Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Farewell to 2013

Only 10 hours to go before the slate wipes clean and a new year starts; I wonder what's in store for us both as individuals and as global citizens sharing a single planet with millions of other species. I hope we can learn from the past and foster new habits of reducing, reusing and recycling in an effort to become more like Mother Nature where there's no such thing as 'waste'.

It was fun sharing the festive season with my friend, Jen, and although the temperature outside was a tad cool, the atmosphere inside was very convivial with lots of laughter, fine food and non-stop talking. Between the showers we got stuck into dismantling the hen house - I'll re-use the timber for adding an extension on to the woodshed. We also transplanted over 40 toitoi seedlings, cut more grass and weeded around the flax.

The hen house and run before we started

Halfway through

All gone
Jen hasn't visited in summer before so we had lots of 'slow walks' - the tui are very territorial at present and chase all other birds off their 'patch'; the kereru are also good at chasing each other and, of course, there were new things to see in the bush including a stack of orchids. The sun came out for the second half of Jen's visit to show her that summer can be hot here and to show off the pretty sun orchids, Thelymitra.

Unopened Thelymitra orchid

White (above) and blue (below) Thelymitra orchids

Close-up of the Aporostylis orchid flower

Side view of Aporostylis
On a sunny day, Sarah Cove is one of the prettiest places and I love showing it off to visitors who think that Stewart Island is almost at Antarctica. Jen hadn't seen it on previous visits and with the weather forecast not looking the best for a few days we decided to brave the strong easterly and intermittent showers to have a peek. We had to stand in the lee of a large macrocarpa to take some photos and the waves were almost big enough to go surfing!

An oyster catcher on Bragg Bay (next door to Sarah Cove) had bagged itself a paua and we watched as it used its long bill to slide down the inside of the shell to try and lever the paua out. Despite a lot of patience, the incoming tide reclaimed the paua and hopefully it lived to tell the tale of how it nearly became Christmas dinner. 

More on the bird life in my next blog but, in keeping with my opening sentence, I'd better get this one published right on 2pm. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and sustainable New Year.


Merry Christmas

A belated Merry Christmas to you all; my intentions of putting up a blog on Christmas Day flew out of mind and memory! This was my second Christmas Day on the island and Jen brought down Christmas decorations and solar-powered fairy lights so it was a lot more colourful than 2012. The Christmas tree I have is only 30cm high so we decorated one of the manuka bushes out by the rimu tree instead. Not quite sure what the kiwi thought of it but it was fun to see the lights come on around 10.15pm despite there being very little sunshine in the first week of Jen's stay.

Our decorated Christmas tree

Putting on the star

Lights on at 10.15pm
Jen must know that my Christmas spirit is a tad lacking as she brought down two lovely Christmas cakes, a ton of yummy goodies and a quirky present that links New Plymouth to Rakiura/Stewart Island.
Cut outs with maps of NZ stuck on them
Another friend, Paula, sent these yummy looking iced biscuits to me; what a neat idea for Christmas gifts next year...



Friday, December 20, 2013

An afternoon at Golden Bay

Woohoo! I'm on holiday for the next 2½ weeks and with Christmas mail finished, the grass cut and the windows cleaned, I'll have time to put up another 7 blogs in the next month to reach my target of 170 by my 3rd anniversary.

The aliens visited on 3 December with these lovely lenticular clouds gliding in looking like enormous motherships. My 'Pocket Cloud Book' (opens in new window) states that "altocumulus lenticularis cloud forms when a flowing layer of moist air is uplifted by the slope of an intervening hill or mountain. They often emerge and dissipate in unexpected ways, according to the movement of the air currents, sometimes appearing UFO-shaped."

A couple of weeks ago I spent a couple of hours down at Golden Bay with my friend's dog, Mac. It was low tide and, while Mac was occupied with digging holes, I took the opportunity to take some photos of the flora.

Inaka - Dracophyllum longifolium

Inaka flower

Seaweed gardens at Golden Bay

Looking across to Ulva Island from Golden Bay

Maybe Crassula moschata - a small native succulent herb

Mac laughing at my antics :)

What a handsome doggie

New leaves on Muttonbird scrub - Brachyglottis rotundifolia

Seaweed - another one for NatureWatch to identify
The underside of the seaweed above

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas clean up

I've been busy outside lately and have composed several blogs in my mind whilst I'm working; what a shame that I don't remember them when I come inside. What I really, really want for Christmas is a wireless receiver that picks up my thoughts and converts it to text - what a timesaver!

We've had good weather with warm temperatures and the grass has grown fast enough to need cutting again. My scrub-bar technique is improving on the flat but I struggle on the uneven ground. A long-term plan is to fill up the holes so that I could use a lawnmower; an easy job with Taranaki soil but almost impossible with the unrakeable clay here. Just thought of another Christmas gift idea - a magic wand that I can wave after trimming the grass that 'freezes' all growth so I don't have to do it again!!

