Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Australasian Bittern

Tuesday evening while walking down the road through our property listening to Matata calling we disturbed an Australasian Bittern in the wetland by the road. Occasionally we see it in the area and sometimes two of them. Fantastic. They probably see us all the time but are so perfectly camouflaged that we almost never see them.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Ngunguru Wader Census and Ratty's Landing Ramble

We had a wonderful day today.

This morning the dedicated local group of birders counted waders and other birds around the north end of the Ngunguru Estuary and Sandspit. We do this on a regular basis. This is always good value and interesting. We were to have a picnic at the beach after the count but it was too windy so te crew came to Ratty's Landing and had the picnic on our deck where we talked of birds, nature, conservation etc over lunch.

This was followed by a ramble about our wetlands and adjoining property led by the very knowlegable Nan Pullman. She has really inspired us to know more about this great place we knew we had. The first stop was to proudly show our Matata (Fernbird) to the group. We discovered that we had a new family when they flew about in a small area immediately in front of the group with everyone getting a good view. Darling untrained performers. It was as if they knew the drill. We do know that we had at least six Matata. Now we must have eight in this small area.

Nan then led us about the wetland and into the bush on a journey of discovery into rushes, plants and trees.
It made our day.

Chris Buckley, Geologist, discovered that we have very interesting, and for this area, unusual clay in our road bank. More on that later when we know more about it.

This is what I like about living in one place for more than 6 months, we are getting to know this piece of land we are caring for and its great. Just last week Hilton found we had a Clematis growing in our bush. It is not far enough up into the canopy to be flowering but its a substantial vine so hopefully in a couple of years we will see the flowers out on the canopy.
Since living here we have been careful about what we remove in the way of vegetation as we are not always sure its a native so we let it flower and thats usually when we can tell if its a keeper or can make way for something that may normally live in or beside the bush. This mind set is proving to be a very good thing as we have some delightful finds. Like the Onion and Leek Orchids, quite insignificant plants and flowers but part of this land and its nice to see them very early spring popping up out of the seemingly inhospitable clay ground.
And  now we know its not just any old clay ground thanks to Chris Buckley.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Fantail chicks

Two weeks ago we noticed the first of the Fantail chicks. I could hear the tiny chatter of young chicks as I came up the walkway. Sure enough there in the Kanuka were four young chicks being fed by two adults. The chicks do not have the markings of the parents so are just dark heads and quite brown chests. Just so sweet.
But they are not able to handle cool weather.This day was cloudy enough for them to be crowding each other out on a branch. I had to smile, they reminded me of piglets trying to keep warm.  There is plenty of food for them but four chicks are a lot to feed. We have read that its usually the male that feeds the fledglings as the female starts to sit on another clutch, so we were interested to see two adults feeding these little guys.
Grey Warbler is also feeding chicks in the Kanuka, its all very busy with young birds around here.
We have noticed Green Finches this year. That is great to see as when we first moved here we did not see any. The trapping and baiting for rats is working. (sorry Ratty)

The last photo was taken on the walk to to the Tutukaka lighthouse. This chick and its siblings were being fed in a sunny spot on a cold day. To warm up they fanned their wiwngs out.

The vegetable garden is taking shape but some things are slow and today I discoverd the runner beans I planted early just rotted. Maybe they had got damp in the packet, but now I am several weeks behind.
Fantail chicks keeping warm

Tucker time

This chick was keeping warm on the lighthouse track

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Shining Cuckoo (Maori name - Pipiwharauroa) arrived after its migratory flight from the tropics on September 17th. We can now hear several calling in the bush. They are a real summer sound for us. They will stop calling after Christmas then depart to the tropics in April. We never know when. Then we count the days until they return about the time that the Kumerahou blooms.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Interesting critters in the compost

This end is the head, pretty small.

Today I needed to open the tube of compost so that this evenings rain can dampen it. After lifting off the wood I spied a different worm. A Land Flatworm, (Geoplana)I have seen them on other occasions but did not bother to photograph the speciman. Today I did. We have many in New Zealand and a more common one is the brownish one we see on Flax. I have read they eat earthworms so I am happy that there are not a lot here at Rattys Landing as earthworms are very precious, we do not have a lot in this clay soil.Another nice find was a lovely brown Skink tucked under a pile of decaying Kikuyu.

