Saturday, January 18, 2014

Three years ago...

Three years ago I was making my way down the South Island, one day away from starting my new life on Stewart Island with very little idea of what the future held - was there a job for me, were there kiwi on my section and would I go stir-crazy in a small no-bedroom home?

The dream to move on to a bush section started in April 2008 after spending two weeks as a feed-out volunteer on Whenua Hou (Codfish Island). I loved living and working in the bush and hearing birdsong rather than traffic. It was an incredible experience and I decided on the way home that I didn't want to live in town any more. After a lot of thought I came up with my criteria for a bush section which had to be (a) not too big, (b) have a small house that was relatively new, (c) be within a 30 minute walk to a shop and (d) be within my price range. Rakiura/Stewart Island was an obvious choice, both for its proximity to Whenua Hou and for its kiwi population. I spent many hours looking at TradeMe listings and just before Christmas 2008, I found a listing that sounded ideal and my heart was already calling it 'my place'. I sent an email to the real estate agent and kept my fingers crossed. I had to wait until 14 January and after discussing the property with the agent, I made the decision to visit the island in early Feb and have a look.

Of course the place was perfect! One hectare of land with half in regenerating bush and half in wetland, a 50sq m house that was 5 years old, a 20 minute walk to the supermarket and within budget. I am so lucky to have found exactly what I was looking for and each morning I am reminded that I'm living my dream. In return, I will do what I can to reduce, reuse and recycle as there is no Planet B. I am definitely more aware of our unsustainable lifestyles, the damage we do to the natural world and feel frustrated that most people accept economic decisions without thought for the social and environmental impacts.
It's a privilege living on an island with temperate rainforest reaching down to the sea and kiwi calling at night; where there's 10km of walking track for every kilometre of road and native birdsong that wakes you up in the morning. These things are priceless and worth saving for future generations, not just for us humans but for all the species we share this planet with.
Doing the Open Polytechnic Native Plants course in 2005 opened my eyes to the wonders of the natural world and my only regret is that I didn't do it sooner! Think of the possibilities if everyone did this course and committed to protect what's left of our native habitat; if policies include social and environmental factors; and if teachers and parents could instil respect and wonder for all species. Wouldn't it be great if social media discussed new species of lichen and prime time television stretched our minds to new creative heights?
Enough of dreaming! I'm enough of a cynic to think that society has chosen a different path and that it will be a fight to retain the natural wonders that we currently have. If you want to experience it then don't leave it too late.
And yes, there are kiwi on my section, I have a part-time job and I love living in a small house. Some people may think I'm crazy but I don't think it's got anything to do with the size of the house :)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New babies

I'm a surrogate mother a thousand times over! I've been saving the litter from the mealworm beetles and the eggs have hatched into tiny worms. They are well camouflaged in the bran flakes but if you watch closely, you'll see the flakes moving and then you realise that there's hundreds of wee wrigglers.
New baby mealworm - one of the biggest ones!

Lots of beetles laying heaps of eggs
A slightly different crop, but just as amazing, was being able to have newly-dug potatoes for Christmas. I was late planting the potatoes that had sprouted in the vege drawer so was surprised to get any and the latest plant I dug up had these 5 potatoes - plus two that were being eaten by wireworm, quite a nuisance here. These ones have quite yellow flesh when they are cooked but taste really yummy.

The birds couldn't care less about my potatoes though as they have their own 'nectar of the gods' with the flax flowering extra well this year. The window by my desk at work faces out on to stunning flower spikes and I'm entertained by the birds sliding their bills into the flowers and sipping the nectar. Hard to get a good camera shot though as they don't stay still for long.

A juvenile tui trying to get the hang of sipping

Dawn silhouette at the front of my boundary

A tui and a kaka having an early breakfast
Watching birds in the evening is more fun than watching TV although maybe I'd make an exception for Stephen Fry's QI that's on Prime at 7pm every week night. QI stands for 'quite interesting' although could just as easily stand for 'Quizzed Intellectuals'. Give your brain a stretch and catch an episode or two.

Just cruising...

It was a double cruise ship day today; the Orion (100 passengers) and the Oceanic Discoverer (72) visited and there were lots of people milling around. On Friday afternoon the Silver Shadow arrives with 388 passengers but they are small boats compared to the Amadea which arrives on 20 February with 624 passengers. Great to feel the 'buzz' as the enthusiastic visitors explore our island home.

A community garage sale was held in the fire station on Saturday and it was fun to see what the locals came up with - books, dvds, veges, sewing, marmalade and bric-a-brac. There's another planned for February and perhaps the weather will be more settled so they can hold it outside.

Good fortune for 2014

Early morning on Half Moon Bay
I know it's a tad late but showing Christmas decorations but I'm sure my Mum would like to see them!

We came close to lighting the fire so we didn't decorate the flue

More lovely cards

Christmas decals on the windows - a good special from Magnamail and
they can be used year after year

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year birdwatching

My Sunday evening is cool and wet with gale force winds and I've decided it's a much better idea to write a blog instead of checking my rat traps. Not sure where the summer has disappeared to but I hope the tourists are donning raincoats and leggings and enjoying their island holiday.

Jen left on Monday and had an early check-in for her flight so we left home at 5.30am and walked the tracks in the hope of seeing a kiwi. We walked down to the Bay accompanied by a melodic dawn chorus; no need for a torch as it was light enough to see. We walked the Fuchsia, Golden Bay and Petersen Hill tracks and heard lots of birds and as we rounded a corner a two-legged ground bird was there on the track in front of us - not a kiwi but we were entertained by a weka who continued walking towards us and then called before veering off into the bush.

Rakiura wasn't letting go of Jen easily; her plane couldn't land due to low cloud and had to head back to Invercargill. Stewart Island Flights got her the last seat on the 9.30am ferry and she made her NP flight connections at Invercargill Airport with 30 minutes to spare. Not easy managing travel to this wee island - they had over 100 people booked to fly to the island that day and the low cloud didn't lift until after lunch.

Jen's ferry leaving

The Tui vs All Other Birds contest continues to amuse; the tui is an aggressive bird and has a heightened sense of ownership of its food sources; it will take on kereru and kaka and I'm sure the korimako (bellbird) teases it just for fun.
Update 6 Jan: As I walked to work, a kereru perched on the power lines suddenly lifted its wings and swooped silently down to a nearby tree. A rattle of leaves, a surprised squawk and a tui hightailed away from the tree with the kereru flapping not far behind. Ha ha, chalk one up to the kereru!!

A kereru responds to a tui attack by waving its wing

Mr Tui getting ready for another bombing run

Game on
I got up early again this morning and was on the road at 5am - it was already too light to need a torch, even in the bush. I walked the Ryans Creek Track, a 3-4 hour tramp that circles the airstrip. Initially I was disappointed with the lack of native birdsong (there's far more at my place) but great views of Paterson Inlet made up for it. Just 5 minutes after telling myself that it was too light to see kiwi, I struck gold with a young bird breaking cover 5m in front of me and running off down the track, giving me just enough time to snap a photo of its fast-disappearing rump. Fantastic - and well worth losing some sleep.

That blob on the track is a kiwi!!
A large dollop of bird poo on the deck by the doormat greeted me on New Year's Day; I'd love to think that a kiwi had paid a visit overnight but will put it up on NatureWatch under the 'Whose poo' project (opens in new window). Will let you know what the experts think but I'm sure it's a good luck omen for a great 2014.

Definitely big enough to be kiwi poo