Thursday, 27 September 2007

RoseGardens Falcon R.I.P.

Had a rough day today. Felt like cutting an ear off....(its an artists thing) Put my paintbrush in my coffee more often than the water. And then worst of all I got home and heard from Rosemary Tully via email that our falcon had been found dead. That really hurt! He was so awesome, if only he had flown to Whale Island or something maybe he would have been ok......anyway...what can I say.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Shags, Caspian Terns & Spoonbill

Got no painting done today. I
had lots of organising to do for the up and coming exhibition so had lots of meetings and stuff to do today....Bleuurrggh! But my first meeting was at nine so I had a free hour beforehand. It was a strange misty kind of morning so I went to the river, the Apanui saltmarsh to be specific. I saw a whole group of shags swimming in close formation up a small stream. There was five of them, one looked a little larger than the rest so perhaps it was an adult and four juveniles but I would have thought a mum would be rid of her last brood of chicks by this time of the year. Anyway they were swimming in a really tight group and appeared to be feeding on a school of fish. I was trying to get a shot of all five of them with their heads up at the same time but they were practising unsynchronised swimming! I saw one catch a flounder and swallow it. For a bird with such a skinny neck they sure can get down some big fish!

There were about a half dozen Caspian Terns too. They are the largest of our tern species and quite cool with their bright red beaks. I was surprised to see one side by side with one of the spoonbills. They sure made a strange pair! I remember when the Kotuku was hanging around, from a distance the only way I could tell the kotuku from the spoonbills was because he wouldn't tolerate any other birds near him. He would chase off seagulls, ducks etc. The spoonbills were often mixed in with the gulls and at rest they'd hide their big goofy bills amongst
the feathers on their backs. I never saw the heron rest like that. From a distance they look like they have a yellow eye but the eye is black - that yellow is an eyebrow!

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Fernbirds at Ohiwa


I saw the falcon in the park again today, he was perched in a tall tree where a pair of tuis were swooping around him making a fuss. He was scanning the park for something to turn into breakfast. A fantail flitted around his head coming within inches but he ignored it. I read somewhere that fantails have a flight pattern that fails to stimulate the prey drive in a falcon.( Check out the photo, you can see the fantail to the right of the falcon.)

Finally he spotted a duckling and took off to the stream but he was unsuccessful in his attack. I didn't get there in time to see what happened but I saw him fly off.


I worked on my pukeko collage this morning. Its coming on well but I feel I need more of a three dimensional aspect to it....I'm thinking I need to add some real feathers. I took off at lunchtime to stay with Mum and Dad in Opotiki. I stopped at the Nukuhou Saltmarsh viewing point and went down the boardwalk to see if I could call up a fernbird. I stood at the end looking out over the beautiful expanse of "oi oi" (native rushes) in its lovely soft colours of rust and orange and burnt sienna. I practised my best fernbird call hoping no-one was witnessing my technique. I can't even begin to explain how I mimic the hi pitched "chitt chitt" noise they make suffice to say I look pretty stupid doing it! BUT blow me down if a bird didn't answer me from the undergrowth! I "chitt chitted" again and a fernbird popped up in a nearby bush and sang a song at me (that incidentally sounded nothing like the noise I was making!) I had enough time for one photo before he realised he'd been sucked in and took off in disgust. No matter how much I "chitt chitted" all I succeeded in doing was give myself a headache.

Further on I saw a pukeko dead on the road but it was well squashed. Perhaps if there had been no traffic I would have stopped but I do have some self-respect! Mum and I delivered lots of our exhibition invites around Opotiki then back at the house Mum gave me a present she'd been saving for me - a rats skull, way cool! (Only a special kind of Mum saves you rat skulls.)


Mum and I went for a walk along the Ohiwa spit to see what interesting shorebirds we could see. The first part of the walk was past a whole lot of oi oi so Mum asked me to call up a fernbird for her. We sat down in the rushes and I started my imitation noises. One called back. I called and it called back again then we heard one from a different direction. The three of us had a conversation only I had no idea what it was I was saying. Just call me the fernbird whisperer. We saw a couple of fleeting glimpses as they flitted briefly up from the vegetation. They are so shy its no wonder lots of people don't even know they exist. Then I gave myself a headache again!

