Art Belmont Regional Park Birds harbour Korokoro Landscapes Light Maritime Railway Seasons Weather Wellington

December 29, 2019 … yet another year is ending

I hope you all had a great festive season in whatever way you celebrate it. Those of our family who were in Wellington gathered for Christmas lunch, and in the evening we were invited to dinner with the family of elder daughter’s in-laws. All in all, they were happy occasions and we took care to stay within the law as far as driving goes.

Long ago, I recall being on a management course, in which someone said that the motto of management accountants was “follow me, I have a rear view mirror”.I laughed out loud and got scowled at by some of the accountants present. I have known some very fine management accountants and am not setting out to offend them. However, the joke appealed to my sense of humour. It also reverberates with the nature of this blog where I am forever looking backwards. This edition, the last one for 2019, is no different.

I seem to have spent a lot of the year lamenting the weather, often blaming it for my lack of photographic inspiration. Perhaps it is time to just rejoice in what has been achieved and to attempt to do better in each new edition.

Glass ornament

Mary is an irrepressible volunteer who helps many in the community from young mothers to older folk with dementia. One of the organisations with whom she works gave her this small glass ornament as a token of their appreciation. It is designed as a vase and a flower stem can pass through the halo and a hole in the top into some water inside. I liked the simplicity of the object.

Red-billed gull
Red-billed gull

I was in a coastal car park at Lowry Bay and noticed this gull. It is a red-billed gull (Larus novaehollandiae) … the most common of gulls in New Zealand. It seems that many people stop here to eat their fish and chips or other food, and the gulls associate cars with free food and gather closely in the hope of getting the leftovers. This fellow was very close and quite unafraid.

The tug, Tapuhi
Tug Tapuhi emerging from the rain

We had several days with rain but little wind. I went out looking for opportunities and caught the Wellington harbour tug Tapuhi scuttling across to the Seaview Oil terminal to assist a tanker in its departure. For the technically minded, this is one of two Dammen ASD 2411 tugs in the port. These vessels are a combination of a broad flat platform (24.7 metres long by 10.7 metres in the beam) and two massive Caterpillar diesel engines which drive the two Aquamaster thrust units in any direction. They just push the water aside as they get where they are going. They are not elegant but are certainly effective.

The front door of Wellington railway station
Coming and going at Wellington railway station

The ebb and flow of the commuters at Wellington railway station is always interesting to me. Increasingly, people come and go with a mobile device in one hand and their attention focused on the screen until they become aware of the person coming the other way.

Weather at Wellington Railway station
Midsummer in Wellington … wet, wet, wet

The forecourt of Wellington station is well enough when the sun shines, but on those rare days when it rains in Wellington (grin), it demands a covered walkway. Real Wellingtonians don’t use umbrellas because they self-destruct for no apparent reason. Someone using an umbrella is usually from out of town and has yet to discover the mysterious suicidal tendencies of umbrellas in this city.

Variable oystercatchers

The wonderful New Zealand Birds Online website understates the case when it describes the Variable Oystercatcher as being “very vocal”. They scuttle around the shoreline looking for molluscs and invertebrates and scream their outrage if disturbed. They are often seen with a bivalve mollusc clamped firmly on their beak in a last desperate bid to avoid going down that path. The bird always wins.

Graffiti on pill boxes
Remnants of war

High above Wellington on the Polhill reserve below the Brooklyn wind turbine, there are a number of architecturally brutal pill boxes, or gun emplacements. The anti-aircraft guns and the soldiers who manned them are long gone, and only the rusting brackets on which the guns were mounted remain to bear witness. These days, they serve as a canvas for the entertainment of the graffitist. While I acknowledge flashes of brilliance and sometimes actual artistry in the commissioned murals, I generally dislike most forms of graffiti, and wonder what percentage of the gross national product is wastefully consumed in the use of aerosol paint cans. I can’t help thinking that the manufacturers and retailers would hate it if there were ever a serious move to eliminate the practice.

Cruise liner in Wellington
A newcomer on the cruise circuit

Explorer Dream is a cruise ship that, to the best of my knowledge, is new to the New Zealand cruise circuit. It is a relatively undistinguished vessel on which the most unusual feature is its three funnels all side-by-side across the width of the ship. In the background, the tugs Tapuhi and Tiaki can be seen assisting the container ship ANL Wendouree into her berth while the bulk carrier La Chambordais sits between them loading logs and hopes for the best.

A glade in the Korokoro valley
In the Korokoro stream area

A late afternoon walk from Cornish Street in Petone, up the valley beside the Korokoro stream … there was a magnificent chorus of birdsong and a plethora of wildflowers. For the most part the track is sheltered from the vicious wind whipping overhead. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the number of shades of green in the bush that envelopes the track and its tumbling stream.

In Frank Kitts Park
Christmas Day … warm and still

On Christmas morning I got sent out of the house so as to not be underfoot while our lunch was being prepared by the experts. The weather had taken a dramatic turn for the better and there was a warm haze across the windless harbour. I stopped at Wairepo Lagoon near Frank Kitts park and rather liked this view of people enjoying the morning. The lady was striding briskly along the waterfront and the young man in the squatting posture was catching up with his device. The hills behind Eastbourne almost disappeared in the mist.

