Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A Walk at the River

Friends told me of a way to get to the river - just go to the end of this street and cross the gates and you're there. This sounded promising. I got to the street, asked some neighbours if it was ok and crossed through the gates. It was all great until I saw a group of horses and they saw me. I have a real dread of horses and cows so I hightailed it back to safety on the other side of the fence. Big animals are not my cup of tea.

Then I drove over the bridge and tried one of the offroads. There is a track along a fence. The trick is, though, to cross over the creeks to get to the pebbly beaches in the river. I'm a wimp when it comes to getting wet so I kept to the track looking for ways to get across. I never found one but I did manage to take a few photos. It's such a beautiful river. This is Otautau from the east side of the Aparima River. The big smoke is from the timber mill. Looking at the lay of the land, it's easy to see why the town has had so many floods. Of course many of them were due to the Otautau Stream that runs right through the town. Thankfully, twenty years ago the stream had flood banks built up around it and we've had no problems with flooding since then.

Lots of willows - in fact a real infestation. I saw so many saplings coming up. Thankfully gorse and broom appear under control at least in this spot.

I was delighted to find a few native plants amongst all those willows. This is a very healthy looking harakeke (Phormium tenax). In fact I didn't see any holes in it at all - no moths - perfect for weaving.


Another beautiful native - koromiko (Hebe salicifolia).


Last but not least - spot the piwakawaka (fantail). I saw several of these. In fact, the riverside resounded with bird songs - thrush, waxeyes, goldfinches - you name it, it's at the river.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Toys from Trash

I found a fun website full of very simple science projects for kids called Toys from Trash. The instructions are through a series of pictures like this one for using potatoes to light an LED. To see the full set of instructions for the potato experiment go here: http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/toys/potato1.html

Seems like a great idea for keeping kids occupied during those school holidays. Unfortunately they don't explain the science behind the experiments but it will keep kids wondering and that's at the heart of all science.

Friday, 18 July 2008

I Spy - II

I went to the Aparima River and sat for a while. I saw a Little Shag (probably the same as the other day), 3 banded dotterels, a few harriers, and many spur-winged plovers. This is what I managed to get pictures of.
Two paradise shelducks (putangitangi)

A group of pied oystercatchers (torea) flying with pied stilts (poaka).


Pied stilts wading.


A pied stilt exchanging words with a spur-winged plover.

The great thing about seeing the pied stilts is that 'stilts' were mentioned in Customers and Green Men, Elizabeth McKay's book on growing up in Otautau in the early 1900s. So far, other birds mentioned in the book and seen are: banded dotterels, pied oystercatchers, and black-billed gulls. Still to be seen are: terns, skylarks, wrybill plovers, bitterns and white herons.

It's also been a challenge trying to find the best places to access the river. A nice walking track from town would be a great enhancement and help residents and passersby appreciate what a beautiful river we have here. I would be very keen to grow native plants for such a project.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

I Spy...

Driving on the bridge over the Otautau Stream, I spotted 'a dark figure in the distance'. A large black bird was on the rail bridge over the stream. I parked my car, donned my camera, and crept closer and closer until I finally got this shot.

I checked my bird book, and it seems that this is a Little Shag or kawaupaka in the 'white-throated phase'. It's common in NZ but also a protected native species. Check out those cute black feet.

This was a nice adventure in the middle of my day, and I'm looking forward to finding more birds around our waterways this week.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Garden Bird Survey 2008

The New Zealand Garden Bird Survey 2008 is about to start (12-20 July). You can find instructions and the form to fill out on the Landcare Research website.

I'm curious if anyone is interested in doing a quick bird survey of the Aparima River and/or the Otautau Stream. I would like to know if we still have any of the birds that we had 100 years ago as mentioned in a previous post. Leave a comment or email me if you are interested in this also.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Arboretum Trust Approaches First AGM

The first annual general meeting for the Alex McKenzie Memorial Arboretum Charitable Trust is coming up on Wednesday, 27 August. The Trust welcomes everyone to attend and share thoughts on the future of this beautiful and impressive collection of exotic and native trees.

One of the Trust's objectives is to develop a section of the arboretum into a Memorial Grove. This would make it possible for members of the public to plant a tree to commemorate a person or special event.

If you would like to plant a tree or are interested in the arboretum in general, contact the secretary, Jesse Bythell, (03) 225-7300, or email jesse.bythell@orcon.net.nz and come to the AGM on 27 August to be part of the future of this special place.

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