Monday, November 30, 2015

Hello Summer

I won't be sorry to farewell Spring; the strong El Nino has given us a chocolate box of weather - wet, windy, frosts, hot sunshine and low cloud. I think there's been more disruption to ferry and flights lately than in the past 4½ years that I've been living here. I have a min/max thermometer on my ranchslider and, whilst it's not protected from the sun shining through the deck roof, it gives an indication of the changeable weather we've had in the last week.

Low cloud and wet trampers

Late afternoon - wet and windy

The weather today - beautiful clouds, sunshine and warm temperatures
My vege seedlings can't work out if it's winter or summer; I heard on TV that tomato plants will 'sulk' if the night temperature drops below 10°C but I could be waiting all year to wait till then!

Still, with sunsets like last night it doesn't take long to forget the wind and rain and realise how lucky I am to live here.

The aliens are coming
I love this striking rimu near my drive

Saturday, November 7, 2015

An evening with Neville Peat

Neville Peat is a renowned author and was awarded the Creative New Zealand Michael King Writers' Fellowship in 2007. His books on Stewart Island have been well researched and I often consult his 'Rakiura Heritage' book for island history. He has recently updated his 'Stewart Island Rakiura National Park' title and returned to Stewart Island last week to give a talk on some interesting characters.

The hermit of Whero Rock was Lance Richdale, a teacher and ornithologist born in 1900 who went to extreme lengths to research birds. His pioneering work with albatross is reflected in the naming of the Richdale Observatory at Taiaroa Head which was opened in 1983, the year that Richdale died. He spent his holidays on a lump of rock in Paterson Inlet studying titi (muttonbirds) and initially lived in a tent but later in a small shed that was built for him.

The evening talk was held at the Community Centre and when I came outside I was greeted by a group of kaka who put on the after-talk entertainment! At the bottom is a short video (6.6Mb) of them making an unusual noise that I hadn't heard before.

Love that flash of red under their wings

Friday, November 6, 2015

A different kind of yellow

We had settled weather at the end of October and I took advantage of the lighter evenings to check out the road-side banks on the way home. The dandelions are shooting forth and I won't have time this year to spend hours weeding them out. Nice to see the orchids appearing and every now and then a surprise is lurking for those who look closely.

What's that between the dandelions?

Ahh, yellow fungi with a concave top and frilly white bottom

It's a gilled fungi but I haven't been able to identify
it yet - Autumn is a more common time

Top view showing the deep concave cap
Another object with a distinctive shape is a dragon fruit, Hylocereus undatus, a species of cacti. Our 4 Square supermarket often has some of the more exotic fruits and vegetables and the dragon fruit had novelty appeal despite their cost. After being asked several times what they tasted like, I decided that the only way to know was to try it out.

Half a dragon fruit - the outside

The edible bit!
It's not easy describing the subtle taste but it is refreshing with a texture similar to watermelon. I do know that I find gold kiwifruit more appealing though and I could get a kilogram for the same money. Perhaps dragon fruit have a lot more taste in Asia and the Americas.

The weather had a wintry turn on 29 October; I was out checking my traps when a 10 minute hailstorm turned the track to white. No wonder the fungi are confused!

Greenhood orchids

Spider orchid chilling out
Puawhananga, the native clematis (Clematis paniculata), continues to flower and now the bush lawyer is laden with clumps of sweet-smelling blossom.

Close-up of bush lawyer flower - perfection!

The huge blossoms of the native bush lawyer

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Turning the tide on yellow

I must have been looking at my section with rose-tinted glasses as I've totally ignored the sea of yellow that is flooding the front part of the property. Flowering gorse and broom, along with rampant blackberry and the odd Darwin's barberry bush make for a colourful but noxious problem that I couldn't shut my eyes to any longer.

