December on the run.

December is always my busiest month of the year birding wise with it ending with our epic annual Christmas sojourn.
So much has happened this year that I have decided to write a separate article later covering this Christmas away.
December started in much the same way it always does each year …..namely on the 1st day of December, same as last year.
All was relatively quiet with Steve and I concentrating on  our Spotless Crake hunting abilities, until the word came in that there was a ruru, or Morepork family living in a patch of bush an hour’s drive away.
This caused no small amount of excitement for the local birding enthusiasts, myself included, so it was no surprise I found myself with a mate Chris Helliwell, stalking through the bush looking for these ruru or New Zealand Night Owl.
By the way just out of interest, in case you have noticed when I use maori names I don’t use capitals as the maori language does not use CAPITAL letters.
Anyway back to the rurus, after some effort we were deep in the jungle, Chris and I  were ruru-less and I was starting to think we would not meet up with the birds, when I spied a fantail nest ahead of me.
In my haste to investigate the nest, I failed to notice a young ruru perched in the tree right next door to the nest and it flew feet from me only to land in the perfect spot to be photographed.
The focus was now firmly transferred from Fantails to ruru and the session commenced with the sound of shutters clicking , trees were  being used as makeshift tripods because the light although good for in the woods, it was quite  slow even for ISO 1600 on the 1DX.

For a bigger image just click on the image

The rather bemused young ruru

ruru or more pork-3236-Edit
After we  got enough shots of the juvenile ruru we left it in peace with a bemused look on its face and went to investigate a pond that is in the same area.

First in the viewfinder was a pair of pango pango or scaup resting on a low flax stalk just high enough to be out of the water.

A pair of pango pango resting on a flax stalk.

pango pango or scaup--5
I love these birds, soft colours, always looking happy little chappies , they seem to cheer me up.

Next up was a close up of a friendly little shag.

little shag-
We spied a female Grebe using a man made structure to stand on and entice her hubby to go forth and multiply.
It worked they now have 2 fine youngsters to feed and look after.


Up the Kapiti coast we went where we found a mother pied shag feeding her ravenous youngster on the water.

As you can see the young shag is a real mouthful for the poor mumma.

Pied Shag-3534-Edit

Next up a Black Fronted Dotterel and the day was looking like a ripper.

Black Fronted Dotterel-
A brave male Banded Dotterel guarding his nest was next and our day was over.

A proud father to be.

Banded Dotterel-3870-Edit
The next outing saw me shooting a White faced Heron feasting on sea worms

Yummy worms  lol

white faced heron-

Are those really my feet ?

white faced heron--6

Next up was another   crack at the ruru as we knew there was adult birds we had not seen yet, so the hunt was on, this time I was with Steve and we met up with Louise a member of my Facebook group  and we  enjoyed the ruru , this time we saw the parents as well.

I had to climb a tree to get this shot much to the amusement of the ever funny Louise.
Many helpful hints on how to climb through the thick branches  were dished out and I became known as the tree sloth lol

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-4981-Edit

The Bigger female ruru

ruru  or Morkepork-4312-Edit
The rather smaller Male ruru

ruru  or Morkepork-4523-Edit

The growing youngster

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-5074-Edit
I believe the male is the smaller of the adult birds.

ruru  or New Zealand Morepork-4954-Edit

We also managed to catch a Shining Cuckoo out in the open .
This image is a prime example of colour and how the lack of, can steal the bird of some of its brilliance.
I will do a short article later this year on complimentary colour and how it enhances an image.

The lack of colour from the background kind of steals the birds colour.

Shining Cuckoo-5213-Edit


Shining Cuckoo-5226-Edit

Mr kahu  or Hawk was my next subject a week or so later.
kahu get whiter with age so this one is getting on.
Im very pleased with this image.

Mr kahu doing the famous FLAIR that hawks, Eagles and Falcons do when they first spot you beneath them.

kahu the Australian Hawk--2

riroriro or Grey Warbler were up next.
These critters are hard to nail, they never sit still and you need a very fast shutter speed and good light to get a sharp image.

riroriro or grey warbler.-5854-Edit
Good light helps to nail them.

riroriro or grey warbler.-5862-Edit

Yellow Hammers are gorgeous in good light and this one was no exception.

