Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

Posts Tagged ‘birds

Black Swan

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09/03/2013 at 11:16 pm

Young gannets

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Muriwai-11A couple of young gannets nearly ready to fly. They look like gannets in size and shape, though they are speckled. Quite strong, they spend a lot of time stretching and flapping their wings in preparation for the big leap. And it’s an all or nothing shot – one try is all they get. Fly – or fall to the rocks and crashing waves below.

I am quite sure these two in the centre will be fine. But not at all sure about the younger one in the upper right hand corner, still fluffy with baby down, still struggling to manage those massive wings. Fingers crossed it will have another month to grow into young adulthood. Can’t help feeling sad for the late arrivals, those still just fluffy white fairy down, still struggling to hold their heads up… I know it’s the way it’s meant to be – but I can’t help but root for every one of these precious babies…


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05/03/2013 at 1:00 am

Return to Muriwai

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Gannet again

It’s getting close to the end of the gannet’s season in beautiful New Zealand. They spend the summer here, but care not for our cold wet and blustery winters – they head over to Australia and indulge in their tropical winters. But they’ll be back in the spring to mate and lay eggs and nurture their young. It’s a bit scary looking at the young ones just now. The early hatchlings are now full sized, and while they do not have the adult colouring, they are stretching and flapping and getting ready to take off. (More about that tomorrow!) Then there are the late hatchlings, some still with nothing but baby down. They need more time – much more time… I thought this would be my last trip to see them this season, but perhaps I will make one more…


I just love this place – any time of year. Sadly a swimmer was killed by sharks in these waters earlier this week. Adam Strange was an athlete apparently out for a swim in a popular training spot a couple of hundred metres out. It appears he swam into a group of 3-4 sharks feeding in the area. You couldn’t really call it an attack, just a sad story of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And no, it does not happen often – the last time was in the 1960s. You’re in far more danger of getting caught in a rip tide and carried out to sea than meeting up with an aggro shark… Still – we couldn’t help but keep an eye on the spot where it happened. (Not in this photo.)

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04/03/2013 at 12:45 am

Miranda Shorebirds…

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I’ve developed a real fascination with New Zealand’s birds. I’ve always loved birds (who doesn’t?) but photographing them is difficult without serious equipment. But last year I acquired a Canon 70-200 f2.8 lens and since then, there’s been no stopping me. I’ve been out nearly every weekend trying to capture them.

The Miranda Shorebird Centre is on the Firth of Thames, about an hours south east of Auckland, through some countryside that is a bit on the dry side, heavy on the ruddy hues and probably not as pretty as the central and western parts of the north island. The whole area has a naturally sombre tone, soft beiges and greys, muted greens and washed out blues. Very soothing. 

This guy is a wrybill. Quite little. Nests in this scrubby, muddy brush. Love his crooked little bill.

Miranda-24Godwits and Pied Stilts flocking. Amazing how the light changes so quickly.



Pied Stilt with a worm. 
Miranda-162cGodwit pair
Miranda-204 copy

Wading birds seem to get along for the most part. All the quarreling I witness was from the pied stilts, who form pairs that battle with other pairs… Herons are such scene stealers – one of the most common shorebirds, they are always stunning.

Miranda-304 copy

Miranda-336 copy

Miranda-339 copy

Pied Stilt melee
Miranda-377 copy

Post melee – the victors drive the interlopers away…


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19/02/2013 at 11:57 pm


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Grace2On the ride back home… warm and tired, watching the sun set in honey hues, thinking how pretty it is. And then a flock of seagulls flies into the frame and I am so glad I have my camera in my lap. It may not be as sharp as I would like, but capturing just this moment – I don’t mind…


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07/02/2013 at 11:30 pm

The New Zealand Dotterel

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I’ve had a fair bit of luck photographing native birds lately. This is the New Zealand Dotterel, highly endangered with a mere 1700 birds still wading the the shoreline in the wild. They nest in the sand, leaving their eggs and young vulnerable to all the intruders that have taken up residency in this country from rats and stoats to cats and dogs and people wandering across the sand…

So a real delight to spot this beauty on Pakiri Beach on the east coast about an hour north of Auckland this past weekend. She was happy to stop and pose for pictures.

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06/02/2013 at 11:53 pm

Yellow crested cockatoo

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Sydney -cockatoo1

I think if someone who knew about such things were to analyse my current state of mind, they would probably suggest that I am yearning for some kind of freedom that eludes me. I can’t recall another time in my life when I was so obsessed with birds. I’m no ornithologist – but I am always watching them, imagining myself soaring above it all.