I saw some really beautiful shorebirds out on the sand that I'd never seen before. Not sure what they were, perhaps pacific golden plover or sharp-tailed sandpipers? I took this photo but I couldn't get close so its a poor quality image. Can someone please tell me what they are? Such georgous markings.

Didn't see any godwits, I think they were all on tern island.

Saw some NZ dotterels, they are just starting to colour up and get their orange breasts. There were two lovely little banded dotterels too but I couldn't get very close to them.

I found lots of treasures on the harbour edge, a kingfisher skull, some cool crabs and a dead blackbird. I put them all in a plastic bag and hid them in the back of the car than went to pick Troy up from work. I had to spray some perfume around the inside of the car to hide the dead bird smell. When I got home I buried the bird so it can finish decomposing. I'd like to learn how they clean skulls for museums and stuff. But I think they use acid and I don't know where to get that from....oh and interestingly enough, I'm related to the famous acid-bath murderer who lived in England and murdered an old couple then dissolved their bodies in acid. He was immortalised in Madam Tussauds Wax Museum in London. They found him cause the old ladies false teeth didn't dissolve. Oooh maybe I should be worrying in case I've inherited that gene. Some people may think my fascination of skeletons etc is morbid but really I'm just fascinated at how things are put together. I marvel at the construction of bones, how tiny the frame is inside a bird and how that amazing combination of bones flesh and feathers can create such awonderful creature. If I am to paint something then surely the better I understand how it works the easier it is to capture its essence on paper or canvas. Thats my excuse and I'm sticking to it!

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Falcon update.

I got a phone call from the local radio station yesterday wanting a comment on the NZ Falcon that had been seen in the Whakatane Rose Gardens the day before. The DJ said the bird had been recently released from Whakatane bird rescue so I was a little confused as it had been three weeks ago that I'd photographed him. I had looked for him lots since then without any luck so I was interested to hear he had been seen again....and of course I had to go back to see for myself. After a walk around the park all I saw was lots of sparrows and flocks of yellowhammers feeding on the newly spread grass seed, the usual suspects but no sign of the falcon. Then after walking along the stopbank towards the kids playground I saw a man standing near a pohutukawa of about ten foot in height aiming his cellphone camera at the top where I saw the shape of a bird. When I approached I saw the falcon and the man made some comment about what kind of bird it was, "Don't think its a morepork" he muttered. To be honest they are very similar in colouring in parts and they are both raptors so I filled him in as I took photos myself.

It was nearly time to pick Troy up from work so I took as many photos as I could then drove to the Beacon to pick him up. We both went back and as we approached the tree I saw he'd gone then a movement caught my eye. He was on the ground with a sparrow he'd caught and was eating it tearing off bits and now and then wiping feathers from his beak with a foot. I was a little worried about how close we could get. He paid us little attention as he ate and I was thinking of the black cat I'd seen in the bushes about forty feet away! We both took photos, Troys are destined for the Newspaper. I was surprised to see a band on his leg which he didn't have the first time.

I phoned Rosemary Tully from Whakatane Bird Rescue and she told me about this bird. Apparently he was captured at the Whakatane Council (I'm not sure if he'd hit a window or not) but he was very underweight. That was about a week after I'd photographed him. So he was taken in by Rosemary on the 28th August and after putting on weight was later banded H33442 and released from her Taneatua property. Rosemary then went to Wellington and on her return she learned he'd had a spell at the Whakatane S.P.C.A. Apparently a group of workmates were outside Pizza Hut when they saw a flock of sparrows take flight, one sparrow flew into Pizza Hut closely followed by our falcon who ended up with concussion after hitting a window.

Lets hope he gets a little more sense as he matures. I learned from Rosemary that the greenish tinge at the base of his beak and legs indicates he is a juvenile. The males are the smaller of the two sexes but he is a particularly small individual. Great to see he is hunting well and getting enough to eat without having to visit Pizza Hut!

