Thursday, 29 November 2007

Billy the Wonder dog

Have found it hard painting lately as my studio has been getting SO hot in the afternoons. I had Wednesday off and painted at home but today was cooler so went in to the studio. The paddocks surrounding the house have become a golden yellow and are dry and crispy underfoot. And its still only November!
I put the sprinkler under the apricot tree on Sunday. We have lots of apricots on there but they're still green at the moment. It was so hot that Billy Blue the wonder dog cooled himself off by trying to catch the water in his mouth. Keeps him entertained for ages.
I take Bill into the paddock and throwing the frisbee for him every night, good excercise for him and good practise for me as I am so unco-ordinated and can't throw for nuts. The other night I got Troy to throw the frisbee while I took photos of him. Not really built for speed he can get a lot of air for such a hairy beast. Takes after me I think, stocky body, stumpy legs.....only he can run a lot faster.
If he's lucky he startles a rabbit (the rabbit is also lucky - lucky he's a slughound and not a whippet)and he chases it til it disapears through the hedge. Then he stands and barks as if he's trying to talk the rabbit into coming back.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Californian Quail, Baby Hedgehog

Had a busy weekend. I spent Saturday in Opotiki helping Dad out on his stall at the Trash or Treasure day. I drove over on Friday afternoon and stopped at the Nukuhau Saltmarsh on the way. It was drizzling slightly so not the best for photography. I was delighted to see two pairs of fernbirds near the boardwalk. Both it seemed were collecting insects to take back to a nest somewhere.

On Saturday afternoon I drove home and pottered about in the garden. We have a resident pair of californian quail and I got some nice shots of the male perched on our fence keeping watch as his mate fed on the lawn below.

On Sunday Troy and I went to visit my cousin Pauline and her husband Bruce. Their daughter Michelle showed me a hedgehogs nest that their dog Mitzi had discovered. The Mother hedgehog was half buried in some dry vegetation at the base of a bush and she was feeding four babies. I know they are pests due to their unfortunate appetite for the eggs and babies of ground-nesting birds but we picked up one of the babies to photograph and it was SO CUTE! a funky kind of way. Punk style hairdo and a wrinkly little Ewok face. The spines at this stage are really quite soft. After this little guys photo shoot he began to squawk so we quickly put him back with his mum and he took no time at all getting back to the milkbar.
His eyes weren't even open yet. I guess they need to have soft spines when they are born so the Mother doesnt have any more than the usual pain experienced at childbirth (not that I'd know!) Conception is another matter entirely one would assume. Perhaps the hedgehog is into the whole pain thing in the bedroom just like some couples are into whips and spurs etc........ now I'm just sinking to anthropomorhic tendancies. But enough about that. By the way, these photos are Troys.
Oh and last week I had a surprise one evening when we got home from work. Troy stopped on the side of road opposite our drive so I could get out and empty the mailbox. He turned in to our entranceway on the other side of the road and waited for me to open the gate. I was walking across the road towards his car when a falcon flew between the stationwagon and myself and dropped into the empty drain that runs parallel to the road. This drain is about eight feet wide and about five foot deep. The falcon was using it as cover and flew level with the road like a little jet fighter. I watched it until it disapeared quickly from sight. I think if we hadn't just been to visit Wingspan a few weeks ago I may not have been sure what I had seen but it was definately a falcon and this was confirmed the next evening when I saw it try to catch a bird in our apricot tree. It was unsuccessful and took off across the paddock towards the neighbours where I saw it fly up and over the hedge and out of sight. Perhaps one day I will get a chance to photograph it. Here's hoping!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Mt Bruce

Well its been a whole three weeks since my last blog! But I've been SO busy. Firstly Troy and I went on holiday...well actually we went to Featherston for his brother Garys birthday. On the way down there was lots of snow on Ruapehu and we stopped off on the shores of lake Taupo to take photos of them. I found a dead Koura or freshwater crayfish and it had long spiky blue claws one of which I kept.

Our next stop was the Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre where we were just in time to see the Kaka being fed. These are birds living in the wild which fly in for food every afternoon at three. Actually they get there at least twenty minutes early and wait impatiently in the surrounding trees until the feed stations are filled then its all on. What entertaining birds. Typical parrots, they are the monkeys of the avian world. They chatter, squawk and screech and drop almost as much food as they eat. We were standing right at the base of the feed stations and the kaka were flying between us back and forth from the food to the trees. At times they flew only inches from my face. They feasted on cheese, walnuts, and sweetcorn, holding the food up to their beaks with a foot.

In a number of large aviaries I got to see some kokako up close. What magical birds these are, the way they move through the trees. They leap silently through the branches and watching them brings to mind the descriptions of huia I have read. (Same family of birds.) The blue wattles on each side of the bird face are curious looking things. They appear plastic and are the most unnatural colour. I observed one from about four foot away as it ate a fern leaf. They are the blackest of black around the eyes, altogether a very attractive bird.

From the cafeteria you can sit on the balcony overlooking the Takahe enclosure. Big chunky green and blue birds like pukekos on steroids. First time I'd seen them. I would have liked to have gotten closer but time to get back on the road.

The birthday party was great, dinner at a restaurant then into Wellington to dance the night away at some Courtney Place nightclubs then walked to the backpackers for a bit of shut eye. The next day we drove out to the Castle Point Lighthouse. Wicked spot! There was a huge wall of limestone between part of the beach and the ocean and it was full of fossilised seashells. No matter how I tried I couldn't prise any free. I was like a kid trying to prise off a dollar coin that has been superglued to the footpath. Had to settle for a photo. I found a really cool thing on the beach, an egg case of some kind of shark. I showed Troy and he thought it was weird. The next day we went to Te Papa and in the natural history section we saw one very similar although the one I found was black in colour. I must do some research and find out exactly what kind of fish came out of it.

I got some good reference photos of the Huia at Te Papa. Tragic to see the beaks made into brooches and decorating cigarette lighters.

All in all we had about six days away which was really cool. I ended up with some great photos plus of course my shark egg case.
My blue crayfish claw had turned orange by the time I got home how did that happen?
When we got home we spent the next five days packing our house up to move half a kilometre up the road into our new house! And the next five days unpacking so thats why its been so long since my last blog. I just LOVE the new place. Huge section with lots of big trees around and lots of birds everywhere. But more about that next time!