Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Welcome Swallow dipped in blue"

This is a late last post of 2011 but seemed appropriate with all this tropical rain today.

A couple of weeks or more back I was working on my computer when I was distracted, it doesn't take much, by this welcome swallow swooping and turning below the large oak tree that overhangs my garden from next door.

It was heavy rain and I think that maybe insects were disturbed from the tree. Apparently English oak trees can host up to 300 different species. The swallow was occasionally joined by another and I watched their acrobatics for some time.

Every so often this bird would stop for a rest on the washing line. A friend described this beautifully "A welcome swallow dipped in blue rests momentarily on our washing line while plucking insects from the falling rain"

I was able to take this photo with a long exposure which shows up the streaks of rain. I have been looking out this morning for hopefully a return visit. However these experiences with the natural world are so momentary.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fantail Young

They moved at great speed and with excitement as their mother came to feed them. Flickering from branch to branch in anticipation of a good feed. Each young bird being fed in turn.

Then mother went away, beak empty of grubs and one by one they grouped at a high branch to rest side by side as if one bird.

Waiting patiently snuggled up in a sunny spot away from any danger from threats below, until food arrived and the whole cycle would begin again

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


A couple of weekends ago I visited Miranda Shore Bird Centre. I was at the hide early because I didn't want to miss the high tide as I had on previous occasions. I then realised I was about two hours early, how keen is that? A volunteer guide from the centre arrived with an impressive Nikon scope.

I had already spotted a little group of wrybills that were fortunately pretty close but with the knowledge of the volunteer and a high mag scope along with other visitors we were treated to a wonderful collection of so many more birds further out at the waters edge. Godwits, black billed gulls, gull billed terns, variable oystercatchers, NZ dotterel, spur winged plover etc etc It now appears that only on very high tides does the water actually bring the birds close up to the hide.

While I snapped away at the closer wrybills I listened to every detail that the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteer shared with a small group of visitors that day including a couple from Sweden. I didn't want to leave as I soaked up the atmosphere and tried to assimilate a little more knowledge of this wonderful place. As the other visitors left the guide and myself continued to watch a variable oystercatcher actually break open an oyster shell. I am indebted to that volunteer for opening my eyes to such a wonderful sight. Sharing our delightful wildlife with other people is a real gift.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Auckland Botanical Society

The members of the ABS are a great source of knowledge about our wonderful bush reserves.

On a recent walk at Titirangi with ABS members I had my first sighting of Drosera auriculata the tiny insectiverous plant known as sundew.

On a walk in Torbay Heights Reserve on the North Shore this month we were fortunate to find some sundew in flower too. Sundew live on poorer soils where it supliments its nutrition by attracting small flies and insects to its sticky surface where it is able to gradually dissolve and absorb useful nutrients.

I used to find round-leaved sundew, Drosera rotundifolia on the heathland of Horsell Common near my home in the UK.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Karori Sanctuary and Zealandia

Visiting Wellington during September ( to see WOW) I was able to visit the karori sanctuary and the wonderful new Zealandia centre.

The native bird life in the sanctuary is easy to see and the Zealandia centre is excellent for its educational content, helpful staff and great food and coffee. There was even a free pick -up service from the cable car with a chatty and informative driver.

It was great to see tuatara, bellbirds, kakariki, North Island robin and many other species all on just a couple of visits, however the real surprise for me was sighting kaka flying wild from the reserve above the botanic gardens near the cable car.

Highly Recommended

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tiritiri Matangi

I realised that I had left it far too long to visit again this wonderful Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

An open sanctuary full of native birds, it's a credit to the Department of Conservation and the many volunteers who have planted so many native trees over many years to attract back the native birds.

This whitehead entertained us by flitting around in the tops of the trees along the Kawerau track. If the mainland reserves had the bird life of Tiri, we truly would be living in paradise.

