Highlights from 2013 prt1

Well we are into the new year, I was going to write up a trip report of our adventures over the Christmas period, but I haven’t even managed to write the Chrissie trip we did to Northland from the year before LoL.
So I think I will start the year off with a series of highlights from the year of our Lord 2013.
2013 was an insane year for me and one that I will remember for its many photographic challenges and the addition of a new lens a 300 2.8 prime and camera body a 1D.mrk4, which Steve kindly lent me.
To set the scene we must travel back in time to the northern most part of New Zealand, Cape Reinga new years eve 2012.
I will do a detailed essay on Northland sometime in the future, its an amazing place where you can go mad with a camera.
New year’s eve 2012 certainly was a cracker, the sun put in a good effort and managed to stay up in the sky for the whole day before running out of steam and falling off the edge of the earth or into the sea, Im not sure which.
As the sun was setting, we, Steve and I were joined by a sober bunch of happy tourists and together we watched the light fade to darkness.

Cape Reinga  new years eve 2012

Cape Reinga new years eve 2012

With the sun gone we returned to our campers park which had become a freakin new years night disco.
How were we to know that the camp doubled as a new year’s celebration venue for the locals ? I lay awake that night in my tent, buffered by screaming loud music and the groups of locals that milled around outside the venue right beside my tent, having a sneaky joint and giggling and carrying on.
I certainly wasn’t feeling all that flash as we pulled into the Cape Reinga car park just before day break next morning to catch the sun rise on a new year.
the sun hits the light house at the cape for the first time in 2013.

Sunrise at Cape Reinga New years day 2013

Sunrise at Cape Reinga New years day 2013

We were not alone, people turned up in their pyjamas, nighties, wrapped in blankets some in sleeping bags with the bottoms unzipped it was unbelievable.
Anyway that’s how the 2013 kicked off for me.
Every bird photographer God ever created has a list of birds they want to get photos of, a list of trophies if you like, a new species captured and to tick off the ever growing list.
ticking the box on a hard to get bird is very much part of the wildlife photographers asperations, any that deny this are just great big fibbers.

My first bird challenge I achieved in 2013 was one I never really expected to achieve, namely to get a photo of kuera the brown quail. (Coturnix ypsilophora australis) an introduced bird from Australia.
Northland is the Promised Land for game bird hunters, this IS the place to go if you want to see lots of Pheasants and brown quail, so if I was to get a chance, this was the place to have a go at getting a brown quail.

kuera the brown quail is a very small Quail imported from Australia not to be confused with the stubble quail. (Coturnix pectoralis) and they don’t hang around out in the open much and if you do see them, they are usually hightailing back into cover. These birds are also my favorite Game bird to hunt over pointing Dogs, they hold well for the dog and fly low and fast, they make California quail look like a wounded turkey in flight by comparison.
Well every now and again things just go your way and we found a small bevy of them feeding out in a open-ish area quite confidant in their camouflaged suits believing themselves invisible in the rather dim light of the new day.
Once they realized they were not invisible, the running and wild zigzagging began and I tried my best to get the shots, sprinting around the slippery grass hillside after them snapping franticly, all too aware that this may be my only ever chance at this bird.
Im pretty happy with the shots I got considering the palaver I went through , but better was yet to come.

kuera hoping its invisible

kuera hoping its invisible

Later, on the way back to the camper park to pack up and move on, with eyes peeled to the side of the road in hopes of spotting challenge no2, a Cock Pheasant, both Steve and I spotted a brown quail on a bank on the side of the road, it wasn’t hard, the sun was full up and the bird was brilliantly golden colored, it stood out like a neon light.
Unbelievably the bird allowed us to get reasonably close before it rocketed off the bank and across the road into cover.
I don’t believe I will ever get better shots of this species of bird.

I doubt that I will get a better pick of this very hard to find let along get a good image of quail

I doubt that I will get a better pick of this very hard to find let along get a good image of quail

But wait there’s more lol
dropping down into Spirits bay on the way back, I got a shot of not only a Cock Pheasant but it was a melanistic cross , no white neck like the common or ring necked pheasant.

Te Matua Ngahere the 'Father of the Forest', has a trunk over five metres in diameter, possessing the widest girth of any surviving kauri tree

Te Matua Ngahere the ‘Father of the Forest’, has a trunk over five metres in diameter, possessing the widest girth of any surviving kauri tree

Spirits Bay is a must see it has fantastic white sandy beaches and beautiful pōhutukawa trees.

