Sunday, 15 March 2009

Frogs, Eels, Banded Rails & Spoonbills.

Last Tuesday I was on the stopbank by the skate park and heard frogs. I ventured down the boardwalk to the small pond behind the supermarket carpark and there, on a small log sat the most georgous brownish green frog, very fat and well camouflaged! I took some photos then realised there was another frog sitting on the other end of the log. A lovely green frog with intriguing patterns in its back - a face? I've always loved frogs & as a kid I kept many as pets. Disturbing to hear reports their numbers are in decline due to global warming or pollution so great to find these two!

Another creature I love is the eel and I often see them cruising the edge of the river. I know for a fact the herons love eels also although in a different capacity! I have more than once witnessed a shag or heron pull a young eel out of the water, the bird then faced with the difficulty of trying to swallow its catch while the eel has wrapped itself tightly around the birds bill! Catching them is the easy part - swallowing them presents a whole new set of difficulties.

I was amazed to spot a pair of banded rails down on the mudflat! Very timid birds and I got a couple of pics but only from a distance, they were quick to spot me and ran for cover.

AND the best news of the day was that the spoonbills are back. Well the first pair anyway. The most we had last winter was seven with a usual total of three or four. They arrive at least a month before the Kotuku and stay about a month longer. I am expecting a pair to stay in the area to breed before too long since they have begun to breed in other areas of the country rather than restrict themselves to Okarito. These two looked in wonderful condition with glossy white plumage.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Pacific Reef heron

Last week a couple of Reef Herons moved onto the mudflats. Actually there have been three in total but they are mainly solitary feeders so I have only once seen all three at a time. They are not common birds, their numbers having dropped in the last few decades due to humans encroaching into their nesting habitat (which is rocky coastlines.)

In the past whenever I have tried to photograph Reef Herons they have been exceptionally difficult to approach.

When I saw one last week it was perched on a dead tree surrounded by water on a very high tide. I remember a friend telling me she could get quite close to reef herons when she was on the water in her kayak. I thought it might be worth quietly wading out in the water with my camera. The heron watched me but began preening so very slowly I got closer and closer. Before long the bottom of my 3/4 length pants got perilously close to the water so I wound them up. The closer I got to the bird, the deeper the water became until very soon my pants were well and truly wet. Finally the heron dropped down into the water and began fishing.

By this stage my arms and shoulders were beginning to ache (big lens gets very heavy after a while) but the water was quietly receding so I dropped onto one knee and rested an elbow on it while I got some great shots of the bird in action. He fed very differently from the more common white faced heron, running after fish with wings sometimes outstretched. He was so entertaining I didnt realise my pants were in the tide almost up to my crotch! The bummer about my favourite birdwatching possie is that the stopbank runs right by it and all sorts of people walk past and wonder about this weirdo lurking in the mud up to her privates in the riverwater!