Sunday, 26 August 2007

pukekos and paraponters.

I found a great spot in Tauranga to photograph Pukeko today. Theres a walkway around the saltmarsh in Matua so the birds there are quite used to people and not at all shy. The pukeko is a species you really have to admire for their resilience & adaptability despite the fact they have some rather distasteful habits (such as biting the heads off young ducklings!) There was some lovely orange rushes growing in this murky pond, not sure the correct name for these plants but they make for some nice reflections.

Troy and I walked around Mt Maunganui this afternoon. I was looking out for little blue penguins, or seals as I saw one last time I was there not long ago. Troy started taking photos of the paraponters that launch themselves off the Mount summit into the updraft. I took a couple of pics but mainly just watched in awe. I envy birds and the way they can navigate through the air... but would I have the guts to throw myself off a mountain with a parachute on my back?......HELL NO! I'll leave it to the experts.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Fantails and stuff

I knew I couldn't go straight to my studio this morning without going to the park again to look for the falcon! But when I got there I saw heaps of blackbirds on the grass and sparrows in the trees so I knew there were no falcons around. But I still couldn't go without my photo fix for the day so I got this pic of a fantail. I have literally hundreds of photos of fantails but it is surprisingly difficult to photograph them with their tails spread out. Thats why I like this shot. I am fascinated by how they fly, they are so agile and quick in the air.

Got more work done on the Huia painting. Sometimes I like it. Sometimes I don't. Mostly I like it. Actually there are very few paintings I am ever satisfied with. And I haven't taken the perfect photo yet....but thats good or else I'd give up I guess. I wore a white T-shirt and a brown vest today. I spilled brown paint on my white T-shirt and white paint on my brown vest........go figure!

Went to Opotiki this afternoon to photograph Shellys art work for her exhibition opening on the 8th of next month. Wickedly cool art, very quirky and an awesome venue in the old plunket rooms/public toilets!

Going to Te Puke tomorrow to help set up the Opotiki stand at the Bay Arts exhibition. Will go on to Tauranga for the weekend....wonder what birds I can find there....

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Falcon in the park!

I went to the park this morning, it was sunny and I was thinking I might get some more blackbird photos on the way to my studio. When I got there I scanned the vast expanse of green and not one blackbird could I see. Strange! Then I looked up in the elms an there was a large brown bird that resembled a small hawk. I got closer and it appeared to be a falcon but who would believe there'd be a falcon in the middle of a suburban park. Through my zoom I decided it most definitely WAS a falcon. Small and not as brightly coloured as others I've seen but it had the right shape and distinctive dark eye bands. It seemed quite relaxed and not at all worried by me. Something caught its eye and it swooped silently down and landed in the middle of the park near some bushes. Maybe there was a mouse in there but it circled on the ground peering into the dry leaves. I got quite close and it still didn't seem phased. It flew into a nearby silver birch where it began preening. It was only about fifteen feet above the ground and I got some cool photos before I filled my memory card. Damn. Ran back to the car, grabbed a new card and returned to take two more pics before it flew silently away. After talking to a friend who lives nearby I found out there have been three resident falcons during the last couple of years. He thought them to be two adults and one offspring. If thats the case I think it was the younger one I saw today.

My Huia painting is coming on ok. Still a fair way to go with it but its an enjoyable piece to work on.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Blackbirds in the park & new painting "huias"

After the fiasco with the couriers I went to the park to de-stress.....a great place to unwind. Some spring flowers out, daffodils etc, deep breaths, deep breaths. (See Blog below to understand why I'm a nervous wreck.) There are lots of tuis there, one in his favourite perch in a big tree with white berries. He sits there overlooking four cherry trees. Now and then he lands in the cherries to sip nectar from the blossoms but otherwise he sits in the big tree and now and then swoops down to chase a sparrow out of "his" cherry trees. Silly bird, the sparrows don't even steal his nectar. He just likes those trees all to himself.

There are lots of blackbirds around. They spend most of their time on the ground eating worms which somehow they hear in the ground. You can see them listening with their heads on the side before hopping a few steps then stabbing their beaks into the ground to pull the worm out of the moist soil. A fight broke out between two of them over territory I guess and as I had my camera I took some photos.