2 horses with a fantastic pōhutukawa in the background. Spirits Bay Cape Reinga

2 horses with a fantastic pōhutukawa in the background.
Spirits Bay Cape Reinga

the brilliant red flowers of the  pōhutukawa  really add colour in early summer

the brilliant red flowers of the pōhutukawa really add colour in early summer

Tent packed and heading south I felt 2013 was off to a good start.

No one touring Northland should drive past Waipoua Forest and its huge kauri trees.
the crowning glory being tāne mahuta, the largest kauri tree left in New Zealand and almost impossible to photograph to scale.

Notice the person at the base of the tree on the right, not that right, the other right neo.

tāne mahuta is the largest  kauri tree  in the Waipoua Forest situated in Northland

tāne mahuta is the largest kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest situated in Northland

another shot of the forest giant
tāne mahuta

Te Matua Ngahere the 'Father of the Forest', has a trunk over five metres in diameter, possessing the widest girth of any surviving kauri tree

Te Matua Ngahere the ‘Father of the Forest’, has a trunk over five metres in diameter, possessing the widest girth of any surviving kauri tree

The next big stop was the miranda bird sanctuary.
The first bit of excitement was right at the gate, a lovely red headed lass in shorts and gumboots was setting a trap for ferrets. Having spent many years as a commercial trapper we had a chat about trapping stuff, she knew what she was doing, to see a pretty woman that could trap pests all in one package did this old mans heart glad, almost the perfect girl.
Any way we weren’t there to shoot the breeze, shooting birds was beckoning, farewell trapper woman and I headed out through the mud and out onto the shell bank and the sizzling sun to have a squizz.
Pure white sea shells and blinding sun made it quite an endurance.

For those not acquainted with the Miranda bird sanctuary it is the no 1 spot for wading birds in New Zealand, birds accumulate there from the ends of the earth in staggering numbers.

Godwits and lesser knots

Godwits and lesser knots

tarāpuka the Black billed gulls were there in number with their newly hatched chicks, so that kept us occupied for a while.
tarāpuka the Black-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus bulleri),

Black bills are considered nationally critical so it was good to see them creating some backups to take them into the future. 🙂

for two days we chased the birds around in the scorching sun and then headed home.

Torea the South Island Oystercatcher or South Island Pied Oyster feeling the pinch

Torea the South Island Oystercatcher or South Island Pied Oyster feeling the pinch

With the Christmas adventure at an end we made it back home in Wellington where our next challenge loomed, Mr taranui or Caspian Tern another endangered and threatened bird.
We had access to a nesting site where about 30 adults were raising their young and I wanted shots of them doing so.
But we will have to wait till part 2 of what I plan to be 3 parts .

Many of my readers will know that I am a born again Christian and have been now for over 30 years, for those who know me really well they realize, that , that doesn’t mean Im perfect, it means Im saved lol.
Any way Im a 6 day creationist, that means I believe God created the earth and a base set of animals the Bible calls KINDS likely this falls somewhere into the man-made category classification of FAMILY or GENUS that have diversified (speciated) and adapted to fill the earth over the last 6,000 years or so.
Some of you will be aware that Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis debated Bill Nye the science guy around the 4th of this month.
It was a huge success, simply because it bought the evolution/creation debate that has been raging for many decades out into the public eye once again.
This couldn’t have come at better time as feburary the 12th is our annual (question evolution day).
All we have ever asked is to be able to question the information put forward that is claimed, proves life started from naturalistic causes, billions of years ago, independent of an intelligent designer in the class rooms of our schools.
Most of us do not want to have the creation account as written in the Bible, pushed as science or confused with empirical science in public schools, but would rather it be used to challenge what at the moment has been protected from being challenged namely the theory of evolution.
It is my belief that neither has a place in the science room and that observable testable science, the type of science that benefits mankind should be reserved for such an environment.
I’m not hostile to those who believe in the theory that all life shares one single common ancestor, but I think we have the right to go head to head with this theory in public and in private without the hostile and abusive reactions we quite often receive.
I would encourage both atheist and Christian to go to the links provided, look at the 15 minute video, then look at the 15 questions here
this site http://www.piltdownsuperman.com/p/question-evolution-day.html has all the information one needs to start exploring the possibility that just perhaps the people who claim that the theory of evolution is a scientific fact, have not got all the answers they claim to have.
Use the information as a critical thinking tool and try to keep an open mind.
If you disagree, fine it’s your choice, just so long as you at least had a look into the issues, but please don’t remain uninformed.
Freedom comes from looking at both sides of the coin and making a more informed decision.
I personally believe that your eternal security is at stake, if you reject Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross as he is the only way of salvation to man.
If the belief that nature basically created its self proves there is no God and stands in your way of believing there is a creator God and He has revealed Himself to mankind, follow the bread crumbs.
Im not forcing anyone to follow the links and I will not answer any questions directed to me regarding this issue unless I feel it comes from an honest inquiring mind, Im not here to argue the issue, just provide the information.
Bless you heaps dudes and dudesses, Im looking forward to another year of adventure behind the lens.

