Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve

 The last day of 2012. I will need to start a new folder on my computer for my photos tomorrow and catch up on all my cataloging so I can find images when I want them. This morning I was up early, the sun was shining, the birds were chirping and the camera was sitting begging me to pick it up. So I did.  I love that I can take nature shots without even leaving the house, it is such a treat!

The next week will be an intensive photography week for me, my mother is coming to stay and being a keen photographer herself, she wants to go to all my local haunts to see what she can capture. So visits to Zealandia, the Zoo, Matiu/Somes Island are but a few of the places we will be going to. By the end of the week I am going to be ready to go back to work for a rest!

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Enjoying the holidays..

The wind plays havoc with Tui feathers!
Our back garden is slowly changing from its former life as a car yard to a haven for wild birds. Today we added two new plants to the mix. Passionfruit have always been a treat for me as I haven't had them growing where I lived since I was a small child. Today we planted two of them along the back fence, so hopefully they will grow and produce much fruit!  They have the added advantage of having fantastic flowers for photography. I plan to do some interesting macro shots with them next year.

It is interesting that the more we do to the garden, the more bird visitors we get. One tui that visits two or three times a day found that yesterday we had no sugar water out for him. It was like he really didn't believe it, so he jumped around all the trees and down onto the BBQ looking for it. Sadly he went without, but he was back again today and happy to have me wander around him with the camera while he had his fill from the feeder. He knows now, if it is not there one day it will be there another day.

The waxeye numbers are slowly building once more and I can hear chicks calling again. I have seen them but not been able to photograph them as yet. They are a bit skittish and fly off when they see me. One waxeye that visits has lost the bottom half of its beak. I don't know how this might have happened but it dosen't seem to worry it that much and it did look healthy other than the beak issue.

The Tui is becoming quite the poser for the camera!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Camping out...

The weather is overcast and light rain from time to time but as it is our holidays it was hard to say no when a friend suggested we go out with the cameras. We chose Petone Estuary and went pretty much prepared for anything. Camp chairs for comfort (because we are patient and wait for the birds to come to us), light stands to hold up our umbrellas (to shade us from the sun or shelter us from the rain) and the odd rock or two as a foot stool.

Our patience paid off when a couple of white faced herons wandered over our way and entertained us with their fishing antics. There was the odd seagull silly enough to think we had food for them, an oyster catcher that was missing a foot, but the highlight of the day was the Royal Spoonbill that showed no fear of us at all and happily wandered around our camp feeding on the weed.

When the tide moved further out so did we. We picked up the chairs and moved out onto the seaweed in the middle of the lagoon in the hope of getting a better view. I think the only people getting a better view were those on the bridge laughing at us. Even the birds laughed at us. Must have really been quite a sight ;)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas at Pauatahanui Inlet

There were a huge number of white-faced herons at the inlet today. Not sure if it was the hot weather or just the right low tide but there were lots of them. Unfortunately I disturbed a few of them without realising it as they were hiding down in the reeds and as I walked past they took flight. I am better at the reaction time though and managed to capture some of the departures.

I was surprised to see that one of the white-faced herons was a little different to the rest. I didn't get a great photo of it or I would have shared it here, but instead of having a white face, its whole head was white. I hope to go back another time and get a better shot of it.

I saw what I thought was swans and sygnets in the distance so we jumped in the car and drove around to where they were. Not swans at all! Canada Geese were swimming about in the shallow water with a whole heap of goslings. I am not sure if it was two or three families but they were all intermingling in the same area. The goslings looked rather funny, adult bodies and baby feathers.


The bird bath

It has been very hot here the last few days and I have taken to relaxing in the back of the house by the open doors with my feet up enjoying the breeze. Of course I have my camera sitting on my knee and if the birds are brave enough to make it to the birdbath then I can photograph them. The birds think it is far to close to the camera but the heat of the afternoon made them a little bit braver.

Once they get used to it being there and my not hurting them I am sure the opportunities to photograph bird water play will increase. You could call me a lazy photographer doing this but I am finding that the longer you just sit and watch the birds, the better versed you become in their behaviour and better able you are to predict their movements. Getting that good shot is all about patience.

I had lots of patience while I was shooting these images, I fell asleep in my chair and had a nice snooze. I am surprised the snoring didn't scare the birds away!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Newcomers and regulars

We have several bird species visiting our garden now but every now and then I am surprised by a newcomer. I am not overly happy about the latest one because he may return with all his mates! I am hoping not and won't be putting any scraps out for a day or so to discourage it.

For the regulars of course there will always be food out for them, or at least that is the intention. Sometimes they get greedy and the food trays run out during the day when I am not here. We have a tui who comes by at least twice a day for a quick drink of the sugar water then is off on his merry way.

It is easy to know when he is going to visit because ALL of the other birds scatter and hide. I guess the tui is at the top of the pecking order in our garden. He commands privacy while he feeds and other than myself and the camera he gets it!

The newcomer is a pigeon. He's not even a pretty pigeon and certainly looks well fed. I hope he was just bought here by the strong winds and can find his way home - pigeons are supposed to be able to do that I believe. I really don't want the smaller birds scared away by a flock of hungry pigeons.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Altering the Universe

The puddle has dried up for the Summer and even if we fill it, it is just getting slimy and icky. The birds were still doing their best to get some water out of the dried mud, so yesterday I dragged out last years broken bird bath and rigged it up for them to use instead. It took about 3 hours before they trusted it enough to try it out. Today it is a part of their universe and not at all scarey like it was the day before.

The birdbath started out full, however I think I am going to be heading out there again soon to refill it. The blackbirds are great at splashing the water all over the place and it makes it difficult for the sparrows to reach when they want a drink.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cape Kidnappers Gannet Colonies

Last weekend I traveled to Hastings with two fellow photographers with the intention of photographing the gannets and their chicks at Cape Kidnappers. Unfortunately due to the recent weather the nesting is about a month behind normal so there were very few chicks to be seen.

We went out on the Overland Safari bus which takes us right to the edge of the colony and usually you stay there for about 90 minutes or there abouts and then go back with the bus. We didn't go back, we had come prepared with camp chairs, chilly bag full of food and drink and our cameras and we were there for the day. There was another bus later in the day that took us back.

It was quite an experience sitting on the top of the cliff with no one else around. The birds calm down a lot after the buses leave and go about their daily lives. Seaweed is a very important commodity used for nest building and to entice the ladies. The male birds would bring in the seaweed and drape it over the female's head and back in an affectionate way. We decided it was more about providing moisture than anything else but who knows. The juvenile birds would bring in the seaweed and have no idea what to do with it so it was inevitable that fights over seaweed would follow.

The female gannets would then take the weed and position it carefully around the nest mound. Small mounds means they are younger birds, or newer matings. Older birds have larger mounds because they use them year after year. The colony is slowly growing and DOC have recently moved the protection fence back a few metres to allow for the growth. This gave the younger birds new weeds and grass to peck and and a fresh runway to take off from.

We saw several eggs over the course of the day but only one chick. So I didn't quite achieve the shots I was after of little white fluffy chicks but never mind. I have several hundred gannets in flight instead! All the practice with the shags really paid off because I managed to get some lovely sharp shots - a huge improvement from my previous visits to Cape Kidnappers.