30 April 2009

Toutouwai [2]

Toutouwai, Kapiti IslandAnother toutouwai on Wilkinson's Track, Kapiti Island.

Update: Just published a new post on Pohanginapete (at last).

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

29 April 2009

Weka [2]

Weka, Kapiti IslandThis was the inquisitive weka mentioned in the previous post. Sunday 26 April 2009; Kapiti Island.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

28 April 2009


Weka foraging among wrack, Kapiti IslandOn Kapiti Island last Sunday the weka (Gallirallus australis) we encountered seemed largely preoccupied with fossicking among the leaf litter and — in the case of this bird — the wrack along the shore. Only one bird lived up to the species' reputation by sprinting from the undergrowth to investigate the packs we'd placed on the ground (securely closed, I hasten to add).

Weka are roughly the size of a small chook (hence the old, now-seldom-used common name "woodhen"). They were introduced to Kapiti over a century ago (pdf; 192 Kb) but when rats and possums were eradicated from the island, weka numbers began to increase and they're now abundant. Four subspecies are recognised. According to The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand (2005), weka on Kapiti are the western subspecies (australis), found naturally in the north and west of the South Island; however, Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand states both western and North Island (greyi) subspecies (and hybrids) are found on Kapiti. The bird in the photo was smaller than the inquisitive individual we'd met a few minutes earlier and its iris was more orange than the red of the earlier bird. Whether the differences were genetic or because the bird in this photo might have been younger, I don't know.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

27 April 2009

Toutouwai (North Island robin)

Toutouwai, Kapiti Island
Kapiti Island, about quarter of an hour's boat journey from the western coast of the southern North Island, protects some of Aotearoa's rarest birds. I visited Kapiti yesterday with a group of friends, and felt as if I'd come away with several new friends including this little toutouwai (North Island robin; Petroica longipes). These little birds are so unafraid and apparently curious that I had to keep edging away because they were too close for my lens to focus.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

25 April 2009


Starling in breeding plumageSo many people take no notice of starlings or consider them a nuisance or vermin. Yet, look closely, particularly when they're in breeding plumage, like this bird, and it's hard to remain unimpressed. Listen carefully, too, and be astonished at their ability to mimic a wide range of calls of other bird species. If these were rare birds, a sighting like this would be celebrated not simply because it was rare, but for the sheer brilliance of the bird.

I photographed this bird during the summer. Now, well into autumn, the starlings here have lost most of this colour and are superficially drab. But some of the iridescence — and all of that voice — remains.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

24 April 2009

Tarapunga (red-billed gull)

Tarapunga at Flounder BayEarly morning at Flounder Bay.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

23 April 2009

Engineer Baba

Maharaj Raman GiriHe lives alone in a small hut beyond the small temple at Kolpeshwar, which in turn lies beyond the small village of Urgam in the Indian Himalaya. He has a Masters degree in engineering and speaks impeccable English, but these simple facts are not the remarkable things about him.

As we left on the long walk back to the road, his last words to me were, "You’re always welcome here. Come whenever you like. Stay a few days."
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

22 April 2009

Let sleeping cats lie

Tiger at Naini Tal zooDecember 2006. At Naini Tal zoo, Uttaranchal, the foothills of the Himalaya.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

21 April 2009

Jaisalmer, dawn

Early morning traffic, JaisalmerJanuary 2007. During the day and late into the night, Jaisalmer's archetypal India: crowded, noisy, jostling, intense. But early in the morning, as the shops have just begun to open and the tourists are (mostly) still recovering, there's an almost eerie quiet which an occasional motorcycle accentuates rather than destroys.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

20 April 2009

Evening, Nyika Plateau, Malawi

Nyika PlateauMay 2007. The Nyika Plateau in Malawi was one of the few places — perhaps the only one — I felt any sense of remoteness during my 7–8 months overseas. Twilight is brief here, and as the light began to fade I felt torn between the desire to find my destination before dark and the urge to photograph. Somehow, I almost managed both.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

19 April 2009

Autumn, No. 2 Line, Pohangina Valley

No. 2 Line, autumnYesterday was one of the best days one could hope for in autumn. I took the camera when I biked up No. 2 Line late in the afternoon and at one point stopped and did nothing. Just looked and listened. The silence — not even a rustle of wind in the long roadside grasses — seemed like a pause in Time.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

18 April 2009

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves, Pohangina valleyAfter those monochrome photos, a bit of colour might be a relief. I wandered along the edge of the terrace in front of my place yesterday afternoon, just enjoying the late warmth, the colours, the feel of time circling on itself. Apples ripe on the old tree, wasps and long shadows.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

17 April 2009

Pohangina valley fence

FenceA fence like this, still (barely) functional, leaning with the weight of age and tension maintained too long, gradually becoming home to more and more plant and animal life, contains so much more than a taut new fence.

"Welcome home", it says.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

16 April 2009

Mueller valley & Ngakanohi glacier from Sefton Biv.