The answer is out there and its looking for you, it’s the question that drives us.
is evolution really a scientific fact?

Here is something I would like you to think about .
ATP powers the cell.

The cell will not survive or indeed even kick start without The ATP synthase machine being fully functional to provide ATP to the cell.

The machine is made of several proteins.

My question is this, how could this machine and the ATP its self evolve in a step by step process when the cell that is all cells need this machine to provide fuel to keep the cell alive?


Death on the beach, Palliser Bay.

It was mid arvo and the sun was fair bleating down as we drove around the Wairarapa coast road out towards the tiny fishing village of Ngawi.
I wondered where our adventures would take us today. The theme for today was to be about death and survival, the struggle for life.
Cruising along, Steve turned his attention to a road that lead down to a stretch of beach we had not yet investigated and commented that we should do so, so down the road we went.
You never know what to expect on the Wiararapa coast and as I popped my head over the sandy slope down to the surf I spied my first ever sea horse.

To see a larger sized pic, double click on all of the images
Horse and rider-1065-Edit

A beautiful horse was being exercised in the surf. The owner later told me that the horse had, suffered a terrible accident involving barbed wire fencing followed by a bad fall and the injuries were such that the vets had seriously considered putting the magnificent beast to sleep.

A battle over many months with a life threatening infection led the vet to admit it was beyond the capabilities of the antibiotics administered. The owners in a last desperate attempt to save their horse decided to take the beast swimming in the sea, hoping that a course of washing the wounds with salt water would help the situation and this proved to be the case.

For over period of about a month these people had loaded their horse and travelled many miles to this secluded stretch of beach and swam the Horse regularly, the result was that the ugly wounds were at last well on the way to healing.

Horse and rider-1057-Edit

Feeling uplifted by the success story we bid farewell to the lovely couple and their horse.

We noticed some frenzied action further down the beach in the form of a menagerie of birds working a boil up of Kahawai, a Trout like, sea running fish.
A boil up occurs when larger predator fish drive the smaller fish, in this case Herring to the surface of the water where they also become targets for the diving birds. Frenzied attacks continue from both sides until the schools of Herring eventually disperse, the action is always intense and this warranted our further investigation.

Kahawai chasing Herring
Kahawai chaseing Herring

A little background for the theme is warranted before continuing.
I make no bones about being a Bible believing Christian, I filter how I see the world around me through what I have learned from Gods word and I see no contradiction at all between Gods written word and the natural world around us.
The Bible tells us that before Adam sinned, the creation was perfect and without death and suffering. The Animals fed on vegetation and not on each other, man ate the herbs of the field.
But things changed, death and suffering entered the creation because of Adams sin, but God knew this was going to happen, He hopes that as we look around us, we see clearly the consequences of our actions in the natural world and understand that we are forever intimately connected to His creation and wrote the following to encourage us.
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now”
The drama that unfolded before our eyes over the next 3 hours proved just how true Gods Word is.
Survivals at all costs, eat or be eaten, no mercy shown, survival of the fastest, cleverest and the luckiest.
The first evidence of corruption (death) and decay to confront us was a pile of hacked up Shark bodies being jealously guarded by some resident Seagulls.


We hurried past the gruesome scene and made haste down the beach towards the action.
Seagulls and White fronted Terns skilfully wheeled and dived in a well-orchestrated dance of death picking up the Herring that had been driven to the water’s surface by the hungry Kahawai below.

White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata)-1103-Edit

Next the Arctic Skua or Parasitic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus) grabbed our attention.

