Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Giveaways at Pauatahanui Clean Up

The Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet (or GOPI for short) run an annual clean up around the inlet.

Always a popular event, there is a barbecue afterwards and of course the satisfaction of knowing you've done the environment a bit of good.  For children this year there was something extra, as my publisher Craig Potton Publishing agreed to donate a copy each of Under the Ocean and At the Beach to be spot prizes for children that helped out to be drawn at the barbecue.

Well over 100 people turned up, each family was assigned a particular part of the harbour.

The worst type of rubbish to deal with was buried, here a plastic bag was full of mud and sand it was difficult to get out. A crab ran out when I gave the bag a tug. I don't think plastic bags are much of a habitat for crabs.
Here's some of the rubbish we collected, not just bags of plastic and bits and pieces but dumped tyres too.

Then came the fun bit, a barbecue and the prize draw. First little Sienna from Aotea, got a copy of At the Beach.

 Then James of Papakowhai won Under the Ocean.

They both loved the books, and I was pleased to be part of the clean up. I look forward to helping out again next year. To find out more about the Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet here is the website The website includes some rainy day and educational activities for children as well as news and reports about the inlet.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gannets at Muriwai - day trip from Auckland

The gannet is a beautiful bird, snowy white, with black-tipped wings, yellow head, blue eyes.

 I often see one or two from my window, gliding, beak pointed downwards eyeing the sea below. If I watch long enough I'll see the bird suddenly dive at startling speeds.

These impressive birds feature on the first pages of Under the Ocean, where Ned has illustrated them at all stages of their diving.

They don't nest around here, but I've seen them nesting near Cape Kidnappers, we walked for a few hours along the beach to see them, leaving as the tide was going out and returning before it came back in again.

Now I've seen them, smelt them, heard them, in large numbers at Muriwai Beach.

I had no idea how close we'd be able to get to them, or how impressive the birds would be in large numbers. We spent hours watching them. 

Here's a photo from one of the lookouts, in the top left hand corner of the photo you can just see the lookout where I took the video from. This photo shows how close we were and gives an idea, perhaps of the size of the colony.

The birds had all secured a nest site but not yet laid any eggs. It was amazing to see how the nests were all the same distance from each other, there was not a scrap of wasted space.

The Auckland Regional Council website has information about how to get there, it's just 45km north of Auckland. The walk to the colony is called the Takapu Refuge Walk and is described as being 30 minutes long, but you'll want to spend more than 30 minutes there.

The Maori name for the Australasian gannet is Takapu. You can find out more about Australasian gannets on NZ Birds Online.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Clean and Green? Let's put an end to litter.

Like many tourists, I like to take photos of beautiful landscapes - places I've seen and enjoyed. The lovely clear waters of Northland
 and the stunning Karekare waterfall
It's rare that we'll photograph something unpleasant, so our trip photos usually show the best side of the places we've been. Sadly on a recent trip, we came across overflowing rubbish bins close to beaches (all it needed was a wind gust for all that plastic to end up in the sea) and rubbish dumped in the bush at the beginning of a walkway close to a road rest stop.

Want to take action?
- Join a beach or park clean up, one place to find out about what's on in your area is or contact your local Forest and Bird branch.
- Take rubbish home, rather than using bins at the beach.
- Think about how you might produce less rubbish, some good tips can be found at Rubbish Free Guide

local school children campaign against litter

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Seabird of the Year 2014 - Poor Knights star

I enjoyed snorkelling at the Poor Knights Island - a fabulous marine reserve with lots of underwater colour and life. But on the day the real star was the Buller's Shearwater, which put on an extraordinary feeding show.
Poor Knights Islands, seen through a haze of seabirds

Flocking in large numbers, the birds were taking advantage of krill and other small sea creatures that were being driven to the surface by larger fish.
In the foreground fish are driving up a feast for the birds

According to NZ Birds Online, Buller's Shearwaters only nest on the Poor Knights Islands. Their style of eating - sitting on the surface to eat what is driven up - also makes them vulnerable to fishing techniques. Lucky for them the Poor Knights is a Marine Reserve with no pests on the islands and the sanctuary extending out 800m from the islands. Of course they do fly further afield around New Zealand, and as well as being vulnerable to fishing, they are also affected by marine pollution - 156 were known to be killed by the Rena oil spill in 2011. After they have nested and raised their chicks, they fly north to the waters of North Pacific (Japan, USA) .

