Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Cormorant cards

As a way of getting back into my art I have started to do small drawings which I can make into cards.
Here are a couple of my recent cormarant drawings and the associated cards completed.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Piha to Anawhata walking

While on holiday in New Zealand we enjoyed many walks taking in the flora and fauna. On this hike we walked from the north beach at Piha to Anawhata beach and back.

Piha is a beach on the west coast of The North Island about an hour from Auckland. It is particularly known for its amazing surf. The backdrop to the beach is sub tropical temperate rainforest of the Waitakere range. The beach has a large rock part way along the beach known as lion rock for obvious reasons. The name Te Piha comes from the Maori meaning divided ripple at the bow of the canoe which the waves breaking around the rock are likened to. Piha is a destination for beach and surf lovers. The sand here is black due to the volcanic nature of the rocks and it has a high iron content.

Piha beach looking North

Piha beach looking South

Our walk took us from the north end of Piha beach on a trail over the headland to Whites beach. It was named after Francis White a blacksmith whose son purchased land here. The family of Sir Edmund Hillary own a bach here. A bach is a small holiday home or beach house.

Whites beach

We took a trail that took us back up the valley onto a track to Anawhata beach. This beach is accessible via a gravel track and then a path that takes you down through groves of Kanuka and Manuka, very similar trees.

Anawhata beach

There is a very interesting rock formation which looks like a key hole, see photo. There is also a semi circular sand dune at the back of the beach.


On the beach we saw three pied shag (or cormorants) which Hazel regularly sees here. Apparently it is common to see them but they are endangered. They are very majestic birds with long necks and white feathers on the throat and under belly. The eyes are blue and there is a yellow spot in front of the eye which is very distinctive. They are very elegant in the way they walk and also in the way they hold their wings out to dry.

Three pied shag

Pied shag 

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Gannet Colony, Muriwai

In the summer (Dec to Feb) it is possible to see Australasian Gannets on the New Zealand mainland at Muriwai, about an hour from Auckland. The gannet colony is at Otakamiro point, Muriwai, on the west coast of The North Island. The Maori name for them is Takapu pronounced tah-kah-pooh. Every year the Gannets arrive here to breed and raise a chick. Each pair has a single egg which hopefully hatches into a fluffy white chick. We were lucky enough to visit in February when there were a range of chicks from the white fluffy to those malting and almost ready to leave the nest. The coastline is very fragile here and tourists must stick to the paths and board walks provided. The scenery is stunning and being able to get so close to the birds is a real privilege.

Here are some of our photos:-

The birds are really beautiful to watch in flight as they sore on the upward drafts. They are notable for their spectacular fishing style, spotting their pray and then diving, wings folded into the sea from high in the air.

What I cannot do is give you a sense of the smell but if you can imagine a lot of sardines just eaten then that would be about right!

The adult birds are quite large and make a rather risky nose dive to land somewhere near the chick. Often they are then pecked at as they try to get to feed their chick. You will notice that the scrapes/nests are around a pecking distance apart!

This parent has had a late chick, he waits while the other parent fishes. As they get bigger both parents fish leaving the chick to fend for itself.

What a real privilege to be able to see these amazing birds.

Fantail Art

Here are some of my drawings of New Zealand fantails. These birds have a personality of there own. In the forest they seem to find you and when they do, they flit around sort of leading you on. They don't sit still for very long so my pictures are done from photos we took. I just love them as they appear to be talking to each other, cheeping, we often saw them in pairs.

Common fantails

Fantail from below!

Black fantails

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

New Zealand fantails

On our visit to New Zealand I have been fascinated by all the different birds we have seen. We saw the New Zealand fantail on many of our walks and even in the garden. Their Maori name is Piwakawaka which I also quite like.

They are similar to our British tit family in size but they have a fantail. The breast colour varies from a russet brown to a sooty black. The tails are flickering silver and black with the centre feather quite often black although we did see both pure black fantails and pure while fantails. The two distinct types are the common pied fantail and the black fantail (less common 4%). The common fantail has distinct flashes of white, over the eyes, under the beak and on the wings. They use their fantails for flight, feeding and display. They can use the fantail to sweep across foliage and dislodge insects which they eat. We noticed that they were often seen in pairs.. They tend to flit from perch to perch and they are quite agile in flight twisting and turning. They are quite difficult to photograph as a result.

We saw black fantails on the Kepler track between the control tower to rainbow reach. The majority of the time we saw the common fantails.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Life in our bubble

Today is Monday 6th April. I had a good nights sleep and feel quite rested. The world outside here was calm and relaxed. The noise was low and there wasn't too much light last night.

I have been for a walk in our local park called Heron Park named after the white-faced Heron. It is a lovely park with lots of paths, some in the open and some through the trees. I have noticed that the white faced Heron is smaller than our UK Heron and has yellow legs. I will be doing a bit of research to find out more while in level 4 lockdown.

I met and talked to two people on my walk at 2m away. One was from American Samoa called Martin. He was tending to the garden of a house. He had a lovely smile on his face, he said he enjoyed the outdoors. It was difficult for me to understand him but we both agreed that it was lovely to be in the outdoors and say how much we loved it.  The second person or people was a mother and her daughter. She was speaking French so I said Bonjour. That started a conversation in French, gosh it all flooded back .. I love the language. I have never been that good at it but it was lovely to renew and practice. The lady said she and her husband had been living here in New Zealand for 9 years. I spoke to the daughter in English I asked her her name and she game the name of a character in Frozen, Elsa. Her mother tried to get her to give her real name.

I took some photos in the park. A tree with crocheted flowers around it. And one with crocheted squares. I photographed the tree which stands as an interesting sculpture. I also photographed a pine tree with lots of sparrows.

Monday, 30 March 2020

On the other side of the world!

Today is the 30th March 2020. A week ago I had a text from my friend Hazel while on holiday to tell us that New Zealand was going into level 4 lockdown in 2 days. We needed to decide what to do .. holiday over .. go home? No flights. Return to Auckland and be locked down with them. We were so grateful for her offer, at least we had a friend who could help us.

It has been surreal hearing all the news. Is it really happening and I feel like I'm upside down? Especially as we contact loved ones at home at the beginning and end of our day .. rather strange.

I finally feel like I am listening .. the road messages are clear ... Stay calm, be kind.

I read this message in the park today - not sure if it's Maori text?
"That this incoming tide is not the breaking of waves upon the reef, but the rising tide of humankind reaching for this distant horizon, carried ashore upon hopes and aspirations.
Welcome to the pillow on which rests the dreams of those who came before you""

I also overheard a Maori man say "it's time everyone slowed down".

Feeling so lucky to be here.