Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Jellyfish and the meaning of life

I was going thru some photos I took late in November and came across these jellyfish pics taken at Ohiwa Harbour. It was a still day and the water was like glass. All across the inlet you could see the backs of hundreds of jellyfish bobbing along on the surface like ethereal alien spacecraft.
I think they all ended up washed ashore and finally melted into shapeless pools of colourless slime. A bit like the human body drifting through the endless expanse of life till we wash ashore and return to the earth for the microbes to dissolve. Or at least would dissolve if we didn't pump our bodies full of chemicals to preserve us. When I go I want to go naturally and at least give a few worms some nutrition while I'm on my way out. But thats just me...

A Quail Tale

We have a resident pair of californian quail in the area. I often see the male perched up on a fencepost or similar perch keeping a lookout while the female feeds in the grass below.
She is rather drab in the manner of birds whilst he is a little dandy, with a smart checkered waistcoat and a feather in his cap. Hopefully we will see some young'uns one day soon. I once found a quails nest on a riverbank. I only discovered it because I nearly stepped on the Mum and she took off from almost under my foot. The babies were like furry bumblebees and not much bigger. I ran off to get my camera but when I returned I couldnt find the nest as it was just a tiny space way down in the long grass. I didn't risk looking for too long in case I put my clumsy foot on the chicks.
I took this photo out my dining room door one morning as the cocky little bugger was strolling by not more than six feet from Billy the Wonder Dog snoring in his basket. Handsome wee devil isn't he?

Monday, 28 December 2009

weird shit.

This is the subject in my latest bird cage sculpture. Its still under construction, I have added three little blue eggs to the nest in the head. This was a porcelain dolls head I bought at a garage sale. I painted it with crackle glaze.
It looks strangely selfportrait-ish, (so I made up a new word,you know what it means) and I don't mean because I'm an egg-head. Its those fat cheeks....
I have neglected to show you what my Mum did with the mummified rat I gave her. She painted it with several coats of shellac, put it on some little wheels and made a little carry-case for it. Here's a pic. OK so its not exactly an Armani handbag but she exhibited it in Opotiki and sold it! Actually I think its way better than an Armani handbag (is that how you spell Armani?) because
A. Its a one and only original.
B. Its unique and handmade.
C. No animals were intentionally harmed in its creation! Unless you count the insects whose wings were used in the making of the shellac varnish. Yes it is true- Shellac is made from insect wings, you mix it up with methylated spirits. I made some today, every time I make it I wonder who discovered that if you add meths to insect wings you get varnish??? And HOW did they discover that??? Go figure.

Oh and this is another of her creations. I really like it but its not something I can really go into because it just is what it is. Made from an old wooden frame, doll parts and possum bones. Cool!

Chicks fly the nest.

More baby birds leaving the nest every day around here. This baby blackbird was one of two on our front lawn just before Christmas. Unable to fly, they sit and cheep til Mum comes and pokes a worm down their beaks. Because they can't fly some people think they need saving and pick them up at this age. Its best to leave them to their Mums....& Dads? ActuallyI'm not sure if Papa blackbird helps out when they are this old. Different species have different rules when it comes to child support.
This was the adult goldfinch feeding the babies outside our front door. At this stage I thought there were three babies. With this family both parents helped out. The juniors are kinda funny looking here I must admit and very demanding! They get better looking with age.

I took this two days before Xmas. I was heading off to Tauranga to spend Xmas at my sisters and saw the babies that morning preening themselves and flapping their wings. I was sure they were heading off that same day and what do ya know there were FIVE of the little buggers! It was getting very squashed in that nest. When we got home day after Xmas the nest was empty. No sign of the lovely bright yellow on them yet. I guess they need to be camouflaged til they become independent.

Onepu Sunset

This was how the moon looked last night from the back paddock. I was taking Billy the Wonder Dog for his run and I happened to take a peek at it thru my zoom lens. I was surprised to see how clear it was. Lots of digital noise in the photo but you can still see the craters. It was just on dusk, not as dark as it looks. I can kinda see how a moon like that makes you wanna howl..... no close neighbours but I did resist the urge.

