Thursday, March 31, 2011

Goodbye to another month

Summer came back to Rakiura this week with a high of 23 degrees yesterday and although a front passed through quickly this afternoon, the temperature is still mild. I've had a most enjoyable week in the sunshine with Tuesday being an extra-special day after I was invited to help with a titi (muttonbird) survey down on Ackers Point. We used a 'burrowscope' - a roll of flexible tubing with a camera on the end that was pushed down into the burrow and with a screen at the other end to see if a chick was present. No doubt the chick was surprised to have his cosy home invaded by something resembling a vacuum cleaner hose! I didn't take my camera so no photos this time sorry - I didn't know anything about titi before Tuesday so great to learn from the expert, Darren Scott. 

Wednesday started with an early morning walk to the Bay to farewell a friend leaving on the 8am plane - I left home in the dark at 7.15am and took some photos as the sun rose over Halfmoon Bay. I then took Raylene's dog, MacPherson, for a walk to Golden Bay - he loves digging in the sand.

The kaka are still around in large numbers - Raylene puts fruit or nuts out for them and they entertain her guests with their antics. The 'baby' kaka are bigger than their parents but still beg for food. This one is enjoying a slice of pear.

My four rat traps arrived in the mail and have been set up around the house. They are Nooski traps, designed and built in New Zealand and use a latex ring (like those used for docking lambs' tails) instead of a 'squish' mechanism. The rat tries to get to the bait, triggers the mechanism and the ring snaps around their neck killing them quickly. They have rave reviews from users so thought I'd give them a try.

Today I walked to the Native Plant nursery on Horseshoe Bay Road - I took the quarry shortcut there and then walked home via the Back Road track. Here's some photos...

Top quarry looking southwest
Top quarry road looking east to Horseshoe Bay

Back Road track back home

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Autumn sunshine

Some recent photos - note the beautiful weather!!
Oban waterfront - South Seas Hotel in middle, 4 Square to right
Halfmoon Bay - ferry terminal in foreground
Mill Creek
Bathing Beach - Mill Creek to right
Deep Bay
Cloud patterns late afternoon
Sunset in Paradise

Surprise, surprise!

After two months in my new home, I'm still not sure what a 'typical' day is. Sure, I wake up and have the same breakfast each morning but I rarely go to bed without being surprised by something new. Take yesterday for example: I was woken by a kiwi call around 6.30am so decided to go for an early morning walk to the quarry about 1km away. I surprised a large whitetail deer on the way and enjoyed listening to the birds as they welcomed the day. I want to get a truckload of sand so wandered into the quarry entrance to see if anyone was around. Imagine my surprise when I walked up over the rise and saw a beach at the bottom of the quarry road (see red line at top of map, not marked on the map but visible on Google's satellite photo). I was even more surprised when I saw that the beach was Horseshoe Bay - usually a 50 minute walk from home via Hicks/Horseshoe Bay Roads (blue line on map). This great new shortcut almost halves the distance and, as it is easier walking, would more than halve the time. It's such a buzz when I discover something new so close to home!

Late afternoon brought another surprise. I was watching my two Bambi babies graze close to the house when one became alert, staring intently at the bushline. I followed his/her gaze and saw something move. Bambi was making lots of muzzle movements and then started walking down to the bushline.  
At the same time a large female deer made a grand entrance and touched muzzles with the two babies, one of which tried to suckle. Unfortunately the mother moved away before I could take a family photo but I did manage to get one of mum before something spooked her and they all took off! I thought the adults didn't get very large but this solid mama towered over her babies and the tips of her ears would probably be higher than me - and I reckon she'd weigh more too! Maybe I should rethink my strategy for working in the bush during the 'roar' next month!

The third surprise of the day was when I checked outside just before going to bed and finding a possum investigating my stone dragon on the deck. It seemed quite at home, hence my efforts today to get a Timms trap readied for tonight. Possum has a temporary reprieve however as the Timms trap needs to be adjusted - at present it needs to be hit with a sledgehammer to set it off - but that's Friday's job!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I was visited by two small whitetails during the week - nah, not the spider variety; these were cutesy little deer like Bambi. They're now getting quite cheeky and appearing more during the day - I managed to get some photos and video of them last night.

Whitetail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were first introduced to New Zealand in 1905 from New Hampshire, New England USA. There were 18 deer released, two of them stags.
They survived and are now found around Lake Wakatipu and on Stewart Island; the only herds in the southern hemisphere. They are smaller than their US relatives, with an average size of just over 50kg. The young ones keep their spots for about 4-5 months and the bucks shed their antlers starting in July and grow a new set in summer.

When disturbed they flick their tails up in alarm - the white underside of the tail stands out as they run away from you.

Mid-March Musing

I'm still wrestling with the concreted posts between the house and garage. I've been unsuccessful with hoisting one of the posts out - it's a lot heavier than the first and I don't have long enough planks or an intact 'hole' to lever it up and out.

