Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Variegated oyster catcher - New Zealand

Variegated (Pied) Oyster Catcher
If you have read any of my blogs in this section, you have figured out that I was a fan of birds.  There are a few such as chickens and turkeys I like for the obvious reason, but that is not the general nature of the way that I like members of the avian species.  I like them because they are ubiquitous, because they are such important members of the ecosystem, and because they are very photogenic.
We camped at a place called Clark's Beach, about a forty minute drive from the international airport near Auckland.  As we were driving in I saw a gathering of black and white birds on the beach.  I did not know initially what they were, but suspected they were black backed gulls.  After setting up I collected my camera and long lens and wandered off to get some shots.
I was very pleased to discover that the birds were in fact variegated oyster catchers, apparently also called pied oyster catchers due to their black and white nature.  I used my stealthy approach technique involving moving slowly, stopping, feigning interest somewhere else, and repeating until I was reasonably close.  Then I sat down low and began shooting.
Of the images I captures, I liked this one the most.  I often see them individually or in pairs, but have never come across a group of them before.  I spent some time enjoying my proximity to them then headed back to camp to take care of business.
After dinner I headed back to see if anything had changed and was pleased to see they were still there.  There was a person wandering near them, but took no notice of him.  As I was exploring other nooks of the environment I saw a host of black and white birds flying off towards another beach.  I looked over and saw the same fellow wandering right through the middle of the pack.  They scattered, of course, and never came back for the rest of the day or the next either.
My thought on this is to the man who disturbed this asset of nature - why would you take away this amazing spectacle from this place where they were resting?  How did doing such a thing improve your life or make a positive contribution to the world around you?  The short answer is that you did this out of ignorance and out of some base desire to disrupt the universe around you. 
To the rest of you, consider your impact on the world around you.  Your mere presence affects it and you should attempt to exist in harmony with it, showing appreciation and giving nature her due respect.  Just show a little compassion for the life around you.  It really isn't that hard.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Fantail - New Zealand

Fantail - photographed in New Zealand
Sometimes a bird's name does not do it justice.  There are names like "catbird" for sound, "swallow"  for the large mouth, and "wood pecker" for a bird's behaviour.  The fantail benefits from a great name, describing the physical show which the male enthusiastically displays when showing off for a female while at the same time telling other males to move along.
Wonderfully active birds, I had seen a couple of them, but was treated to quite the show when this fellow danced all throughout its territory.  I must have taken thirty or forty images, following him about from place to place - staying still for barely moments at a time.  Both the male and female have long tail feathers; unproportionately longer than what you would expect from such a small bird.
Isn't nature's diversity wonderful?

Royal Albatross - New Zealand

This was my first time seeing an albatross, and I was fortunate enough to see these great birds which boast a 3 meter wing span.  I knew they were sizable birds, but was unprepared for their amazing bulk.  Huge is the best way to describe them; I would think their body size is equal to or even greater than a bald eagle.  What is truly amazing is that after they leave the nest they spend upwards of 5 years on open ocean; they don't touch land again until they come into their maturity.
I saw only one albatross nesting; it was still a bit early in the season.  We went to the Royal Albatross Center where we got a chance to see these magnificent birds in flight.  It is the only place in the world where Albatross breeds on the mainland.
I commend the managers of the RAC as they have done an amazing job of keeping predators away from the birds.  They have fences set up to keep dogs and cats out, rat traps set out to capture rats, mice, and stoats, and have managed to facilitate a significant breeding colony.  It is a tragedy about how man has devastated bird populations all over the world.  This is one place where we are taking that trend back.  Well done.

The Tui - New Zealand

The tui is quite a peculiar bird, certainly from my limited north western North American perspective.  I was first struck by their white waddles which the male displays underneath its chin.  Then I saw another one with fairly amazing colours adorning it.  Finally, if that didn't top them all, I got a shot of this one with these amazing white neck feathers.
I am writing this from my motel which I am staying in at the moment in New Zealand.  I took this photo yesterday while visiting a city in the middle east coast of the country.  Over the last few days we have seen a number of these birds, but none were as clearly marked as this one.
You can see the waddles on the image above, although they are a little hard to see because of the light area around them.  Follow the neck curvature around from the beak and, as the neck becomes the chest you can see one of them.  I have other better shots of them, but this is by far my best shot overall.
My bird book tells me they are omnivorous feeding on insects; here it is going after seeds.  They seem to be quite a gregarious bird and are not shy around humans.