Yellow Hammer-
This action kept us busy until it was time to go up north to really get serious about getting some birds we had been targeting lately and were on the top of our wanted list.
More on that later.
Hope you enjoy the images.
I also hope everyone had a great and safe Christmas break.

All ready this year is looking very exciting .
Ya just dont know whats round the next corner or tree lol

ruru  or Morkepork-4324-Edit


A November to remember.

This November will be one I will never forget.
Bird photography is very similar to hunting in this country.
Planning and strategies are the same.
Effort is needed in finding areas that your intended trophy/target species lives in  and perseverance, to return to areas known to  be their home, again and again and again, until at last you succeed in your quest.
This November will never be forgotten as it ended a five year quest for a particular Bittern shot, but more on this later.
Breeding birds are in full swing in November and this November was no exception.
November  started off with a morning with Toya a fellow bird photographer , shooting her New Zealand tuis and White Eyes out  her lounge double doors into her back yard, then followed by a quick trip out to the south Wellington coast to search for some Double Banded Dotterels and their chicks .

White eyes or silver eyes as I know them are good practice , quick and nimble, never staying long in one spot.

white eyes-9816-Edit


white eyes--4

The reason this image looks better than perhaps it is, is because of what I call complementary colours.
we will do a whole blog on the use of complementary colours one day.

Mr tui in his tux

New Zealand Tui

A blustery cold Southerly greeted us on the exposed beach and fast moving, patchy cloud  pretty much kept the light conditions changing all the time.
I always keep my camera settings based around my aperture,  that way  I chose the depth of field which is  normally  set at F.8  and the ISO on 1,600, That way the 1DX will then give me the fastest shutter speed available for those settings and light conditions.
In this way, no matter where I point the camera all over Gods creation, the exposure will be fine and Im getting the fastest shutter speed possible without having to constantly change or worry about my settings, all I need to do is keep my subject in the centre of the view finder and keep pressing the shutter button.
It wasn’t long before I spotted a small but very quick Dotterel chick zooming off among the rocks hot footing it out of there but not before I got one quick shot off.

Always heading away from me  lol

Banded Dotterals-0520-Edit
Once these chicks get more than a week old they can move very fast and man this one was a contender for the 100 meter sprint for the next Olympics.
One shot was it and I gave up trying to keep up with it and choose to have a go at some adults flying into the wind and chasing one another out of their breeding territories further down the beach.

Banded Dotterals-0699-Edit
The day came to a close with some images I was very pleased with.

Banded Dotterals-
A Male Dotterel guarding his territory loudly.

Banded Dotterel



My next outing came the following weekend when Steve and I met up with another friend who had been hearing a few Shining Cuckoos where he ran his dog, so out there we went with high expectations.
Now shining cuckoo shots are hard to get and I have only had a few over the last 5-6  years we have been chasing them, so it was exciting to have at least 6 birds come into our calls  that evening and we were able to get some good shoots of some of them.



These birds look best on overcast days



Native Wood Pigeons (kereru) were also out in good numbers

peskey shadows kind of spoilt this shot




I went to bed that night with little shining cuckoos flying around the ceiling of my bedroom as I relived the action until the biggest earthquake, 7.8 I have ever experienced had me rushing outside into the dark , not something I want to relive any time soon.
The following weekend we were off to Otaki to see if the Dotterel chicks we photographed 3 weeks previous were alive and well.
On the way we spotted some Royal Spoonbills in spectacular breeding plumage and Ideal light on them so it was out of the car and the big stalk across the mud flats getting quite close to them.
I love these birds, they are sometimes referred to as the clowns of the estuary and are always fun to photograph.

During mating season these birds grow long loving feathers on the back of their heads.

Royal Spoonbills-1469-Edit

Cleared for landing

Royal Spoonbills-1301-Edit

Light and contrast makes an image, always look for these two components

Royal Spoonbills-1500-Edit

Once I had the shots I wanted we resumed our travels north to drop into to Otaki where we found one juvenile Dotterel that was cheerfully running around the place and more than capable of flying away every time we tried to get close.