Situations vacant: Superman to lift posts :)
So... what do you do if you can't beat 'em? Right, I said, let's bury it instead! I dug a deeper hole, only to be thwarted by the water table (about 1m from path level) making its presence known. Hmm... maybe I could bury it shallower under the path to the garage. More digging (equalling a bigger mess) and yay, that would work well except the wooden post stuck out a bit far. Hmm... maybe I could saw it off. Out came the bow saw and although the first third went fine, the blade started grabbing after that. I wish I could report that I whipped my chainsaw out and finished the job last night BUT I chickened out. I haven't used the saw down here yet and although I think I have the bar on correctly, I'd really like someone to confirm it. I've now got a tanalised 'round' post sawn through a third all round but nowhere near success. Plan D is to dig up even more ground and poke the wooden post end away from the vege garden with the concrete chunk buried shallowly under the path. I think I'll ask for more chainsaw lessons!!

Digging in old swampland is interesting. The surveyor's soil evaluation report in 2005 states that the first 200mm is peaty humus, highly pedal (pedal=soil structure is present) and well drained. From 200-500mm it is yellow sandy, silty, clay loam, moderately pedal, imperfectly drained; and from 500-1100mm it is gray sandy, silty, clay loam, poorly drained, non-pedal. 
Left: Not too far down to strike water; right: wet squishy clay 800mm down

Big worm - about the thickness of my little finger
There are bits of wood and vegetation in various stages of decay along with lots of native worms; this is the largest that I've found so far.

Something I didn't know until recently was the mix up with the names of two bays round here. Captain Thomas Wing's original chart of Stewart Island had the names the right way round, but somehow the British Admiralty chart of 1857 had Halfmoon and Horseshoe Bays transposed.

from left: horseshoe-shaped Halfmoon Bay, Google map, crescent-shaped Horseshoe Bay
 I struggle with the devastating natural disasters that have occurred in the last six months - my new life here is so placid and tranquil that it's inconceivable to imagine the chaos from earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions in Christchurch, Japan, China, Australia, Hawaii and Indonesia. The Rakiura community and visitors raised $3000 or so for Canterbury last weekend by running a cake stall, sausage sizzle, raffle and craft stall; the famous weekly Quiz Night proceeds, Scavenger Hunt and mufti days will add to that total and go a wee way to help them get back on their feet.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Highs and lows

The last nine days have swung from a high (a surprise phone call on Monday) to a low with the devastation of the Christchurch earthquake; then back to a high with the arrival of my first 'Naki visitor. I feel guilty for enjoying it so much down here when so many Canterbury people are suffering. Please help wherever you can and give freely with your time and thoughts for all those affected.

My surprise phone call was from Wendy, a wonderful friend from North Taranaki. I ran out of time to visit her before I left and it was fabulous to have a chat. She then sprung the news that she had a few days up her sleeve and could she come and visit me at the end of the week. What a buzz - and also a bit of a scramble to clear up the garage so she had a place to sleep! I came down with a big thud on Tuesday afternoon with the news of the quake and was very relieved when I heard from both my sons to say that they were safe and well. I'd been walking and eating in the CBD in mid-January and knew how busy the area was at that time of day. So sad for the gorgeous city and her people - but  I know they will rise again from adversity and forge even stronger community bonds. After two days of being glued to the TV, I realised that the media coverage made it worse. They focused on the doom and gloom, they brought the worst hit buildings right into my living room and I felt helpless. In the end I turned the TV off, the radio on and finally managed to get through to the Red Cross donation website. Good to see more focus now on the suburbs and good Samaritan stories to boost spirits and provide hope for the future. Kia kaha Christchurch.

Wendy arrived on Friday afternoon and has left this morning. We have walked for miles, talked long into the night and I have loved showing her my new home town. We met on a kiwi release mission about five years ago and clicked immediately - not only do we share the same name but our birthdays are only one day apart.

We went over to Ulva Island on Sunday and had fun trying to photograph the tieke (saddleback). They'd stand dead still in front of us until we turned on our cameras; then they'd flit off and I'd swear that they were laughing!

From left: me, Raylene, Wendy and Jayne

Raylene took us further afield in her car with Jayne, a guest from Sheffield who was staying at Glendaruel, Raylene's fabulous Bed and Breakfast. We are standing under the symbolic 'anchor chain' that goes into the sea at Lee Bay with its counterpart coming up out of the ocean at Bluff. I must admit that I'm a tad puzzled how Maui's anchor chain just happens to be made out of steel links! The 'ding' above Raylene's head was apparently caused by someone who felt insulted by the steel links and protested by shooting the one above the path. We had fun with the self-timer on the camera - we were too far away to hear the click so stood grinning like Cheshire cats for a while afterwards!

My wee friendly ngirungiru (tomtit, or miromiro as he's called in the North Island) kept a close eye on us over the weekend. He sits on the chair outside the ranchslider and peeks inside to see what I'm up to. I haven't heard any more kiwi but there's lots of deer tracks on my driveway.

I'd better put my 'work' hat on and start the Women in Action Taranaki newsletter. Best wishes to all those in Christchurch or who have family there - I now have a spare bed if anyone wants to chill out in an idyllic place.