paradise Shelducks, Clack Swans, and some white faced herons. They were mostly too far out to see closely.  And of course there were the new suburbs across the water.Whitby, across the Pauatahanui inlet

We went on to the Nga Manu sanctuary at Waikanae. There, there are hundreds of ducks, all waiting expectantly for the visitors to dispense food ($2 a bag). We saw Pukeko, Tui, fantail,  and swans in the wild,]. In cages we saw Kea, Weka, Morepork, Little Owl, and allegedly a Kiwi. Wood pigeon, Kakariki, Teal, and Scaup were also present. As Maggie observed, in one day she saw more kinds of birds than she knew existed.

Cooper enjoyed himself too, though he lost interest in birds quite early in the day. He loved feeding the eels, though, and was a bit nervous about the aggressive ducks who wanted food faster than he could deliver it, until he turned the bag upside down.

Still both he and his sister enjoyed the day and the picnic lunch. We loved having them with us.