Friday, September 14, 2012

Paradise Shelduck ... colouful ducks

These duck are the only birds to have increased their numbers (native - New Zealand) since first seen by Captain Cook ... he called them the "painted duck'. (see photos of adults here) One of the amazing things about these territorial creatures is that they often nest ( and roost) in trees .. the ducklings are pushed out when only a day old .. to live on the ground until they too can fly .. I love them!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A simple guide for Christchurch NZ .. a local recommends

When in Christchurch, make sure you see the Canterbury Museum and right beside it, New Zealand's oldest Botanic Gardens.

While here, your food choices are wide, from Indian to Japanese, from Thai to Greek, and many, many, other ethnicities, and of course lots of upmarket caf├ęs.

Your choices for dinner at night are huge too: my recommendation would be to combine Maori culture with your meal. Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, is only 15 mins from the city centre - if you combine it with Kotane, the Maori Experience you will have an evening with a uniquely New Zealand flavour.

While there,( Willowbank) you will also be able to see our native kiwi in natural surroundings – this flightless bird is only found in New Zealand and we locals call ourselves kiwi too.

Make sure you visit the the multi-award-winning International Antarctic Centre: Christchurch has long been the jumping off place for Antarctic exploration – from Robert Falcon Scott right through to today. This will take the entire morning as you experience an arctic storm, learn about the Antarctic, take a ride on a real Antarctic all-terrain Hagglund vehicle, and spend ages with the very cute, rescued, penguins in New Zealands first indoor-outdoor penguin viewing area.

Another must-do is to take a guided bike tour! I can well recommend Christchurch Bike Tours for a two-hour trip from the city centre to Mona Vale. Christchurch is also called the City of the Plain so no hills and very comfortable retro bikes to travel on.
one of my favourite native birds .. the pukeko - part of the Christchurch coat of arms

 After burning up some energy, how about a kiwi favourite for dinner tonight? A New Zealand staple - fish and chips with tomato sauce are not low fat but something we really, really love as a treat. Eat them out of the paper wrapping, with your fingers and you will know another reason why we love them – no dishes to wash, just crunch up the paper and throw it in the rubbish. Enjoy your days in my old city.  See more tips for travel (worldwide) on my other blog

Bellbird (native NZ bird) arrives in New Zealands capital: welcome!

Female bellbird by Steve Attwood
Female bellbird by Steve Attwood

Just received this news alert from Zealandia and thought it was worth reproducing in it's entirety -Heather Hapeta 

A female bellbird from an offshore island sanctuary has made a surprise journey to mainland sanctuary by the city Zealandia – turning up right under the nose of the Conservation Officer who originally banded her.

One month after Matu Booth helped transfer 60 bellbird from Kapiti Island to Mana Island for their Restoration Plan (a partnership between DOC and Friends of Mana Island (FOMI)) one of the birds he had attached leg bands to made a surprise appearance 25km away in Karori. Booth was doing his rounds last Friday at Zealandia when he noticed the newcomer.

“I immediately noticed the unfamiliar leg band combination - you do get very tuned in to those colours over time. There was a lot of interest from the resident males, they were chasing her and singing to her. I went into a bit of a tizzy and as soon as I got back to the office did a check on our database then emailed DOC and the Friends of Mana Island, who confirmed the bird was from their recent transfer. I helped set up the aviary for that transfer and banded nine birds myself – I’ve just checked my records and this happens to be one of those nine.”

Zealandia staff hope the new female will stay and add genetic variation for the local bellbird population. Conservation Manager Raewyn Empson was happy to hear about the sighting.

“She’s just in time for the spring breeding season so it would be absolutely fantastic if she sticks around. We have observed a high rate of dispersal with bellbird that makes it difficult to establish a population here – we see our birds, especially juvenile females, leaving the safety of the valley each year, often not to return. We’ve also seen the reverse - unbanded bellbird with different song dialects coming in to the sanctuary to breed; we know they’ve come from outside but we can’t know where from. It’s wonderful to get this information about the distance they can travel – she’s made a good choice if she decides to stay.”

Mana Island is closer to the mainland than Kapiti Island and Kapiti bellbirds are not banded. Banding gives conservationists useful information to track the success of translocations and resulting populations. Two of the birds from the same Kapiti-Mana transfer fell prey to mammalian pests on the mainland, one in Titahi Bay.

Although occasional single bellbirds were seen in the Wellington area before the sanctuary in Karori was fenced there was no breeding population – meaning they were functionally extinct. Bellbird are found naturally in forest parks including the Rimutakas and Tararuas but are at risk in unprotected areas from mammalian pests.