One does have to take care when pulling apart vegetation, you never know who is living there.This picture shows the worm stretched out to almost 10cm. When I first saw it, it was quite wide as it was asleep but this picture shows it stretched out as it moves over the container.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Our Kowhai and Spring

Our Kowhai is in full bloom. We have never seen it like this before. We think its success is partly due to the Possum trapping that we are doing. Between them and the Kereru it usually loses most of its leaves over summer. Last summer it was real leafy and now the blooms are fantastic. 
Our Kowhai

Dancing Green Hooded Orchids

Our Kowhai by the Waiotoi River

Our different native trees flower at different times all year but Kowhai really signifies spring. There are others. Clematis is beautiful in the bush and Orchids are blooming. The Green Hooded Orchids look like they are performing a Spring Ballet. Toropapa smelt wonderful as we walked in the bush last weekend. Kowhai does it though. They are spectacular. Phillip Island in the Tutukaka harbour is a gold ingot. There is a hillside on the Hoteo River that will be gold al over. There are native floral occurrences for every month of the year. It is easy to love the bush.

I bought a 5m USB extension cord so that I can drive the camera from the laptop and have the camera at the Tui feeding trough near the deck. Looking forward to the photos.

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Spring really has started to show her colours. The little seedling Toropapa I planted has flowered. Kowhai and Clematis are in fulll bloom and the Manuka is rally starting to crank up. It seems that the Tui are now back to being couples as they are arriving at our feeding trough in pairs. We love spring. It has its special flavour.

Leisure by  W. H. Davies

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


A short while ago we had the coldest wintery weather in 50 years. There was snow on the hills around whangarei!!! It's sub tropical here. Well not on those days. Sub being the word. One night anything that was wet froze. Not frost. It just froze. Dramaic for the North. That was followed by stunningly beautiful clear sunny days. Now it is calm, overcast and gray. has been all week.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Winter Holiday 2011

Hilton needs a holiday. Where to go, what to do? Doesn’t take much brain storming from us two to get something thought of.
The bottom of the North Island.  Cape Palliser to be precise and the Wairarapa area to see our friend Errol who is quite close to finishing a sailing vessel he has been building just out of Carterton.
Castle Point seems like a good idea also as it’s not far from Masterton.
Rental vans are very affordable in the winter so after checking out a Back Packer rental, we paid for it and started to pack things needed. Lots as it turned out. Being used to just taking a few warm clothes and some treat food when holidaying on Spindy (boat) I had to remember the salt and other very basic things.
With the car loaded up way more than it really cared for we headed off to Auckland and the campervan. Stowed the gear and on our way. Had a nice time at Tauranga seeing Peter and Barbara and extended family.
On the very frosty drive from Tauranga to Taupo we stopped for a coffee and had the pleasure of sharing it with two very cold travellers from Montana(USA). What a nice encounter that was, we hope they had warmer nights from that point on, as they had slept some hours in their car on that very cold night.
A very beautiful drive through Taupo and across the
Desert Road
with mountains sparkling in the afternoon sun.
Ashurst, time to stop for the day. A nice quiet stop by the river. A very cold morning the next day. Ice on the inside of the windows. A cup of tea and a biscuit and on the road to find sun and stop for breakfast.
Yeah Right.  
Up into the Manawatu Gorge and we met old man Fog. We did not lose his company until somewhere past Ekatahuna. We did stop in Ekatahuna for breakfast, a breakfast that would have fed me for two meals.
Its easy driving in that part of the country, roads are not crowded so the miles ticked off and midday had us at the picturesque Putangirua Pinnacles.


It’s a pleasant walk up the river valley, pretty dry river at that time. Amazing fossils in the rocks, some almost looked like line drawings.

 The pinnacles are quite interesting but really one needs to be quite aware that the stones/rocks could fall out of these pinnacles anytime so we kept back from the faces. It really is crumbly material, which is the reason they are there.

Ngawi Bulldozers

Ngawi is the home of the local fishos and the last working place for some bulldozers, it seems.

New Zealand Fur Seal at Cape Palliser

A flattish area just before Cape Palliser lighthouse is where we chose to park the van that night. Seals playing in the pools and sleeping on, and in the rocky shore. We did spend quite some time enjoying their antics. Trying to keep your distance is not easy as they are rock coloured and Hilton almost walked on a youngish one sleeping. It was not that bothered but did let him know it was there and not to walk on it. Hilton nearly died on the spot.

