‘RING RING” goes the phone.
Steve is on the other end. “A fellow wildlife photographer from India has contacted me and I have offered to take him out and show him around.”
So that is how we met Ari from India.
It was early spring when we introduced Ari to our style of photography. At first, I think he was a bit bewildered as the action tends to come fast and furious. We are nearly always on the move and you have to be on the ball. As the number of trips were racked up, Ari had adapted to our style and was right in the thick of it, clicking away like the rest of us.
Then came the days when Ari had fulfilled his working contract in this country and had to return to his homeland and family. We planned one last excursion, one last blast up the Western coast of the lower North Island dropping in to all our favourite birding spots to see what’s shakin’.
First up was Pukerua Bay to see if the Reef Heron was around. No score so Northward bound we headed for Paekakariki to look for pheasants, quail, and whatever else we could aim our cameras at. Still nothing of great note, so pushing on to Waikanae for a cup of tea and look around.
The Waikanae Estuary is teeming with birds often enough that it’s almost impossible to drive past the turn off for fear of missing out on something good. This morning it was quiet but the pango pangos (scaup or black teal ) were in their brilliant colours; and with the subdued overcast light, looked awesome.
Male pango pango
‘Clikerty, click, click’ went the shutters and Ari had another new species to add to his photo gallery.
A few Royal Spoonbills flew lazily past us and ‘clickerty click’ again.
A walk around the main pond resulted in a lovely image of the pair of Shoveler Ducks.
Then it was time to head Northward again to a beach where we hoped to get shots of Black Fronted Dotterals. Unfortunately two gazillion people, including horses and dogs, had decided to choose the exact spot these birds feed on to turn it into a circus. Such is the plight of the bird photographer. Everyone is free to enjoy the great outdoors and sometimes I have less than warm fuzzy feelings towards other outdoor uses!
Back to the main arterial route North and while motoring out to the highway, we passed a ditch.
“That looked like a bittern in that ditch!” exclaimed Steve as we sped past it.
Being the keen optimistic birders that we are, we suffer many false alarms, but we turned around and passed by the ditch slower this time. The bird did not look like a pukeko like we would normally expect.
Turning around, we again approached the ditch and stopped dead middle stream. I was looking directly into the sun, hardly ideal, with the window down, camera aimed up the ditch.
“Is it one?” asked Steve. ‘Clikery click, click , click click’ was all he needed to know.
Bitterns are hard to come by in our neck of the woods. I could hear Ari’s Cannon going off out the back window. Drive by shooting is an art!
Eventually the bird retreated out of range, so that was my cue to leap over the fence and cut it off and shoot with the sun coming over my shoulder. Steve moved in from the other side and the bird flushed but not before I got some flying photos. Then we spent the next 5 minutes trying to calm down as we relived the sequence of events.
The Australasian Bittern
The day had certainly changed from starting off slowly into an amazing adventure.
Our next spot was also kind to us. Ari and I chased a fantail through the bushes getting some great shots, another first for Ari.
New Zealand Fantail
It was lunchtime and the most Northern part of our trip. So after food we headed back South ending up in Queen Elizabeth park for another chance at pheasants.
I got a pretty good shot of a pheasant that made the mistake of stepping out from cover in front of me. But at 10 feet away, he filled the frame, no depth of field meant some parts of him would not be in focus.
This time we scored
Grebes were also a new bird for Ari so I herded one right passed him and he got his shots away.
The Common Grebe
Next up a Grey Warbler welcomed us.
Next on the list was a mob of young California Quail just about in adult plumage.
Alas the day was done so we headed back into Wellington to drop Ari off.
We wanted to get a photo of all three us so we asked passerbies to take a photo. Unbelievable, some refused until we got one likeable guy that did the deed for us.
Ari, Steve and myself
Ari has gone home with amazing pictures of his travels in New Zealand and we were blessed to have been involved with some of them and the opportunity to spend time with such an awesome and talented friend.
Ari doing what he loves
my first decent flying shot of this bird.