31 October 2009

Helmeted guineafowl, South Luangwa NP, Zambia

Helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) are common throughout much of Africa. This female was one of a small mixed-age party of guineafowl crossing the track in front of us at South Luangwa National Park in May 2007. They're protected there, of course, but elsewhere they're popular eating — I often saw "guineafowls" advertised on the walls of roadside meat shacks in Ghana and Malawi.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

30 October 2009

Giraffe, South Luangwa NP, Zambia [2]

Another look at yesterday's giraffe.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

29 October 2009

Giraffe, South Luangwa NP, Zambia

One of the first giraffes I saw at South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, in May 2007.

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28 October 2009

Waiter, Naini Tal

When I'd recovered enough to walk slowly down the road, I started to eat regularly (and carefully) at one restaurant/shop/Internet cafe in particular. The waiter quickly got to recognise me and looked after me well.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

27 October 2009

Doors and curtain, Naini Tal

This was the room at Naini Tal where I first realised the water I'd drunk at Kaladhungi wasn't sterile.

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26 October 2009

"What now?"

Back in 2006 I was a semi-unofficial photographer (if that makes sense) at the wedding of friends. Most of the photos were the usual records of events (the official photographer did the important stuff), and with such a good group of people and an excellent environment (Aoraki/Mt Cook village), my job was relatively easy. I looked through the photos again recently, and this one amused me. It's a good lesson, too — this was actually after the ceremony, so the true story isn't as bad as the photo suggests (that's the celebrant on the right).

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24 October 2009

Himalaya and Kumaon foothills from Kausani

The evening sun slipped below a blanket of heavy cloud hanging over the Himalaya and lit the foothills of Kumaon. Hazy smoke from many small fires began to fill the valleys.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

23 October 2009

Shopkeepers at Kausani

The menu at their shop/restaurant was limited, but the service was great. The sign in the background lists the heights, in metres, of the Himalayan peaks in the background (see yesterday's photo, or, for a different view, click on the photo above).
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22 October 2009

The Red Chair

At Kausani in the evening, this reminded me strongly of William Carlos Williams' famous poem. (Clicking on the photo will take you to a closer view of the flag in the background.)

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

21 October 2009

Brown trout

I don't recall seeing trout in TeAwaoteatua stream before we leaned over the bridge a month or two ago to play Poohsticks and were startled by this long, cruising shape in the water below. Trout certainly live in the Pohangina (into which TeAwaoteatua stream debouches), but I'm not surprised they seem seldom to venture up this tributary: much of the year the stream is low, and it consistently carries a heavy load of sediment and other pollutants (cattle have unrestrained access to it from the adjoining paddocks). This brown trout, although large, seemed in poor condition, being long and eel-like. They were introduced to Aotearoa from the late 1860s on (my ancestor was responsible for establishing them in the South Island's Lake Alexandrina in 1881) and they're now widespread.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

20 October 2009

Kea, Darran Mountains [2]

The same bird that visited Jono and me on our walk out from the Lake Adelaide Basin in early 2006. (Click on the photo to view yesterday's post showing this bird.)

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

19 October 2009

Kea, Darran Mountains

On our way out from Phil's Biv at the head of Lake Adelaide in February 2006, Jono and I had a visit from this kea. They're not difficult birds to photograph — sometimes, getting far enough away to photograph the whole bird can be frustrating — but this, I trust, shows it in its true context: its mountain environment rather than a car park or other tourist haunt.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

18 October 2009

Snow leopard, Naini Tal

She wanted to play cat-and-mouse, or snow leopard-and-goral, with me, but the wire got in the way. Eventually she lay down and watched me. I didn't want to leave, but the zoo was about to close.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

17 October 2009

Evening flag, Kausani, Indian Himalaya

As evening turned to dusk at Kausani, a light breeze fluttered a flag. Across a great distance, the Himalaya began to fade. Crows flew home to roost.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

16 October 2009

Summer's on the way [blowfly]

A bit of sun and this kind of wildlife starts appearing (it's an old photo, but relevant).

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15 October 2009

Terry above Greenlaw Creek, Arthur's Pass NP

In the morning we made our way down from the tops where we'd camped. We picked our way along the steep, broken ridge, occasionally leaving our packs and dropping a short way down a promising scree slope. Most, like this, petered out into dangerous bluffs, but eventually we found one that angled all the way down to the creek. Sometimes scree slopes are wonderful — one can run down, taking giant strides and moving with the scree as it slides; however, our route was mostly like this — large, not entirely stable blocks — turning lower down into fine gravel over a hard base (imagine trying to walk on a thin layer of sand on angled glass): the kind of descent that wrecks knees and turns thighs to jelly.

Already, the nor'west storm had begun to brew. The gale blew up during the night and we walked out the next day in the rain.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

14 October 2009

The art of relaxation [Terry]

In mid January 2005, Terry, Lance and I walked up the Waimakariri and White rivers to Barker hut. We spent several days there, climbing Mts Wakeman and Murchison, then climbed over into the head of Greenlaw Creek, where we camped one night. The following day we found a way down through the bluffs and camped near the junction of Greenlaw Creek and the Waimakariri before walking out to the road in Nor'west rain the next day. But this final evening in the hills was beautiful, with (we thought) the hard work done and over. We relaxed in the late sun, but neither Lance nor I could achieve the kind of style with which Terry settled himself down — perfectly at home in the hills.