A whole host of predators have to be removed before that day is possible. However a lot of progress is being made and some reserves are now protected by predator-proof fences.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pied Shag in Knots! -

I had been walking the coastal footpath between Takapuna fossil forest and Milford beach looking for a kingfisher that I had seen the day before. I was distracted by the sight of this Pied Shag unfortunately all tied up with fishing line. It appeared to be trying to remove the line which I first thought was grass reeds amongst its feathers. As I got closer I could clearly see that this bird was struggling and its feathers were well and truly caught. As it flew off it hit the water awkwardly. I wonder how long it will survive?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Takitumu Conservation Area

On a recent visit to tropical Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Island group of Islands in the Pacific ocean, I had set as a goal the idea of visiting the Takitumu Conservation Area.

This area of land, owned by three families, had been set aside to help with the restoration of the population of the seriously rare kakerori bird. In the 1980's it was thought that there were less than 30 left worldwide.

In recent years, due to a management programme that includes irradication of pests, the kakerori has made a comeback. With the help of Tom Daniels a great Cook Islander and member of one of the families involved I was able to see this bird as Tom guided myself and two other visitors through the conservation area, ending at a high ridge where we were also able to see flying foxes(fruit bats) leaving their roosts in the evening.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Feeding Frenzy

During March and April there was much activity in our North Shore bush reserves by native birds, particularly the tui and kereru as they build up food reserves.

Enjoying a feeding frenzy amongst the kahikatea, mahoe and puriri trees, the fruiting bodies of these trees provide an important resource for these and other birds.

Apparently intoxicated by their activity some birds, like this tui, appear to risk precarious positions to get to their chosen fruit.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bush book Available Now.

One of my summer photography projects was to complete a modest photo book, illustrating a few of the 'rich variety of species to be found in North Shore bush reserves'.

Many of these images were taken on Discovery Walks with Margi Keys. My thanks to Margi for checking my text on more than one occasion.

By clicking on this book link you will be able to view prices and ordering details.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A tale of two eels.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had been watching a kingfishers nest on a stream in a bush reserve on the North Shore. While patiently waiting and watching for the parents to approach the nest, which was in a hole in the bank on the far side of the stream, I noticed something moving in the water.

Gradually I could make out the shape of a long dark eel approximately 1 metre long. This eel continually patrolled below the nest site, swimming up and down stream just below the surface which was also below the noise of the chirping young in their nest.
On a my next visit I watched the kingfisher adults visiting the nest and the eel once more patrolling up and down stream as I had observed before.

It was a few days after Cyclone Wilma, when I made my next visit. I could sense that all was not well, no chirping from the nest and no sight or sound of adult kingfisher along the stream.

Unfortunately the flood of water that had raced down the stream from heavy rainfall, had flooded the nest. I could see plastic rubbish lodged in branches some two metres above the usual stream height. The nest was less than a metre above the waters surface. So no chirping from any young, anymore.

I did see a large dark eel again but it no longer patrolled up and down below the nest but seemed to have a more random route.
After watching for some time I saw another smaller eel, light olive-green in colour, searching below the surface on my side of the stream. This is the eel in the photo above. I saw no kingfisher on this visit.


One of these Asian paper wasps stung me today as I backed up to our little puka tree while cutting a hedge in the garden.

My first thought was that puka trees do not have thorns but as I looked over my shoulder I could see the mushroom shaped nest with busy occupants, attached to the underside of a puka leaf.

The sting was like a being stabbed by a small needle in my back but fortunately it was only one of the wasps that I had antagonised.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Urban Kingfisher

I was in a hurry to get to Auckland via the Devonport ferry to catch the Motuihe Island ferry from the Auckland Town Quay.

While cutting through the park I heard a familiar sound of kingfisher young. I know that sound because I have been watching a kingfisher's nest at a local stream.

Looking up I spotted a couple of delightful young kingfisher that then entertained me and other passing walkers with their diving into the sand and swooping back up to a couple of favourite branches in the pohutukawa tree above.

One such dive nearly ended in disaster as a small boy cycled into one of the kingfisher. I don't know who was more startled as the boy slammed on his brakes. The young boy and young kingfisher were both OK.

Fortunately I didn't miss my ferry connection and also had a fantastic day on Motuihe Island. More about that later