Mueller valley and Ngakanohi glacierDawn on the Ngakanohi glacier (prominently lit by the sun) and the Mueller valley, photographed from Sefton Biv in February 2006. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park; a Nor'west storm developing.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

15 April 2009

Gorilla stream

Gorilla stream, Aoraki/Mt Cook NPDon't ask me how it got its name (but if you know for sure, please let me know). Photographed in February 2006 from the NZ Alpine Club's Unwin lodge as a Nor'west storm brewed.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

14 April 2009

Hooker Valley, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

Hooker Glacier Terminal Moraine & LakeThe Hooker Valley lies immediately West of the Mt Cook range and East of the Main Divide of the Southern Alps. A short, easy walk from the carpark takes one to a lookout on White Horse hill offering a good view of the terminal moraines of the Mueller Glacier (debouching from the left) and the Hooker Glacier (the massive wall directly ahead), and the small, eerie lake.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

13 April 2009

Winter on Ruapehu

Ruapehu/GirdlestoneWinter can be difficult. It can also be wonderful, particularly when it offers the opportunity to climb in conditions like these. That's Girdlestone, a subsidiary summit of Ruapehu, in the background. We climbed it on a brilliant day in August 2005.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

12 April 2009

Easter moon at dawn

Easter moon, Pohangina ValleyDawn, Good Friday; the full moon over the western hills of the Pohangina Valley.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

10 April 2009

Autumn: apples and rain

Rain on appleThis is what autumn feels like here in the Pohangina valley. Well, sometimes... right now as I prepare this for posting this evening (when I'll be elsewhere) it's sunny and cloudless. Even the blowflies are becoming active. So should I.

This apple's from an old, gnarled, codlin moth infested tree on the far side of the paddock (if the background were in focus you could see the tree). A small friend left it on the verandah some weeks ago.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

09 April 2009


Sea and sky at Flounder BayHonka-dori (sometimes spelled as one word: honkadori) is a Japanese term referring to the way an artist alludes to an older work. The context is usually poetry, but seems to have a wider application: artist/photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, one of whose photos appears on the cover of U2's No Line on the Horizon, says "In Japanese cultural traditions, the act of emulating works of great predecessors is called honka-dori, "taking up the melody. Not scathed as mere copying, it is regarded as a praiseworthy effort." I suppose, therefore, this photo could be considered honka-dori, although I had no conscious knowledge of Sugimoto's photo when I pressed the shutter release at Flounder Bay in June 2008.
However, something about scenes like these affects me deeply (eventually I'll post something about my time on the coast of Ghana). I think Sugimoto said it beautifully: "That's the effect of seascapes," he said, before explaining that a view of a boatless ocean is one of the only things left in the world that we can experience in the same way that our primitive ancestors would have experienced millenniums ago. "The works are really connected to the very deep roots of the human mind." [Corkill, Edan 2009. Photographer Sugimoto strikes a Stone Age deal with U2. The Japan Times (20 March 2009).]
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

08 April 2009

Ruahine dawn, from Shorts Track

Dawn from Shorts TrackDawn, looking South from the top of Shorts Track on the Ngamoko Range, the southern Ruahine in the distance. A little over three weeks ago.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

07 April 2009

Cup in sink

Cup in sinkIt all depends on what you see.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

06 April 2009

Terry above the Waimakariri

Terry on the Greenlaw ridgeTerry in his natural habitat. This was back in January 2005, when Terry, Lance and I climbed Mts Wakeman and Murchison at the head of the White River, Arthur's Pass National Park (in the South Island), then came out via the Greenlaw basins and Greenlaw creek. The big valley in the background is the Waimakariri River.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

04 April 2009

Weed at Titahi Bay

Seaweed at Titahi BayYesterday I took the short trip to Titahi Bay on the coast a little way North of Wellington. The track dropped steeply down the dusty, scrubby hillside to the rocky coast where small shingle beaches were littered with silvery, bleached driftwood, washed up plastic bottles turned opaque by the sun, lost floats, a solitary, faded sneaker, broken glass and the rust-rotted engine blocks of dumped cars. Large, aggressive salt-water mosquitoes (Opifex fuscus) swarmed around me when I sat down; unlike most other mosquitoes they have a bite that's easily felt. I clambered over the rocks, resisting the urge to try a few of the climbs, and peered down at the swell surging in and swirling the weed. Brilliant sunlight glittered on the sea; one or two small boats motored past; black-backed gulls flew overhead, yelping.

While this has had a fair amount of post-processing to accentuate colours and movement, it's actually not far from the raw photo.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

03 April 2009

Pourangaki river log (?)

Pourangaki river logHard not to believe this could be a taniwha, but I don't imagine one of those would show itself so easily. On the other hand, I don't recall noticing it while I was photographing.
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

02 April 2009

Speargrass above the Pourangaki

Aciphylla flowers above the Pourangaki catchment

Although the flowers of speargrass (Aciphylla spp.) aren't something you'd want to stumble into, it's the leaves — thin, stiff and needle-sharp at the tips — that do the most damage, because they can be hard to spot among the snow tussocks; moreover, the flowers (strictly, inflorescences) usually emerge prominently from the snowgrass so the plant's easier to avoid when it's flowering. We saw plenty of these on the tops above the Pourangaki catchment, Ruahine Range, just before Christmas 2007.

All content © 2009 Pete McGregor

01 April 2009

Sharks at Te Papa

Te Papa sharks
These sharks are suspended over the colossal-squid display at Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum in Wellington. As is usually the case, the light's very focused, with overall levels dim, making photography difficult. This is at ISO 1600.

The squid itself, while large (four and a half metres long, apparently), seemed smaller than I'd imagined. I guess the monsters from the movies, the tales of the kraken and the huge international interest during its preparation have a lot to answer for. While not wishing to criticise unduly the difficult and presumably nerve-wracking job of thawing and preparing the squid for display, the exhibit itself seemed rather murky; I couldn't help thinking of Damien Hirst's famous shark. However, I did appreciate the comment from the little guy next to me as he slid down from leaning over the squid and wandered off, saying, "That's a lot of calamari."

I wonder where he'd heard that?
All content © 2009 Pete McGregor