A warmer night by far and next morning the Ngawi crayfish boats were out at the crack of dawn nosing in around the rocks and probably really enjoying the lack of swell making their jobs so much easier.

Cape Palliser Light and steps
We headed for the lighthouse and ran up the 250 steps to a great view. (just kidding about the running bit) There is something about lighthouses, I just like to stand and admire them for the work they do, and I think subconsciously you think of those hardy people who use to man them. Of course, they are mostly in spectacular positions so there is a view to take in also.

Lake Ferry seems like it’s a holiday community, there are some locals year round and a camp ground where we cleaned up and filled up with water, charged the camera battery and other electronics we think we need.

Lake Onoke outlet
Lake Onoke looks to be a very gentle lake but the exit is another thing altogether.
A raging torrent with current running at well over 10 knots  is hurled into the open ocean of Palliser bay and head butts the ocean swell. The result is for seals only. Just one though, was having the time of its life frolicking in the turmoil.

Martinborough is a charmer. A bit of a stroll along the river, a purchase of what turned out to be the biggest meatiest hogget neck chops (from a real Butcher) and a couple of bottles of local Pinot Noir  and off  to Carterton where there is a couple of small but very lovely reserves with quite old trees. Old trees in these farmed areas are not usual so it was with a little bit of awe we gazed at these Kahikatea and Rimu and mentally thanked the people who were the instigators of creating such reserves.

Our van at Errols.

We enjoyed an extravagant,(for us) very superior meat pie at Mirrabells in Carterton, don’t miss it if you are in the  town. It is quite a lovely cafĂ©.
Castle Point Light
By this time the weather had turned pretty sulky but Castle Point and Tinui were on the visit list.

Tinui is where the first Anzac service was held in New Zealand and we had a stop over with Keith and Boo just 6ks from there. It’s really nice to have human contact when travelling as it can be quite insular in a Campervan.
Castle Point on arrival was, well, not conducive to walking to the lighthouse so we ate lunch in the van watching two surfers enjoying the waves and then headed for the campground. Plugged in so we could run the heater and keep warm we watched the scrappy day go by, waves showing their heads over the rocks out by the lighthouse and reading our books.
Sunday morning dawn was windless and just right for a jaunt out to the lighthouse.
Snowy hills between Taihape and Ohakune
The sea had calmed down somewhat but it was not safe to go walking those rocks south of the lighthouse where there was a plaque in memory of those who had in the past. We did get to the lighthouse as that area was quite safe but on looking South we could see our morning was about to deteriorate and headed back to the van and as we drove out the black squall rolled over us and the snow covered hills. Driving through snow flurries, it was quite magic.
 The hills had snow capping them and that was pretty much the scene to Taihape.
From Taihape to Ohakune snow covered the farmland to the road. Driving though falling snow we go into the Ohakune Top Ten campground and plugged in. I have a feeling the roads were closing behind us.

Monday was a tight blue sky and the place was white. We walked a bush walk just on the outskirts of Ohakune on the way up to the ski fields great old Rimu trees another very good example of old growth, with snow right to the forest floor.
Ohakune bush walk in a snowy winter wonderland
A stop over in Otorohanga to check out the Kiwi House and other birds. We were not disappointed with the residents especially the Great Spotted Kiwi. What a feisty bird she is. Feeding time at 1.30pm is not to be missed. A display of aggression towards the keeper who was doing the feeding had the kids and adults laughing and probably having a change of attitude towards our national bird. With the beak holding onto the keepers trousers and kicking the gumboot, she was certainly telling that keeper not to hang around. It was quite a perfect end to our sojourn south.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Is it really spring?

Borage and bee
It seems that we have had winter. Before and during our holiday in July it was cold and wet. Could happen again before spring really sets in. Today was warm and sunny.