Kaiarahi heading into the berth
Preparing for a Christmas sailing

I went to the edge of the wharf (the same one seen in the previous image) and saw the Interisland ferry Kaiarahi doing rather aimless little circuits to the South of Matiu/Somes Island. I liked the contrast between the clarity of the vessel and the haze on the distant Tararua ranges. As I set up my tripod, the ferry seemed to sense that it was being watched and made a sudden beeline back to its berth.

Little black shags
Little Black Shags

After a very happy Christmas day in the company of a fair proportion of the family, we come now to that interesting period before the new year. With guests coming for dinner I was again despatched to be clear of the kitchen so I was wandering around the Waiwhetu Stream in Seaview and spotted a gaggle of Little Black Swans perched on a favourite driftwood log. From my own observations I would say that the Little Blacks are the most gregarious of all the shag/cormorant family and they hunt in packs and roost together.

So ends 2019 and we begin to prepare for the new year. Who knows what shape it will take. I hope that as a nation, we continue to pursue the kinder gentler options as we have done for the last two years. I hope that, as individuals, we will live up to the sentiments we expressed about togetherness after the mosque tragedy in March.

And to the greatest extent possible I hope you all experience a heathy and prosperous New Year. I hope to see you in 2020.

Architecture Birds Festivals and fairs Geology Hutt River Korokoro Petone Reflections Weather

January 16, 2015 … from squabbles to stillness

Mary wanted to see the pied-stilt chicks.

I suspect the nearer trio are the ladies, and the unruly group in the rear are the men

Thus, my photographic day began at Pauatahanui once more. However, I think I have stretched the pied-stilt kick about as far as possible, so though I got some shots, I turned elsewhere. Near the entrance to the reserve, just a little back from the road, there is a fresh-water pond. Sometimes there are ducks, most times there is nothing, but yesterday there was a gathering of Royal spoonbills. As I watched, s fight broke out among three. Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing, but I interpreted this as three young women standing by while three young men fought over who was taking the prettiest one to the spoonbill ball. The fight got quite vicious though it’s hard to imagine those large flat bills inflicting any damage.

Dead Man’s elbow – Petone

In the afternoon I went to Sladden Park in Petone, to a place that I always knew as Dead Man’s elbow, though I can find no documentation to validate that. If nothing else there are usually numbers of Canada Geese there, but on this occasion, nothing.

On the slip at Hikoikoi

Down to Hikoikoi where again there was little of note in the birdlife, but a spell of calm made the place picturesque. In this picture, the boat on the slip was the favoured perch of George, our local white heron. Alas I haven’t seen George since the big storm in June 2013 when the windows on this boat blew out.

The boatsheds


From the sea wall, the view across the water to the boatsheds appealed to me. There seems to be a lot of weed at present.

That’s enough for this visit.

Birds flowers harbour Hutt River Korokoro Light Normandale

November 26, 2012 … “For I am the ruler of all that I see!”*

Nailed it.

A competition judge may disagree, find fault, suggest improvements, I don’t care. Tuis are prolific this season, and noisy with it. Perhaps it’s something to do with attracting a mate, but individuals seem to choose a prominent place and use it to broadcast a mostly musical and very repetitive message. Just outside our spare bedroom window is a ponga (silver fern). It is not a particularly big one, but its tallest frond has been a campaign platform several individual tui.

Perhaps in the same way that many dogs will claim and mark the same tree as being within their territory, many different birds proclaim themselves as ruler of the world. Since the one frond was a popular perch, I mounted the camera on the tripod with its remote in the bedroom and opened the windows to avoid the distortion of glass. From the lounge, I could see each bird arrive and deliver its lengthy manifesto and depart. It was just necessary to press the trigger at appropriate moments.

My first attempt was a mixed success. When I focused on that branch, I had forgotten that the tui is a fairly solid bird and would bend it quite a way downwards. So, being unhappy with head and shoulder shots, I simply reframed the shot and tried again.  Bingo! It’s not often you will hear me say I am happy with a shot, but I am pleased with this one.Hear ye! Hear ye!

Later in the day I went out to see what was happening elsewhere in the late afternoon sun.

Down at the estuary there is a profusion of flax bushes, all enjoying their brief flowering season, and these are a favourite spot for more tui moments. I was surprised then, to see a common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) on one of the flowering stems. I had thought them to be seed and insect eaters, but it seems they like nectar as much as the next bird. Starling on flax

From there I went to the start of the Korokoro walkway at Cornish street. Literally just a few metres from the entrance, the outside world is left behind, and there is bush, flowers and birdsong.

I was enjoying a “hills are alive” moment (Relax, there was neither singing nor pinafore). In a small clearing, bright green grass was dotted with clover and buttercups. White butterflies and bumble bees flitted about and there was plentiful birdsong. It was a pleasant moment, warm, relaxed, grateful for all that I was seeing and experiencing.The hills are alive

Then, at the edge of my vision I saw movement in a nearby bush. A tiny grey ball of feathers was moving about. My first hope was that it was the elusive grey warbler and I managed several hand-held shots. Back at home, having a closer look, I now think it to be a female New Zealand Tomtit (Petroica macrocephala).  Regardless, I am pleased to have seen it.  New Zealand Tomtit (female)

Perhaps I shall try for a few bird-free days  this week. The forecast is (at this stage) quite good.