Buller's Shearwaters

Join me in voting for the Buller's Shearwater to bring attention to its vulnerability in the Seabird of the Year 2014 Competition.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Celebrating Conservation Week

Posters from Conservation Week 1993
A wonderful way to start Conservation Week - a mystery parcel arrived from a friend and in it were these posters from Conservation Week 1993. They've been on classroom walls and in children's bedrooms and now they've come to rest in my study.

The theme for 1993 was "Living Places". The theme for Conservation Week 2014 is "Discover the world where you live". Conservation is about ensuring that the world where we live has living places for wildlife too.

Get involved and enter the Conservation Week Competitions or take part in a Conservation Week Event. Or simply take the books in our "explore and discover" series to discover more about the world where they live - looking at the beach, the ocean and right at home in the garden.

Enjoy discovering the world where you live.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Forest and Bird Walks in Wellington - from my journal

It's spring and heading into tramping season. Thanks to the longer days and warmer weather (and the fact that I'm between books) I've been able to go out with Forest and Bird on a lot of day walks. Here's a sample from my nature journal of what I've observed.

Puriri moth
Tramping out from seeing  the Giant Rata, a puriri moth was found by a fellow tramper on the pathway. He picked it up to move it to safety.  This is the first time I've seen a live puriri moth so I was pretty excited by this find. What a gorgeous mossy green and what big eyes it has!

Wellington tree weta
Another insect slap bang in the middle of the track, this time a Wellington Tree Weta - a female - that spike at her rear end is an ovipositor for laying eggs. We gently moved her to the side so she wouldn't get trodden on.

Native clematis was also festooned over the bush canopy but most obvious to walkers where it was flowering at head height on the low scrub, stumps of tree ferns and other vines. We've never seen so much of it before.
Single clematis bloom suspended between trees

Clematis mixed up with bush lawyer, hence the spiky leaves

Clematis growing over a tree fern stump

WEDNESDAY 15th - FIELD HUT (again)
Phlegmariurus varius, common name - fork fern, although it isn't a fern but from an ancient plant family. Look closely and you can see each strand forks into two and then into two again. This symmetry is part of its beauty.
Phlegmariurus varius

Alongside the pathway were Tutukiwi or Green hood orchids. If you don't know to look for them it's easy to walk on by. Once you know, you see them everywhere. When I looked this up to check its scientific name I discovered there are many different kinds of green hood orchids, but I'm pretty sure this is Pterostylis banksii.
Pterostylis banksii

Forest and Bird - Wellington Regional Tramping Group runs walks and tramps of varying difficult for its members. Unless they are described as a Nature Walk, they're primary focus isn't botanising or we'd never make it to our destinations! But it's enjoyable to learn something about nature and still have a good walk. Our observations are often made looking down at the track or pathway - we avoid tripping up and at the same time learn more about the natural world.

You can see more of my observations, and those of lots of other people, on Nature Watch. Or join up and join in on Forest and Bird walks and see them for yourself.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pilgrimage to a Tree - the largest known Northern Rata

In dense bush north of Wellington stands the truly awesome giant Karapoti Rata.

Forest and Bird trampers and the Karapoti Rata
Thought to be over 1000 years old, it is 39 metres high and has a girth or circumference of over 15m. To read about who measured it, see The New Zealand Tree Register. The register tells you the GPS location of the tree. But it's one thing to know the location, it's quite another to find the tree in the forest.

We were very lucky that a member of our tramping group had the ambition to not only find the tree but also to note the route so he could lead us there. He and his friends were very determined - it took them several long attempts before they were satisfied they could lead us there. Our seven hour trip involved quite a few scrambles - up and down creeks and slippery slopes, sometimes using ropes - but it was worth it.

So big, it took 15 people to hug the tree!

Looking up the tree
Northern rata (Metrosideros robusta) are extraordinary trees.
They start life as an epiphyte. Epiphytes are plants growing on a host tree. The seed takes root on a branch of the host tree. It sends long roots down to the bottom of the host tree as well as growing up to the canopy. Over the years it sends down more and more roots that encircle the host tree. Eventually the host tree dies and the rata takes over completely.

A big thank you to John, Mike, Allan and Marianne.