Last Friday morning a bit of sunlight broke through the cloud cover and illuminated Castle Rock. This is a high dynamic range (HDR) image captured from our driveway. The image was bracketed (-2EV, 0EV, +2 EV) and processed using Photomatix Pro.
I occasionally help our good friend Diane at Ya-Ya House of Excellant Tea. In addition to selling and serving a good selection of high quality teas from all around the world, Ya-Ya’s has a well designed Zen Garden located in front of the teahouse.
I should also mention that for some reason people just cannot seem to resist walking through or writing in or generally molesting the manicured gravel and sand of the Zen Garden.
Last Thursday I noticed a man taking pictures of the Zen garden located in front of Ya-Ya’s.
I watched this man for a bit and privately mused about how much time would pass before this man too would disturb the Zen Garden. Sure enough, not two minutes passed before he walked over to the garden, reached down, and grabbed a handful of the pristine white sand.
I was moved by the situation and decided to take immediate action: surely some form of penitance (or Karma, in this case 🙂 was on order. I walked outside and kindly suggested that perhaps he would enjoy the Zen Garden more with a cup of tea in his hands.
I certainly did not expect his response to my suggestion. He said, “I have never drunk tea or coffee: I’m a vegetarian.”
The man’s response seemed to be such a non-sequitor I was left speechless. I was born and raised in Southern California and the concept of vegetarianism is not entirely foreign to me.
I realize vegetarians generally do not eat meat; however, I am not aware of any vegetarian restrictions on caffeine, but I could certainly be in the wrong. I did perform a cursory search in regards to vegetarianism excluding the intake of caffeine, but did not find anything which supports the man’s assertion that he does not drink tea or coffee because he is a vegetarian – It was a new one on me.
Just One Of The Guys
The Tamaki Brothers, who operate the Maori Village and Realm of Tane Maori cultural experiences around Rotorua in the North Island, have developed their newest cultural attraction right here in our own backyard – Tamaki Heritage Experiences – adjacent to Ferrymead Heritage Park.
Yesterday the Tamaki Brothers were in Cathedral Square here in Christchurch to shoot some video and help advertise Tamaki Heritage Experiences. As part of the shoot, two Maori war parties clashed with one another while a group of concerned Pakeha (Maori for non-Maori, European, Caucasion) huddled in fear and intrepedation.
After the shoot was completed, the cast handed out pamphlets about the new attraction to curious onlookers. I couldn’t resist a photograph of me taken with two of the Maori warriors. As I posed for the photo one of the fierce looking wariors kindly asked me to put on my “scary face” for the camera.
Gaby and I have reservations for this Sunday evening for one of the first public performances at Tamaki Heritage Experiences! Tamaki Heritage Experiences focuses on the first meetings between the Maori and Pakeha and the impact of Pakeha upon the Maori way of life. The experience includes a reconstructed example of a Pa (Maori fortified village), live performances, and a hangi (traditional Maori meal cooked in an “earth oven”).
I found this praying mantis crawling around on the front porch this afternoon. It seems rather large at roughly 6cm in length. I have seen quite a few of these around the house (both inside and outside) and couldn’t resist taking a picture of such an awesome insect.
New Zealand praying mantis – Orthodera novaezealandiae
Note the distinctive bright blue patches visible on the inside of the raptorial fore legs. Also, though a bit difficult to see in these images, the pronotum is the same width as the head. These characteristics seem to be evident in the native New Zealand praying mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae.
Appearently, there are only two species of mantis in New Zealand: the native Orthodera novaezealandiae and a recently introduced (ca. 1978) Springbok Mantis or South African mantis, Miomantis caffra. According to Landcare Research, Orthodera novaezealandiae occurs only in New Zealand.
According to Landcare Research, the invasive, introduced South African mantis, Miomantis caffra, which mainly occurs in the North Island, continues to spread across the country as shown here (PDF 899KB). According to An Illustrated Guide to some New Zealand Insect Families, by Elizabeth A. Grant (ISBN 0-478-09326-8), “the pronotum [of the South African mantis, Miomantis caffra] is very slender and therefore narrower than the width of the head.” (pg.30) Also, according to Landcare Reasearch, the South African mantis, Miomantis caffra lacks the distintive bright blue patches on the raptorial fore legs as evident on the New Zealand mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae.
Furthermore, according to The Penguin Natural World of New Zealand: An Encyclopedia of Our Natural Heritage by Gerard Hutching (ISBN 0 14 301925 2), even though it appears European mantid copulations frequently result in decapitation of the male by the female, this behaviour does not seem to be the habit of the New Zealand mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae. (pg. 277)
Last week Gaby mentioned to me in passing she had seen a Mig 21 aircraft parked on Litchfield Street in downtown Christchruch, so I grabbed my camera and went to check it out; after all, it’s not everyday you get to see a Mig 21 parked on the street – unless, of course, you live in Christchurch ;-).
