Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Wasp's Nest!

My friends found these wasp nests when they replaced their roof. Years ago the wasps built these nests, and although the wasps died long ago, the nests have endured.

In "In the Garden" I wrote that wasps like to nest in warm places such as house roofs and Ned illustrated the wasp beautifully.  
But we didn't show a nest or talk about how wasps build them.

 Look closely at this photo of the wasp's nest and you can see it looks like its made of papery wood shavings!
Photo by Max George
The wasps chewed up wood from trees or their surroundings and mixed it with saliva to create their nest.

We were lucky that this was an abandoned nest. Wasp stings are very painful, so you should never approach a wasp's nest unless you know for sure its empty!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Watching Nature with NatureWatchNZ

You may have noticed that a 'widget' has appeared in the right-hand column of my blog, headed Nature Watch NZ.

Explore and Discover Nature is all about observing nature: quirky events like the By the Wind Sailor beach invasion last year or the Sea Foam after the Storm ; through seasonal observations such as Winter Walks in the Bush, to places to go and things to do when out and about.

By the Wind Sailors

I'm recording observations on NatureWatchNZ. You can see the five most recent observations under the Nature Watch heading. Click on the heading and you'll get taken to the NatureWatchNZ site, while clicking on my observations will take you to all the things I've recorded so far.

Apart from recording what you see in your garden or at your beach, you can join projects set up by people with a particular interest. I've started a Tree Daisies project because I like the way these intriguing trees stand out from the crowd and want to see what different shapes and sizes they come in.

Better still you can record an observation and have an expert help you identify what you've seen.

There is also an iPhone or iPad app for people on the go to record their observations.

There is only one reservation I have - I can't record everything I see - there isn't enough time in the day. So I'm mostly recording things I've photographed, that are on this blog, that we've seen on Forest and Bird or Zealandia walks, or that have got me intrigued. Not exactly a scientific approach!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mangaone Walkway - one of the best local bushwalks for family and friends

A short drive from Waikanae, tucked away behind the hills, at the end of the winding Managone South Road is one of the best easy bushwalks on the Kapiti Coast.

Features of this walk that make it a good one to introduce overseas visitors, non-tramping friends, children and grandchildren to the delights of bushwalks.

It starts with a Swing Bridge.
And there are other bridges, including this one which is up in the tree tops.
The path is easy to negotiate because it was once a logging tram track. The logging finished in the 1930s and since then the bush has been regenerating. It's a magical mix of tree ferns, moss and taller trees.
After only an hour or so of walking, you arrive at an large open grassy area. Perfect for a picnic and a paddle in the stream (the Waikanae River).
 In the winter, there are still things to enjoy. Like finding this bizarre Stink horn fungus.
Or seeing the stocky figures of Wheki-Ponga emerging from the mist.

Here's the link to the Department of Conservation description of the Mangaone Walkway. I recommend that for first-time walkers, families and out of town visitors that you walk only as far as the end of the Kaitawa Scenic Reserve (for your picnic and paddle) and then return the way you came. This would take 2-3 hours. The full walkway is a good opportunity for a longer walk if you walk its full length and return, about 5 hours.

Thanks to Sheena Hudson for her kind permission to use photos 12,3 and 5.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Favourite snacks for the outdoors

Ever sat down for a break and looked enviously at your walking companion's food? It seems I've been the subject of food envy, with so many people asking me for the recipe to my homemade muesli bar that I've decided to add it to my blog. It's easy to make, tastes good and keeps my energy levels up.

Banana Tramping Bars

Preheat oven to 200 C
STEP 1  In a large bowl mix together:
photo 3.JPG1 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 eggs
4 tbsp manuka honey (or golden syrup)
3 mashed bananas

STEP 2  Then add in  the following and mix well:

photo 4.JPG3 tbsp milk powder
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup ground almonds
½ cup each of sunflower and sesame seeds (or 1 cup chopped nuts)
1 cup each of sultanas and apricots (or 2 cups other dried fruit)
1 cup chopped dark chocolate (Whittakers’ Dark Ghana highly recommended)

STEP 3  Now stir in:
photo 3.JPG
5-6 cups soft rolled oats

Add enough oats to ensure that mixture is firm and not too wet.

STEP 4 Put into muffin tins or trays.  I use silicone ones which don't need greasing.

photo 4.JPG

STEP 5  Turn oven down to 150 C. 

Bake until only just starting to turning brown, about  40-45 minutes if in a tray, or about 25-30 mins in muffin cups.
Then turn oven off and leave in oven for another 10-15 mins until golden brown.
Take out of the oven and put on racks to cool.
Once cool cut the slice into bars. Freezes well.

Acknowledgements: This recipe is based on Sue Hely’s Muesli Bars, Canterbury Tramping Club website and has been adapted to be made without butter - and with chocolate!

Monday, July 7, 2014

My Bird Count

warm up
get ready
look out the window
one yellow hammer
in a flock of sparrows too many to count

step out
in the garden
two seagulls high in the sky
shadows of starlings and silver-eyes flying through
two resident blackbirds rustling under trees
one fantail flitting
one chaffinch perching
one tui coughing and chuckling
count me, count me

Monday, June 30, 2014

Nature Walks at Zealandia - edible plants

The Zealandia walking group sets out to explore Zealandia every second Monday. Recently we've been lucky enough to have some experts teach us more about the plants in Zealandia.

A simple introduction to ferns by Barbara Mitcalfe and Chris Horne helped me distinguish between some of the fern species on the Te Mahanga Track.
The delightful Hen and Chickens Fern - Asplenium bulbiferum
Last Monday we had an intriguing walk led by Des Smith on Maori uses of native plants. This time I remembered to bring along something to write with and made a few notes for myself. We looked at plants that were used for their wood -Whau or their reeds - Raupo; as well as ones that were used as medicine or food. It was interesting to speculate how Maori uncovered the different uses of some of the plants.

If I'm ever lost in the bush, I'll be hoping there is plenty of Kareao (supplejack).

Kareao berries - supplejack 
I knew that the young shoots of the kareao are edible, I've even tasted them - they taste a bit like asparagus! But I didn't know that the vine holds a lot of fluid that can be used if you are out of water and at risk of dehydration, or that the berries are edible. What a useful plant! I haven't always appreciated the jungle effect of lots of kareao vines, especially if they are between me and my destination. Now I'll look at them with a new appreciation even if I'm struggling through a thicket of vines.

WARNING: always check with a reliable source before you eat a plant.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Be a Citizen Scientist - join the garden bird project

Hooray it's the start of the Garden Bird Survey today. Between now and 6 July, spend an hour in your garden counting birds, you might be surprised by what you see. By doing the survey, I discovered that in the winter grey warblers and fantails visit our garden in winter but not in summer. 

Need more reasons to do the survey? Have a look at the website and you will see that scientists use the survey to help them understand more about our birds. People that help science in this way are called Citizen Scientists.

I used the Garden Bird Survey results to help decide which birds to include in In the Garden.
Here is the website with all the information you need.