Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Crazy Critters

While out photographing nature I'm generally on the lookout for birds to snap. Often I am confronted with critters of a different kind altho I was totally unprepared for the beastie I discovered in Sullivans Lake a couple of weeks ago. I thought I was back in Florida when I spotted this red-eared turtle sunbathing on a dead tree branch. He was a bit wary and splashed back into the water when I got too close. I suspect he was someones pet until they got sick of him and released him into this modest man-made lake. Potentially an ecological disaster but in all honesty just one of many. In fact things might turn out ok if he eats all the Koi Carp that reside there. One introduced nasty making good on another introduced nasty! (sarcasm/irony) Speaking of nasties, I took a break yesterday and jumped the back fence to the Riverbank. There were no birds or anything very interesting but it was a lovely day and I figured if I sat and waited something would come along. I was right..... a big fat Rat swam by, he almost as surprised to see me as I was to see him. Disgusting or Cute? Not sure myself but I do know he's another ecological disaster!

To something completely different.... Whakaari or White Island lies out from the coast of my home town. Usually it sits quite unassuming on the horizon but yesterday it was having a bit of a rumble and puff. I wonder what the tourists were thinking that visited her yesterday. Those gas masks would have come in handy! Troy and I were lucky enough to go a few years ago. It was a fantastic day out and I can wholeheartedly reccomend it to locals and visitors alike. Fantastic place and a unique experience.
Last weekend I was stuck at home both days so I had to entertain myself with the usual suspects found in my backyard. The Starlings are building nests in the woodshed again! Messy buggers.
This Thrush already has babies hatched and is busy collecting worms for them. While I watched she dug up a big fat worm only to have a kingfisher zoom down and steal it from under her nose.
Yesterday morning was a beauty and for once the whitebaiters hadn't hogged all my good bird photographing possies. I got this shot of a heron taking off which I was quite pleased with.
I met an interesting young character the same morning. This is Stanley. He let me photograph him with his puppy "Eel" before he headed back to the skate bowl with his buddies. I really wanted him to leave Eel with me but no such luck!

Saturday, 25 September 2010


Last Friday I visited a spot on the river a little further down than my usual post. There was a couple of shags fishing and after I sat down to observe a few more arrived. Two were Little Shags (with white on them) and three were Little Black Shags. The Little Black Shags arrived singly but teamed up to hunt as a group which was interesting to watch. The Little Shags were more independent and one quickly made himself known as the boss and privvy to the best spot on the rock, pushing the other birds off.
All the shags had to take a break now and then to dry their feathers holding their wings out to speed up the process. Breakfast was made up of some large blenny type fish or what we used to call cockabullies when I was a kid.

Nga Manu Exhibition

The "Nga Manu" exhibition opened at the Whakatane Museum Gallery Last Night. I had two large paintings in it plus a collection of eight small assemblage collages in my "Curved Wall Collection." Here are 3 from the series. Owl Widget


It was a great night & the exhibition was well received. It was lovely to exhibit with some great artists whose work I really admire, Raymond Ching in particular. "Nga Manu" runs until October 31st.

Ups and Downs

As I mentioned life has been a roller coaster lately. I travelled to Auckland on Monday to my Auntys funeral which was very sad. She was quite young and I'll always remember her as a real lady and a beautiful and caring person. I remember going to her husbands funeral about four years ago and on the way out of town we saw a large white heron at Thornton. Not a common bird anywhere in NZ really and certainly not often seen here. And in a strange coincidence I saw another at Matata on Monday as we travelled to my Auntys farewell. I'm not really a spiritual person but it was a bit weird all the same.

Biodiversity photo contest

The last two weeks have been a real roller coaster ride. I got some great news on the 10th September - I won the International year of Biodiversity Photo competition run by the Dept of Conservation, Forest and Bird, NIWA & UNESCO. Judges were Kim Westerskov, Craig Potton and Norman Heke of Te Papa. And to top it off DOC flew me down to Wellington, put me up in a swanky hotel and took me to the awards night at Zealandia! All that and a cheque for $1,300. I had a sore arm from pinching myself to see if it was real. Here's my winning photo.

I had a great day in our capital city shopping & visiting the art galleries and was even given a tour of the DOC building, an eco friendly design that was full of friendly people. It was all wonderful til the flight home. The weather had been a bit dodgy but nothing major until I was 20kms southeast of the Whakatane airport when the weather turned very violent very suddenly. We spent 20 mins circling the airport being tossed like a salad waiting for an opportunity to land. Troy was waiting in the carpark with the car rocking in the wind gusts as he watched the rain blown in sideways along the runway. My parents listened to the plane fly low over their house more than once as I sat a couple of hundred feet above them gripping the armrests in a cold sweat. When we finally landed it was without incident but there was some very relieved passengers I can tell you. " Welcome to Whakatane, we hope you enjoyed your flight." YEAH RIGHT!!!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Shots of the Day

A gloomy, mainly wet day today but it had its share of redeeming moments. Standing near the riverbank I captured a few frames of a passing Harrier. Not great on their own but a montage of three images made a pretty cool pic. The young hawks are dark chocolate coloured and get paler as they age so this one has a few years under its belt. The Kaka Beak is in flower at the moment and has been discovered by resident tui and bellbirds in the last week. I have been waiting for a fine day so I can photograph the irridescence in the plumage of the tui but the weather has not been co-operating.
Amazing colour in the Kaka Beak flowers!
The dude below could be easily mistaken for a sparrow, in fact it is often called a Hedge Sparrow. Technically it is a different family and more correctly termed a Dunnock.
In my last shot a female Blackbird hides among the Bluebells. I'm hanging out for the sun to come out again! Maybe tommorrow.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Starling scrap.

