Monday, 21 February 2011

Content may disturb.

I spotted this black billed gull on Friday morning in a distressed state. I tried to catch it but it could still fly. I am pretty sure this bird has tried to eat some bait whilst the fisherman was still holding his fishing rod. Rather than risk a mild pecking the fisherman has taken the easy way out and simply cut his (or her) line. Because of this persons cowardly action the gull has been handed a long slow death sentence. I suspect it will have died by now. It was suffering a raging infection with the hook having pierced the side of its face and the barb protruding. Its really not pretty to look at but I have no hesitation about posting this image. Hopefully it will help prevent these all too common mishaps with fishing tackle. Nylon line on its own can do untold damage even without the hook.

After posting such a hideous pic I am adding the following photo of a welcome swallow cause I think its pretty cute. This is a favourite perch for this family of swallows and this time of year they are looking lovely with their orange faces.

And finally a pic to make you smile. Not exactly nature or art but I couldn't resist snapping it out the car window travelling through Rotorua a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Frogs n tadpoles

I have always been fascinated by frogs and tadpoles. As a kid I would spurn any dollies or any kind of girly stuff in favour of my trusty frog net and head out every spring to catch myself some little croakers. It used to drive my sister crazy because their croaking would keep her awake at night. Internationally frogs are in decline. Frog Species the world over are becoming extinct at an alarming rate.
Visiting family in Auckland last weekend I was delighted to spot some fat green frogs in a flax bush on the edge of a swamp. They have such lovely skin and were a beautiful shade of green. These are a species introduced from Australia, they are called Bell Frogs. All our native species lack external ears, those round discs seen on the side of these guys heads behind the eye.
Two days later I was back in Whakatane photographing the heron at the dyers pool. Its not often they will venture into this space as the human foot traffic is heavy past the spot. I watched this one having a good feed and it took me a while to see what it was eating...tadpoles!
And some big tadpoles at that. I decided if it was good enough for the heron it was good enough for me so the next day I dug out my frog net.

It didn't take me long before had five little taddies in my jar so I took them back to Mums where I found a round glass bowl. I was draining a little of the dirty water out of my jam jar when one decided to make a bid for freedom and before I could stop it he had zoomed over the lip of the jar and down the plughole. Oh No! Seems like I was contributing to the declining frog population.

Fortunately the other four are well and happy and getting bigger every day. Amazing to think something that breathes water and looks like this can turn into something that breathes air and looks like a a know what I mean. Just brilliant!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Valentines Day

Yesterday was Valentines Day and Troy gave me a georgous present. It was a Bush Giant Dragonfly that he had found dead on a friends driveway. When he gave it to me it was still freshly dead so I could straighten its bent legs to make it look alive and quite ready to lift up and fly off. I understand that to some people it may seem strange to give a dead bug to say "I love You" but......well....ok so maybe it is a little weird. The important thing was that I really like it and it will take pride of place in my dead bug collection. I have always loved dragonflies and they are especially fascinating to study close up.

Below is my latest painting. It is a reasonably small study of a shag and kina in a rather curious composition. It is called "Kina Moon."
On a sad note, my computer has died : ( I can't complain because it is about ten years old! Fortunately I did a back-up relatively recently but I have lost some stuff. Troy thinks he can revive it long enough to get the missing stuff off it. After that I'm going to have a funeral and bury it with full honours...actually thats not good for the ecology is it? Best wait for the next E-day rubbish collection.
R.I.P. computer. Just as well it wasn't my camera or I'd be inconsolable.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

something fishy

I wanted a small fish to include in a painting I am planning so yesterday I thought I'd go catch myself a herring or more correctly named a yellow eyed mullet. I raided Dads tackle box for some tiny hooks, rummaged around in Mums freezer for a pilchard bait and climbed the back fence to the river. After only a couple of minutes I brought in a shiny silver fish, the perfect painting subject. I thought "Hell that was easy!" so I decided to keep trying for more. My friend Rosemary runs a bird rescue and is always wanting fish to feed herons, shags, penguins and the numerous seabirds she nurses back to health. So I filled a bucket with river water and popped the herring into it. The fish promptly leapt out again and landed with a splash back into the river!I had a sinking feeling that the next one was going to be more difficult to catch and sure enough 30 mins later I was still waiting for a bite. Finally I caught my second so without wasting time I took it back to the house to photograph. On my way back I passed my Dad who had decided to have a go too and before I had finished taking pictures he came back with a big fat kahawai!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Hot Sunday

