Uphilldowndale

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


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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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Bird talk #1.

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019.

One of the first things I noticed when I stepped out of the car at our accommodation in Wanaka, was the birdsong, beautiful melodious birdsong.

Tom told me ‘This is nothing, wait till we get to Fiordland’.

I’m going to like this place I thought. I’d better buy a bird book. So the next morning I tracked down the book shop and bought myself a copy of The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. A weighty tome.  Later with a glass of nicely chilled Sauvignon  Blanc I started my studies, I opened the page at cuckoo, good place to start, I know what a cuckoo looks like,  only to find that  there a possible six species of cuckoo in New Zealand, two endemic and four vagrant. Humm, this is going to be a bigger job than I realised.

New Zealand is home to over 200 native bird species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. 

So at that moment I decided that trying to identify different species, or even attempting to photograph them, was missing the point, much better, I thought, to simply enjoy.

And wherever you are in the world, garrulous gulls are always going to pitch up, if only to see what is in your pack-up.

NZ able tasmin gull posturing

So be it a little bird

NZ bird fan tail -!

a big bird

NZ Picton bird

a wading bird

NZ bird spoonbill

a pair of squabbling birds

NZ bird waders

or a bird enhancing a photo composition. NZ bird on fence

Every bird is a joy.

 

 

 

 


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The scent of the sea.

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

A stroll to Nugget Point,  Catlins Conservation Park,  South Island, the rocks were named by Captain Cook, because of their golden colour,

NZ Nugget point light house 2_

The the drop from the path was precipitous in places, not Mr Uphilldowndales favourite kind of terrain.

NZ Nugget point light house 4

We could look down on dive boats and fur seals wallowing in sun warmed rock pools.

NZ Nugget point divers_

The east coast of South Island, it’s not a sheltered spot.  The wind shorn shrubs, look like they’ve been applied with a palette knife, smeared on to the exposed cliff face.

NZ Nugget point lighthouse cliff

Each shrub finding its own crevice to anchor its roots.

NZ Nugget point shrub root

You’d think the predominant scent of a place like this, would be the tang  of brine and seaweed (but it seems there is more to the scent of the sea than that).

But  to my surprise and delight, the strongest scent was that of flowers, this one seemed to be the most perfumed, but I don’t know what it is.

NZ Nugget point scented flowers

But I’m pretty sure this is a daisy, clinging to the edge of the world. A Catlin costal daisy?

NZ Nuget point_

It is so nice to be looking through the photos of our trip, with their sunshine and colour, whilst storm Dennis rages at the window. 

 

 

 

 


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Follow the signs

From our travels through New Zealand  November 2019

I was very taken with the pedestrian crossing signs in New Zealand’s towns and cities.

Instruction delivered with an inclusive and light touch.

Stop and go Maori style.

NZ Red stop_

NZ green stop_

In Napier, a beautifully preserved Art Deco town ( yet another post that must be written!) What I first thought to be a nod to guide dogs, turned out to be a tribute to Sheila Williams and her dog Raven.

Miss Williams led the New Napier Week Carnival in January 1933 to celebrate the town’s recovery from the devastating earthquake in 1931.

Crossing light green dog

 

Crossing light red dog

Not the sharpest of photos, but trying to take them whilst crossing the road,  passed as an extreme sport in my book.

At the library

NZ wise Dr_

In Picton,  a list of warnings,

NZ picton OK fun

so it’s OK to have fun, especially if it involves, ignoring the second instruction on the list.  Just standing on the rail would be enough for me, let alone jumping!

NZ Picton Jump

Some signs warm the cockles of your heart

Support centre NZ

And some are more worrying, and makes you think that as a tourist, what do you see, or more importantly understand about the places you pass through?

NZ no gangs

Something else we noticed, a Kiwi, doesn’t go indoors in dirty boots.  It’s just not polite,  outside the bank, please note muddy footprints from utility vehicle to kerb, and discarded gum boots (or wellies as they would be known in the UK).

NZ muddy boots_

I’ll leave you with this thought.

NZ bread

 

 

 


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Time and tide

More from our travels in New Zealand,  November 2019

Had we not spent so long, wining and dining at Fleurs Place, we’d have arrived to see more the famous Moeraki boulders, before the tide came in!

Moeraki Boulders 3

Tide and a bit of rain wasn’t going to deter us though.

A Moeraki boulder wired aren’t they? Even more other worldly when emerging from the ground.

Moeraki Boulders 2

The broken ones reminded me of the contents of an ancient, open packet of Maltesers,   the kind of thing you might find in the back of the glove box in the car.*

NZ Moeraki boulders inside 2

But here is the scientific explanation

concretion is a hard, compact mass of matter formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between particles, and is found in sedimentary rock or soil.[1] Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape, although irregular shapes also occur. The word ‘concretion’ is derived from the Latin con meaning ‘together’ and crescere meaning ‘to grow’. Concretions form within layers of sedimentary strata that have already been deposited. They usually form early in the burial history of the sediment, before the rest of the sediment is hardened into rock. This concretionary cement often makes the concretion harder and more resistant to weathering than the host stratum.

NZ Moeraki boulders inside

The Maori oral tradition explanation, I understand this one more readily.

Local Māori legends explained the boulders as the remains of eel baskets, calabashes, and kumara washed ashore from the wreck of Arai-te-uru, a large sailing canoe. This legend tells of the rocky shoals that extend seaward from Shag Point as being the petrified hull of this wreck and a nearby rocky promontory as being the body of the canoe’s captain. Their reticulated patterning on the boulders, according to this legend, are the remains of the canoe’s fishing nets.[5] 

We came across a party of Chinese tourists,no wedding dresses this time though, (the weather was hardly Instagram friendly).

NZ Moeraki boulders chinese tourists

We debated why they felt the need to wear face masks, we wondered if it a cultural thing, but whatever we were wondering in November 2019  it seems rather irrelevant now.

Moeraki Boulders 5

I guess there are no flights of Chinese tourist arriving in New Zealand,  it will be a hard hit for the tourist economy of South Island. But needs most certainly must.  The overshoes, and the rain coat, with a kind of visor hood, was something we’d not encountered before.

One of the party took a shine to Tom,  and wanted a souvenir holiday photo, he willingly obliged

Moeraki Boulders_

We were soon alone on the beach, and Tom couldn’t resist.  I think the tide had turned.

Moeraki Boulders 4

*what chance is there of ever finding forgotten chocolate treats in our car?