I've been a bit slow on the blogs lately - because someone has used our total monthly allowance of 20 gigabytes so I'm down to less than dial up speed til the end of the week. Exasperating! But the weather has been pretty crap so I haven't taken many photos anyway. I snapped these two fighting over the rights to inhabit a starling box at my Mums. Shame about the concrete wall backdrop. On the brighter side I had a photo published in the New Zealand Geographic - Yahoo! Unfortunately it was only 8.5 cms wide. Whoever said size doesn't matter wasn't meaning anything less than 7 inches.
Anyway, more posts coming when I get my broadband back.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Albatross Release - the Final Chapter

Yesterday Morning I met Rosemary and Sally on the hill again. Rosemary brought Sally out of her crate into the sunshine where she flapped her wings again...
Preened her feathers again....and then relaxed in the sun...on the ground. In fact she didn't look to me like she ever thought about taking to the air. I started to worry that she was a very old bird that wasn't ever going to fly again. So back in her crate she went for the trip home AGAIN! Oh well, it was a nice morning. Unfortunately today I had to finish an important proposal I have been working on so I missed meeting the girls on the hill. I had just got my project finished at around mid-day when the phone went. It was Rosemary. "Sorry!" she said. I knew straight away what had happened SALLY HAD FLOWN AWAY! I was extremely pleased but bummed I hadn't been there to photograph her.
Fortunately Rosemary had her camera and she took this shot just before Sally gained a bit of height, circled around and over her head then off out to sea where she belongs. Don't you just love happy endings?!!!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Albatross release part 5

Now look here! Rosemary tries to talk Sally into flying off into the wild blue yonder.

Just practising.

She'd actually rather sit back and enjoy the view. So its back home again til tomorrow morning when we try yet again.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Cattle Egrets, Thornton

Now unless you are a twitcher (birdwatcher) these pics probably won't be of much interest to you. I snapped them on Westbank Road, Thornton looking across the Rangitaiki River to the opposite bank where a herd of cows were relaxing in the sun. Hanging out with them were three Cattle Egrets, the first I have seen in the area. They arrive from New South Wales Australia in late Autumn and head back in October to breed. They hang out with cattle so they can feed on the worms and grubs that are disturbed by the cattles hooves.

They were very wary of me even with a river in between us!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Pukeko at the Pond

Rosemary has gone on holiday so the D.O.C. guys are looking after Sally. Yesterday morning I took these pics at the Pond by the skate bowl. Rosemary calls the it the Dyers pond because apparently thats where the local Maori women used to go to dye their flax for weaving. Sadly it is now only used for lazy people to throw their rubbish, for young people to hang out and drink and for the occaisional homeless person to sleep. Oh, and for me to take photos.
It seems this pukeko and her mate are sussing it out as a suitable place to rear their family.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Albatross Release Part 3

It's 9 am and Rosemary and Sally are off for their morning walk. There is a slight breeze and it feels good to stretch wing muscles.
Aaaah, the view is just divine. What a lovely way to spend the morning. Fly? Fly where? Lets get back in the car and go home for lunch. I think fish is the special of the day!

Perhaps tomorrow.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Albatross Release Part 2

Yesterday we tried again to farewell Sally the Albatross from the Otarawairere hilltop. The light drizzle stopped moments before I got there and the conditions seemed quite good altho the wind was a bit light. A bit of a breeze always helps with lift-off. When liberated from her crate Sally waddled off towards the sea. She spread her wings and had a bit of a flap.
She did lots of preening to get her feathers in order. Then laid back and enjoyed the view. So after an hour back in the crate she went. Apparently Rosemary tried again today but I wasn't able to be there so I was sure she would fly. I was wrong so tomorrow at 9am we will try again.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Blue Kereru

This is a painting I have just completed ready to send up to the "Next Door Gallery" in Birkenhead. It was painted from the photos I took of the roadkill Kereru. It was supposed to take a few days but I underestimated how time-consuming it would be getting all the colours blended correctly so it actually took weeks. I must mention the fact that it is actually illegal to keep parts of native birds or trade in any of their bodyparts under the CITES act, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. You can apply to D.O.C. for permission but any dead birds I photograph I bury afterwards or more often put out in the middle of the paddock for the local Harrier Hawks to find.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Albatross release

I was invited to a bird release today by Rosemary our local bird rescuer accompanied by D.O.C. staff Gregg and James. They unloaded a crate big enough for your average labrador so I knew it was going to be something special. Meet Sally, a Salvins Albatross or Mollymawk. She was found in an exhausted state and Rosemary nursed her back to a healthy bodyweight by stuffing fish down her very sharp bill supplied by the last 'Take a Kid fishing" contest.
Altho to be totally honest we didn't really know if she was a she or he. But definitely an adult.
After being freed from her crate on a hilltop high over Ohope beach she lost no time in heading off....
on foot. And an albatross on foot is not in its element. These birds live almost entirely on the ocean except for when they breed.

So we suspected she was looking for the right head wind or runway. She made her way down the paddock slowly and awkwardly.
Woohoo! She must be about to take off..... but nearly an hour later we were still waiting.
So whether she got stage fright, was still feeling a bit tired or just wanted another day of free fish, who knows but back in her crate she went til tomorrow.

Which goes to show you can lead an Albatross to water but you can't make it fly.