With a new vehicle I decided I may as well use the wheel cover for some advertising – and it works. You take it everywhere you go. Several people have asked about our books as a result of seeing it and parking outside our offices every work day puts it in a place with a lot of passing people. Attached are some pictures from the weekend, when we spent a day in the back-country of Whanganui, enjoying the birds and bush.
This special bird has been with us in Whanganui since 16 November 2015, and yesterday AJD left once again to begin his migration north to Alaska. I checked up on him at the estuary every week and over time observed his plumage change from browns into orange/red as he moulted into breeding plumage – see pictures below taken four months apart. During his stay in Whanganui he did do some touring, as at least once he was spotted at Foxton during a very high tide. A jaunt of 60 km for a godwit is just like a walk around the park for us! We hear today that AJD is back at Foxton, likely to join up with a migrating flock, and if like previous years, he will leave on the 25th March. Once before, in 2013, he was observed migrating from Foxton.
25 March 2016 – I have just received word that AJD departed Foxton with a small group of migrating birds at 5 pm – right on his usual departure date.
This year the raft race was organised by Plumber Dan and for photographers it is a colourful and action-filled opportunity for some Whanganui pictures. About 26 rafts were entered and hundreds of people lined the river banks to watch the fun. Good to see the community get behind such a great event and on this occasion all profits were donated to the local Plunket branch. For me, a good few photos were added to my Wanganui collection.
After ten years of taking me all over the country birding I’ve upgraded my vehicle, not with some big flash 4 x 4, but with another just the same – another Suzuki Jimny. It was not easy to part with the old Suzuki that has taken me to so many places birding, and not once let me down – apart from when I foolishly took it into mud on the Whanganui River estuary and got well and truly stuck. No fault of the vehicle. Very happy with the new wheels though, and the colour is great for a wildlife photographer.
Most wild creatures get accustomed to humans if they are around them enough, and birds are no exception. At the house we use at Foxton, located on the Manawatu River estuary, I recently spent the morning sitting at the front door watching a white-faced heron feeding nearby. After some considerable time the bird judged I was no threat and began feeding close to me, frequently in the ‘frozen motion’, neck coiled, ready to strike at its prey. Bird photographers need patience and lots of time, and good results will surely follow – I’ve proved it many times.
As a birder part of your kit is a good pair of binoculars and a decent spotting scope. I recently upgraded my optics by making a decent investment in Swarovski glass, and so far there are no regrets. A lot of my birding these days is done on estuaries where finding and identifying a bird comes before stalking and photographing it – and good optics help. In the photo below I am sporting my new kit at the Manawatu River estuary. The binoculars are EL 10 x 42, and the scope an ATX / STX with 85mm objective lens, and magnification of 25 – 60. I sometimes take photos on my phone using the spotting scope, and the photos are great for identification.
A week in Taranaki (New Plymouth) gave us many opportunities to photograph things that are, ‘like no other’, as their district motto says. It is a unique area of New Zealand, really quite apart. I worked there from 1972 – 1974 at the Taranaki Savings Bank and I found it interesting to visit some of my old haunts, where 40 years ago I photographed with my film Pentax SLR. One place we visited was Pukekura Park and its festival of lights, and I found myself photographing in the same spots as I had 40 years before. The new Len Lye Centre building, with its mirror-like external cladding, makes for some interesting pictures, as does the Rewa Rewa Bridge on New Plymouth’s fantastic coastal walkway. A week of perfect weather, based in an apartment right on the walkway, made for a very pleasant and restful sojourn. I recommend it.
Only twice have I seen a black phase fantail in the North Island, where their numbers are less than 1% of the total fantail population. In the South Island they are more common, maybe 5% of the total number, and more so in some areas than others. This week I photographed one at Gordon Park, located just outside Whanganui City, and it appears to be a juvenile because of the yellow at the base of its bill. A lovely little bird to watch flitting around the forest and part of a family group of five of six birds.
It is not often these days that I get to photograph a new bird species in New Zealand, but this last week I had the opportunity. A Terek Sandpiper was reported at the Manawatu River Estuary and yesterday I went to check it out. Birders had come from near and far as this bird is rare in New Zealand nowadays. I managed a series of good photos even though we could not get very close to it. It is distinctive looking because of its long upcurving bill and orange legs, and hyper-active when it feeds. The Manawatu Estuary has seen a good variety of species this year including an eastern curlew, pectoral sandpiper, sharp-tailed sandpiper, turnstone, red-necked stint, golden plover, wrybill, as well as the usual godwits and red knots.
This year is ebbing away and soon Christmas will be upon us. On Saturday we had our annual Wanganui Christmas Parade that is always a colourful event and a great place for me to add a few more photos to my Wanganui collection. It is also an event that includes many old cars and photo opportunities of them. Knowing some of the parade entrants adds to the fun, like the prize-winning entry by Plumber Dan with his Minis, including a mini-Corvette driven by his five-year-old nephew Cyruz, with four ducklings in tow.