Thursday, 18 September 2008

Scrapping sparrows & feeding fantails.

I've been photographing sparrows lately as I'm planning a painting that will include about five or six of them. Last weekend I put some birdseed out in my feedstation (an old wheelbarrow) and tried to get some action shots. I wanted to get them flying or fighting as they do often at the feedstation.

Today I photographed our resident pair of fantails which were quite obliging in that they let me get very close although I wish they would keep still a little longer. Later in the afternoon they were flitting around the tops of some tall trees among thick clouds of little sandfly type insects. I got a neat shot of them in the air together but the quality was crap as I had to have the ISO set at 400 with a fast shutter speed. I'm sure they almost had a "head-on" in mid air but their reactions are lightening fast as they dart after bugs etc. I think I'd like to get re-incarnated as a fantail....except I'm not sure about eating bugs. I watched one eat a big fat blowfly today. Yuck! No if I'm going to be re-incarnated as a bird it had better be a seagull so I can hang out in the carpark down the heads and live off scavenged fish and chips!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

spring has sprung!

I've been painting feathers for the last week and am suffering sore shoulders and eyes....the down side of painting on a space two inches wide! And the inclement weather has meant I've had little opportunity to take a break with my camera.

Spring is well and truly here with ducklings emerging and birds building nests evrywhere you look. I took the shot of the black swan at McLarens Falls Park a couple of weeks ago. HUGE nest! I was surprised at how close I was able to get despite the aggressive reputation these birds have.

The coot and ducklings are residents of Sullivans Lake in Whakatane.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Three Seals and a Surfer.

Today there were TWO seals sharing Wairakas rock! They appeared to be a male and a female adult in good condition. However a third seal I spotted in the water came ashore to sun itself on the rocky breakwater & this was small and very skinny. I watched a surfer make his way out along the rocks with his board and I knew he was about to come face to face with the young seal. Sure enough he stopped very suddenly and the two of them eyeballed each other for a second or two then much to the surfers relief the seal took off back into the water!
The seals have certainly caused a lot of interest among the locals. A bus load of tourists even turned up while I was there!

The morning fined up and turned out lovely. I snapped these white fronted terns and an oystercatcher before tearing myself away and heading back to the studio.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Northern Giant Petrel?

It turns out the dead whale I photographed yesterday was a baby sperm whale. Perhaps the victim of an orca attack?

I was looking through my photos tonight when I remembered another couple of photos I had taken when we first got to the beach. As we jumped down the sand dune I saw a large dark albatross-like bird flying along above the surf. I only had seconds to snap these two photos and didn't even set my exposures so the quality is pretty bad. I have done a little research and have decided it may be a Northern Giant Petrel. The exterior tube-like nostrils place it in the petrel family and it was a very large bird. I am surprised to see one here in the Bay of Plenty but I suspect it was because of the whale as they commonly feed off dead sea mammals. If anyone can positively identify this bird can you please let me know and I'd love to know how rare (or common) they are around Whakatane.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Of dead whales and sleepy seals.

What a strange day I've had! We were on our way to work when Troy got a text to say there was a whale stranded on Ohope Beach. Of course he had to photograph it for the newspaper so there was no way I was going to miss out. Driving over the hill I was hoping the whale was going to be ok and imagined it being refloated and swimming off through the waves to a happy ending. Bit of a different story when we got there. It wasn't a stranding at all - more like a dead whale being washed up on the beach after floating lifelessly around in the ocean for a couple of weeks.

I'm not certain what kind of whale it was, perhaps a minke. Really interesting lower jaw on the creature, very narrow compared to the width of the head so not sure what it would be eating. Perhaps squid and other fish. It was really stinky downwind. The guys at Dept of Conservation were going to bury it this afternoon. What a job but someone's gotta do it! (Glad I didn't have to dig the hole.)

By the way, the distant Island in my second photo is coincidentally Whale Island.
So that was my morning, observing a rotting whale carcass being rolled around in the ocean! I hope it died of natural causes.

Actually I was back in my studio at ten a.m. so I did get some work done before I picked Troy up at mid-day. He told me something over lunch that I simply could not believe so he took me to see it for myself. Let me explain.

For those of you unfamiliar with my hometown of Whakatane let me introduce you to one of our most recognisable landmarks -"Wairaka" or " the Lady on the Rock." When the Mataatua waka first landed at Whakatane the Maori men set off to explore leaving the women on the beach. The tide came in and the waka or canoe began to float away. It was custom that only the men were able to man the canoe so one of the women,Wairaka called out "Kia Whakatane ake i ahau" which roughly translated meant "let me perform the duties of a man." She then brought the waka back to the beach attaining heroine status in the process. This statue of Wairaka was erected on the rock at the rivermouth in the sixties (I think.) I'm not sure how high the rock is that she stands on but the statue herself must be about seven foot tall.

So check out this next is Wairaka in all her bronze glory (complete with seagull accessory) and there at her feet like a little loyal dog is.....a SEAL!!! A bit skinny admittedly but very much alive and it must definitely be fit to have been able to get up there at all. Its not uncommon for seals to come ashore this time of year, the young ones get a bit under the weather and need to rest up a bit especially after stormy weather (and goodness knows we've had enough of that!) BUT whatever possessed this seal to scale such a steep rock......I have no idea. At least it was safe from harrassing dogs & humans so perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea after all!
Apologies for any incorrect spelling or historical inaccuracies with regard to the legend of Wairaka. I have retold the story how I remember it told to me at school many years ago.