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13 October 2009

Whio at Ngamoko hut

One late afternoon in March 2008 this whio (blue duck; Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos) visited the pool in the Pohangina river directly below Ngamoko hut. While I have closer photos of this and other whio, this places the bird in context a little better.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

12 October 2009

Tree people

Bark and rootWho knows what lives here? It's the collapsing bark of an old rimu, but it's home, too.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

10 October 2009

Ngirungiru, Arthur's Pass NP

MiromiroBetween attempts to climb Mt Rolleston in February 2006, I prowled around the NZ Alpine Club hut in the Arthur's Pass village, photographing ngirungiru (South Island tomtit; Petroica macrocephala macrocephala) and titipounamu (rifleman; Acanthisitta chloris — Aotearoa's smallest bird). Right now (c. 11 a.m. 10 October 2009) the rifleman leads the Bird of the Year poll by a huge margin (1075 votes from a total of 7119); in contrast the tomtit has just 64 votes. I know it's all in the good cause of raising awareness of our birds, and it's all in good fun, with some some entertaining campaign speeches, but so far I've been unable to bring myself to choose a "favourite", for the reasons I outlined some years ago. I mean, how could I vote for whio or rock wren or so many others if it meant not voting for the little bird in the photo you're looking at now?

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

09 October 2009

Cairn, Otira valley, Arthur's Pass NP

Cairn, Otira valleyThe Otira valley in Arthur's Pass National Park provides relatively easy access to several well-known climbing routes on Mt Rolleston. In early February 2006, Jono and I climbed Rolleston by the straightforward Otira Slide route to check the descent route, with the intention of returning to climb one of the classic routes on the Otira Face. But the weather put paid to that, although only briefly. We returned three days after our initial ascent and climbed the Face in ideal conditions, with a little cloud swirling around to protect us from the sun while enhancing rather than obscuring the view. A magnificent day in the Southern Alps.
In winter, avalanches sometimes threaten the route up the valley but in summer the walk to this cairn can be undertaken by even the marginally fit. That's the Otira Face in the background, on the left.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

08 October 2009

Rabari man, north-western Gujarat

We met this man as he rode his camel along a dusty road in the midday heat. Parbat, our Rabari guide, stopped the car to chat with him. He leaned down from his camel and shook my hand, and I asked Parbat to check if I might photograph him. The response needed no translation, and although initially he posed (as always, it seems), I followed the formal photos with this, as he leaned to resume his chat with Parbat.
[8 February 2007].
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

07 October 2009

White rhino, Pilanesberg, South Africa

RhinocerosAn excellent place to see white rhino and black rhino is Pilanesberg Game Reserve in northern South Africa. White rhino are slightly larger than black rhino and generally graze grasslands, unlike the browsing, scrub-favouring black rhino. This white rhino female and calf gradually grazed closer to my car in the early evening. "Prehistoric" is by far the most apt word to describe them.
[April 2007].
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

06 October 2009

Giraffe, Kruger NP, South Africa

The sheer size of giraffes never fails to astonish me. They're strange animals, too — so weird they're almost disconcerting.
[April 2007]
 All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

05 October 2009

Elephants, South Luangwa NP, Zambia

ElephantsWe watched a small group of elephants pass by in the dry and shimmering morning heat. Places like South Luangwa National Park do their best to preserve the ghost of Africa past — the great continent teeming with wildlife; humans subordinate; extinction a natural process. Now the large mammals have gone or are rapidly vanishing from outside the parks — and in some cases from within, also; humans dominate; extinction accelerates.
[May 2007]
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04 October 2009

Bushbuck, Nyika Plateau, Malawi

BushbuckAt my campsite on the Nyika Plateau in northern Malawi, bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus) visited each morning to graze the introduced grasses and clovers; white-necked ravens fossicked around the shelter; eland, roan antelope and zebra wandered on the distant rolling hills. Sometimes it all seems as if I dreamed it.
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03 October 2009


KawakawaKawakawa, Macropiper excelsum, grows in abundance around here. It prefers the low light of the forest interior and doesn't do well in full sunlight. The moth-eaten appearance of the leaves in this photo is characteristic, and indeed it's the caterpillar of the moth Cleora scriptaria (kawakawa looper) that's largely responsible for this distinctive damage. The English name is pepper tree or pepper wood, but these names are also given to horopito (Pseudowintera colorata); kawakawa, the Maori name, avoids the potential confusion of these two very different small, shrubby trees.

I photographed this near the western end of the Manawatu Gorge walking track on 27 July 2009. This foliage cluster was about head height; the fully grown tree doesn't get much more than about 2–3 times that tall.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

02 October 2009

Spring, Pohangina valley

October is a strange month. October is a journey. One has left home, is underway, is going somewhere but is not yet there. Summer might be the destination or not; the escape from winter is like leaving home. October is in-between; nothing has been settled, everything might be possible.

October here is unquestionably spring, although the weather might argue otherwise — sometimes it's winter again, as was the case a week ago when snow covered the hills behind Palmerston North; sometimes it's summer and one can bake in shorts and T-shirt on the verandah and think about going for a swim if the river was a summer river, not an October river: if it wasn't discoloured, high and swift. But the lambs are growing fast, the birds are nesting, most of the trees in leaf already or flowering profusely, and the sun sets further to the south-west. This is the time of year when so many animals fight, mate, argue, build, raise young and defend territories. It's a time of trying to claim a patch and settle down.

Yet October, this strange time of year, fills me with restlessness and wanderlust. Maybe I'm as strange as October.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor