Category Archives: Native birds

Punakaiki Caching

Hi there to all my old & new friends!

Well, a lot of stuff has happened the seven months or so. At some point, I may post about some of it – or not. For the moment I want to get back to putting some geocaching stuff on this blog. So here is a little walk we went on today.

Here in little ole’ New Zealand, we had a day’s holiday for “Queen’s Birthday. “ It’s not actually the Queen’s birthday today.  Her big day was back in April. But for some reason we always have an honorary day off the first Monday in June.  But I’m ok with that. J

We were planning on travelling away for the weekend, but every place that we would have gone had heavy rain warnings – mind you ,so did home. We decided that if we were going to have rain anywhere, we might as well stay home in front of our nice warm fire & sleep in our own comfy bed.

However, we got a few hours of sunshine today. Yes the sky really does look this blue here – when it’s not raining.

 We went to Punakaiki for lunch and to look for a few caches.  In the end we only got one, but a walk up the Pororari River is always a worthwhile stroll anyway.

Here is a fellow we encountered along the way, who may or may not have anything to do with the cache we found. But I will say he is a familiar friend and this is the third time that we have met him lurking around on the Coast somewhere!

 

Here are some of the picture postcard views that are to be seen in along the track.  The two with blue sky we took on the way in, and the third pic as we were nearing the end of the track on the way out. You can see the sky is turning grey

 

 

 

We encountered a good number of wekas today – a family of three here (I only managed to get two in the photo) and many fantails keeping us company. They never did sit still long enough for me to get a photo though. We heard a good chorus of birds especially at the start of the track – perhaps we were making too much noise after that.

 

We also had a quick walk around the Pancake Rocks & blowholes, but despite rough looking seas and booming surge pools, the actual blowholes were totally inactive.  We didn’t even bother to take any photos as there was nothing to take pics of. We made a quick dash back to the van as the rain just started to settle in.

Hopefully we will get a bit more caching done the next few months. J

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Diva Dog Walking

Last week I was working on the ‘other side of town’ near to PB’s Mum’s place.  The hours I was working left me plenty of time to take Diva the dog for a few walks. She’s been missing out on her walks since MIL had surgery. I really enjoyed walking in a different area of town too.  Diva is a Border collie so she’s pretty energetic , but she seems to be well behaved on walks – more so than the canine rascals at this house!!  MIL lives nearer to the river

and the beach, so there’s lots of great places to walk.  We got in some walks on the streets,

 along the flood wall

and a newish track through a reclaimed area that used to be a rubbish (garbage) dump.

I saw two White Herons, which was a most amazing thing. I’ve only ever seen one in any particular place before. There was one on each side of the flood wall. Unfortunately they are never close enough to get a decent photo with our little point & shoot camera – so look at the links for better photos.  We also saw swans & ducks and a White-Faced Heron.

Let's play spot the white heron!!

 

The White Heron  (Egretta alba modesta) or Kotuku  is quite a rare bird in New Zealand. They breed in only one place near Okarito in South Westland, which you can only see by going on the one tour  which has Department of Conservation permission to go into the area.  PB & I did the tour a few years back and it’s something I’d like to do again one day.  Outside the breeding season solitary kotuku can sometimes be seen throughout New Zealand in estuaries and other waterways.

And spot the Other white heron!!

It is thought that Kotuku were never particularly common in New Zealand but they became endangered as their beautiful plumes were very desirable for decorating ladies’ hats later in the  1800’s. There are perhaps only a couple of hundred at most in New Zealand, although the E. Alba modesta has a wide range including Australia & parts of Asia.  A closely related subspecies may be known to my Northern hemisphere readers as the Great Egret.

Last Picture Taken Sunday

I’m sure this isn’t actually the last photo I took on Sunday, but for some reason it’s showing up last in My Pictures, so I’ll go with it.

Ducks

I was trying for patterns on the water, or ducks for my HooHaa  365 photo.

And it looks like I got neither successfully in this shot!!!

Behind PB’s work there is a pond that is sort of part of a lagoon. But it doesn’t change too much with the sea levels unlike the rest of the lagoon on the other side of the road. This section usually has  Mallard Ducks in it and seagulls round about. Occasionally there is a  Kotuku (White Heron) here and other birds like shags &  swans. We often go there to feed the ducks on the weekends, and sometimes  during the week we have a quick lunch together down there when PB has his half hour lunch break.

For more info on Last Photo Taken Sunday see Tracy’s blog at Tracy’s Topics!