There was also a nice sunset, turned the clouds all kindsa purple. My favourite time of the day. I like sunrises too but they need to be a bit later on in the day so I can actually get to see them.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Bird Babies

Many of the nests around our house have already produced babies that are now unruly teenagers spreading their wings in the big wide world. The thrush family reared two babies successfully although one I had to rescue after it fell into the cattle-stop and was unable to fly out. The parent birds are often in the bottom of the cattle-stop catching worms so perhaps it flew in there on purpose.

The Blackbird below reared just one chick (strangely enough I had to rescue this baby from the cattle-stop also!) When the nest was vacated and no longer in use it was plundered by a fantail who stole bits of straw for its own nest.
This goldfinch is nesting in the same tree about fifteen feet from our front door. I don't think the chicks have hatched yet so I'll keep an eye on this family with interest. When the birds have finished with the nest I'll be stealing it for sure!

The fantail family had a bit of a disaster with its first nest of the season. They had built a lovely nest in the Sheoak tree in the next door paddock and we came home one day to find the farmer had felled a lot of trees including the one the fantails were calling home. Rather than mope over their loss they got right down to building themselves a new one, collecting wood shavings from the recently chopped down trees. When life gives you lemons ...make lemonade!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Critters for Cages

Been playing around with my Birdcage sculptures lately (although technically they are "assemblages" more than sculptures.) My paintings I take seriously and put a lot of forethought into whereas the birdcages I am just totally having fun with.
At the moment I am working on the "captives" to go inside them, I feel a little like Victor Frankenstein creating creepy little monstors that take on a life of their own. I start with a concept and they just morph as I go, wings are added, limbs are modified or just lopped off and replaced with something else and slowly a deliciously macabre little creature evolves.
They are to be exhibited as part of the Whakatane Summer Arts Festival on during Anniversary Weekend in January. There goes my reputation as small children run screaming from the hall.......

This one is my favourite so far...yet to install the engine...obviously!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Udate on my latest painting

I have added the next element in my current painting. I've not put a lot of thought into the title yet, that will come later and I suspect its going to be a difficult one to choose a name for. Anyway I have painted a stem of Iris flowers up the centre if my cross shape. The Iris flower symbolises hope and is named after a greek goddess who carried the souls of women to the underworld. (Don't ask me what that has to do with my painting, just a useless piece of information to enlighten you.) The flower that I used for reference was one I stole out of my Mums garden. Such stunning colours and a fun challenge to paint.

Rabbit Shooting

I've been shooting lots of rabbits lately.....with my camera of course! Billy the Wonder Dog and I take a stroll in the evenings as its cooling down and visit the local rabbit warrens where Bill and the Bunnies play their silly bugger games.

He barks a warning to let them know he's coming (very sporting of him) and they all sit up and watch him running flat out towards them. Its the rabbit version of playing "chicken" - they wait to see how close they can let him get before they go bottoms up and shoot down the burrow.

Once or twice he has encountered a bunny with a bit more bravado, a rabbit that takes off in the opposite direction of the burrow then the two of them play Bullrush as the rabbit tries to get back to its HQ. Despite Billy employing his jet propulsion system, the rabbit inevitably wins.

Bill pokes his head down the rabbit hole and they hold a short dialogue, probably trading insults. Then its "Seeya tomorrow," and we wander back down the cow race in the fading light towards home and a cool drink from the trough (Bill that is, I prefer a wine.)

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Sploosh pics

There was a freezing wind on the river this morning which kept the whitebaiters at home so the heron grabbed the number one fishing possie. Nice light for getting what I call "Sploosh" shots - the moment the bird strikes at shrimp, small fish or crabs. I call them sploosh shots cause if you were drawing it in a comic thats the caption you'd put with it! Timing is everything for both the bird and my shutter finger.
This is the painting I am working on at the moment.
Its 1.2 metres tall and the arms to the cross 25cm deep. I am not sure if the skull is from a goat or a deer, I suspect a deer. I have a handful of possible elements to include in the final design but I have to bear in mind the final composition so that they will balance the finished work. I had the whole design worked out before I started but got to this point and changed my mind. An artists perogative! I'm quite happy with it so far.