I finished a pukeko painting yesterday. Just a small one on a ten by ten inch canvas but I liked the softness of the colours of the water contrasting with the bold colours of the pukeko. Amazing how many tubes of blue paint you have to open to do a pook justice - Prussian, cobalt, ultramarine and pthalo blue! Still working on my pukeko collage.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Spring ducklings at last.

Aaaah, the first of the must truly be spring! I saw a mother mallard and eleven babies in the park last week. I saw her again today resting with a baby on her back. I guess she only had room for ten beneath her unless of course the hawks and other predators have already taken their toll. I saw a hawk flying low over the watercourse and I'm sure he was looking for ducklings for lunch. When I lived on a little farm in Opotiki I remember the hens and their broods of spring chicks that grew fewer in number day by day. I heard a commotion one day and I rushed out to see a hawk flying off with a chick clasped in each foot! I took to putting cereal out each day for the hen and her last four babies to encourage them to stay close to the house and ended up with five chickens strutting in the front door every morning demanding their cornflakes!

I am working on a new painting of Pukekos. I am painting some studies on paper then will make a collage and put them all together on one canvas. It will be kind of like my pied shag painting. I enjoy working like this because I can experiment on paper and if I don't like the results I simply don't include them in the final collage. Theres no pressure to get it right.

I would like to include some pukeko feathers I've decided. I passed a dead pukeko on white pine bush road on Sunday, (roadkill victim- poor thing) but I wish I'd thought to pick it up now. They are strange birds though, quite colourful with the sun on them but the feathers on their own are quite dull and lifeless. I always think feathers look better on a live bird no matter what the species anyway.

I've been so busy lately I've hardly had the chance to get out with my camera. The only free time I've had its been raining anyway. I stayed with Mum and Dad in Opotiki on Friday night and learned of a place near the township that gets visited by five Kaka! I was dying to contact the owners to see if I could get over there but we had to get back for a twenty-first. I might see if I can sneak an afternoon off sometime soon.....

I noticed the spoonbills are still at the Apanui salt marsh. I thought they may have buggered off since those noisy workmen have been working on the new footpath along the top of the stopbank but they just moved away a little further up the river into the rushes. They must be off soon to their breeding grounds wherever they are. Heres a photo I took of them a couple of months ago. They look kind of goofy on the ground. They're quite comical creatures but they look lovely in the air as they fly with their necks outstretched unlike the kotuku who flies with his neck folded in an "S" shape. Interesting to note the black tips to their wing feathers. The black pigment means the feathers are stronger and less prone to wear than white tipped feathers.

Til next time...hopefully I'll have some Kaka photos....hmmm.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

a thrush, a waxeye and a greenfinch

I've been leaving seed and fruit out for the birds over the last two weeks and today was the first day I've really had the opportunity to photograph some of the visitors to my feed stations. I probably need to set up a hide to photograph some of the more shy diners but I got some nice pics of the waxeyes. They love the fruit, kiwis in particular. I sat out in the back yard with a book and my camera and alternated between Harry Potter and snapping the waxeyes who became quite used to my presence. I would really like to get photos of the finches that are coming to eat the wildbird seed; greenfinches, chaffinches and yellowhammers. I'll need to set up a hide for them though.

I got this photo of a thrush in the park. Sometimes the worms get away but not often! A worm this size must make a good meal for a bird like this.

I saw my friend Barbara in town on Friday, it was her place where I photographed the white tui. She said it was a regular visitor for about two weeks but has gone now. Shame, I planned to go back and get some more photos but have just been too busy. Planning is going well for our "Birds Aplenty" exhibition in October. We have decided to donate a percentage of our sales to Rosemary Tully of Whakatane Bird Rescue. She does such a good job.

My falcon sighting I reported to "Wingspan" in Rotorua (the raptor centre) and they sent me a complimentery copy of their magazine. It was a wonderful read, I was really stoked! I must join, only $30 per year and that gives you free entry. All in all its been a quiet week though. I haven't been to my favourite spot on the river since whitebait season started...too crowded now!

Finally, a picture I took during lunch in the rosegardens on Friday. A greenfinch, a charming little bird that stopped in for a quick bath. The male has more colour than this hen but they are both lovely.