Glacier Caching

We  managed to fit a couple of detours for caches into our weekend, as you do.

 One highlight as far as views go was this one: GC1PPX9 View of Franz Josef Glacier.   And because it was an earthcache it was all about what we could see around us!  A little bit of counting, a bit of geology and GPS skills, and off course the photo.  We were actually very fortunate as some tourists offered to take a photo of us. So, a rare piccy of us together.

Thanks to the tourists!

 This is the one we used for our cache log though:

Cache log photo

 It was also really fortunate that we had a stunning clear sunny day on Sunday. If we’d tried to do this cache on Saturday (not that we had time!!) our photo would have looked more like some of the other ones in the cache gallery.

Glacier View

Of course, if you are not into geology, there are always alternative explanations as to how the glacier got there!!

Tradition

 We did a little detour to another cache GC160J5 Lookout Back There, which is near the Okarito Lagoon, and the forest where the Rowi live.  There was more beautiful scenery, and it proved the ‘Mountains to the Sea’ aspect of the National Park   really well.  From the lookout, I could look west and see the lagoon & the ocean, and look east to the mountains!

Looking east.

  Another very cool experience that we had was an encounter with a South Island Robin  (Petroica australis australis.) The bird we saw was most likely a male due to the distinct colours. He was a very confident little fellow – coming within a foot of me, and not leaving the area even when we were quietly moving about.  We have seen these little birds before – about the size of a chubby sparrow, with longer legs – but this was the closest encounter.  I think we may have been disturbing a few bugs, as we hunted the cache, which was no doubt what he was interested in.

Little Robin

 

There are four species of ‘robin’ in New Zealand (although they are not in fact in the same family as European Robins at all.)   The little fellow we saw is relatively common and his species is not considered to be significantly at risk, although population numbers are monitored.  This is in comparison to his close relative the Black Robin    (Petroica traverse) which once had a population of only 5 individuals  – including one female!!!

Robin View Two!

PB was actually on to the cache almost immediately, though the logs had warned us that it could require a bit of a search, being as it was under tree cover, with the GPS reluctant to zero. But with his usual skill, PB picked where it would be straight away.  The cache was a good one too – an ammo can, with a few good swaps in it. We dropped off a travel bug that we had with us since the Valentine’s Day event in Nelson. It’s a brand new TB which we’d been asked to place somewhere outside of the Nelson area by its owners.  So we left Little Red in the care of one of the other cache occupants.

Little Red & a friend

Rowi

This past weekend PB was involved with the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of Westland-Tai Poutini National Park.  I sort of went along to be his roadie, and kind of to get out of town for a few days.  It was a great weekend over all, and we got a few caches between times.  But my highlight was meeting the rowi.

 The rowi  is New Zealand’s most rare kiwi species. There are around 350 of them, and their main habitat is the South Okarito Forest in South Westland.  It was only discovered in 1994 after DNA studies that they were a separate species. So now NZ officially has five ‘species’ of kiwi at present with 11 different types identified.

 The eggs are taken from the nests and incubated at a wildlife park in the city, then once they hatch, they are taken to a predator-free island until they are about a year old and weigh a kilogram.  At this weight they are big enough to fight a stoat and are much more able to survive in the wild.  Six of these young rowi were released on the weekend, and two of them came to visit at the celebrations. Only the very important guests got to hold one, but the rest of us got a chance to take photos, pat them and talk with the project leader.

Getting the rowi out of his crate.

Rowi with the project leader.

One of the other invited guests and the Honourable Kate Wilkinson, Minister of Conservation

A very rare oportunity to pat a very rare bird. (Terrible photo, but that's what you get sometimes.)

Snuggles with a rowi!!

 The Honourable Minister seemed rather reluctant to give  the little kiwi back, and I have to say he seemed very contented and blissful snuggling with her. Now, I might not agree with her party’s politics, but perhaps she’s the right woman for her job if this little kiwi knows anything!!!

Close Encounters of a Pukeko Kind

(Ken, don’t read this – You’ve been warned OK?)

As you may remember (check here if you don’t – linkie) boggy roadsides and pasture are the one of the favoured hangouts of one of our common New Zealand  birds, the pukeko.  I think  I also mentioned that pukekos are not very bright about roads.

As we started our drive away on our holiday, it was about the time of evening that the pukekos like to graze. So there’s any number of them out in the paddocks (fields) and PB & I are discussing how we must try to get some better  close-up photos of them on this trip.

