Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Meander

More from our travels through New Zealand November 2019

The staircase in my last post, was much admired, so I thought you might like this beautiful boardwalk.

Why travel in a straight line when you can meander. This is a typical Department of Conservation path

NZ DOC curve walk

Like the staircase, they allow the average visitors (and locals) to access places that they could never see otherwise.

NZ DOC board close up

 

NZ swamp walk_

Mr Uphilldowndale stopped on his meander to watch the  little fish swimming in the swamp beneath his feet.

NZ DOC swamp fish

The DOC provide information boards, and suggested routes and the time needed to complete them, perfect for the travellers!

NZ DOC board_

Walk across the swamp and the path leads you into the rain-forest,

NZ Spanish Moss_it seems possible almost everywhere in New Zealand  to walk through every type of environment in a few strides.

NZ DOC zone 3

New Zealand has a fern for every occasion

NZ DOC pink fern

NZ brown fern

To my untrained eye its difficult to know what is a fern

NZ fren 2

and what is a moss or a leaf

NZ bridge Moss 1

But I can tell you there is abundant beauty

NZ tree buds

 

 


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Kea, a very smart bird

 

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

Kea are alpine parrots, found in parts of South Island, New Zealand,  my first sighting was in the carpark at Arthurs Pass, sat on top of a bus shelter!

Sadly this  particular bird wasn’t interested in coming down to see us, which was a shame as they are very inquisitive birds, with a reputation for being a bit cheeky,  how did we find a shy Kea?.

So I was delighted to get to see one up close, this time in the car park at the Fox Glacier ( car parks, a reoccurring theme?)

They are a beautiful bronze green colour, not much smaller than a domestic chicken, with  bright crimson red feathers under their wing, which flash as they take flight.

NZ kia moss

Will you look at that beak!  This beak and the birds intelligence, its  ability to learn from each other is what drove them to the brink of extinction,  they developed a taste for mutton fat. This didn’t endear them to the  European settler farmers.

Kea NZ

 

Some birds perch on sheeps’ backs and dig through skin and muscle on the rump to reach the fat around the kidneys, which can result in fatal septicaemia. This behaviour is not common, but was the reason why kea were persecuted for over a hundred years.

Between 1860 and 1970, some 150,000 birds were killed for bounty.

If that wasn’t enough, ground nesting birds, the Kia are vulnerable to large ‘wipe out’  from  predator rodents when the beech mast is heavy. (It was not very long ago that the it was explained to me that ‘masting’  is a movable feast  and I call myself a country girl? )

Date:  08 April 2019 Source:  Office of the Minister of Conservation

Results from extensive seed sampling across the country in February and March point to the biggest beech mast for more than 40 years with exceptionally heavy seed loads in South Island forests. Rimu forests and tussock grasslands in the South Island are also seeding heavily.

Forest seeding provides a bonanza of food for native species but also fuels rodent and stoat plagues that will pose a serious threat to native birds and other wildlife as predator populations build up next spring and summer.

We saw evidence of this plague strolling in the forest near Arthur’s Pass, dozens and dozens of little rodents scampering across the path.

NZ rodent beech mast Arturs Pass

It was more  a climb than a stroll, through the forest. Stunningly beautiful.

NZ steps Arturs Pass 2

To the  Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall

NZ waterfall Arturs Pass 2

The Kia are curious and smart birds, they know, that wherever tourist are they are in with a chance of being fed, despite many notices explaining how this is not good for these rare birds.

So now to the most disturbing image of a Kia.  From the Department of Conservation social media feed.

My social media feed is awash with  birds,

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/03/study-finds-parrots-weigh-up-probabilities-to-make-decisions?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1_aJMi782ixSsngw7L0TYFsc0Al2cK5x60qY7DP5OYMekYPFIWUnUIj2w#Echobox=1583269684

And  penguins,  I had to share this, for Shoreacres 

And this because it made me smile. People who care for birds make me smile.


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Oh little blue

More from our travels through New Zealand 2019

Whilst I’d resigned myself to not being able to identify most of the wonderful birds we came across on our trip, and I’d no desire to go to see captive birds, we were agreed it was worthwhile putting some effort into seeing a couple of species we were unlikely to see anywhere else in the world.

Penguins were were in pole position.  We were extremely lucky, whilst on a trip to Doubtful Sound, to see Fiordland Crested  penguinn, look it’s here, in the centre of the photo, sat on a rock, can you see it?

Fiordland penguin NZ bird

I know, hardly a National Geographic image is it! But never mind, we got a better look with Mr Uphilldowndales binoculars, which were a gift from his employers for 30 years service, and are very useful for seeing into the future. */**

We tried again at Curio Bay. We waited, and waited as dusk fell, but they didn’t show.

NZ penguin only

We’d been told that the town of Oamaru  held the best chance to see the Little Blue penguins,

I can’t think about the  little blue penguins  without out this song running on a loop in my head.  Little blue, how do you do.

The town is very proud of its penguins, this ‘green box’ (utility box) made me smile.

NZ penguin Oamaru

The residents look out for their welfare,

Penguin sign NZ

(although I was a little alarmed by the speed of the tourist coaches leaving this area, after dusk, when they were still coming ashore)

You can pay to see them from a visitor centre, but we were told we didn’t need to do that.  I got very excited when I saw footprints in the sand.

NZ penguin footprint_

Down by the waterfront we found one of the penguin wardens, clad in hi-vis vest, they were more than happy to tells us all they knew about their special residents.  And tell us where to wait and how not to disturb them as they waddled back to their nests.

They come ashore in rafts, as in swimming together, not sitting on rafts! The thought of rafts coming ashore does kind of conjure up an image of something slow moving; wrong, they are more like little torpedoes!