Juvenile Banded Dotterel

Banded Dotterel-1776-Edit

The following weekend we were to meet up with Imogen AKA (Wonder woman) .
Known for her good fortune in locating rare and hard to find birds Imogen had given us the heads up on a Little Tern resting over in her local Estuary at Foxton So the following weekend we headed her way.
Saturday saw us meeting with Imogen and another friend Kath and her rather bemused hubby on the banks of the Manawatu River just up from the mouth and it was not long before we spied the Little Tern.
As we made our way closer we all became aware of another tern that looked different from the resident White Fronted Terns
Heart beats increased as it was confirmed to be a Common Tern.
Common Terns might be common in other parts of the world, but here, there has only been two  individuals recorded in the country this year, this being one of them.
Imogen’s good fortune had delivered again and clickerty click went a heap of cameras as we celebrated the rare sighting.

Mr Common Tern having his say in things

Common Tern--3

The Little Tern

Little Tern-2076-Edit


All lined up for their group photo.
From left to right.
White Fronted Tern, Common Tern, Little Tern.

three tern species
Halfway through the week we decided we needed to visit a wetland in search of spotless Crakes and Mr matuku the Bittern that we knew inhabited the swamp.
Now let me tell you , there are many more Crakeless spots in New Zealand than Spotless crake spots lol.
As we sneaked  through the swamp hunched over, moving slowly , a strong wind was coming from our right to left and we snapped a Bittern right out in the open to our left and he froze instantly 30 meters away.
Now the Bittern shot to end all shots is the LAUNCH shot, the one that every serious Bittern hunter wants.
Normally these birds launch directly away from the intruder but this time the wind would force him to launch into it and directly facing me.
I waited, I know he would not stick around much longer and wham I caught him in the launch and thus ended 5 years of missed chances, almost and not quiets, general stuff ups and out of focus, panicky attempts.
The Launch

matuku the Australasian bittern --7


matuku the Australasian bittern --7

Looking at the images in the view Finder Steve was convinced I had nailed the mutha  but I was nervous all the way home until I could confirm I had the shots when I saw them on the 30 inch screen, sharp and clear.
That was that, November came and went. just like that.

My pick for the month

bittern n-
Its mid-December, as I write this and already December is stacking up to be a great month for us as well.
I hope you enjoy my write-ups.

Boneys November News

Typically November through late March is the busy time for Boney Whitefoot and equally typical is the lack of an end of the year report as I am up to my neck,  either out shooting images, or sorting and processing gazillions of them.
So I have come up with a cunning plan, Im going to do my end of year report  before the end of the year, how’s that for logic 😀
This year has been insanely busy for me. At the beginning of the year I decided it would be good to start a new bird photographers Face Book group for beginners and experienced alike, where we can all share our images and adventures.
The plan is to network likeminded bird photographer enthusiasts throughout the country and to form a family friendly community online.
The group has been an amazing success due to the enthusiasm of our members and the friendly environment and has seen people who are long term Face group members that belong to very few groups on Face Book join ours.
I feel that as an honour and a reflection on the way the members of our group behave with respect and humour towards each other.
This was my intention from the start.
We now boast over 400 members and growing every week, not bad for a group of bird nutters 😀
You don’t have to be a Kiwi (New Zealander) to be a member and we wont bite your head off for posting birds that don’t come from New Zealand, so join us.
NZ bird image share
In addition to the Bird group I also started up a page for Boney Whitefoot where I post a few images most days and give out tips on how to improve your photography.
This too has enjoyed good patronage, so if your looking for a few handy tips or just to enjoy some New Zealand scenery, pop in for a look see.Boney Whitefoot Photography

We enjoyed around 6,000 visits to the blog last year so I hope it will be around the same this year.
Its been so much fun meeting new people through the group this year and I’m really looking forward to meeting a heap more over the upcoming summer.
I will still try and do the highlight’s for 2016 early next year but it won’t be a biggie.
Next year I hope to step up the workshops  as we have had a very positive response from those who took part in the workshops we ran this year, most have asked us to re-book them for the next step up , so that’s a pretty good sign.
its been a great year and I thank all you people that have helped make it so.  ❤

NZ  fur seal pup

Blur and the impression of speed.