Typical Rush Hour Traffic
It turns out the presence of the Mig is most likely a publicity stunt advertising a recently developed section of downtown called Sol Square (Sol is a not so very creative acronym for South Of Litchfield).
Dining Al Fresco at His Lordship’s Cafe and Bar
The Mig is parked along Litchfield Street at the intersection with the newly developed pedestrian throughfare called His Lordship’s Lane. There are several retail stores and restaurants situated in areas that were vehicle access ways or alleyways for the old mills which once occupied the buildings.
Flying Low along Litchfield Street
The wing of the aircraft extended rather close to traffic lanes and someone thoughtfully placed a high visibility vest at the wingtip in hopes of avoiding a collision.
The General Store: Objects for Home, Presents with Attitude, Accessories for Play
When I saw the sign for The General Store I wondered what sorts of intersting things were on offer there and wandered along the lane for a closer look. Unfortunately, it didn’t appear the Mig was for sale…
Mig on Litchfield Street
There did seem to be quite a few folks interested in the Mig. Maybe a few folks were actually attracted enough to walk through the newly revamped back alleys! There are several downtown areas in Christchurch which have attracted development of the old industrial areas. Unfortunately, it seems most often these interesting areas lack sufficient advertisement/attraction to draw folks into these gems. I would encourage the City of Christchurch to spend some money to make these areas more attractive to folks on the street. Many of these pedestrian alleyways have great retail potential, but sometimes people walking along the street can be a bit leery of entering these back alleys – perhaps because some of them seem reminiscent of derilect intercity areas – not exactly the sorts of places folks seek out.
Cruise ships regularly come to call at the port of Lyttelton. Often when these large cruise ships arrive and depart, boats from the port meet the ships near the mouth of the harbour and escort them as they are piloted along the harbour. On 14 February, the stately Cunard oceanliner the Queen Elizabeth 2 was set to sail from the port. A couple of weeks prior to this we were wandering around the port and noticed a sign near the famous old steam tug the Lyttelton which advertised for a late afternoon cruise aboard the tug to escort the great ship out of the harbour. We also thought the cruise would make a great date in celebration of Valentine’s Day.
The Lyttelton Tug , first put into use around 1907, is maintained and preserved by a group of devoted volunteers. We boarded the old tug around 4:30 P.M. Our first objective was to make our way over to where the QE2 was berthed – outsite the inner harbour, due to the size of the ship.
The wheelhouse was in immaculate condition, as were the the instruments and telegraphs.
Prior to departure everything seemed to need a bit of grease – everything! All the machinery is original and a little bit of tender loving care keeps it all running smooth.
From the inner harbour the Lyttelton Time Ball can be seen high on the hill. At noon, the ball would drop from the top of a long mast and a cannon would fire to signal to ships in the harbour Greenwhich Time for ships so they could adjust their chronometers and get a fix on their longitude before setting out to sea again. The Lyttelton Time Ball is the last remaining operational time ball left in New Zealand. At noon the ball still drops and a cannon is fired!
We slowly made our way to where the grand ship was berthed and waited for her lines to be cast off.
I was more intrigued with the steam engines on the Lyttelton than the more modern QE2, so I headed down to the engine room for a wee visit. The ship has two sets of steam engines which drive two shafts. Each shaft has a high pressure piston and a low pressure piston.
It was impressive to watch the big engines turn the crankshaft. One of the guys in the engine room was Scottish and reminded my of Mr. Scott from Star Trek.
I watched the engine room crew at work for a while and finally realized how the telegraphs from the wheelhouse operate.
Just forward of the engine room is the boiler room. It was neat to see the huge fireboxes blazing.
I spent at least half an hour talking to the fireman in the boiler room about how the whole thing works.
I came back up on deck to see where we were in the harbour.
The QE2 lumbered slowly along as it was piloted through the harbour. However, once the pilot left the ship it gained steam and easily overtook us!
The Lyttelton Tug has steam assisted power steering – not bad for a 100 year old ship.
At the headlands we left the QE2 as she sailed on towards Sydney. Goodbye QE2!
Eventually we made it back to port.
We thought we would complete the evening with a great Italian meal at Freeman’s Dining Room in Lyttelton What a great day!
On slopes of the ridges surrounding Heathcote Valley there is a walking track called the Scotts Valley Track, which meanders across the valley slopes around our house. In late Septemper, 2006 we decided to check out the track.
The carpark for the track is just a few blocks down Bridle Path Road.