I reckon spring is here now. The Mingimingi in flower smells wonderful. Hangehange and Coprosma are starting to flower.
Borage, Herb Robert and Heather are all blooming. The Arum lilies are in full bloom. Manuka has started its bloom early. It never really stopped this year. Next, it will be Kowhai and Clematis. They should be flowering already. It will take a trip too Tutukaka to find out. Green Hooded Orchids have nearly finished but Onion and Leek Orchids are still coming on. The Kauri seeds I planted are now 50mm high.
Fantail on the compost bin
  There is always something happening. Amongst all this Tui has taken over the bird feeding trough. Fantail, when he sees us, demands the opening of the compost bin lid for an easy meal. Chaffinch likes the open compost bin too. Bees are putting in a full day that begins with Thrush and Matata doing their song and ends with dusk.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Tui visits our deck

Fantastic! Tui has found the winter feeding trough by our deck. At the moment it is spending all day in our immediate neighbourhood coming and going from the trough. Much of the time it is in the Kanuka by the deck chattering, whistling, clicking and chirping. They are such beautiful birds, especially as the sun strikes them. Selfish fellows. Can't stand competition. They do chase other birds away but we can live with that while it is hungry in the winter.

On a different note the big mother spider has departed the nest on the Ponga frond. Nearly all of the young have gone also. We will miss them. It has been interesting observing them.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Night time excurtions. Weta rules.

Its like a war zone here as far as the vege garden is concerned. I have used slug and snail baits but the desecration continues. Feeling a little desperate I went out on a night excursion to see who or what was eating my mustard lettuce, rhubarb and the cape gooseberry's along with all the others that were showing the ravages of chewing whatevers.
Torch in hand and plenty of determination out I ventured, and after finding plenty of snails and large slugs on the first mentioned I was feeling pretty satisfied.
Off to the chilli plant that had holes munched in the green ones, it had to be a snail. Bare hands and torch aimed at the top of the plant I started rummaging around to find the snail, OOOPS it seems its Weta who is eating the chilli, well I am not about to grab a Weta with my bare hands, they look way more fierce than they are as they are vegetarian and would only bite when put under great stress and I was not about to put that creature under stress.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Our Nature at Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice. Sunny, showery colder, South Westerly breeze.
This week Melva heard Hawk calling for a mate high up over our valley. Last year we heard Hawk first on the 21st July. One calm morning this week as we walked on our road we could smell the sweet scent of the Mingimingi buds. We first noticed them last year on the 28th July. Things seem early this year. It has been warmer than other years.
Today,  Adrian and Judi Gilbert, Pat Heaphy, Sophie Edwards, Melva and myself as well as Robyn and Rose Skerten and friends counted shore birds at the Te Maika end of the Ngunguru Sandspit for the Ornithological Society. We do this about every quarter. The Dottrels were paired and in full bright breeding colours. Loads of Oyster Catchers as usual. Others we counted were Pied Shag, Red and Black Billed Gulls, Black Backed Gulls, Pipits, Reef Herons, Caspian Terns, Green Finches, Hawk, Gannet and Chaffinch. It was high tide so great for counting as all the birds were settled on high ground waiting for it to receed. It is their quiet time.
On the way home there was a male Pheasant in our lane. This is a first for us. We hope he stays.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Piwakawaka makes it seem like a sunny day

Gosh how the time flies,its Tuesday already.We did a walk into the Hugh Crawford Reserve on Sunday afternoon and had a delightful explore, as we always do.
It seems to be the time for fungi and we found two more that we have not seen in our travels.
A very small orange one that we think may be a Coral fungi and and creamy one that was all tiny spikes, it looked like coral too but it seems it was Spine or Tooth Fungi. Very interesting looking fungi.
Today was very quite and dull. Well the weather was but there is always Fantail cheeping in your face in the winter time, and our little friend who likes the compost bin opened so it can get the bugs was there to brighten the day. I thought there were plenty of bugs without the bin needing to be opened. Its just never dull with our little Piwakwaka friend about.
The Silver Eye have found the Yellow Guava with nearly ripe fruit, I guess they are more tasty than the Coprosma berries.    
 The orange fungi to the left is what we think is the Coral Fungi and the white one is what we think is the Spine or Tooth Fungi.                           

Thursday, 9 June 2011


On Tuesday when I was cleaning up the enclosed garden (bird proofed) I discovered under the massive Oregano plant a fungi. It was unknown to me so I took its photo and came back inside to see if our books could identify it. Sure enough there is was in the Forest Floor section a Stinkhorn Fungi but this one was not quite all the way out. Amazing things they are, perhaps like something out of Under The Mountain, and today it has got its tendrils out. It is suposed to be smelly and attract flies but as yet I have not smelt anything awful from it. Amazing the things one finds. I don't know if this is a good indication of a good soil for veges but its sure interesting to see these things, and its a native so it can not be all bad.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Coastal walk from Sandy Bay to Whananaki

Ringa Ringa, Araraiti and Whananaki beaches
Woke up to the sun so changed our days plan. Go for a walk. The Tutukaka Coast area has wonderful walks. There was one we had not been on. That is the part of Te Ara Roa Walkway between Sandy Bay and Whananaki. The sun was out and it was warm. Wonderful.  