Two weeks ago I posted about the need for speed and the fast shutter to freeze the action and give sharp in focus images.
This post is going in the opposite direction, the use of a slow shutter speed to give the impression of, or to convey to the viewer the motion and speed of the subject.
Remember, each image should be telling a story.
Scale, placement, the use of background or foreground are all aspects that help tell that story , but sometimes we need a bit extra, movement of the subject.
Movement , can tell the story for you.
Let me show you.

In the first image , the bird is sharp and it’s the arrow like shape of the bird that tells the story, but its not all of the story.

Takapu the Australasian Gannet    (morus serrator )

In the second image, the bird might be quiet as sharp but we can see the subject speeding past the background.

Takapu the Australasian Gannet    (morus serrator )
The most powerful tool we photographers have when we present a image for someone to look at is the initial emotional impact that the image invokes.
To show the movement of an object moving through the frame the object must interact with the foreground and background.
We do this by slowing the shutter speed by either increasing the depth of field F.stop  which by default slows the shutter speed down if your in AV mode or decreasing the ISO sensitivity to light, causing the same shutter speed reaction..
You can also choose a dark background which will cause the sensor to drag more light through the lens  keeping the shutter open a bit longer, but the trade off will be an over exposed subject that may end up rendering the image unusable .
There is no substitute for experience and no excuse in this day of the digital photographer to go out there and practice, practice and practice until we can use our cameras intuitively and on the fly, I call it using the force.
Experience will teach you which technique to use.
One good way to practice is to find a good spot along a stretch of roadway and take photos of the cars as they speed past.
Close down you aperture to around F 16-22  and try and pan with the car as it speeds past

this image of a windmill gives the general idea of movment

Windmill in Foxton
Once again this was simply taken out of the window as we sped past the trees on both sides of the road.

warp speed
This tui was defending his territory  wildly flapping his wings

The New Zealand Tui-3069-Edit-2
when it comes to wildlife and movement  you must try and get the head in focus or the shot doesn’t normally  work.

this young red deer hind has been caught out in the open early morning and doesnt like it one bit lol
notice that if the head was not sharp, the image would not have the same impact.

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)
then again this works and nothing is pin sharp.

Black Swan-
once again sharp head, blurred wings

Pāpango the New Zealand scaup or Black Teal(Aythya novaeseelandiae)
one last one , nothing is sharp in this one, I spose you cant win them all

Kakī, the Black Stilt  (Himantopus novaezelandiae)
Most of all go out and have fun with your camera , try different things, tell your story through the lens of the camera.

If you want I can do a one on one or a small group workshop on this technique anywhere in the wellington region , just contact me .

Waikanae workshop

Two weekends ago, Steve and I had the pleasure of having a wonderful father/ daughter team on one of our workshops.
Corinne and her Dad Adam shared a day with us at the Waikanae river estuary on the Kapiti coast.
The day started out cold and blustery with lots of shags heading out to sea into the wind to fish for the day, they would become a good test for Corinne and Adam later on.
Steve and I had a quick walk around the ponds and estuary before Corinne and Adam arrived so we could plan our workshop around what was available for the day.
The Father and daughter team arrived on time and it didn’t take long before we had the cameras out and locked and loaded.

Steve gives Corinne some pointers on how to focus

A short talk on F.stops, light and how the camera sensor kind of works in relation to the lens and we hit track around the ponds.
Both Corinne and Adam were keen, quick learners and a joy to work with and encourage. The shutter buttons were working overtime as we walked along side them, handing out important tips and pointers that helped improve their creative artistic side as well as the technical approach to bird photography. As they shot their way around the place, we were also racking up an impressive number of bird species some of which neither Adam nor Corinne had seen before.

A pair of paradise ducks taken by Corrine





Corrine nailed this shag , I would be very proud of this shot myself.



Lunch time popped up and it was back to the wagon for a bite to eat.
A bit more talk about cameras and technique and we hit the beach and river mouth to see what was out there on the barren landscape.
Next on the agenda was the incoming shags , their flight path was predictable so we lined the team up and fired away.

Steve and Adam line up on the shags as they fly over head .
Fantastic practice can be had  with these birds multiple encounters.

The wind had dropped away and it was a pleasant walk out the surf, getting some great shots of Oyster Catchers shags and seagulls.

