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 lets not go there. Then the smaller chick chased the other chick off, the parent chased the bigger 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.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Widdle birrrds

Along the Whakatane Riverbank between the yacht club and the skate bowl there is a short boardwalk to the frog pond. I have visited three mornings in a row and been rewarded with some nice shots of small birds, finches, sparrows and fantails feeding and collecting nesting material among the reeds and toi toi that grows there. Its lovely on a sunny day. Once the homeless degenerates that sleep under the boardwalk have cleared out its a nice place to sit and be serenaded by the frogs and trilling & cheeping finches.
This little guy is a male greenfinch singing his little heart out to impress a chick. It works and his girlfriend turns up but...typical female is very demanding and wants him to feed her. (I can relate to that.) Its all part of the courtship thing - she needs to know he will be a good provider for their chicks plus it supplies her with the extra nutrition needed to lay the eggs etc.
This male sparrow is collecting toi toi fibres for nesting material.
A pair of goldfinches land in the bullrushes and one targets the web from a nursery spiders nest. The finch collected a beakful, flew off to wherever its nest was, then returned twice til the web was all gone. It then found another web and repeated the excercise.
What a cutie! And finally, one of my favourites - a fantail catches bugs on the wing without fear of my long lens. At time he is too close to focus on! What a great start to the day.

Mynahs have Major scrap!

I get a lot of satisfaction being in the natural environment and watching the day to day lives of our birds and other wildlife. Its a method of relaxation for me but now and then I'm reminded its not all beer and popcorn in the big wild world. On the way to my studio recently I noticed a scuffle of wings and feathers in the carpark behind the Strand shops. I pulled in and saw two mynah birds scrapping hard out.

I grabbed my camera and took a few shots but then I realised it was more than just a tiff over territory. One bird was bleeding around the head and things looked serious so I thought I'd better break it up before the loser got even more injured. I walked up to them and at the last moment they flew off but within seconds the injured bird had attacked its oponent again and they were hard out fighting again.

I took more photos til I couldn't stand it anymore and broke it up again. Within half a minute they were locked in battle again. This went on for minutes til I chased them away across the road and they chased each other along the riverbank.