I had several pet canaries when I was about 7.  One at a time. They lived and rather quickly died in a small metal cage in my bedroom. They were cheap back then – under a dollar for a pretty yellow bird. I don’t ever remember giving them food or water, though I suppose my mother would have (though I could not swear to that…) But when I was a teenager my mother confessed that Tweety had died several times and she just went to the pet shop and replaced him without us even noticing. We were shocked to actually find a dead one in the cage one morning. I don’t know what happened to it. But since we lived on the second story of a tall, red brick apartment building in the Bronx, there was no chance of a decent burial. That was the end of the canaries. The rest of the birds in my life back then were pigeons or seagulls when we went to the beach. No robin red-breast or blue-sky blue-jay in the dark and dirty Bronx.

When I got a bit older we moved out of the city – but even in the wide expanse of the countryside of Dorloo, New York, we rarely saw birds on the property since we had as many as 40 cats at a time. And no pet birds other than Ducktor the Duck. (For the complete rundown on the family pets, please go here.) I must say though – I was always fascinated by migrating flocks – coming or going – usually further north or further south, not hanging around Dorloo.

As a young adult I lived in Rochester – where I did have a wonderfully noisy woodpecker in the back yard and lots of sparrows, who loved to forage in the garden for my freshly planted seeds. But mostly I remember the crows – enormous, chicken-sized crows, shrieking and cawing and crying, a sort of sadistic soundtrack to my lamentation at having ended up in such a place. I suppose that was my caged-bird period. The wrongest thing about that was I hadn’t ended up anywhere yet. Still haven’t for that matter.

Here in New Zealand the primary wildlife is birds – there are no native land mammals other than bats and a few seals and sea lions who wander ashore to bask in the sun. And I do love the birds. Since our property is 90% bush, we have so many species – tui, keruru (wood pigeons), black robins, fantail, waxeye, rosella, and – though I’ve only heard, not seen them – moreporks, the NZ owl. A few minutes walk and I am on the beach with its oyster catchers, pied stilts, herons, terns, godwits and gulls… I foray further afield in search of gannets, takahe, pukekos, cormorants, albatross and penguins…

And as if that is not enough, every so often I climb into the belly of a big steel bird that will take me somewhere far away, where I can meet new birds that I can’t find at home… Like this gorgeous yellow crested cockatoo in my friend’s back garden in a suburb south of Sydney. What a pretty bird…

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15/01/2013 at 11:22 pm

Bringing up Baby

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Takahe loveJust one more irresistable photo of the Takahes… They are very tender with each other and share food. Here a parent feeds the chick the supplemental food provided for them.

Somehow I missed this photo yesterday when I was posting. It’s actually a smallish crop (thank god for the full frame sensor on the 5D Mark II!) from a messy shot with all four birds…


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13/01/2013 at 9:22 pm

Takahe Chick & Parents

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Takahe chick

Took a long ferry ride out to Tiritiri Matangi, one of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf. It is a pest-free wildlife sanctuary that has had great success with numerous native birds, most notably the takahe, which was though to be extinct from 1898-1948 when a few mating pairs were discovered in Fiordland on the south island.

Since then, it has been conservationists’ mission to bring these birds back. There are still only a few hundred in existence – so imagine my delight as we hiked up a scorching hot trail today and a family – 3 adults and one chick came ambling out of the bush! PK – it turned out that chicks get supplemental food, and they heard the DOC workers’ truck. Nonetheless, it was a rare, once in a lifetime treat to see them…

The adults mate for life. Here is a pair.

Takahe pair

They look very similar to my favourite NZ bird, the pukeko, which is much hardier and adaptable and is considered a pest by some. But these guys are bigger and stockier – the size of a very large chicken – with huge red feet and those incredible beaks! I love the markings on them. Here is another shot.

Takahe detail2

What a day!

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12/01/2013 at 11:52 pm

Working class cormorants

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Mt Maunganui-

Despite our distance from Australia, we have quite a lot of sea-birds in common. Some were brought here, some fly high on air currents and jaunt back and forth every year. Some – who knows? They are here and they are there.

These two cormorants are virtually identical to the ones we saw in Melbourne, doing pretty much the same things in both places – hanging out on a hunk of wood jutting into the water. But Mt Maunganui, near Tauranga, is one of NZ’s major ports. So unlike their Aussie cousins, who indulged themselves in a public recreation area, these guys inhabit a working port. I am sure they have much more responsibility – working cormorants.

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

06/01/2013 at 11:50 pm

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