The shot of the day goes to Adam .
One oyster catcher attacking another and bowling it over 

By 3pm we were getting a little weary and returned to the car for a snack and wind up talk.
It was a wonderful day, one high light was the very friendly Kingfisher which caught a small fish and allowed Corinne very close to photograph it.
All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable day and rewarding for all concerned.

A young little shag allowed us to approach very close.

Another lovely shot by Corinne

The friendly local Kingfisher  put in an appearance early afternoon giving us lots of photo opportunities, Adam and Corinne made the most of it.




How not to take a photo lol
Dont stand with the sun behind you and your subjects having to squint into the sun lol

Father and Daughter team

Anyone interested  in a workshop  in the future please email me for more details.
or look at my workshop
We would be more than pleased  to share a day with you.



Follow your nose

Put a camera in my hand, jump in a wagon with a couple of likeminded mates and hit the road and see what happens.
That was our mind set the day we grabbed our old mate Ari and took him out to experience the rugged south eastern coast of the Wairarapa.
So over the Rimutaka ranges, out across the Wairarapa plains we went as the sun tried to peek through the clouds.
Once upon a time I would be disappointed with the over cast conditions, I was a sunny day junkie, not no more, I now know over cast days give a unique feel to our landscape and a great opportunity to capture the wild, lonely and sometimes desolate.
Our first stop was the small isolated coastal settlement  of Pahoa.
I had never been there before so it was a red line on the map for me and we meandered out around the inlet out onto the coast proper, climbing rocks, looking for that shot that captures the spirit of the place.

Click on the images for a bigger size

looking back at the inlet

Pahoa Coast

Isolated and desolate places need not lack beauty; you have to look for it.

Pahoa Coast
Rock climbing was the answer to get the shot 

Pahoa Coast
After a few hours of wandering along the beach, climbing the rock formations looking for those shots we head back inland and swung south to Cape Palliser and Ngawi .
The seal colony at Ngawi was the draw card for Ari.
Not many chances to photograph fur seals in India apparently 😀
On the way there we passed some surfers so I begged to stop and snap off a few shots, I love taking photos of people enjoying themselves.
Good photos of surfers are a challenge that’s for sure.

double trouble lol



Finding the tube maybe ?

This guy had a huge board and seemed to know how to use it.


Soon we were off to meet the New Zealand furs seals and their cute babies.

On the way we stopped to show Ari this house

The pacific Ocean is not respecter of man made dwellings and this houses days are numbered .

unstable foundations

The sun had won its battle with the clouds and was now centre stage.
The seals were in fine form, youngsters dotted the rocks, play fighting with each other showing off or feeding off their mothers, Ari and I scaled the rocks enjoying the activity around us.

This baby seal was unimpressed with my mere humanness.


Play fighting a favorite pass time for baby seals


Followed by lunch at the milk bar



Soon it was time to head home but not before getting to more shots of the surfers on the way back.

Surfing Ngawi style
Shooting with the sun behind the surfers had its problems but at the same time it gave me some interesting options

All in all it was a wonderful day out, we were tired, sun baked and our cameras were full of images of how the day unfolded.

This summer we intend to hold day long workshops out on the coast for those who want to get out there amongst the seals and the surf.

Upcoming workshops

Due to a very encouraging response to our offer to run  workshops in the Wellington area  in late spring through summer , we are putting together  some information on what we are going to be offering , when and how much it will cost.
The main focus will be on birds and wildlife .
We intend to expand these workshops to assist beginners to get off to a good start on their photographic journey, all the way up to an advanced level where  we will teach people how to tackle the challenges and environments that nature throws at us.
We are excited to be able to share our hard won knowledge with willing learners, keen to get the best out of their equipment and themselves.

We will be limiting each workshop to   4 active participants , husbands, wives and non participating  partners are welcome of course.

Here is some of what you can expect from us.

Boneys workshops

Wellington Pelagic

When Michael Szabo made an open invitation in our Facebook group for anyone interested in a pelagic trip out of Wellington, a list of birds seen on a previous trip was included in the post and that was enough to motivate me and I inquired immediately.