The Arctic Skua or Parasitic Skua, a first for me.
Skua is the Old Norse name for seagull.
Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus) or Pomarine Jaeger-1169-Edit

These birds chased any other birds with a fish in their beak.

Arctic Skua or Parasitic Skua, (Stercorarius parasiticus) --4

This was the first time Ive come across this bird.
The Parasitic Jaeger is aptly named for the two main strategies it uses to get its food. The first half of the name refers to its habit of stealing food from other birds, termed “kleptoparasitism”. The second word comes from the German word for hunter, pointing to the predatory alter-ego of this aggressive and acrobatic bird of the high seas.

Arctic Skua or Parasitic Skua, (Stercorarius parasiticus) -

Jaegers spend the majority of their lives at sea, coming to land only to breed. Upon leaving their birthplace, many young birds will spend the entire first two years over Open Ocean before returning to the Arctic to nest. During the summer months in the northern hemisphere, Parasitic Jaegers breed across the Arctic polar region of the globe. In the Americas, they nest along the Alaskan coast and Aleutian Islands and across the tundra of northern Canada. They also nest in northern Europe and Asia.
At other times of the year, these migratory seabirds fan out across the oceans of the southern hemisphere.
These birds specialize in harassing other birds, relentlessly pursuing them in mid-air and forcing them to relinquish their food. Prime targets are the White Fronted Terns and Seagulls.

All along the beach front young Terns squawked loudly, waiting impatiently for a parent to return with a small fishy meal of some sort.
Returning parents must run the gauntlet of Skuas and if successful the noisy juvenile Terns gobbled up the hapless fish and continued squawking for the next one, the parent once again heads out into the thick of it.

White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata)-1295-Edit

Passed the Skuas a hard working White Fronted Tern heads for its young

White-fronted Tern (Sterna striata)-1240-Edit

After about 1.5 hours of frenetic activity it began to slow down somewhat, the birds were resting now on full stomachs but just as we were about to leave, a pod of Dolphins arrived on the scene.


The Hunters, (the Kahawai), had become the hunted and the sea erupted with desperately escaping fish in all directions.

Kahawai chaseing Herring

The Dolphins relentlessly worked the schools of Kahawai and Herring, driving them up and down the beach while we watched on from the shore line along with the happy well fed Terns.


Many of the Kahawai were now very close to shore and then when it seemed to be all over, the ultimate predator arrived with the roar of quad bike engines.
Kids leapt off the bikes with the ease that only the youth possess and spinners were hurled into the surf, often followed by immediate hook ups, the Kahawai were winched ashore, man had arrived.

this fish is Foul hooked, the fish were winched out onto the beach, Man had arrived.

Most Kahawai were released back into the surf and both adults and the kids turned the beach into a colourful, loud hive of activity.

The sun sulked lower in the sky, eventually less Kahawai were there for the taking and slowly people started departing for home.


What I had experienced was 3-4 hours of death and survival, peace descended, it was time to move on like the rest of the participants in the drama so the long trudge back up the beach to the car beckoned, at home, a computer hungry for new images and a bottle of red wine awaited me. The mighty Skuas were a first for me, I was happy and content, another day spent in my favourite office.
For those interested in Biblical creation issues I’ve included links regarding the problem with evil and death from CMI.

and some rebuttals that may prove interesting.


What Is Creation, Evolution and Who Cares?

For people who want to get a good working knowledge of creation science, evolution and why it matters, Radar (a supporter of this Project) has some material for you. There are articles, and the series emphasizes videos by Ian Juby. If you have a short attention span, these are not for you. But if you want to spend some time and learn a few things, these will pay off for you.

What is Creation and Evolution and who cares? The beginning…

What is Creation and Evolution…part two

What is Creation and Evolution and who cares? Part Three

What is Creation and Evolution and who cares? Part Four!

What is Creation and Evolution and who cares? Part Five!

What is Creation and Evolution and Who Cares? Part Six

What is Creation and Evolution and Who Cares? Part 7!

What is Creation and Evolution and Who Cares? Part 8!

What is Creation and Evolution and Who Cares? Part 9! The Chinese three wise men edition.

What is Creation and Evolution and Who Cares? Part 10!

What is Creation and Evolution and Who Cares? Part 11!

What is Creation and Evolution and Who Cares? The End?