The start of the track is rather steep, but the views are worth it! Along the ridgeline, Mt. Cavendish is on the left and Castle Rock is on the right.
The trail passes through an old abandoned stone quarry.
The floor of the valley is where Heathcote is, and the top of the ridge runs along Mt. Pleasant. It’s the area between the valley floor and the ridgeline which constitutes the reserve.
There were groups of these small, colourful flowers along the track.
The yellow flowers seemed to be abundant along the slopes.
These are our neighbors. They have a voracious appetite. We can often hear their occasional bleating from the house.
A view of Heathcote Valley from the Scotts Valley track. The large building in the center is the old maltworks.
The track mostly traverses the slope as it heads towards the Bridle Path.
To the north Heathcote Valley opens up to an estuary.
Near the juncion with the Bridle Path, the Christchurch Gondola heads to the summit of Mt. Cavendish.
The Scotts Valley track ends at the Bridle Path, and a short walk back down to our house. The Bridle Path is the original route over the Port Hills to Lyttelton Harbour. The Bridle path is also a nice track.
When I walk around the backyard after sunset I usually get the feeling I am not alone. I often hear rustling in the bushes. Being still fairly new to NZ wildlife I was not quite sure what it could be until one night I finally caught a dark glimpse of something walking across the yard. I quickly walked back to the house, grabbed a torch, and headed back outside for further investigation (kind of like the scenes in those scary movies. You know, the ones where someone hears some dreadful noise outside and decides to investigate, alone, at night. I mean, can’t they hear that ominous music playing?). Luckily, the critter was still ambling its way across the yard and my torch illuminated a fairly large and cute hedgehog! Unfortunately, by the time I ran back into the house to grab my camera the hedgehog decided it had had enough and walked back into the bushes.
Ever since that first encounter I have wanted to capture an image of one of the hedgehogs. Well, last night I had another hedgehog encounter and managed to grab my camera in time to capture it digitally.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, which explains why I usually start to see them around sunset. They are also insectivorous, so usually eat insects, but also vary their diets with quite a few other things. While hedgehogs have spines, they are unlike the quills of a porcupine in that they remain attached to the animal. The standard defense is to put their head down (the spines are only on the top of their bodies) and remain motionless, and if that doesn’t deter a predator they can also roll themselves up into a tight little ball, exposing only their spines to any would be predator. Hedgehogs are fairly benign to humans and throughout Europe folks commonly attract hedgehogs to live in their gardens to help keep insects under control.
Hedgehogs are not native to New Zealand, but were most likely brought over from Europe by early immigrants who wanted to have the critters to help out their gardens in their new home. There is still a common belief that since hedgehogs are insectivorous, that is all they eat. Unfortunately, that is not the case; in addition to insects, they have an apatite for invertebrates, some plants, and bird eggs, for example. Hedgehogs have no natural predators here in New Zealand, and so have grown to quite a large population. Also, recent evidence has pointed out that hedgehogs run a close third behind possums and stoats as predators of New Zealand birds, sometimes decimating ground nesting bird species.
“Please don’t wipe your feet/
Upon my back. Be more discrete./
For I am dressed to the nines/
With my coat of bristling spines.”
One day I noticed flowers starting to bloom on the cherry trees in Hagley Park. Soon every cherry tree was ablaze in color as the flowers were in full bloom, so grabbed my camera and walked to the park to take a few images of the Spring Fling. We do live in the Garden City after all!
The day I was out taking pictures the wind started to pick up. By the following day practically all the petals had already dropped off the trees. I am glad I took some time to walk around and see the flowers in their glory.
Not every tree was in bloom. Some trees had neither flowers nor leaves and provided a dramatic contrast to the vivid colors of the flowers and grass.
Even the clouds seemed to cooperate, providing a great backdrop for the scenery.
Daffodils planted along the perimeter of the park were also in full bloom. It reminded me of the daffodils planted near my house in Arrowbear, California. I could not believe just how many daffodils there were!
These flowers are large and the petals have a great texture. Most flowers were some combination of orange and gold for the petals and the center of the flower.
The perimeter of Hagley Park along Hagley Avenue is quite a wide area, perhaps 100 meters. This border area separates the playing fields of Hagley Park South from the street.
As it turns out, Christchurch has a fairly shallow water table. Much of the area that is today Hagley Park was originally swampland. To drain the water from the swampland ditches were dug to nearby rivers. Many of these drainage ditches are still evident in both Hagley Park and around many parts of town.
While touring the park, looking at the scenery, I noticed this curious exoskeleton hanging from a tree. Upon closer inspection I noticed many of these. Interestingly, I only saw them hanging from the trunks and branches of certain kinds of trees and only on the north side.