This afternoon I started another painting. For some reason I seem to go along with a certain style or theme or size and then all of a sudden I need to paint something the opposite of what I have been doing. For instance my huge kotuku painting I began after I'd been doing some really small canvases. So the one I just started is very dark, very bold and very stylised. I will post this pic and update as I go along. At this stage its far from finished and will change lots as it evolves. I think it will anyway. The photo came out pretty dark but never mind.
The bird on the left looks like it has sunglasses on but thats just where I started to paint in the black head. The Huia was a unique species in that the male and female both had very different shaped beaks. I have exaggerated this a bit. This will not be a realist painting anyway. I'll be interested to see how it looks when I've finished!


What a crap day! Put ANOTHER three metres of corrugated cardboard on my big Kotuku painting, half a roll of tape and sh*%#loads of string until finally it looked secure....can never be too careful with a $3,000 painting. Went to phone the courier and the conversation went like this....(A much shortened version!)
"I'd like to send a large package to Auckland please"
"Sure, do you have prepaid tickets on it?"
"We can't pick up unless it has pre-pay tickets on it. You'll have to buy them from the post office."
"Do you charge by weight or size?"
"We charge by weight."
"Well I have no idea what it weighs and I have no way to weigh it."
"You could always take it down to the depot and send it from there."
"OK, Thanks."
I hang up remembering that it doesn't fit in the car. Phone Troy....HELP ME?!!!
Troy calls in and carries my beloved Kotuku painting down the stairs for me and SOMEHOW squeezes it in the car for me. He follows me to the Mail Centre and we both wriggle and struggle to get it out. He leaves me to it, I ring the bell and wait for help. A lady arrives and when I tell her I need to send this to Auckland she says I have the wrong place and points to another warehouse about two hundred metres away. Perhaps she senses I'm about to lose it so grabs a large trolley and the two of us get my Kotuku painting down to the right warehouse. I tell the man I want to send it to Auckland and he says "Oh then you'll need some pre-paid tickets." Apparently they sell them down the Post Office. (No Shit!) "You'll need a seven dollar ticket and two excess tickets." (Whatever an excess ticket is!) I head off to the Post Office where there is a large queue. Up at the counter I ask for a seven dollar courier pre-paid ticket and two excess tickets. The lady says "We only have five or fifteen dollar tickets."
"So just sell me enough tickets to get a seven kilo package to Auckland please."
"But that will be forty dollars!" She looks disbelievingly at me.
"I really don't care HOW MUCH JUST GIVE ME THE TICKETS!!!!.............please."
I get back to the mail centre and realise she has given me a FIVE dollar courier ticket and two excess tickets. (Whatever an excess ticket is.) The man has gone but the lady says she will give him the tickets. I hope the five dollar ticket will get my bloody kotuku painting there! Oh, and not forgetting the two excess tickets,...(whatever the hell they are!)

Monday, 20 August 2007

A bellbird in the bottlebrush

My main job today was to put the finishing touches on my one metre by one metre Kotuku painting and package it up to send to Auckland for the Mazda Artworks event at the Hilton. I put an isolation coat on but it was such a big painting that it began to dry before I'd finished and looked streaky. I just had to walk off and leave it cause I knew if I tried to even it out I'd make it worse. It was all going pear shaped so I just took off to the park for half an hour to de-stress. I was trying to photograph tuis in the camelias and taiwanese cherry trees but the sun went behind the clouds and then when it came out the birds were in the wrong places for a clear shot. Bugger! I swear they are one of the most difficult birds to get a good shot of.
But then I heard a bellbird in a bottlebrush tree and it let me get quite close and get some photos. Quite difficult to tell the difference between the songs of tui and bellbirds.This pic I was really pleased with. I think its my first ever decent bellbird photo! Such a pretty bird with the sun on it. He was not at all shy unlike other bellbirds I've come across, maybe because he was too preoccupied with the bottlebrush flowers he was feeding on. Even chased a tui away from his food source!
Fortunately when I got back to the studio my painting had dried evenly so six metres of corrugated cardboard later and its ready for the courier!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

the weekend

Had a three day weekend, drove up to stay with Troys sister Sue and her hubby Mike at their place in the Rotoiti Forest. Mike is a gamekeeper on a private pheasant shooting estate, a beautiful property with great birdlife (not just Pheasants.) We were joined by Troys brother Rob and his son Bradley, cousin Jess, Matt and our baby godson Charlie. Soooo Cute!