We were on the track at 9am from McAuslin Road, Sandy Bay where we parked the car. There had been a North East blow that had kicked up a sizable swell, wave watching and the roaring rumbling surf destroying itself on the rocks was an entertainment along most of the track. One after the other there are stunning bays all the way. Some are selfishly guarded with Private Property, Keep out signs. Don't worry, Araraiti Bay is welcoming and gorgeous. We discovered stunning coastal views as most of the track is well above sea level. One of the best being from the Capitaine Beauganville Memorial. That is a 45 minute return track and well worth the easy walk. The view from there is from the point at Matapouri to the Rimariki Islands North of Whananaki. Stunning view down to Ringa Ringa, Araraiti and Whananaki Beaches.
At Araraiti we were welcomed by Mrs Mackey who told us some of her family history of the area dating back to Maori arrival in the area. We sat on a bench on the seaside in front of her house for lunch then started the walk back to Sandy Bay.
Most of the track is actually farm road. What isn't is still very easy going. We did it bare foot. The walk took us about 3hrs going and 2 hrs returning. Add another 2hrs if going all the way to the
Whananaki  store for an ice cream. We took our time and stopped a lot for photos.
Terrific walk. Loved it.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Wedding Anniversary Celebration Night

33 years with my mate. Loads of fun, adventures and never a dull moment. Life on our sailing vessel Spindrift  was a wonderful time.
Land living is also proving to be a wonderful time. Winter, when you are all sad faced and its gloomy weather, which is rare in Northland, there is always Fantail, cheeping about the day, flitting past your face so close you can feel the wind from their wings. Grey Warbler trilling quietly in the Kanuka looking for bugs, Tui doing fighter pilot manouvers through the Totora. There is always something to replace the brightness of sunshine if you care to stop and listen and look.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Nursary Spider at Ratty's Landing

Today we found this huge Nursary Spider that has made a home for it's family on a Ponga frond right near our deck.

Whangarei Heads Walk

Yesterday we went for a walk up and along the Whangarei Heads track. Spectacular scenery and first class bush. This is one of the finest day walks I have been on. We saw Kaka and Bellbird along with a huge variety of plant species. The views all along the track are fantastic. Te Whara is spectacular as are the other lava pillars. Mt Lion is the next peak with a beutiful view of Smugglers Cove then the track decends to the ridge above Smugglers Cove.

It is a bit of a workout. From Ocean Beach it's a long up hill haul to the bush. From there there are only a few shorter level pieces. Otherwise it is mostly up and down on an unformed track. Very easily done bare foot and a great day out. Generally a minimum of five hours is needed. Best to have two cars to save a four and a half kilometre road walk back to your car.

It was so good we can't stop talking about it.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Matata - Fernbird

We hear them all the time. If we take time to stop we usually see them. We have about eight on this small wetland. Today Melva saw two making a lot of noise and moving about on one patch. Are they setting up camp for breeding? It does seem that they stay together or near each other all the time. Dear little birds
The Thrush is singing for his spot also, its getting crowded in this spot since we have been trapping for rats, stoats, weasels and possums.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The morning walk

This morning the 25th May while we were doing our rounds of the traps and bait stations, down by the Waiotoi River we had the silient company of Ruru. It was not quite light at 7am but it should have been tucked up for the day we thought, however it flew into the Totora tree and sat there looking about then flew off as silient as it arrived. Ruru is the Maori name for the New Zealand owl Morepork.

It was a quiet day for birds but Fantail did join me in the garden for a while asking for the compost bin to be opened. I obliged.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Life at the Riverbank

Day one. It is nearly June. Winter nears. Its never that cold here in the north but still the garden slows and birds start to chase each other about. Fantails in our face and very chatty. Fernbird lets us know he is there in the mornings too.
We can brag a little too. The website Travelbug awarded The Riverbank Homestay and B&B
The Best Reviews for 2011 for a B&B in New Zealand