This year has started with a hiss and a roar.
First I had my Christmas trip report to finish, which took a fair bit of time, this is the first entire Christmas trip report I’ve done to date and what a relief it was to get it done.
Next up for years I have wanted to start my own Bible study/ Christian group on Facebook and early this year I decided was the right time, however there was a heap of study on early Church history and the Roman and Byzantine empires, up to the end of the middle ages, that I needed to complete before I could start my new group.
This has taken me months to complete, but once I felt I had a reasonable grasp on that period of time, I felt free to launch my Christian group “A letter to the Ephesians” here on Facebook ,
So to bring us up to speed, I’m going to cover the three summer months Jan, Feb and March of this year in one post and you lucky peoples get three months for the price of one lol.
The summer months of 2017
The summer of 2017 in the Wellington area did not even start to feel like summer until early autumn.
This was bad news for the sun bakers and swimmers out there, but great news for bird photographer’s.
Let me explain why.
Heat shimmer is a sure fire, demon killer, of good sharp clear images during the summer months.
On hot days, heat rises in the form of shimmering waves, distorting the air above the ground and wrecking the chances of getting sharp in focus images.
Because of heat shimmer during the summer months, the bird photographer is reduced to photographing early morning and sometimes on cooler days, early evening.
If you look close at this image below, you can see the effects of heat shimmer .
Everything is distorted, nothing is sharp, it gets even worse at ground level, esp over rocks and sand and esp if you have a lens 300 mils or longer.
I will cover how to minimise heat shimmer effects in a future article , summer is not kind to the bird photographer.
This year however, we had record low temperatures for the Wellington, Wairarapa and Kapiti/Manawatu areas and that made it peachy ,all summer, even out on the sandy beaches.
First out of the blocks for the year was a mid-January, 3 day workshop, with my mate Bruce.
Bruce and Linda have a wonderful beach house close to the Otaki river mouth on the Kapiti coast, where we launched our exploratory expeditions from.
Bruce is fit and we had 3 days to bring him up a few levels in his camera skills, so we went for it.
We had a heap of fun and got some fantastic images.
With both of us having spent a great deal of our lives in the mountains hunting , we have both developed a certain flavour of humour.
Spending time with mates in the mountains and wilderness, does produce an optimistic upbeat sense of humour, this would be because often one is forced to find the funny in all sorts of difficult and uncomfortable situations when you battle the forces of nature.
Hence no opportunity went begging for a good laugh .
At the end of our first night on the coast, we were treated to a wonderful Kapiti coast sunset.
Otaki river mouth.
Use natural features such as the creek to introduce added colour and interest.
The Rangiuru Stream running through the centre of the image draws you into the image as well.
Day 2 had us out looking for Moreporks or ruru down the coast at a spot I knew had two adults and a young bird near by.
Mrs ruru poses for us during the daytime
Up next was a walk around a local pond to photograph the Grebes or Dabchicks as some call them.
This time of the year Dabchicks are busy feeding on Tadpoles and Frogs.
Later that day we went to the Waikanae Beach.
There is a lot more to bird photography, than just clicking the shutter button.
We practised our stalking skills, inching our way closer and closer on our bums across the sand right up to a group of White Fronted Terns out in the open.
When you are the right Tern, you get your turn, to make a Tern.
Other Terns had already had their turn and had to take turns to feed their Tern.
Others were still in the courting stage, a male tries to entice a mate with a fishy gift.
Apparently the way to a females heart is through her tummy as well.
We got back just in time for another crack at the sunset
Day 3 had us heading south again to Waikanae, the wind had really picked up but we were brave and tried to make the best of it.
The wildlife and landscape photographer looks for the positive in all weather conditions.
It was a perfect day to go fly a kite, a really, really big kite lol
A Black Shag on the move.
We made it back home after three days, tired but satisfied with our efforts.
Bruce was pleased with the new skill he had learnt.
We can learn through reading books, but nothing compares to being shown the tricks of the trade and being able to try them out immediately out in the field.
Eastern Rockhopper Penguin, South Wairarapa Coast .
Word started filtering down to us that a Eastern Rockhopper Penguin, moulting on the South Wairarapa Coast had been spotted.
Penguins must come ashore and stay put when moulting for about 3 weeks.
This means a forced fast from food and long boring days staring longingly out to sea.
This would be the first ever official recorded sighting of a Eastern Rockhopper Penguin in the North Island of New Zealand.
My contacts soon came in handy and after a short exchange of emails, Steve and I had a pretty good idea where the bird was to be found and how long it had been there, so we waited till the bird had basically finished his moult and would be looking his best, then went looking for him.
We found him after doing a great deal of rock hopping ourselves, as the bird had chosen a hidden, quiet place, to moult , away of the prying eyes of the public.
He was tucked away in one of the many crevices among the rocks looking far from happy.
We had to do heaps of rock hopping ourselves to find our prize .
I was over the moon to see my first Rockhopper, a lot more so than the Rock hopper was pleased to see us , but we tried to keep the disturbance to a minimum.
The Rockhopper merely tolerated us as he sat there in his luckless state, still unable to launch himself out to sea where food and freedom beckoned.
My first ever Rockhopper.
He didn’t seem to have lost too much condition during his 3 week stay on dry land
He left 2 days after this photo was taken.
He was not a happy chappie being forced into a 3 week stay on dry land, while his new water proofed outfit for the coming year was being tailor fitted.
