Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reflections 2012


What a year. Mine started in November 2011 with new directions and just kept going. I had some great adventures and met some lovely people.  It’s still going on with new experiences  and explorations. I have learnt some important lessons and shared with people that I never thought I would. Being involved with those that are also passionate  about  the Natural world has been a privilege and I want to thank you all for sharing your knowledge, help and friendship. I have found it quite humbling to be around people who are prepared to share so much.
There will be yet new directions to take  in 2013 and new places to explore.

I thank you all for adding to my life and guiding me along a path that is so enjoyable.

Wishing you all a great Christmas and a very Happy 2013
Philip

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pest Free Warrant


I was pleased to receive an invitation to the Pest free Warrant celebrations at Marina Terrace on Thursday  hosted by Auckland Council and DOC.
The Hauraki Gulf Islands are celebrating their first year of being pest free. The pest -free warrant scheme is a key part of the Treasure Islands biosecurity programme run by Auckland Council and DOC, The purpose being to give accreditation for commercial vessels and tourism operators visiting islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
 
The enthusiasm for growing the value of the islands with increased releases of birds, tuatara, etc was very easy to see amongst this group of around a hundred people.. It is estimated the Hauraki Gulf generates almost a billion dollars in revenue and carries 15.000 jobs and so it is very important to the region.
 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Party Time

It's that time of year again and to celebrate the end of a successful year for the Auckland Botanical Society a picnic was held at the Botanic Gardens followed by a guided walk around the grounds.

I was pleased to see that the dabchick on the lake, that I had previously seen, way back in March and later now had a partner and two chicks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sand storm



This is what happens when the wind gets up on a white sand beach. I could hardly make out this little family as the sand swirled by. They all seemed to have their eyes half closed coping with the sand and I did too as I pressed the camera shutter.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wading at Whatipu

Well not exactly. Just a little paddling in the ponds below the cliffs behind the sand dunes with the Auckland Botanical Society (Bot Soc).  I was reminded of my camp there in this wild beautiful spot with a friend earlier in the year.

We had heard and seen in the light of our head torches above our tents after dusk,Grey Faced Petrels crashing into the pohutakawa trees on the cliff face. The sunset from this 'perched on the side of the cliff' camp site was memorable and so was the soup of flying bugs that joined us for dinner that evening.

Bot Soc met at the car park then headed up the beach in pursuit of interesting species. The humour was good, the weather too and this helped ease the way over the soft black sands of the dynamic Whatipu beach landscape.

 I really love this area because of the sheer scale of it and it always reminds me that we are pretty insignificant where nature is concerned in the scheme of things.

Everyone enjoyed botanising and Ewen Cameron our leader was keen to get us to the far end of the beach, the Karekare end to find the diminutive and very rare Eleocharis neozelandica.

My thanks to Neil Davies for the shot of me actually looking as though I am working hard at my photography.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

White Sands

Today was a special day for me being the anniversary of taking a greater interest in Shore birds and to celebrate I decided to return to the white sands between Pakiri and Mangawhai. I spent the late morning photographing and watching oystercatcher and dotterel in the sandunes and a Caspian tern and gannet hunting for fish along the river.

 In the afternoon I was able to wade across the river as the tide receded and shared a scope to watch Fairy terns and Caspian terns forming nests on the exposed beach.

Leaving at dusk I returned South with a stunning glowing sunset in the West that followed me all the way home. It was the perfect ending for this significant day for me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Morepork & an unusual nest

Last night I woke at 3am as I often do thinking of recent events but was pleased for the distraction of hearing a morepork calling way in the distance. It was probably in Northboro reserve near the mangroves.  I was just drifting back to sleep about half an hour later when the call, much louder this time, woke me as the bird had moved to somewhere in our front garden. It called for six times and I thought I would get up and try and see it but then it went silent and I listened carefully. It started up again but this time in  another direction and some way away. I am always hoping to see one up close one day in the garden.

Yesterday afternoon it was the last day of the Sculpture on the Shore show. Full of interesting art work and held at Takapuna fort reserve its a great show to raise money for Womens Refuge. This particular work by John Ferguson entitled 'The Future Laid in the Past' caught my eye and I wondered if the morepork would approve of such a nest.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

deja-vu

It was almost a year ago to the week that I was inspired by a keen volunteer at the Shorebird Centre to take an interest and look closer at these wonderful shore birds.