The sky tonight

A Moody sky over my house tonight!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Hounds and Herons

There were lots of people out enjoying a sunny morning on the side of the river yesterday. Below is "West" who brought his owner out to throw some sticks for him.

I think half the reason I can get close to the birdlife here is because they are used to the human activity which will probably increase as people utilise the awesome new walkway the council has put along the stopbank.

I have noticed very few herons on the riverbank in the last couple of months. This one is pulling out a big long mudworm to eat. Many of them have had chicks which are just now leaving the nest and I saw this family squabbling on the mudflats the other day. The herons with fuzzy hairdos are the juveniles. The smaller of the two young birds was hassling a parent for food and chased it until it gave in and regurgitated some food into the chicks mouth. EEEYEW! Makes you grateful you didn't have to rely on your mother to...er....nah lets not go there. Then the smaller chick chased the other chick off, the parent chased the bigger chick...it was chaos but very entertaining and made for some good action shots.

Kaka Beak

I just realised its been a while since I posted any of my paintings. Mainly because I have been working on another large painting for the Molly Morpeth Canaday Art Awards in January and its taking me a while. Paintings for awards are created a whole lot differently from paintings for galleries as you only need to impress one person, namely the judge and they will be someone who appreciates originality & anything goes. Thats why my current painting includes a goat skull. But I seem to be collecting "weird" paintings that I have done for competitions but no-one wants to hang on their wall. Too bad, they're the ones I like the most.

The above painting is one that has been very poular with the public and I like it too. Its called "Kaka Beak" after the red native flowers named for their shape. The bird in it (obviously) is a Kaka, our native forest parrot. Now and then in early spring one or two kaka visit certain trees in the Whakatane township to feed.
This painting will hang in the upcoming exhibition by the Opotiki Art Society opening on the 27th November, 13 King St, Opotiki. Oh and I've also just hung four works in the Whakatane Museum Foyer for a month. Below is a kaka I photographed at Mt Bruce a year or so ago. One of my favourite pics, think I've posted it before.

Whitebait and Jellyfish.

This is a photo I feel I have to post, a mother mallard and duckling in the stream by the Whakatane Skatebowl. Its not a nice photo but it speaks volumes. The amount of rubbish is disgusting and I wonder if they still teach anti-litter campaigns in schools. Such a simple philosophy - to put your rubbish in the bin but obviously there are still plenty of people around who can't be bothered! OK my rant for the day is done.I haven't spent a lot of time along the river bank lately mainly because it has been invaded by a seasonal migrant - the whitebaiter! I tend to leave them to it during the season as they like to perch on my favourite shooting posts and scare away my subjects.
These are the little buggers they're after. Mmmm good in a fritter!

Yesterday was such a lovely morning I just had to check out my favourite spot despite the whitebaiters and I was surprised to find an eastern bar-tailed godwit feeding on the sand bar by the yachtclub. I know there are hundreds (possibly thousands but I can't count that fast) of these birds that visit the Ohiwa harbour every spring/summer but I have never seen one in the Whakatane river. And you hardly ever see just one.
The most amazing thing about these birds is that they migrate here from Eastern Siberia and Alaska!! Over 100,000 make the trip to NZ every year. They arrive pretty buggered obviously, fatten themselves up on marine critters they probe from out of the mud then fly all the way back to breed. Go figure!

Another critter to invade the river of late is the jellyfish. I guess due to some very high tides we've been having they have cruised up the river like wobbly flying saucers dragging long tentacles behind them. They are still alive too, I have watched their slow but steady jet propulsion systems at work. I witnessed a swarm of them hanging out by the skate bowl floodgates. A duck was paddling its way towards one of them and when it spotted the jellyfish it did a sudden detour to get the hell out of its way so that I wondered if it had previous experience with its stingers.

I was left in no doubt as to the fact that birds are stung by them as I later saw a heron feeding in the shallows suddenly take flight and flapping in mid-air was violently shaking one leg. It landed on a nearby sandbar and inspected its foot as if thinking "What the HELL was THAT?!!! He flew off up the river to safer feeding grounds.