Daily Archives: November 27, 2009

From the Netherlands

This is my 6th Postcrossing card received – a lovely floral card. (It also has a very cute kitten on the back on a return address sticker.) Thanks to Lenny from the Netherlands.  Seeing as the back of the card doesn’t have any information about what the flower is, I have researched the city it came from.

Beautiful Flowers

Stamps

Being from a country that has had European settlements for only just a couple of hundred years, the thought of living in a city that is around a thousand years old amazes me. The city of Gorinchem is one such place.  It is considered  to have initially developed as farmers and fishermen settled on the higher land near the  mouth of the River Linge. During the 13th century a wall was built around the settlement – initially earth mounds, and later a wall with gates and guard towers.

In the 16th century the walls were rebuilt  around a larger area, and this wall remains today.  Over the centuries these walls have been needed for protection in a number of different battles – including the never-ending Dutch battle against water taking over their land. (40% of the Netherlands is actually below sea level.) A walking tour can be taken today to learn about the history of the wall and to investigate the main features of it.  This link has photos of many of these places: Town Wall

This is an amazing website that the photos above are part of:  Gorinchem- the Key to Holland  and here is a site which I think is the council website that has  a page in English:  Gorinchem Council

And by the way, there are 10 caches within 5 kilometres of wherever geocaching.com considers the centre of Gorinchem starting with a webcam cache: GCJVC4 SpijksePoort   and I’m sure that some of the others will be at some of the historic features on the town wall!

 

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Of Pukekos and Geocaches

You see why we were puzzled about the coot?  (See my posts here and here if you want to know more.)   When this is what’s familiar to you, the coot seemed somewhat like a pukeko morphed into an old B&W photo!!

Marauding pukeko

We We(s)t Coasters are very much accustomed to seeing pukeko (Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus) as we travel about. Everywhere that there is a bit of farmland with water nearby, or a bit of swampy ground, there will be a pukeko family or three going about their daily business of stripping bits of tough grass to eat, or chomping on insects and frogs and even other small birds if they get the chance.  These would be one of the most commonly seen native birds in New Zealand, along with the weka perhaps, for those who venture past the bright lights of the towns and cities.

This is because the pukeko, if no other New Zealand bird, has actually thrived since the arrival of humans!!  They have taken to the farmland and semi-cleared areas of the country and so long as there is swampy ground nearby numbers of pukeko can been seen grazing in paddocks(fields) and on the road side.  (Or unfortunately squashed on the road.)

Some of them have even become quite upper class and moved into town – like this one!  We were literally mobbed by pukeko as we approached this cache – GC15W4N Pukeko’s and Paradise Ducks – on a trip to the city a few years ago.  Our log records that we retreated to the cachemobile to get bread to fend them off with.   We were visiting the Travis Wetland Heritage area, which is an amazing place right in the middle of an urban area.  Read more about its history here and here.  

This particular gaggle of pukeko live in the rather up-market subdivision of  Travis  Country Estate – the sort of place where you drive up in your old, slightly dubious looking vehicle, and wonder if you’re going to be politely asked to leave for polluting the ambiance of the neighbour hood! 

Never-the-less, we parked, got out, got mugged by birds, got back in again, collected defensive food supplies, got out again, distracted the surrounding hordes long enough to find the path and went off to find a cache.  We were successful on our hunt, and returned to the cachemobile breathing a sigh of relief that it hadn’t been towed for being an unsightly heap. We  found one or two other caches in the area, then drove around to the other side of Travis Wetland to a cache – GC171AA Unlucky for some —  (yes, I know, we could have walked – the track does go all the way round, but …. well, I’m sure we WILL walk the whole way round. One day. )

This cache was also the site of another novel pukeko experience. We saw a pukeko sitting in a tree. Now it may not be too uncommon to see a bird sitting in a tree, but for those of us who have seen a pukeko fly, it was a most unusual experience. If there was ever a bird that was lacking in aerodynamic design, it’s the pukeko. Their long legs dangle below and behind them, seemingly ready to get tangled in their long wings or any approaching tree or fence, or simply knotted together  without the slightest bit of warning.

Now, information I’ve been reading today assures me that Porphyrio porphyrio are strong flyers and that this skill has been very useful to help them colonise a wide area of the world (see here for more info of the areas they inhabit ) , but honestly the New Zealand subspecies sure missed out on the flying gene!

So, as promised pukeko – and at least I mentioned geocaching. I am hoping that we will have a caching road trip this weekend- it’s a three dayer here – and will have more caching experiences and photos to share next week.

 I might even have another Postcrossing blogpost up later as I received postcard #6 today.  Roll on more cards – I enjoy opening my mail box to find more than bills!!