Yesterday I headed to Pakiri in search of the seriously endangered fairy tern and was distracted by dotterel chicks, well who wouldn't be?

However one chick had not survived and I photographed the adult bird carrying its dead offspring. A rather sad sight. The other chicks  looked well and active following the parent birds across the sands.

 Meeting a very dedicated DoC person who after comparing notes allowed me to use her scope which she had trained on a pair of possibly nesting fairy terns. This  helped me focus  on the fragility of the survival of this species. There are only 40 fairy terns left. The fairy terns were too far away to successfully photograph on this day.

 It's always motivating for me to meet people who show such passion for their interests. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and good luck for success with this nesting season. I look forward to returning and hopefully to see fairy tern chicks soon.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

ABS Diamond Jubilee 27.10.2012







I was quite humbled to be asked to attend and photograph the Auckland Botanical Societies 75th year celebration at Unitec on Sunday. With excellent speakers and plenty of humour about past trips to interesting Islands and corners of New Zealand and beyond there was something for everyone that attended.

Previously on the 12th October had been the launch of the wonderful book 'Auckland's Remarkable Urban Forest' by Mike Wilcox president of Bot Soc. Mike also talked about his vision for the future care of this urban forest.

 Another book listing the vascular plant species on Hauturu (Little Barrier Island) was also launched at the Jubilee meeting.

Taking the group photo at the end of the day and being asked to actually be in it (that's me in the centre operating the remote control, click on photo to see full view) was a further delight along with being awarded a chocolate fish at the evening dinner for being a most enthusiastic new member. My Congratulations to  'Bot Soc'. What a great day to remember.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wet Day at Miranda

On Sunday I returned to Miranda for the talk on dotterels by John Dowding and a visit to the hides for the 'return of the birds'.

   John is an authority on NZ Dotterels and explained how although they have been doing well the future is not good due to funding cuts to DoC. There is a direct correlation between how they are managed to how well they increase their population. He also pointed out that most of the present population are found on the East coast and that Auckland’s East coast is the very area under threat of subdivision and competition with other activities.

 John also covered the Rena disaster. They  removed half of the population to the safety of  aviaries built nearby then waited until after the clean-up to return the birds. This is apparently a first on a world scale. Birds usually either being cleaned up after the event or relocated to other areas.
After Johns engaging talk I headed in the rain for the hides to see the many bird congregating on the shell banks.

With the poor light conditions the only photos I could take were of this plant called Batchelors buttons, Buttonweed,  Cotula coronopifolia growing behind the old hide on the waterlogged shell bank.  I am quite familiar with this plant as it grows on the margins of the  lagoon at Tuff Crater.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wingspan

A long weekend stay in Rotorua had Wingspan on the list of 'must do activities' This is a charitable trust  with the main aim of educating people about the seriously endangered New Zealand falcon. This was an excellent opportunity to get up close to these birds of prey including Swamp Harrier and Barn owls. But the main show was the flight of a male  and female falcon. The speed and maneuverability of these birds in flight was just amazing and the small group of us with cameras at the ready  were no match for their skills. 

While there I exchanged cards with another visitor Ilse and when Ilse saw my card she instantly recognised my photo of native broom. Subsequently Ilse contacted to tell me the story that she had used my recent publication about North Shore bush in her research for the 'Every Day Collective Laboratory' project on the North Shore, with reference to Heritage and the Environment.
It was lovely to meet Ilse and Emmosi on such an enjoyable visit to Wingspan.
My thanks to the team at Wingspan for making our day.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Many Tiri Returns

Tiritiri Matangi Island is always a delightful place to visit but with interesting company  it becomes even more rewarding. We set out to look for penguins at Hobbs beach at dusk and watched the sunset above white capped waves. We found one' little blue' tucked up warm and dry in a cosy spot near the wharf.

 Another night time excursion looking for tuatara was only slightly disappointing as we were rewarded by a full moon sparkling over the ocean. It was too cool for tuatara we think.  Later we heard kiwi calling.

I had set out to see a spotless crake but they were as elusive as ever but on route to the far end of the island I heard an unusual bird call. A friend on a previous visit had trained me to take notice of these so I waited patiently for some time before the call Talip Talip was rewarded by the sighting of a fernbird and this photograph too.