I have only been on one pelagic trip before and really wanted to go again.
For those of us not in the know, pelagic means any water in a sea, or lake, that is neither close to the bottom, nor near the shore, can be said to be in the pelagic zone according to  WIKI
The trip I had been on previous was out of Kaikoura in the South Island, I live in the North Island, It was an amazing experience, you simply cant appreciate just how big a Southern Royal Albatross really is till one lands meters away from you  and that trip was one of my highlights of my photography career, but  living in Wellington the cost and time factors involved makes it a bit prohibitive to repeat.
A trip to Kaikoura means three days away from home, accommodation, 2 trips on the cook straight ferry, gas, food, you get the picture.
So here was a chance to see roughly the same birds and be home again that very same day with most of my spending money intact.
Steve had been with me on that first trip and a quick ring confirmed what I had already pretty much knew, he was keen, so we signed our lives away and were added to the team of 15 other keen birders.
The weather was not looking too flash leading up to the trip out to the Cook Straight and I’m the kind of person that gets sea sick in a mai mai (Maori word for duck shooting blind, built manly on terra firma on the waters edge of lakes and ponds)

Worry mingled with the excitement and demanded that my thoughts never strayed far from the upcoming trip and the night before sleep did not come easy, it was a nervous Tony that turned up at the marina in Seaview just on daybreak Sunday morning  to meet the rest of the team.
With the customary greetings over, we boarded the vessel Seafarer II and were introduced to the skipper Jonathan Delich of Cook Straight Fishing Charters and his deckhand Hamish.
We were given the mandatory safety talk, the rundown on what to do in the very unlikely event of the water on the inside of the boat equalling the water on the outside and off out to sea we went.
With the wind up our backsides it was pretty smooth on the way out of the harbour to the open sea of the Cook straight but I could see the lumps of water outside the sheltered harbour fast approaching.
As the light improved the birds started to loom out of the darkness and any thoughts of sea sickness were put aside.

One Bird I had always wanted to photograph since seeing them on TV was the Westland Petrel.
It seems that the entire population of these birds nest just north of Greymouth at Punakaiki on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand in heavy cover beneath the trees in an area not open to the public (for good reason).No chance of me seeing them there……….. BUT, the list of birds seen last time out included Westland Petrels , so I was hopeful of seeing at least one of these birds out on the open sea.

On the way  we saw a few various species of bird and then out of the gloom a western petrel appeared, clikerty click click went my camera as I desperately tried to centre the bird in my viewfinder, this was no easy feat as the bird was going one way and the boat the other way with me going a third all at the same time.

Checking the preview on the camera confirmed to me the obvious, I was nothing more than a beginner at this game and the images of my prized petrel were nothing more than a smudge of dark rich brown across the preview screen.

I was thinking to myself I hope I get a better chance when the light improves when another flew past, then another and another.

One such various seabird, a young Black back Gull
Please click on the pics for a bigger image and image details.

Black back gull-

Clickerty click, click went the 1D and as we slowly made our way out into the open sea, the petrels followed us and the light improved. I was a happy boy indeed as I wrestled against the conditions trying to capture my precious.

Looking over at Steve I saw he was happily banging away at the birds while simultaneously being tossed around in the back of the boat so I choose to sit on one of the bait boxes on the open deck so I could partially coordinate myself with the motion of the vessel eliminating at least one set of calculations needed to get a steady shot off once and a while.
At last I had some Westland Petrel shots on the scoreboard.

Westland Petrel

Soon we had Bullers, Whitecap and Blackbrow Albatrosses coming up to the boat and the skipper stopped and offered them a squid breakfast and thus a frenzy ensued, this attracted even more birds.
The Bullers Albatross is perhaps the most stunning of the small to medium sized mollymawk family. I had never seen one in real life before. I was mesmerized by their stunning colors and contrast and now my focus was firmly on them.

A Bullers Mollymawk approaches the boat

Bullers Albatorss

The skipper started the boat moving slowly forward while still throwing out the odd squid and fish frame for the birds to gobble, this bought the birds gliding right to the back of the boat flying mere feet from our heads  and this offered up a chance of really close up shots of the birds.

Bullers up close and personal

Bullers Albatorss

A Whitecap mollymawk

White-capped mollymawk -2
Black Brow

Black-browed mollymawk-9387-Edit


Westland Petrel

Westland Petrel


I was in heaven, there were birds everywhere and my memory cards were filling up quickly.

