To my mind, fungi rank among the weirdest of all living things. However, 'weird' can mean fascinating (again, to my mind, which I'm sure some people consider at least as weird as fungi) and in some cases beautiful. This exquisite, tiny fungus grew with several other similar clusters on one of the tracks through the Totara Reserve a short distance up the valley from my place. I'd been there on a beautiful sunny afternoon a few days ago with excellent friends, one of whom spotted these spectacular clusters. I'm still waiting for the identification to be confirmed, but I'm fairly sure these will turn out to be violet coral (Clavaria zollingeri).
Update (2 August 2015): The initial ID was violet coral, but after some conferring the experts have decided this is in fact Ramariopsis pulchella.
One of New Zealand's smallest birds, riroriro (grey warbler; Gerygone igata) live in a great range of habitats throughout the country. Of the commonly seen birds, they're also one of the hardest to photograph because they seldom pause for more than a split second and, when they do, nine times out of ten it's behind a twig which also just happens to obscure the most important part of the bird — the eye, usually.
I followed this one around as it gleaned its way through the trees and shrubbery at the edge of the terrace. The sun crept closer to the hills in the west and the light grew progressively warmer. Several times I pressed the shutter button just in time to photograph the twig on which the little bird had paused — no bird in the frame, of course.
I'd like to say persistence pays off, but this was the very first photograph in the series. Sometimes you just get lucky.
On a heavy grey afternoon threatening rain (and sometimes delivering on the threat), I walked to the edge of the terrace. Mostly I needed to get out of the house, to recall the feeling of walking after too much sitting, but I also thought the birds might cooperate for photographs. They've been unusually accepting lately, letting me approach closer than usual. I want to think they're beginning to understand that I'm no threat, but I suspect the reason's less flattering and probably has more to do with their preoccupation with food during this lean time of year.
This kereru, one of two sitting next to a flowering tagasaste, kept a close eye on me but seemed otherwise comfortable enough. I kept just far enough away to avoid scaring it into flight. Birds have more important things to do than waste energy flying from non-threats.
The walk to Kiritaki hut (a.k.a. the Sea-Mac Motel, for reasons unknown to me) seems like an age ago now, even though only a few weeks have passed. Still, a lot's happened since then, and no doubt the hut a few days ago would have been embedded in deep snow. When I visited, it sat below the snow and ice, but the ground around the hut in the morning was hard with frost.
[P.S. Apologies for doubling up on the previous photograph. Maybe my brain had frozen.]
Much of the central and southern North Island is currently smothered in snow and ice, with the main highways north closed. The snow hasn't yet got as low as my place, but I thought another photograph from my recent walk to Kiritaki hut would be appropriate.
Petone sits at the head of Wellington harbour, and the long wharf that extends from the shore is an excellent place to view gulls, which lurk here to capitalise on any success the numerous fishers might have. This is an immature red-billed gull. While still abundant, the population of this species is declining rapidly and its official status is now 'Nationally vulnerable'.
This afternoon I returned from a few days near Wellington. Yesterday evening I'd taken a short, brisk walk up one of the bush tracks near Point Howard, and had stopped to photograph the last of the sun above the harbour. I could almost believe the worst of the winter had passed, but that would have been wrong. Even now, another icy front makes its way up from the south, and the forecast for this week looks grim.
A week ago I walked up the No. 1 Line track and across to Kiritaki hut on the Hawkes Bay side of the Ruahine Range. The following day I walked back the way I'd come, in better weather that allowed more of a view north along the range. Much of the snow had turned to ice, and, although it didn't extend far down the mountainsides, most of the track wound through the icy zone. Not until I began the descent towards the main No. 1 Line track did I leave the snow and ice behind. When I did, it was with a slight sense of sadness.