More photos at this link  http://creativemomentsimages.co.nz/image_%20galleries.htm

Monday, September 24, 2012

Always a first time at Miranda

There is a first time for everything and there is nothing quite like that moment when you see a bird you have been wanting to see forever and suddenly it is there in front of you. On Saturday there were several of these events for different members of our  Forest and Bird group.
 We were visiting the Miranda Shorebird Centre. Our day, led by Alan Emmerson started well when Alan nearly tripped over his tripod when he spotted a bittern standing motionless in the reeds by a pond as we headed towards the old and new hides in time for high tide. The bittern  was a long way off but easy to see through one of our high powered scopes. This is a rare shy bird and my first sighting. I hope you can just make it out in this photo?

The second rarity of the day was the black fronted tern more usually seen in the South Island. This delighted us as it flew in front of the new hide. I thought I was photographing a Caspian tern until Alan corrected me. Later I was able to compare a Caspian tern in flight as one later hovered/hunted over the Stilt ponds.

We saw a total of 43 birds during the day including such delights as the beautiful Pacific Golden Plovers and Ruddy Turnstone.
All in all a great day at Miranda. Thank you Alan for sharing your knowledge and making it a fun day too.


More photos at this link http://www.creativemomentsimages.co.nz/library/mirandaF&B2012//

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fletcher Track near Huia - Waitakere Ranges

 The weather forecast was not looking good, however 17 walkers turned up for the Fletcher track Bot Soc walk. The Auckland Botanical Society walks are always interesting and with so many keen eyes looking out for interesting species there is always something to make the effort of a sometimes slippery  muddy track worthwhile. For a photographer this is great motivation. I wasn't to be disappointed on this walk as many plants were found some rediscovered from previous walks. The one that really fascinated me was Brachyglottis Kirkii an epiphytic plant with an amazing stem and daisy like flowers. It really stole the day for me as much as being a challenge to photograph with the breeze that always seems to be appear the moment you raise your camera to your eye.

Another plant that was of interest to me was Bush Lawyer  Rubus cissoides This is the first time I have seen it in flower.

Fortunately the predicted heavy rain did not come although most including me were well wrapped up in waterproofs that were not actually needed. A great Bot Soc day in the park.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Happy Returns

Although I really enjoy exploring absolutely new places its always good to go back to favourite interesting places. The Manurewa Botanic Gardens are one of those and with the vision of spring blossom in mind I set out down State Highway 1  for a 20minute drive to the gardens. On arriving I remembered that on a previous visit  a friend  had  tipped me off  about the sighting of a lone dabchick on one of the ponds. Sure enough we had found this solitary specialist diving bird showing off its skills.
 That day in February was  dull and wet so no photos taken but today the light was good and this diminutive endemic grebe was still doing its stuff much to the envy of the other waterfowl around.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kotukutuku



In my Clevedon Reserve post I alluded to the fact that so many native NZ bush flowers are quite unspectacular and small and sometimes difficult to see.  Tree fuchsia (Fuchsia excorticata) rather makes up for that with such beautiful striking flowers athough again they are quite small and delicate. These  grow straight from the trunk of this small tree which can grow to about 12metres high. This specimen is growing by the side of a stream in Le Roys Reserve on the North Shore.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Motuora Island

I have been wanting to get to Motuora Island for some time.  Finally with good weather forecast, essential  for the beach  landing, I set off for Sandspit before sun-up to meet up with others including people from the Motuora Restoration Society for the 8am sailing.

 This island is pest free so encouraging the translocation and introduction of many native species. Kiwi, whiteheads and skinks are already here.

Its another  beautiful island and we are rather spoilt for choice living close to the Hauraki Gulf. The Department of Conservation (DoC) in close association with voluntary organisations are working so hard on projects to restore these islands to native species.
More images at http://creativemomentsimages.co.nz/library/motuoraAug2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Clevedon Scenic Reserve


These spectacular female flowers of Coprosma spathulata, seen on a Bot Soc (Auckland Botanical  Society) walk on Saturday reminds me that most New Zealand plants are very subtle when it comes to showing off their flowers.

This was an excellent walk mostly up steps (750) through some beautiful bush just outside of Clevedon.

 An ideal place for Aucklanders to visit with access to local  cafes for their flat whites and a neat waterfall for a summer picnic.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tansy Bliss Tiritiri Matangi Island


What a fantastic Island this is with so many beautiful birds to see. Its a tribute to the vision and hard work of the Tiri supporters group and DoC which allows this Island to remain an open sanctuary for all to visit.