*“Yertle the Turtle” by Dr Seuss



January 16, 2012 … out of wind, but walking anyway.

Walking for pleasure, as well as for exercise is something that happened very late in life for me. When I announced in the days of my previous newsletter that I intended to enter the annual “Round the Bays” walk, I promptly got an email from my elder daughter “who are you and what have you done with my dad?” However, reformed couch potato or not, walking is no great pleasure in such fierce winds such as those that have afflicted us over the last four or five days.

Yesterday, we decided that, if we walked in the bush, we could enjoy nature’s beauty as well as its shelter for much of our journey. We planned a loop from Stratton Street in Normandale, through the bush to the Korokoro Dam, then up the steep hill to Oakleigh Street, down Dowse Drive and back down Stratton Street to the parked car. This would take us about two hours, most of it in the shelter of the bush.

For some reason, the otherwise prolific signwriters at the Stratton Street entrance to Belmont Regional Park neglected to make any reference to the Korokoro stream or Oakleigh Street, so we had to guess which entrance to use. We chose the one labelled simply, Belmont Trig.

Sure enough there was the gleaming black and white triangular structure of the trig station peering over the top of Belmont (471 Metres) some impossible distance above us. We just had to hope that somewhere off this path, we would find a branch pointing a gentler way  to our intended destination.

This is a “take no prisoners” track. It heads uncompromisingly upwards at about 30 degrees, and its surface is treacherously loose and crumbly despite recent rain. I had struck a bargain with myself that, if there was no exit pointing to the stream walk, I would persist in my slow plodding up the trig track to the summit, but that I would come straight back down the same way.  Breathing heavily, trudging slowly, I followed Mary up the hill, and about a third of the way towards the summit, just as I was beginning to think I would have to honour that bargain, we came to a sign that said “Oakleigh St, No Cyclists”.  Reprieved!

It seems that in order to get from Stratton Street to the stream, the path must first  go round some private land and then up and over the shoulder of a large ridge.  The Eastward views from here gave me an excuse to stop and take some shots, though without my tripod to steady the camera I had to wait until my heaving lungs subsided a little.

Beyond the ridge, the track soon plunged into the bush, which was much taller and more dense than I had expected.  From a distance, it looks to be low scrubby stuff. In fact at ground level, this is tall and mature bush, and quite wonderful to walk in. Almost immediately, we enjoyed the blessed shelter from the wind, though the sound it made in the treetops above us was ever-present. Not enough to overcome the wide variety of bird calls though, or the sounds of running water which stayed with us for most of our journey.

Recent rains had rendered some parts of the track a little  boggy, and occasionally very slippery on the long downhill sections, but otherwise created no real problem.  A wide variety of trees, ferns and vines created quite a dense canopy overhead,  and a lovely dappled green light below which moved and flickered as the wind continued its whistling assault on the tops.

Like most of the popular walkways, this is quite a well maintained track. It has many steep flights of steps, usually reinforced with wood, or built to incorporate tree roots, as it follows the contours of the land. Happily for us, once past that shoulder, the track trends steadily downwards, often quite steeply, at least until it gets to Korokoro Dam.

Several small streams on the way are  tributaries to the larger Korokoro stream, and required some care to cross with dry feet.  Mary managed it well by hopping from stone to stone, but inevitably, with my eye always scanning for photo opportunities, I missed one and got a thoroughly wet shoe. Squelch! Sympathy was in short supply, and so we continued (Thump! Squelch! Thump! Squelch!).

A few walkers coming the other way greeted us cheerily enough, but I knew with some smugness, that they were in for a  long climb, slippery with mud in places before they emerged into the teeth of that Northerly on the shoulder, and then down that treacherous path to the road below.

Though there are few “great trees” in this part of the park, the bush was solid and fairly consistent in its character as shown in today’s picture. Except for the obvious path (not shown in the picture)  winding its way more or less purposefully between trunks and over tree roots, the undergrowth is fairly dense.  I am not sure what the tree/vine is that  makes such interesting shapes, but in the image that represents yesterday’s walk, you can see one that has gone in a complete circle about 2 metres in diameter before resuming its upward quest for sunlight. Trees and vines in Belmont Regional Park Soon after this, we reached the Korokoro dam, and because this is accessible from several other entry points, we began to encounter many more people.  Since this was down at the level of the creek, the only way back from here was up, and lots of it. This path gets a lot of traffic and is positively civilised, but still quite steep and surrounded by lovely foliage.   About an hour after leaving the car, we reached the upper entrance to the park at Oakleigh Street, with me breathing heavily once more. From there, we completed the steady but blessedly downhill walk  back to the car in far less time than it took to do the outward journey.

Today, Wellington has put on its innocent summer face. The sky is clear and blue, and there is a near flat calm.  I don’t trust it.