Uphilldowndale

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


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Socially Distanced

Maybe we should take a leaf (pun intended) out of the sycamore aphids book of social distancing.  They seem to have it sussed.

sycamore aphids 3 However, an Internet search* led me to discover it’s not about them being apart,  on the contrary, it’s actually about them being able to touch one another (but at least the little bugs have a plan how to deal with a life threatening situation and are sticking to it!)

One of the most striking features of the sycamore aphid is the way in which the individuals space themselves evenly under the leaf. the spacing is such that they are just close enough together to touch each other with their long antennae, so if an individual in one part of the leaf is attacked the alarm spreads from aphid to aphid in a wave of antennae-waving across the whole leaf.

Sycamore aphid

Just about every leaf I could see was covered in the aphids,  there must be millions of them; which probably explains why the blue tits, that consume a fortunes worth of food through the winter ( the bird food  bill comes in at more than  the cat and dog food budget combined) are not very bothered about cleaning the aphids off the roses in the garden, you’d think it was the least they could do?

*It’s rather gratifying to find the information you were looking for, in a blog you already follow, Cabinet of Curiosities  by Phil Gates, in addition to reading the authors words in The Country Diary in the Guardian too. 

 


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On the home front

 

I hope you guys are all OK, I’ve not managed to find my blogging mojo through the last three weeks.  I’ve not really been able to concentrate on much to be honest, I’ve not read a single book.  I’ve made a lot of soup, which comforts twice I always find, its soothing to prepare and to eat, and fills the kitchen with homely cooking aromas.

Outside spring it carrying on a pace, and as far as the garden is concerned I’m not keeping pace!

We’ve Joe is home with us, from what was to have been his final months of study in Swansea, we did a round trip in a day, to gather  up both him and his worldly goods before lock-down. Poor Spud the dog, he was bewildered, he spent over 12 hours in the camper van, and ended up back where he started, without so much as a grain of sand between his toes.  Tom is locked down in Wanaka in New Zealand,  I try not to think about the fact we couldn’t get on a plane and go to him, or he to us if the need arose. But I know he’s in a good place with good mates, and a country that didn’t falter to put it’s citizens health first.

Here are some sunny New Zealand Lupins

Yellow Lupin_

We’re keeping our heads down, and feeling very lucky indeed to have the space both indoors and out for it not to be too claustrophobic.  We’ve been alarmed by the numbers of people that came to Derbyshire and the Peak District, we’d like to keep the numbers down.

Suspension bridge New Zealand

NZ bridge x10

Stay safe xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i thought I’d share a sunny


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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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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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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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Fleurs Place

Mr Uphilldowndale will tell you this was his highlight of the holiday.

We rolled in to  the small fishing town of Moeraki  looking for lunch, I’d a fancy for a pie, New Zealand makes very tasty pies.  Mr Uphilldowndale was scrolling through his phone to see what might be on  offer,  he announced ‘Rick Steins favourite seafood restaurant in the world is here, it’s called Fleurs Place*’.  Well, I thought that puts it out of budget then, you could  probably buy a truck load of pies for the price of a lunch with that pedigree.

But we walked down to the harbour, hungry and curious. It wasn’t the brightest of days, to take a look,  from the outside the restaurant  had a time worn patina,  a touch of some village halls I can think of here in the UK, there was a lot of outdoor seating, but it wasn’t that kind of day.

NZ Fleurs Ext

Inside it was warm and cosy, we took a look at a menu; to our surprise the price was do-able for a lunch that had much more promise than a pie; and to our delight, yes they did have a table for three,  they’d get it set for us right away.

They were just about to start the lunchtime service, a member of staff was setting flowers on the tables, I’m always going to gravitate to the flowers, they were roses, the deepest red velvety roses I think I’d ever seen, and their perfume was decadent

Fleurs place NZ roses_

The style of the decor, was eclectic, the kind of thing that looks like it didn’t take much trouble to pull together, but it did.

Fleurs place NZ

The tables, scrubbed; cutlery bone handled, china mismatched.

A wonderful old range, in the corner, made me think of my mother in laws precious range, and her pride in keeping it lit through the winter.

Fleurs place NZ range

We were guided through the menu**,  the starters we were advised are large, the recommendation was that we share a starter. This was good advice.

Fleurs place NZ starter

Tom said if we were paying he’d drive, and we could have some of New Zealand’s lush wine, maybe that is why this photo is not quiet as sharp as it should be?

NZ Fleurs Main Fish_

Fleur herself was front of house, there was no question she is fully in charge of every detail,  the food, staff, presentation, the works. With her mane of surf white hair, she exudes energy  charm and charisma.  You’d never guess she’s 80 years young (Fleur opened this restaurant at the age of 63 after her recovery from cancer).

What Fleur has in boat loads, is the ability to make her guests at ease, it is her homely yet special hospitality that creates an alchemy that makes this place so memorable.  After our meal she came and sat with us, chatted with Tom about where he’s working and what he thinks of  New Zealand, we in turn bought Fleur’s biography,  she signed it for us.

Fleur

As another customer was leaving I heard him thank Fleur and the staff,  ‘I’ll remember that meal till the day I die’.  So will we.

*Fleurs, the record, there is no apostrophe.

**I have one regret, that I didn’t try a dish that was on the menu, mottonbird, it wasn’t until later in our trip that a guide at the museum in Wellington, talked about how muttonbirds were considered such a delicacy that they were shipped out to Kiwi soldiers during WWII to help maintain morale.