Yellow waves of gorse and broom creeping towards the house

Flowering gorse that's higher than me

Yellow on the driveway as well

Flowering and early fruits on Darwin's barberry

The boat's being swallowed up by gorse
Armed with a Silky saw and secateurs I headed into the wilderness toward the colour yellow. The blackberry grows over the top of the bracken and if you duck down then you can see kiwi-sized tunnels underneath. I'm seeing a lot of kiwi sign around and I was tempted to use them as an excuse not to get rid of the blackberry!

Tunnels under the bracken

A wall of blackberry rising over my head

Looking north across the swamp - spot the yellow!

Clearing the yellow from the driveway
There might be less yellow but the grass didn't get cut and I'm no further on with the tyre wall. Maybe next weekend...

Tui raids and clematis

My new smartphone may be a step forward in technology but using it as a wifi hotspot, and connecting it to a Bluetooth handset, uses battery at an eye-watering rate. Instead of encouraging me to explore its new features, I'm afraid I've rejected its wasteful use of power and now pick up a book rather than get online to write blogs!

My time for catching up on section work will be harder now as the island winds up for its summer season. Most of our visitors come between Labour Weekend (October) to Easter (late March/April); some to tramp the Rakiura Track Great Walk, a number will be cruise ship day visitors, the crib-owners will be down for their summer holidays and lots of tourists come to discover one of New Zealand's best kept secrets. I know I'm biased but there's not many places in New Zealand where you see two tui raids, flowering native clematis and kiwi footprints - all in the 15 minute walk to work this morning!

Wonderful clumps of native clematis flowering throughout the bush

Can you spot the flowering clematis across the valley?
Tui raids are amazing and well worth making the trip here in October, despite the changeable weather. Tui get very possessive of 'their' food trees (mostly the native fuchsia) and guard them jealousy - woe betide any bird that comes in for a nibble. But when tui band together in flocks of 100 or more, the resident pair have no show of protecting their tree. The only sounds you hear are the beating of wings and occasionally a mewing (?crying) noise from the tui trying to fend them off. With fuchsia trees either side of Main Road, often I'll get caught in the flock flying across the road - I put some video up last year in this blog.

Spring is also orchid time; the chiloglottis orchids are starting to push through the soil but I've yet to see a greenhood orchid flower so far, they're much later than last year. There are lots of spider orchids around and lots of green spikes which will be flowering sun orchids in a couple of months.

Small Chiloglottis cornuta orchids pushing through

Close-up of chiloglottis orchid leaves - the flower will come later

These fungi are found in the same patch as the chiloglottis orchids - I
wonder if they are symbiotic?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Weather - and whether the plane's on time

Gales and disrupted flight and ferry schedules makes travel a tad more challenging so I'm very grateful to the Weather Gods for coming up trumps on Thursday morning for a calm flight to Invercargill. My annual dental check was postponed in September when low cloud closed both our airstrip and Invercargill Airport and I was fearing that gale-force winds might disrupt my appointment again.

The gales have caused some damage around the village; trees down, windows blown in and some roofing iron off. I came very close to abandoning the house after some huge gusts but luckily the roof stayed on - I didn't get much sleep though. The shade house got battered again and I've got more firewood after some trees and branches came down. The bush is littered with stripped branches and leaves but Mother Nature will use all of this extra debris to foster new growth - if only people were as efficient at recycling!

With a clean bill of health for my teeth I had plenty of time to explore Invercargill and work on my shopping list. The weather was fine and breezy on Thursday and early Friday morning but the wind changed later on bringing showers and light rain for my trip back home. Here are some Spring pics from the stunning Queens Park...

Young tuatara near one of his/her tunnels - these ones move fast

An older tuatara

It was good to be able to chat with the Spark techies face to face; my new phone is working fine but Bluetooth and setting it up as a wifi hotspot chews through the battery in less than 16 hours. The technical specs state that it has a non-replaceable battery lasting 400 charges which, by my calculations, means that it won't last much longer than a year. I was relieved when the Spark techie reassured me that the battery was covered under the two year warranty so maybe I'll use these new-fangled devices a bit more now.

More on my Invercargill jaunt in the next blog!