Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Caspian Tern struggles with Eel

Caspian Terns are the largest species of tern found in New Zealand and are conspicuous by their bright red beak. They are common residents of the lower Whakatane river and can be spectacular to watch as they perform vertical dives for small fish.

 The other day I was surprised to see one with an eel which was still very much alive and wriggling. The tern was having a hard time holding on to it and the eel kept getting loose and free falling.
The bird wasn't going to let its meal get away and employed some cunning acrobatics to reclaim its dinner.

 I didn't get to see the tern finally swallow the eel but I would suspect it won out in the end.
I have often watched shags trying to eat young eels and just when you think the bird has swallowed the eel it will wriggle back out again! Sometimes the bird takes ages before it finally gets it all the way down. They must taste good to be worth all that effort!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Dotterel Relocation Project, Herepuru - Matata

The day after my epic trek up the coast line in search of dotterel I found out the Dept of Conservation had decided it was too risky to leave the birds where they were due to the threat of pollution. A few miles up the coast the container ship Rena was stuck on Astrolabe Reef and still leaking oil into the sea and it was just a matter of time before it reached the dotterel habitat. These birds are extremely susceptible to oil but it was still not a decision the experts reached lightly.
 DOC dotterel experts were flown in and were met by local resident John Groom who has monitored the population here for at least ten years. I was fortunate enough to catch up with them at Herepuru and watch John Dowding in action.
Here he guides the bird towards the capture net. You can just see the dotterel right of centre on the sand.
 Within minutes the first dotterel was captured.

Its weight was recorded...

and an identification band attached to its leg.

 John Dowding is an ornithologist who specialises in these birds. He has such a gentle laid-back manner that seems to cause very little stress to the birds he is handling. The last I heard the team had caught 25 but were aiming for 40 with the captured birds relocated to Tauranga. I was priveleged to be there to witness their work and of course to get some photos. I'm just hoping the oil won't make it this far!

Friday, 14 October 2011

National New Zealand Dotterel Census

 On Thursday I took part in a Nationwide census on New Zealand Dotterel. These birds are a threatened species and at the last count in 2004 numbered around 1700.
  My section of coastline was the stretch of sand from Coastlands subdivision near Whakatane to the Whakatane Golflinks. Sue Greenwood from forest and bird along with Alan Houltain were to patrol from Coastlands down to the Whakatane rivermouth. We set off a little after 9am, Sue and Alan turning right from the carpark as I turned left. It was a rather stormy day and I was enjoying the brisk weather until a few minutes into the walk when I got a nose full of oil smell from the gounded Rena in Tauranga. It was horrible and my throat began to hurt when fortunately the wind changed and the smell disapeared. I arrived at the Golf links having seen a few Variable oystercatchers but no dotterels. I texted for more instructions. "Carry on to the Thornton rivermouth." I wondered how far that was....seemed quite a long way.
There were some great Physalia washed up also known as Man o War jellyfish. Excellent colours!

And my favourite shell of all times - the Violet snail.
No dotterels but still I walked....and walked....and walked....
Bloody Hell! Where's this rivermouth then? Seven kilometres up the coast I spied Sue and Allan walking to meet me. And there finally were some dotterels tho since the other two had spotted them first I had to reveal my tally as none! Waaaagh!

To learn more about dotterels click on the link below. This clip shows a population at Omaha Beach.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Latest Paintings

This is my first post since early June, nearly four months ago. Sorry to anyone who followed my blog but I just haven't been in the right frame of mind due to a whole lot of stuff that's been going on in my life. Lost my mojo for a while - have hardly even taken any photos. Still, its spring now so I'm done with the winter blues and I'm determined to get my inspiration back. Here are my latest four paintings.