On the hottest day for I can't remember how long my better half decided to go for a mountain bike ride. Why?....well I have no idea but somehow I was talked into going along and walking the track. (I sold my bike after getting a wickedly sore butt from riding it despite all the built in padding I carry.) The track was through the bush near Lake Rotoma and I decided I would leave the camera in the car and get some brisk excercise while Troy did the loop on his bike. I had hardly gone a hundred metres before I had to turn back and grab the Canon as there was a little male Tomtit checking me out but when I returned he had disappeared of course. Wandering on I found this Bush Giant Dragonfly. Apparently it can eat 20 houseflies in an hour and can eat insects as large as cicadas.*
Speaking of cicadas, I found this golden coloured specimen entangled in a spiders web. I have no idea which species - New Zealand has 40 species but there are 2500 species worldwide.

What was supposed to be a vigorous excercise session turned out to be a slow meandering journey of discovery as I wove my way through the forest enjoying its cool and quiet wonders. Then we went home where it was exceptionally hot so we stripped off our clothes and flopped into our little blow up swimming pool. Lucky we have no close neighbours.
*Insect info from the book "Which New Zealand Insect?" by Andrew Crowe.

frogs for breakfast?

Recently I was just thinking how long its been since I've seen the herons fishing on the mudflats. They were absent again this morning so I went for a walk and discovered one at the dyers pool.
I have been hearing a loud chorus from the resident frogs in this pond on many a morning visit so perhaps the heron had been hunting them. A big fat frog would make a nice breakfast for a heron.
And he had the perfect perch!

When a cicada landed on the herons perch it almost became a snack but luckily for the cicada the birds neck wasn't quite long enough.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Whale Island Seal Census

On our second trip to Whale Island/Moutuhora for the seal count the weather was much more favourable. I was surprised to spot this female sunbathing on a dead tree - who knew seals climb trees?
The big male below had a face to die for.

This female was a mum with a pup about six weeks old, one of six we found on the island.

And just check out the cute is that!!!All in all it was a lovely afternoon with some good results. However I would have given anything to have been on the morning charter when Phil our diveworks Skipper had taken a group out to sea. They had come across a small group of dolphin and one of the females had just given birth. All those aboard had been delighted to watch the Mum hold her newborn baby up to the surface to breathe, at times carrying her tiny infant on her back! Imagine the photos I could have taken......... sigh!!!

Miles Art Award

In December I won the Miles Art Award in Tauranga with my painting "Mackerel in Tomato Sauce." I felt very honoured to win the award especially after seeing the exhibition in the Tauranga Art Gallery. The exhibition finishes on the 27th February 2011.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Seal census White Island

Recently I have been very lucky to have been asked out on a number of boat trips to count seals on our two offshore Islands of Whale Island/Moutuhora and White Island/Whakaari. The census is part of the work done by the Department of Conservation and is undertaken by Rosemary Tully of Whakatane Bird Rescue and Phil van Dusschoten who is our skipper and is from Diveworks Charters.
The first trip was to Whale Island and it was a dark drizzly day, not good conditions for photography. The next was to White Island, our local offshore active volcano and the day was a cracker! The sea was as flat as a mill pond and the closer we got to the island the more seabirds we saw. Because it was so smooth I was able to lean over the side of the boat and snap the birds as they flew alongside us. The Bullers Shearwaters were my favourites and I was amazed at how they soared so low over the water that their wingtips skimmed the surface!

This is a Sooty Shearwater or Muttonbird which is a dark chocolate brown.

The gannet with its distinctive yellow head breeds on White Island so there were plenty of these about.

Once at the Island we had lunch floating above a clear garden of kelp and fish while gannets circled to land at their rookery on the cliff above us. Finally we set off in search of seals. Phils boat was perfectly suited to the task as we could get very close to the rocky shore and navigate around rocky outcrops.

We found a lone male but he was to prove the only seal spotted all day so our tally was a grand total of one!

There was plenty of action in the crater with plumes of steam rising from the arid volcanic landscape. Its such a spectacular Island and I was constantly amazed at the clour and movement in the geology of the coastline. All too soon we were done and the Island was slowly shrinking into the distance as we motored home. There was more excitement to come however when Phil spotted a Mako shark jumping. Fortunately I still had my camera around my neck and switched on so I instinctively focused on the spot where the shark had jumped knowing they usually jumped two or three times. (Phil had told me that piece of intormation on the way out when I had seen another mako jump in the distance.) Sure enough it came up again and I quickly snapped this series of three shots which were later published in the New Zealand Herald.
All in all it was a fantastic day, the ocean couldn't have been better and there was never a shortage of things to see.....unless you count the seals of which there was only one!
For more info on a charter of your own visit