Sunday, November 17, 2013

Week ending 17 November

What a hectic week it has been. Definitely looking forward to some down time - and less long distance driving - in the week ahead. Last Friday Miss 12 and I decided to head down to spend some time with my parents. My Mum had been unwell and was just home after a week in hospital, Miss 12  wanted to do some research in the area for a project she is working on and she had a break from trampolining so the timing was perfect.

Apart from catching up with my parents there were plenty of other highlights.

We did plenty of birding and it led to more than its usual share of dramas. An unexpected road closure - on a narrow, isolated dirt road no less - led to the car getting stuck in a ditch. Luckily Miss 12 was able to push it out!

In seven days we saw eight new bird species including a rare arctic migrant (Miss 12's new scope got a real workout as we spent ages looking at it then consulting the guidebooks then looking at it some more in an attempt to identify it), the most colourful bird in the country, the smallest bird in the country, and one that we'd made seven previous unsuccessful attempts to track down.

With it being spring time cute baby birds were in abundance - especially at the lagoon near my parents' place.

We  spent a happy couple of hours watching the Yellow-Eyed Penguins coming ashore after a day spent hunting at sea. It was such a treat to watch them preening and calling to each other before waddling back to their burrows in the cliffs. Seeing fur seals at close range was a bonus.

There was also time for plenty of history. We explored Lanarch's Castle - not a true castle but a fairly impressive cliff-top home built by one of the area's early merchants and politicians in the late nineteenth centre. Miss 12 indulged in a few Downton Abbey moments, we both admired all the ornate details but I mostly felt sorry for the maids with all the cleaning that would have been required!

We visited a museum where Miss 12  experienced some social history. She did not relish the sea voyage out to New Zealand from Scotland - the recreated interactive cabin, complete with sound effects, was a little too realistic for her taste! She didn't fancy life when the settlers were first ashore either. Trying on a crinoline was more fun - although she quickly decided it would be too hot and heavy to wear during summer. The country's oldest surviving farm buildings are a short drive from my parents' house so we took a walk up there as well and learnt more about early local history.

We took plenty of walks - in the bush, on the beach and around the city. Dunedin's Scottish heritage was obvious with the statue of Robert Burns and a bagpiper in the centre of town.

Dunedin's railway station is magnificent. Some claim it is the most picturesque in the world. Such opinions are always subjective but it certainly is an architectural gem.

Since I grew up in the area I subjected Miss 12 to the tour of "This is the house we used to live in, this is where I went to school, this is the site of the worst flat I ever lived in when I was a student (now demolished thank goodness)" etc. Luckily she seems to enjoy such things.

One day we took a walk along the beach to the Moeraki Boulders. The spherical boulders are up to three meters  in diameter.. According to Maori legend they are the remains of calabashes, kumara and eel baskets that washed ashore after a canoe was wrecked at sea. Science of course has a different explanation.

The town of Oamaru is famous for its historic precinct with buildings made of Oamaru stone.  Many storekeepers dress the part but sadly the shops were shut when we arrived. Oamaru is also the self-proclaimed Steampunk capital of the country. Even the playground has a Steampunk vibe.

On our first morning home Miss 12 and I were out of the house bright and early to helping with a survey of bird life on a local river. This river is a breeding ground for several endangered native species so an annual survey is carried out to keep a check on the populations and to locate nests so that they can be monitored and protected if needed. Three hours walking along our stretch of braided river - having to cross through it (up above our knees in some cases) several times - recording all we saw. No new species for us but we did see banded dotterel chicks. Chicks are always cute and these ones were swimming.

The final highlight was a long phone call from a friend of mine who now lives overseas. It was great to actually talk to her - letters and emails just aren't the same - and to learn that she'll be back for a visit and possibly permanently early next year. Something to look forward to.

1 comment:

  1. Great bird sightings and photos.