All were taken high above Wellington on Te Ahumairangi Hill. The views of the inner city from up there are clean and crisp and I enjoy these aspects of our city.
With a long lens, the camera needs swing just a few degrees left or right to offer a completely different perspective on Wellington.
There was a lot of birdsong where I was standing and soon several tuis overcame their wariness to resume their gathering of nectar from the flax blossoms.
Then another bird came into view. This time it was the growl of a 285 hp radial engine that caught my attention. The Chinese Nanchang CJ-6A is much enjoyed by warbird enthusiasts around the world. This one was circling in what I imagine was a holding pattern because at Wellington Airport, I believe that general aviation takes second place to the scheduled commercial services. After a stream of Airbus and ATR aircraft, the Nanchang (appropriately registered ZK-MAO) growled off across the harbour to join the approach to the South.
As I drove down the winding roads towards the city another viewpoint opened up and I couldn’t resist one last view across the harbour to Oriental Bay. That nice sandy beach (shipped across the strait from Golden Bay) is ready for a summer that has yet to arrive in any meaningful way. I live in hope.
On two previous occasions I have trudged up the tracks of Te Ahumairangi Hill, looking for the site of the falcons’ nest. On both occasions I got some interesting landscapes but no falcons. The entrance to the correct track has a sign warning that the track is steep. Given that I struggled with the tracks that had no such warning, this filled me with trepidation, but slow and steady with frequent pauses “to admire the unfolding view” was the recipe. I refused to be discouraged this time.
My informant neglected to mention that, when approaching the site from below, there are forks in the track. Naturally I took the wrong one and began to suspect only when the track took a downhill turn and delivered me to the old quarry and the mysterious tunnel. Heights, confined spaces and cucumber all scare the heck out of me so I took a shot and retraced my steps.
It is unfair that, having made a mistake I should have to climb a hill I didn’t want to come down in the first place, but eventually I got to the point where I made the wrong turn, and set out on the other option. Then there was a very large fallen pine tree blocking the path. It has obviously been there for some time since there is a makeshift track around the great root ball of the tree. This required a bit of clambering, heaving and butt-sliding to get to the other side. For someone with my defective sense of balance and hands full with my Canon 7D and the 100-400 zoom lens, this was a challenge. Eventually I got to the other side, but my informant had not mentioned this obstacle, so I was increasingly convinced I was on the wrong path, yet again. And then I came to the sign.
They weren’t kidding. They come fast and low and unless they are screaming their outrage, you really don’t hear them coming. The New Zealand falcon is not as fast as the peregrine falcon but is still capable of speeds in excess of 200 km/h and it aims for your head. I kept low and moved as slowly as possible. As one disappeared, its partner was sneaking in from behind. There are tricks and techniques for getting close used by experienced birders, but from my perspective, I lacked those skills. I was also aware that too much aggravation could provoke the birds to abandon their nest and the fledglings, so I got a couple of shots for the record, and then retreated, but not without receiving a few solid belts on the head. I am glad I wore a hat.
Slipping and sliding on the gravel and leaf mould that covered the steep track I got back to the car and found that my knees were wobbling. Coffee was called for so I had a very fine long black at Kaffe Eis’s stall in Frank Kitts Park by the waterfront. This allowed me to grab yet another shot of Tanya Ashken’s iconic sculpture/fountain. If she had a dollar for every photograph made of her work she would be fabulously wealthy.