Walking the many tracks from one end of the Island to the other I began to realise the huge amount of hard work that had gone into planting so many native trees to act as food plants for our native birds.

 Some nectar feeding birds still require supplimentary feed in the form of sugar water and this is an absolutely amazing sight when the frenzy of the birds and their song is at full pitch.

Thank you for sharing time on the Island with me Tansy.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Pinnacles- only 600 steps to heaven

If you ever feel like climbing a few steps and staying in a super New Zealand hut on steroids then I recommend the Pinnacles walk and a stay overnight to allow you to watch the sun rise and the sunset from the Pinnacle peak in the Coromandel.

The scenery is fantastic the walk enjoyable, weather permitting. Walking back via the Billy Goats trail added another historical dimension to the lengths that early New Zealanders went to to clear giant kauri trees from this landscape. Walking down an incredible incline that would have seen steam braked trucks allow these giant logs down from the hills to the river below.

Fern birds, tom tits and fantails were the only birds seen although the foot prints of brown kiwi were found on the way down.

Thank you Tansy Bliss for you company and suggesting this great New Zealand walk.
Tansy Bliss, DOC, Chatham Islands.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Once in a New moon

A camping weekend at Tawharanui conveniently coincided with the new supermoon due to the  perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system. This was close enough for a good viewing as it rose into the night sky.

Then we headed into the bush with head torches in search of kiwi and other nocturnal species. We were lucky and saw one Brown kiwi scurrying across a track in the light of my torch. A morepork with silent flight passed in front of me. I later heard its hunting calls.

 Native fish and an eel were watched below a bridge again in the light of the head torches.Other birds seen during daylight hours included kaka, kakariki, bellbird, Caspian tern and NZ dotterel.

It was also fortunate that Tansy found a Shore skink on the sands of Tawharanui beach. Unfortunately  it  had been attacked, possibly by a gull and had part of its tail missing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Whatipu

A recent camp with my friend Tansy Bliss  at the fairly primitive Whatipu campsite revealed some of the magic of the West Waitakere coastline. The dramatic seascapes and huge sands  reminded me that we are pretty insignificant when nature forces are at play.
NZ dotterels and banded dotterels were seen by one of the ponds behind the sand dunes and a lone wrybill was also spotted too. The real delight though was when we heard what we think may have been Grey-faced petrels flying into the bush clad cliff face above our tents after darkness.

The Omanawanui walk with dramatic views of the Manukau harbour is well worth the climb returning to the Whatipu lodge  via the beautiful bush walk of the Kaura track.

This was a memorable camp in a magnificent landscape. Thank you Tansy for sharing it with me.
Tansy Bliss is now working for DOC on the Chatham Islands.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Te Wao Nui

During last years visit to Wellington and the Karore wildlife centre I was thrilled to see that kaka had moved over the botanic gardens and could be seen and heard near the top of the cable car ride.

On a further visit to Ta Wao Nui the excellent new displays at Auckland zoo of New Zealand animals, plants and culture, I was able to get up very close to these remarkable birds.

Hopefully they will one day become more common in the Auckland area flying wild above the city as they do in Wellington.

If you are interested in New Zealand's fragile wildlife then I recommend a visit to the zoo where over 100 species of native plants and over 60 species of animals can be seen.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Do we really hate hedgehogs?


Two baby hedgehogs were found in our garden recently and the reaction to them was how sweet they looked. This one was curled up and apparently asleep.

Gardeners have welcomed their slug killing activities but now they are of course considered a pest because of the damage they do to native wildlife.

Hedgehogs appear to be an underated predator eating birds eggs, weta and some lizards.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Archey's Frogs


I recently had an opportunity to help with an Archey's frog survey in the Coromandel. These beautiful frogs emerge at night and are small and silent. The search for them took all night included photography for identification. Other data collected included the exact location of each frog in relation to the grid site. This was added to the research of this vulnerable species. It was a real privilege to take part.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rauparaha Copper at Tuff Crater


On a return visit to Tuff Crater in January I spent some time watching this butterfy feeding on Muehlenbeckia complexa on the edge of the tidal sea-water filled crater. Originally this butterfly was identified as a common copper but a professional lepidopterist at landcare has now identified it as Rauparaha’Copper, Lycaena rauparaha. This is another species to add to the Tuff Crater list.