The Rockhopper was totally surrounded by loud energetic fur seal pups, that kept him on his toes with their comings and goings .
Give me a truck load of baby seals any day and they will keep me amused and busy photographing their antics all day long.
They are not the brightest looking creature on Gods planet for sure. lol
But there is never a dull moment
And they do consider themselves supreme beings lol
Next on the list was a photo-shoot where I covered a presentation to our minister of health at Parliament, that was an eye opener.
I cant show images from inside so here is one from the out side.
The Bee Hive, Parliament the seat of power in New Zealand.
The next day was followed up with a workshop with Anna from Auckland who accompanied her husband Scott, who did the presentation at parliament.
We chose the Zealandia Wildlife Centre in the heart of Wellington city for our workshop, as our Anna had a hankering to photograph the cheeky kākā.
Zealandia is the place to photograph kākā , they are so successful at breeding them there completely wild, that they provide many juvenile kākā for re population projects around the country, Zealandia IS kākā central.
I love running workshops at Zealandia , no where that I know of, can provide the amazing diversity of New Zealand native birds with such easy assess to them in a wonderful bush setting.
Mr kākā perching at head height.
We shared a wonderful, warm afternoon with the kākā and Anna got some great photos .
Anna also had a great time with the Bell birds, North Island Saddleback, or tieke, shags and Red Fronted parakeets or kākāriki.
You get NO points for guessing why they have the name Red Fronted Parakeets
There are Tuatara at Zealandia , supposed to be the oldest living link to a now extinct line of lizards.
This one seems unimpressed with his valuable lineage.
North Island Saddleback, or tieke
Very young Pied Shag chicks.
kākā are similar to the New Zealand kea, only different 😀
It was two exhausted, but happy people who staggered back down the track to the car late in the afternoon.
Some private Crake therapy .
Next up it was time for some personal Crake therapy.
Both Steve and I had learnt a great deal more about Spotless Crakes or or puweto as they are called by the Moari, just by being able to watch them up north over Christmas and armed with a that new information and raw enthusiasm, we hit the swamp with a soul full of hope and pretty soon gumboots full of water.
I had my spot sorted for the evening and I settled in for the long haul and gave a few calls on the cell phone. No answers though……..
I had my coffee flask, bananas and peanut butter sammies, to keep me company.
One hour turned into two and still no sign of any activity, but I knew there were Crakes in the area so I stayed put…………………………….. then I heard one answer my call.
Soon I had two calling on their own and I could track them moving around in the dense raupo forest across the water from me and then one simply materialised right in front of me.
There is nothing like a Spotless Crake appearing suddenly, out of the gloom of the raupo, to send your heart racing up into your throat and take your breathe away.
You know, often all you have is a few seconds to get the shot, before it streaks back into thick cover and its gone for the night.
And suddenly it was right there, on the edge, between darkness and light.
Then bless his little soul, he came right out into the open, before wheeling around and darting back into the thick raupo, never to be seen again , leaving, me with a wildly beating heart and praising God lol.
I was happiness filled with this shot .
Spotless Crakes love raupo ,this is a prime Crake habitat, a raupo swamp at the southern end of Lake Taupo, its thick and has good cover from flying predators like hawks and full of insects and bugs.
Next up was a general get together with Louise AKA (Danger Mouse) and her Hubby Dean aka Oscar, for a crack at some newly hatched dabchicks on a pond we all visit.
We were joined by a surprise visit from an old friend Danny and the fun began.
Young dabchicks ride on their parents backs, hiding under the wings out of view, until they feel safe, then they poke their heads out demanding to be fed.
Pretty cute eh?
There was a horse jumping event going on across the paddocks, so i wandered over and took a few shots.
This was the first time I had tried photographing horses , I really enjoyed the experience, I will be back again when the jumps are on.
Back to the Dabchicks again
But wait there is more not many I promise lol
The end of March found Kath and I booked in for a day on the Foxton estuary, hoping to photograph some Bartail Godwits before they return to the northern hemisphere to breed.
Once again word came down the internet pipeline that a Bittern Had been in Foxton just the day before,so the idea was to proceed with plan A (the Godwits) but keep a keen eye out for the bittern.
As it turned out the Godwits had all left and so had our joy, when I turned around for some reason, just in time to see the bittern land 300 meters away right on the edge of the swamp.
There we were 300 meters across , 1200 meters around the edge and he was completely out in the open.
Kath I said in my best convincing voice, we got to get round there , you may never get a chance like this again in your life time.
Now Kath may not be a spring Chicken, but she is made of stern stuff.
We made haste slowly over the sand and mud down and around to the other side of the estuary, not one complaint was heard from poor Kath as she made her way determinedly towards our goal.
An hour later we had manoeuvred our way in and where meters from the Bittern and Kath got some wonderful pictures of a bird, very few people including hard core bird photographers get in this Country.
Bittern over seas might be quite tolerant of humans close by, but not in this country.
Im really proud of Kath with the amount of effort it took to get round the edge of that swamp to get her shots.
When Kath and I got close to the Bittern, we went to town on that bird making the most of it.
Opportunities like this, do not come round very often .
You just do not see this everyday.
Such a graceful bird in flight.
One last one , my favourite.
The next post wont be half this long, I promise and for those who read all of it , a great big thank you and bless ya heaps and heaps.
For those who I had the pleasure of spending some exciting times together with our cameras, bless ya even more ❤