Working outside in the late evening has a magic all of its own; the birds with their evensong, the frogs starting to croak and, if I'm very lucky, hearing a kiwi call. Yesterday a tornado-like cloud formation was worth going inside to grab the camera.

No tornados here - just a dark cloud being shaped by the wind
The sky further round to the left

My seed order from Kings Seeds arrived and I've had a good strike from the Oriental and Italian mescluns, Drunken Woman lettuce and red coral mizuna.

Italian and Oriental mesclun nearest the camera; EcoStore mesclun and
red coral mizuna in other mussel buoy
The other vegetables are growing well apart from the beetroot that grew well on top but not underneath the soil. When trimming the plants for Bokashi, I found a number of visitors on the leaves...
A honey bee with a damaged left wing

Hmm, not sure what this is so will put it up on NatureWatch

A leaf-roller caterpillar damaging the new growth on the rosemary
A highlight for this week was Stuff.co.nz's article on the release of 18-19th century images from the British Library. The pics are on Flickr and although I can't find any for Stewart Island there's still heaps to sift through and enjoy.

One of the British Library pics, published 1870

Moa and kiwi - and is that a takahe third from left??

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Royal New Zealand Ballet visit

Last Wednesday the Royal New Zealand Ballet 'Tutus on Tour' troupe performed in the Community Centre for a large and enthusiastic audience. Leaving behind their scenery and lighting, the 'stage' was the basketball court covered in matting and we were presented with a stripped down version of the Heartland Tour (four pas de deux, a short intermission, then an entrancing version of Peter and the Wolf, followed by a question and answer session with the dancers). Unfortunately cameras weren't allowed so I can't share any photos with you - just memories of a great evening.

Tutus on Tour is a biennial event with the company splitting into two troupes which, this year, performed in 46 communities from Kaitaia to Stewart Island. Being up close to the dancers made it easier to see the dedication and hard work required to be a top-level ballet dancer; well-defined muscles, perfect timing and balance - and, despite the concentration, there were smiles on everyone's face. There was a mix of classical ballet and modern dance but Peter and the Wolf was my favourite. The only scenery was a tin trunk for a bed but the dancers, helped by Te Radar's narration, became bird, duck, cat and wolf characters, along with Peter, Grandma and the hunters - and who could forget the characters dressed completely in black body suits who morphed into trees, bird-lifters and dancers' support. I've found something a bit similar here on YouTube (opens in new window). The question and answer session was the icing on the cake; it was the final show on tour and the dancers were looking forward to a three day break before rehearsals started for the next production. Lovely that the island gave them their first standing ovation and put on superb weather as well.

Mother Nature is putting on a magnificent show of her own with the ti kouka (cabbage trees) and harakeke (flax) in flower...

Main Road view from Whipp Place - see another flowering
cabbage tree behind the house

Kaka feeding on kĊrari, the spectacular flower stalk of harakeke (flax)

Lots more information on harakeke can be found here on Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua (opens in new window)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Orchid Heaven - Spider Orchids (Corybas)

It's not easy learning native orchids from the internet! There's loads of flower photos and generalised information; then there's a huge leap to scientific stuff that speaks to me in an alien language. One website that has helped, especially in learning the parts of an orchid is here (opens in new window). If you're interested in a scientific paper on pollination then one that I can half understand (plus it has a lovely section through a greenhood flower, then click this link (a PDF that opens in a new window).

My second orchid blog is on spider orchids - Hugh Wilson's book states 5 of these orchids are found on Stewart Island, 4 of them spider orchids (Corybas orbiculatus, Corybas macranthus, Corybas trilobus and Corybas oblongus) and one dancing spider orchid (Corybas rivularis). Maybe by next year, I'll be able to differentiate the spider orchids; Corybas rivularis has a distinctive leaf shape so easier to identify.

I'm leaning towards Corybas oblongus for the first 4 pics

I think the next 3 pics are Corybas macranthus

Can you spot the orchid flower on the top leaves?

Swelling capsule of Corybas rivularis

This stem of Corybas rivularis seemed extra long

Shrivelled flower of Corybas rivularis but no sign of a capsule - has it
been bitten off or has it yet to form????
The above photos were taken on my section - there are hundreds of orchids at present, some have almost finished flowering but others are yet to start. A few metres down the road there's a beautiful colony of Corybas on the bank - it's either Corybas orbiculatus (uncommon on Stewart Island but fitting the description better) or Corybas trilobus (more common) - or on second thoughts maybe it's something else!

A colony of small Corybas

Close-up of the Corybas flower

Another shot of the colony