The estate had liberated a flock of partridges a few months ago, originally intended as fodder for the guns but the birds turned out to be overly friendly and made themselves at home. Lucky for them! What a lovely looking bird they are, smaller than a pheasant but bigger than a quail. Saturday morning there was a light rain but I still got some photos of the partridges when they came waddling up for a visit. One landed on the roof of Robs ute and posed for a photo.

Later we all came back to our house and had a few drinks to celebrate my birth day. Think I had one pina colada too many!!! Visitors left Sunday morning so I spent the day trying to attract some more interesting birdlife to our yard. I'd bought a big bag of "wild bird seed" last week from bin inn so I've set up a few little feed stations on the fence. Some sliced kiwifruit kebabs poked into the palings attracted some waxeyes but the afternoon passed without any birds discovering the seed. I have set up an interesting perch closeby of wiggly willow branches so hopefully I will get some nice photos of the visiting birds. I noticed lots of sparrows flying past trailing straw...that time of year again. I did get this shot of a fantail catching tiny flying insects over the roof of our house in the afternoon sun. So hard to focus on them as they flit around. The canon doesnt have a real slow focus time but not super-fast either.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Waxeye photos, tangled Shag & Rockpool Painting

Today was cold and wet but I managed to get some photos of some waxeyes in my Aunty Veda's garden. Hard to get good shots as it was low light and my fingers were cold! These little guys were feeding on nectar from these orange flowers called lackenalia.... I know I spelled that wrong! Veda also has a birdbath used by a blackbird every day about lunchtime so I must get some photos of that one day soon.

The Whakatane Beacon published my photo of the Pied Shag I took last week. On a lovely sunny morning I was on the riverbank photographing kingfishers diving for little fish and crabs. I heard footsteps plopping along in the mud and looked up to see a shag heading towards me. I aimed my camera at him and through my zoom lens I saw that he was in trouble. He had some nylon fishing line around his neck and over one wing. On closer inspection I think the line disapeared into his mouth which probably meant there was a hook on the end of it.....NOT GOOD! I knew if I tried to get to him he would just go into the water so I sat and thought over my options. I took some photos, (hopefully to help educate people to be more careful with fishing lines) then went to the info centre where the office girl phoned the Department of conservation for me. I sent Troy a text and he joined me to help. At that stage all we could do was wait for D.O.C. to turn up with a net while preventing the bird from escaping back into the water. After a while Troy phoned to get some info about when to expect help and at this stage the bird became quite distressed trying to free itself from the line. In his struggles the shag toppled over and I decided to take the opportunity to grab him then. As I got to him and bent down to grab it he turned and snapped his beak at me. I was totally expecting that reaction but with that long neck of his he almost took my eye out! My nerve failed me and he got past and into the river. I was SO BUMMED! I could have saved it but blew my chance. I followed him nearly all the way down to the river mouth but eventually lost him. The poor thing is probably doomed to a lingering death now. I hate to think of it. But the Beacon did a little story on it and quoted Rosemary Tulley from bird rescue who said people need to be more careful with fishing line and hooks etc.

On a happier note I finished my Rockpool painting. Its very stylised but not actually as stylised as I wanted, for some reason I keep reverting to realism even tho I try SO HARD not to! I'm happy with it though. I really enjoyed doing it, it was a fun painting to do and I hope it shows. I tried to depict the pool as tho it was a window into another dimension which in reality I think it is.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Kotuku painting