Then two pop up out of the ditch on the side of the road.  And cross the road.  Just as we are driving towards them. Just as a car is coming towards them on the other side of the road also.  Did I mention before that pukekos aren’t the brightest

We hit one.

The car hit one.

I did mention before that pukekoes are not very road-savy didn’t I?

At least the vehicles didn’t hit each other.

There was no way to avoid them.

It was them, or the other car, or end up in the ditch.

We stopped – the car didn’t.  The one we hit with the van was, well, dead.

PB couldn’t find the other one, so we hope it just got clipped but was OK.

So that was a bad start to our holiday.

Our record  for the whole trip.

Fatalities:

–  Pukekoes   1

–  Small nasty insects  100’s

Near Misses

–          Pukekoes 3

–          Rabbits 2

–          Quail families  5+  (also not very bright about crossing the road)

–          Harrier hawks  1

–          Small birds 10+

 In the end we never did get any really good close-up pic of the pukekos. Here are a few of our efforts.

Annie's Pukeko stalking effort

Parent & Baby

Pukeko & Friends

 

And here are some other pukeko we spotted on the trip.

Camper Pukeko

Motueka Pukeko

Market Pukeko

Pukeko Couple

 

And coming soon to a blog near you are a number of new entries:

A Cache A Day    (including another surprise FTF !)

Limestone Country

Rock On Kiwi Music!

And

 Freedom Camping in New Zealand (or Would You Poo behind a Bush?)

Just a Bit of Mud.

Two caching blogs in two days – aren’t you all lucky!!  Hopefully I will get some postcards up later too, as in the end I had an exceptional mail week.

PB and I just went on a little local trip today. We majorly slept in, so we missed church, and thought we’d make use of the not-raining weather to go caching.

The two caches we were aiming for are up a short hill walk over near the centre of town –we’ve been up and down this track quite a number of times. (Even before we got into geocaching!) Apparently one of the caches we were going for is in its third incarnation – we never got the first one as it was before our time, but we did find the second one.  These ones have been right at the top of the track, and it’s always a bit interesting to get there as the terrain is very dependent on the weather. We knew that it was going to be sticky as one of the other locals had been up yesterday and reported it in his on-line log – along with the fact that he’d seen about ten other people –  so we put on our ‘muddy’ shoes and headed out.

I considered taking the dogs, but we didn’t in the end – they would have been plastered in mud!!! (Which might have been funny to see) But there were also Poison signs, so just as well they stayed home.

Danger for Dogs

Possums  are a real problem in New Zealand. They are an Australian native and not at all a nuisance over there. However, here in little NZ they are a persistent pest that destroys our native bush and birdlife.  They are most commonly killed by poisoning- with either ‘1080’ (sodium monofluoroacetate) or cyanide in the form of potassium cyanide.  Both of these are highly toxic to dogs – in fact, to humans as well. Dogs will be affected if they eat something that has eaten the poison, never mind contacting the poison directly. So that really restricts the places on the West Coast that it is safe to take dogs.  There are major debates about the effectiveness of these poisons in protecting our native birds and people with very strong opinions on both sides of the issues.

View towards Town

River Mouth

However – I digress! We headed up the hill to our first cache Bill’s Vista. And a nice vista it is, but no luck with the cache.  The previous (very experienced) searchers hadn’t found it either after a few logs of the ‘easy find’ type, so we think perhaps it’s gone.    With the easy part of the hill done, we prepared for mud.

There was some mud – evidence below – but it wasn’t as bad as we expected!!

Just a Little Mud

Perhaps the heavy traffic yesterday squished all the water out of the track!  Up and up we scrambled and slithered until about half an hour later  we were less than 20 metres from GZ – only to have that horrible thing happen where the cache starts to get further away instead of closer! Fortunately we knew from previous excursions up this hill that it would be only a small temporary glitch, and we were soon at the final lookout.  I took a few minutes to recover, but it appears that PB’s geo-instincts recovered more quickly than mine as he was soon onto the cache. GC21PWH I am King Track the III

PB was on to it!

We sat up there for a bit admiring the view from the top and spying on a weka going about his daily life.  He did make a brief appearance out on the track while I had camera in hand, but there after stayed scuttling about behind bushes so we didn’t get another chance for a photo.

Weka on the Move

So even though we had a 50% success rate on our cache hunting and the day never got past overcast, it was a good chance to get out for a bit of exercise and re-visit a familiar spot.

River Valley