NZ penguin landfall

It was too dark, to capture much in the way of images, as you can see. But I’m thrilled to say I saw them

NZ penguin shoreline_

And what’s more, a pair were nesting under some decking, very near where we were staying, and I drifted off to sleep that night, listening to their distinctive calls, (starts at 11 seconds)

Which was every bit as magical as the  NZ dawn chorus.

*we forgot to take them out with us 75% of the times we needed them, on the Doubtful Sound trip we remembered them, but forgot the packed lunch!

**At Mr Uphilldowndale’s long service awards dinner, every employee at our table was, like Mr Uphilldowndale, working their notice, having been made redundant. It has to be said though, he’s never looked back.

30 years of employment with the same employer is a thing of the past I guess. 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.penguins.co.nz/

 


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Bird talk #3

More from our travels through New Zealand November 2019

I mentioned in Bird talk #1 how striking the birdsong is in  NZ,  and  I’m not the first to think so.

When the Endeavour first sailed into Marlborough Sound in, 1770.  The botanist  Joseph Banks  wrote.

NZ Banks birdsong_

What a thing it must have been to hear, after time at sea.

But the predators that both the Maori and the Europeans brought with them began to have a devastating impact on the birds (that is still ongoing to this day… ) 

But there were some amazingly perceptive conservation pioneers.

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the death of conservationist Richard Henry who pioneered moving endangered native birds to island sanctuaries, to save them from extinction, more than 120 years ago.

I’m bewitched by this image by Ricardo Scott  showing Henry.

Richard Henry

rescuing Kakapo, a flightless, nocturnal parrot.

I’m bewitched by the birds too, there is something so endearing about them, they look so helpless I guess,  it reminds me of childlike clinging of Australian Koalas, that we’ve seen so much footage of in the last few months, as the lucky ones were plucked from the bush fires.  Who wouldn’t want to rescue them

I never saw one of course, they are now very rare as well as nocturnal, but I get a daily fix, in my social media feed each morning.

And I’ve also discovered another way to relive the sounds of NZ birdsong.  And it’s become my go to track to sooth a disturbed nights sleep .


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Bird talk #2

More from our travels through New Zealand November 2019

Before mankind arrived in New Zealand,  it was the place of birds, there were no mammals, save for a couple of species of bat.

When humans arrived in New Zealand about 700 years ago the environment changed quickly. Several species were hunted to extinction, most notably the moa (Dinornithidae) and Haast’s eagle (Harpagornis moorei). The most damage was caused by habitat destruction and the other animals humans brought with them, particularly rats – the Polynesian rat or kiore introduced by Māori and the brown rat and black rat subsequently introduced by Europeans. Mice, dogs, cats, stoats, weasels, pigs, goats, deer, hedgehogs, and Australian possums also put pressure upon native bird species. The flightless birds were especially sensitive.  

NZ able tasmin nesting gull

New Zealand takes its nature conservation very, very, seriously. It has a zero tolerance of anything coming into the country that might pose a threat to the endemic wildlife. When you arrive in New Zealand, don’t expect to skip through bio-security checks. (I’d had a heads up on this from Tom, when he went out to NZ he took two mountain bikes out with, I saw the hours of cleaning prep he put into them before he packed them up).

With our farm address,  all our footwear disinfected before we were allowed to pass through, it all took some time, but mainly because we were the last passengers off   the last of four planes that arrived in quick succession into Queenstown airport, that and the fact we were behind a party of a dozen or so South Koreans, who seemed to have suitcases filled with food!

The Department of Conservation, seems a much more robust organisation than anything we have in the UK,  they’ve nailed their colours to the mast.

Predator Free 2050 is an ambitious goal to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten our nation’s natural taonga, our economy and primary sector.

Join us in eradicating New Zealand’s most damaging introduced predators: rats, stoats and possums. Going predator free will bring us a huge range of environmental, cultural, social and economic benefits.

Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) brings together central and local government, iwi, philanthropists, non-government organisations, businesses, science and research organisations, communities, land owners and individuals like you.

It can be a  controversial programme, especially the use of poison  which is dropped by helicopter into the bush, as well as baited traps.

NZ no trapping_

there are bounties too

NZ possum

In the UK we have ‘hospitals’ for hedgehogs, but in NZ hedgehogs are on the wanted list, because of  their  voracious appetite for the eggs of ground nesting birds.

There is obviously a large education programme ongoing too.  Trying to engage the next generation in Predator Free by 2050, by getting them to design a rat trap. (As seen in the stunning Te Papa museum in Wellington)  

It made me smile,  but on balance I think the rat might have preferred the poison.

NZ rat trap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Quiet contemplation

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

Stone stacking, it seems to be a thing wherever you go these days. I’m not sure what to think of it, it lent a little foreground interest to this shot I guess. 

NZ lake Pukaki Stone stack

Stone stacking is considered by many to be damaging to the environment, I reckon if you tried anywhere near a drystone wall here in Derbyshire, you’d have an irate farmer on your tail!

Lake Pukaki, a stunning place to sit and contemplate, whilst mindfully (or mindlessly) stacking rocks I guess.  Looks serene doesn’t it?

Just don’t look left of shot.

NZ lake Pukaki Stone stack non zen

Selfie paradise was in full swing. I don’t think this party of Chinese tourist would have been stone stacking, in general the Chinese tour groups didn’t seem to stay anywhere very long.  Just long enough to satiate their seemingly obsessive  need for selfies, I’ll lay odds on that, the wedding dress tour passed through here.

Tom wasn’t too impressed, he was hatching a plan to return at dawn and knock down the stone towers. He likes his landscapes left as nature intended.

NZ long white cloud view_