I had NO time to think about being sea sick, my focus was on separating out a single bird out of the melee and tracking it.
Jonathan the skipper had picked up a large fishing vessel out east on the radar and knew it would produce many more birds so we steamed out to it with the other birds in tow.
As we approached this monster ship I could see the larger species of Albatross gliding around waiting for the nets to come aboard, Wandering Albatross and Royal Albatross were wheeling around like they were in some kind of aerial ballet, it was a dream come true.

The sky became filled with birds and it was hard to take it all in.
The skipper knew his stuff, we were told once the net was in the ship and the feast over, he would start feeding feed the birds again and this would attract them all to come to the boat, which it did.
Massive birds almost within arm’s reach glided gracefully past the boat, my arms were aching from holding up the 300 F2.8, sweat dripped down my neck and the salt and sea spray covered my glasses.
I could no longer see clearly through them and the viewfinder was mostly a smudge, it was time to use the force.
I know my camera pretty well now, I know how it operates and I know how it feels when it acquires focus, so I now adapted to feeling the camera and running on instinct rather than seeing the focus sharply through the view finder.
It became that as soon as I felt the camera tighten up and stop searching, bang down went the shutter button, no time to think too much, bang, bang, bang, make it happen.
I was amazed later to find 95% of my shots were perfectly focused.
Ive always been one to track the bird for a period in flight to ensure the camera acquires focus and locks on, but it became clear to me I could not track consistently with the birds going one way, me going another and the boat bobbing up and down and side to side.
Snap shooting was the answer on the day, no mucking around, point, feel, shoot.
With many years as a professional hunter I learnt to know my rifles by touch. I taught myself  to load, unload, fix jams any normal operation of my firearms in the dark with my eyes closed, with photography and my camera the principal is the same, get to know your camera by touch, learn where the buttons are without having to look for them.
Watching TV is a great time to learn.
Get to know the noises it makes when focus is acquired, how it feels in your hands the vibration of the image stabilizer when it locks on.
Soon I was in the zone, even though Im sure a few expletives may have escaped my mouth when I ran out of time to get a shot, missed a chance  or made a mistake.
Steve tapped me on the shoulder and asked, how’s your sea sickness?
I replied, I Had not thought about it since I saw the first Westland Petrel.
I have no idea where those first 3-4 hours out of the 6 we spent out there went.
I am indebted to Michael Szabo for pointing out birds of special interest for me, such as the Short Tailed Sharewater and the Salvins Albatross, yet another first timer for me.

The Salvins mollymark, perhaps not as colorful as the Bullers but pretty cool anyway.

Salvin’s mollymawk-0169-Edit
Black brows and Whitecaps whirled around us, the much bigger Royals and Wandering Albatrosses did wide circles around us and sometimes made strafeing runs right up the middle of our wake to land right behind the boat too close to focus the 300 mil lens.
The action was non stop.
Eventually just before before exhaustion finished me off, we called it quits and started the trip home, stopping along the way to fish and a few good fish came aboard to taken home and eaten by the lucky fisher people.

Black brows whirled around us

Black-browed mollymawk-9354-Edit-Edit

White-capped mollymawk -9511-Edit
A southern Royal Albatross the largest flighted bird in the world following our wake

Southern royal albatross-5285-Edit
Northern Royal Albatross circling us

Northern royal albatross-9915-Edit

Gibsons Albatross , part of the wandering Albatross family

Northern royal albatross--3

A late lunch was served, whole Chicken’s had been cooking on the barbie since we had left the marina and they were ripped apart as it was the humans turn to feast.
The Skipper and the crew did themselves proud; the whole journey was enjoyable, informative and if you weren’t desperate to get heaps of bird shots like I was, relaxed.
We were back home by 130pm
What would have taken 3 days and a heap of hundred dollar bills had we gone to Kaikoura  had taken us less than one day, less than one, one hundred dollar bill and I was back home for a nap in the arvo as the computer down loaded my 2,000 plus images.
It was simply amazing to be able to experience this so close to home, the boat was roomy with enough things to hang onto for support in the chop and the crew were very friendly and helpful.
I just simply cant wait to have another go later on in winter.
How did this trip compare to the Kaikoura trip? It was much better, more bird action hands down and better selection of species.
If your interested and you live in the Wellington area contact me or the crew themselves.
I am hoping to run a couple of workshops with this crew in the future if I get enough interest.