When we moved from Southern California it was late Winter and when we arrived in New Zealand in late February Winter was just beginning, so this will be our first Summer down under! I look forward to seeing what Summer at 43º south latitude has in store! My mind seems to still have a Northern Hemisphere bias. I mean, here it is – mid November – and when we get late Spring storms like the wintry blast we had last night I keep thinking that it figures, since we will be heading into Winter soon – Wrong! I am having a hard time adjusting to the fact that it’s Summer during Christmas time here – folks out camping, wearing short pants and short sleeved shirts.
One evening Gaby and I attended a kayaking group meeting here in Christchurch. At one point one of the guys was describing a kayaking trip to Quail Island in Lyttleton Harbour for a spot of tea for Christmas. As he described possible weather conditions to expect he said, “It probably won’t snow – probably.”
“The daffodils are blooming bright/
And Spring is here to my delight.”
The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, located on the outskirts of Christchurch, is not simply another reserve, but strives to link the local animals and the Maoris who first inhabited this land. There are many endemic and introduced animals on display.
This curly feathered goose is apparently one of the most threatened species of endemic goose. I thought it was cool. I have never seen a goose with curly feathers!
The pukeko (Porphyrio porphyrio) is a native swamphen the locals refer to as the New Zealand chicken – not to be confused with the chook, which is Kiwi for chicken. These birds have beautiful iridescent bluish black feathers and bright red beaks and are often seen walking dangerously close to roadsides and in pastures on the outskirts of town. Even though these are beautiful birds, they are allowed to be hunted. There are some folks who worry these birds may be endangered by the prolific hunting. Recent articles report these birds are often shot and just left there 😦
Mother ducks with their broods have been a common sight this spring. The ducks seem to inhabit the most “citified” places and can often be found waddling along residential streets. Unfortunately, even though the mother duck can fly, their ducklings cannot, so when the duck wants to cross a street with her ducklings she walks with them across the road. We have watched mother ducks with a long line of ducklings cross even in front of buses – the bus drivers waits patiently for the ducks to cross before proceeding. However, we have seen many ducks that were hit on the road.
The Willowbank Wildlife Reserve serves as a way station for animals which have been injured. They nurture them back to health and even release them back into the wild if possible. One neat exhibit is mostly devoted to keas. They have about 10 kea or so (again, mostly those birds which they have nursed back to health and are in the recovery stage. These parrots are big and beautiful.
One female kea was particularly friendly and liked to fly over and land on people’s shoulders. Later in the evening we took a guided tour of the native section of the reserve and we were in for a treat as the guide opened a cup of honey and spooned the honey out to give to the keas!
My favorite area was the kiwi house. The reserve cares for many injured kiwis as well as rearing young chicks from the wild until they are of sufficient size to defend themselves against predators. This is by far the best kiwi house I have seen yet. The pens do not have glass or wire mesh surrounding them as most other kiwi house do. Visitors can get a great view of the kiwis in their “native” environment, waddling around poking their long beaks into the ground and through leaves looking for worms and insects – very cool. We saw perhaps 6 kiwis inside the enclosure. They also have outdoor enclosure which would be great to visit at or after dusk.
Within the native portion of the reserve they have built a replica Maori village, or pa. As part of our tour we encountered a group of Maori in native attire and were greeted the traditional way – with a very aggressive show of warrior strength and language as well as the swinging of their great stone clubs and spears! Luckily our appointed “leader” chose not to intimidate these folks and we were allowed to enter their village to learn how the Maori pa was laid out – very interesting.
After our tour of the native animals and the pa we were led to a small amphitheatre and treated to a group of Maori who related a bit of their culture through dancing and singing. Because it was the off season and there were only a handful of visitors there, we were then all forced into a bit of dancing ourselves. The women perform a dance called the poi utilizing a small ball tied to the end of a string which is swirled around in different positions throughout the dance. The folks there indicated the poi – a ball tied onto string – may have either been used to “tuffen up” the women who repeatedly strike their forearms with the ball while they dance or they may have been used as weapons. I am not sure which is correct.
The men perform a dance called the haka, and yes, I did indeed have to dance the haka with the rest of the guys in our group – ugh! Probably the most famous haka in the world is performed by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team. If you have ever seen their intimidating dance before a rugby team you have seen a haka.
After our humbling dance experience we were led to a nice dining room and were treated to a buffet including carved pork, beef, and lamb, as well as all the necessary scrumptious vege dishes! I even had my first opportunity to try a standard Kiwi dessert, pavlova. Pavlova is essentially a pie made of sweetened meringue – a bit too sweet for my taste.
The reserve is open until late in the evening during the summer and it would be worth it to check it out in the evening sometime.
“We watched the Maori dance with glee/
But the haka is not for me.”