Worked on my Kotuku painting today plus did a bit of finishing off on the rock pool painting. The Kotuku is coming on well although its physically quite tough working on a pic so large. Its been a while since I did one with these dimensions, 40 inches by 40 inches. My shoulder muscles hurt!!! But I really wanted to paint him as close to life size as I could because his size is very impressive. This is the bird I photographed at the Whakatane Yacht Club near the Apanui Saltmarsh. He often fished for mullet off the rocky point and I saw him eat about six good sized fish of about 12cm long one morning. He would plunge his whole head and neck into the water to catch them, sometimes all I could see was his back and two huge outstretched wings. A couple of times a kahawai (called sea trout in Australia) would chase the mullet towards the heron, they would be jumping out of the water all around him and he would get all flustered not knowing which ones to try to catch! I say "him" although I have no idea if its a male or female. There are two that spend the winter (separately) in our area before heading back to the West coast with all the others in spring to breed at Okarito in the South Island of NZ. These are two of the couple of hundred Photos I took of him! I began to feel like a papparrazi but I'm sure he got used to seeing me there very morning and used to the noise of my shutter going! Just call me the Stork stalker! Got some good photos but oh what I wouldn't do for an image stabilised 400ml zoom.....sigh. I do like my canon 350D though, its light and easy to use. Fits my small hands. Troy has a new work camera, Nikon D200 and the newspaper he works for has a new lens, 4oo zoom with image stabiliser but HEAVY!!!! I tried it in the weekend and just about killed my arms aiming it at a pair of fantails at the top of our willow tree.
Anyway the picture below is my Kotuku painting so far. Only two days left to finish it, better pull my finger out. I just need to add some more highlights to the clouds then package it up. Hate to think what it'll cost me to courier it to Auckland. Tomorrow I'll include a photo of my Rock Pool painting.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Introducing ME!....a white tui and a nudibranch.


I'm a nature loving artist with a passion for the wild outdoors. OK so sometimes I don't go that far outdoors, maybe just in the backyard but you'd be surprised what you can find lurking there. (Especially when you haven't mown the lawns for the last six weeks!) I find cool stuff that inspires me, I photograph it, and then if it REALLY inspires me I paint it. I particularly like rockpools and am working on a painting at the moment which includes a rockpool, pohutukawa and a pair of oystercatchers. (They are a type of shorebird found in New Zealand where I live.) My tribute to Michael Smither. Last Saturday I took a trip down the coast and found this really cool nudibranch or to be more specific "Ceratosoma Amoena." Or to be LESS specific, a really cute seaslug! No plans at this stage to paint him although he might make a great surrealist subject.

You'll never guess what I photographed this week! The most amazing bird - a WHITE Tui. Yes you read right, I'd heard rumours of sightings around the Opotiki area and guessed it to be an albino. By pure luck I happened to be five mins away from some friends who had a row of taiwanese cherry trees in flower. These are a popular food source for tuis who love to feed on the nectar in the blossoms. Got the tip off by phone and as I never go anywhere without my camera I was soon marveling over this most enchanting of creatures through my 75-300 zoom lens! But it was obviously not an albino as it had a dark beak, legs and eyes. Through correspondence with a zoologist Dr Paul Schofield who works for Canterbury Museum I found out this tui is afflicted with a rare genetic condition called leucism. Fortunately leucism only seems to affect colur so it doesn't suffer from poor eyesight as an albino would. She's a strong healthy bird. ANYWAY I got some photos to prove I'm not making it up.Check this out!

I'm guessing by the birds size she's a female. And she's such a georgous bird too. In sunlight she's a lovely creamy colour. Might have to paint her but not sure I can do her justice. I'm painting for an exhibition in October in conjunction with the "Birds Aplenty" festival held in the Opotiki Heritage Art Centre. I'm sure the locals would be interested to see their white tui in a painting. In some regions the Maori believe its unlucky to see a white tui, I feel very lucky to have seen it!

So before I finish my first post I suppose I should show you a couple of my paintings. In the next few weeks I intend documenting the creation of a painting from inspiration to completion.... thats the plan anyway. The painting on the left of a pied stilt I sold at the Mazda Artworks show at the Auckland Hilton Hotel last year. (I'm working on a huge painting of a kotuku for this years Mazda Artworks.) The painting below is a New Zealand Scaup duck. Mark Airey from the NZ Fish and Game Council saw this and asked me to submit some photos of my paintings to Fish & Game so I could be considered to provide the artwork for the 2006 duck stamp. I got the commission and was asked to paint the scaup on the strength of this pic! The stamp was released feb 2nd to commemorate World Wetlands Day with a portion of proceeds going to the conservation of NZ Wetlands. Kind of ironic that they give one to everyone who buys a duck hunting license HA!