The size of the Southern Royal Albatross can only be appreciated when you are up close, they are massive birds

Southern royal albatross-5231-Edit
the last say  goes to the westlander Im very happy with this shot


Aris last fling

‘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

Male pango pango or NZ scaup
Female  pango pango , bit more demur than the males, but wonderful in their own way I think

female pango pango or NZ scaup


‘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.

Royal Spoonbill


A walk around the main pond resulted in a lovely image of the pair of Shoveler Ducks.

A 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

Cock Pheasant


Grebes were also a new bird for Ari so I herded one right passed him and he got his shots away.

The Common Grebe

common grebe

Next up a Grey Warbler welcomed us.

A Grey Warbler

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 

I will leave the last say up to Mr Bittern.

my first decent flying shot of this bird.

Mr Bittern



Golden Godwits

Well it’s the start of Autumn here in New Zealand , this means that the migratory birds that have summered over here from the northern hemisphere  are preparing to head back to their  breeding grounds after gorging on the summer feast or worms and insects and shellfishes.
The grand daddy’s of the migratory birds has to be the kuaka or bar-tailed Godwit and its smaller traveling buddy the smaller lesser Knots that accompany them .
These birds travel over 11,000 kilometres from Alaska to reach New Zealand stopping  over in Asia for a quick breather along the way.
This massive migration takes them less than 10 days to complete which is simply amazing and during that little effort they will lose half their body weight arriving here skinny and hungry.

A fresh arrival, kind of drab colours and not much meat on this bird
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

Before these migratories return north, they start the breeding colour phase , turning from a rather drab brownish grey into brilliant orange tones.

Ready to depart, plump and Golden
Kuaka the Bar-Tailed GodwitLimosa lapponica baueri

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

A lesser Knot in breeding colours

Huahou the Lesser Knot or Red Knot Calidris Canutus

Living in Wellington the kuaka settle into the estuaries along the Kapiti and Manawatu coasts with the majority being at Foxton at the river mouth of the Manawatu river.
Having missed last year we decided to go and have a look at the birds as they will be leaving soon and see how their colour phase was progressing.
Daylight at the Manawatu Estuary dawned with patchy cloud and sporadic bursts of sunlight on the huddled crowd of birds on the tidal edge.
Getting close to these birds is not easy.


They are jumpy and fly off at the least provocation often setting back down further along the water’s edge.
Hawks circling overhead often cause the whole flock to take off, do a circuit and return to their resting place.

A flock of Knots and Godwits wheeling around to land back where they were resting right in front of us after being put to flight by a Hawk
flock of Knots and Godwits


Some of the birds were showing quite a bit of colour while others were not showing much at all.
We tried to get as close as we could without causing too much distress to the birds, got our photos and decided to leave them be and look for other birds of interest.


Pacific Golden plovers were next on the menu and these birds are more skittish than the goblets.
I got a few half decent images before they took flight landing further along from me.

Pacific golden plover-

my normal shot of flying golden plovers, always away from me lol

Pacific golden plover-3530-Edit

Walking along back to the wagon we  counted 81 banded dotterels resting in the sand and among them 3 sharp tailed sandpipers.
The big long slow crawl along the sand was on and I managed to get really close to these birds and photograph them and I ended up with my best shots of sharp tails to date.
Male and female sharptails
sharp tailed sandpiper-

sharp tailed sandpiper-3638-Edit

Banded Dotterel

pohowera  or banded dotteral

It was now mid-morning so it was decided that we would head south towards home to check out some dabchicks that had chicks on the way.

The dab chicks were in fine form and paraded around me as I lay under the wooden hide clickerty clicking away trying hard to look like a support post for the wooden construction.

A baby weiweia or New Zealand dabchick is a pretty tiny bundle of softness

weiweia the New Zealand dabchick -3653-Edit

But Mum takes good care of her baby
weiweia the New Zealand dabchick -3686-Edit

The baby rides mommas back and she feeds it
weiweia the New Zealand dabchick -

Soon it was time to head home, back to the computer and photoshop.

Once upon a time I never realised just how many migratory birds we receive each summer until I was captured by bird photography.
So many birds still left to hunt for and experience.