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Fbk reminded me last week that it was on 25th September 2016 that wild kaka* came to visit for the very first time. My sister and her family had only just arrived to stay after a long drive, and we’d made cups of tea and popped open a bottle of prosecco to celebrate. I turned and saw two kaka in our tree. They weren’t (and generally aren’t) scared of humans, and were curious about the contents of the teacups and prosecco glasses, hopping along on the top of our fence to take a look or a sniff. It was getting dark, and I attempted to take a video of the kaka, and the tui who were upset at these new upstarts taking over their tree.

Since then, I’ve seen kaka regularly, including two shagging in that same tree, as their population has exploded in our city. They are protected birds, but in Wellington, we have to say they are no longer rare. They hop around on the fence and in the tree, try out the garden furniture for comfort, and occasionally pose nicely for me and my camera. I still get a thrill to see them. Click on the photos below to see larger pics.

But three years on, I have to say that they’re not always so welcome. Our macrocarpa trees at the back of the house suffer at their beaks. Kaka are parrots, and have strong powerful beaks that they use to rip bark off the trees to find the insects they like to eat. Native trees can handle this, but exotics find it harder. It is common now to walk out of the house and find fresh bark strips all over the driveway. The macrocarpa trees are huge, so I’m hoping they can survive the onslaught, but they’re very old, so I’m worried they might not. We also have a wooden house – I’m worried too that the kaka might develop a taste for it.

How quickly the source of wonder and excitement turns into a source of concern.

 

* Kaka is a Maori word, and so does not take the English “s” in the plural.

 

 

 

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Today is my idea of a pretty perfect day. It is calm, with only a light breeze at times. The sky is clear, with just the occasional cloud making an appearance, breaking up the monotony of a plain blue sky. It is still cool, but not cold. I like that. It was chilly enough this morning to appreciate a woolly coat, but there is starting to be some real warmth in the sun. The harbour was sparkling and beautiful, even if the sight of a middle-aged man emerging from the water in speedos was a bit shocking.

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The dullness of winter is also over, as blossoms start to appear, camellias flower everywhere including our garden, and on my walks around my suburb, I see the blooms of numerous flowers I can’t name. As I look out my windows, I see splashes of yellow all over the valley, and these gorgeous yellow kowhai flowers intoxicate the tui, who are chirping, clicking and clacking wildly, happy that spring is here.

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Kōwhai flowers in my supermarket carpark

 

 

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Sightseeing in some cities (Tokyo) involves taking subways, which are usually convenient, cheap and easy to take. In other cities, it involves the adventure of local bus services, especially adventurous in places with different languages and scripts, though locals are generally friendly and helpful, telling us when to get off (Busan, Korea) because they can guess where we want to go! In many cities though, it involves walking, a lot of walking, and we certainly got our step counts up in many of the cities we visited in the last couple of months. In some countries, we can supplement the walking with taxis and cyclos/rickshaws etc if we wish. Walking in the heat and humidity is another issue. Coming home, though, we realised how easy it would be to lapse into a habit of only occasional exercise. So, on days when it hasn’t been raining, we have ventured out to pound the streets.

This morning, it was an absolute joy to put on my walking shoes, my cap, sunglasses and a lightweight walking jacket and head out. It was a perfect winter’s day – still, clear, cold but not too cold (about 11C probably). The greens of all our evergreen native trees were very green, the blue of the sky was blue, and the tui were going mad in the macrocarpa tree just down the street. The harbour was calm and blue, with container ships and ferries gliding across it. A few trees and shrubs were in flower – I don’t know if that’s by design, or because this winter has been unusually (or perhaps the new norm) warm.

School holidays started this week, so the park at the bottom of our street was full of boys at a football camp, whilst their parents were at work. A new home-owner was out digging up her garden, doing some serious restructuring with a pick-axe at this time of year. Another woman further on was pruning some trees, taking off major chunks. New parents ventured out of their driveway with their twins all wrapped up against the cold in the double pram.

I love walking in new places, to see new things. But it’s nice walking here at home too.

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We went for a walk yesterday morning. After a few weeks when we had to endure, off and on, a lot of mist and rain, it was a delight to get out in the lovely autumn sunlight, enjoy the perennial contrast of the green trees against the brilliant blue of the sky, and take pleasure in the oranges and reds of the occasional deciduous trees before they lose their leaves completely.

We weren’t the only ones out getting some Vitamin D either. We walked past teams of girls playing soccer down at the all-weather sports ground, their watching parents and coaches no doubt also grateful for the fine day. We passed a man who, as I remarked to my husband, always looks like a hitman walking his wife’s lapdog. He didn’t move aside for me to pass, but looked straight at me with hostile eyes, forcing me onto the road. There were others out on the road too;  an elderly lady and her daughter, a former colleague of my husband’s who stopped his bike ride to walk the last hundred metres or so alongside his wife who was walking her little dog too, and two young girls on their scooters who stopped for an awkward conversation with two loud, confident, but much smaller boys.  And we weren’t the only couple out walking together, though we were moving at a rather faster pace than most, determined to boost our fitness for all those tourist days spent out on our feet in a few weeks.

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning.

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A few nights ago, just as I was about to go to bed, I looked out the window and noticed a stunning moon. The moon was big and bright and surrounded by interesting looking clouds. So I rushed and got my camera. Though by the time I had set it up on the tripod, the clouds had gone.

“Never mind,” I thought. “This is an opportunity to practice moon shots, and to see if my new lens is any good for it.”

So I stood outside on the deck, and snapped away. I got distracted when I saw some mist hanging in the valley, and snapped away at that too. Then I decided to try my hand at some star shots, and played some more. I discovered that a 30 second exposure is sufficient to prove that the earth is turning (ie, far too long to photograph stars!) and got a decent photo of what we call The Pot (which is also Orion’s belt but the northern hemisphere’s version is upside down and so not the cooking pot/saucepan that we see here).

It was a beautiful evening, and I was still in the strappy sundress I’d been wearing all day. By this time, I knew it had been a mistake to dash outside so quickly. I was starting to itch. But the clouds had returned around the moon, and I had to try that too.

Finally satisfied I headed inside, with an urgent need for medication for insect bites. It took ages to get it on and even longer to begin to feel some relief – perhaps another hour. I felt distinctly unwell.

So I’m not 100% convinced that I want to photograph the supermoon tonight. Lesson learned though. If I do venture out, I will be wearing insect repellant!

Footnote: There were no photos good enough to show you.

 

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We’re in the last phase of winter, or is it the first phase of spring? Over the weekend, the only deciduous tree on our property sprang into life. On Sunday morning, I saw the first leaves emerge, and by the afternoon there were a few more. Its branches are bursting with buds ready to burst. Spring is, if not sprung, then about to spring.

The neighbours, after huge renovations last year, planted a tree that has blossomed most gorgeously right beside our driveway, so I was thrilled to pop out there and play around with my camera. It was nice to snap away, after the winter when I was tortured by photos of beautiful flowers from my photography course classmates from the northern hemisphere.

I’m reminded too by Fbk that previously I have checked out the tulips in the gardens around this time of year. Maybe next week you’ll get some tulip photos.

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My iPad and phone are both full of library loans, but I have no time to read them all. My phone has audiobooks – The Looming Tower, and the Year of No Clutter – so I can listen when I am walking. My iPad has a range of books I’ve downloaded based on recommendations from fellow bloggers and x365 bloggers, books I’ve heard reviewed or discussed on the radio, etc, but they’re all on a three-week loan, and need to be either requested again, or returned. I am just not keeping up with my reading this year, perhaps due to blogging, ironically on books this month on my x365 blog.

I recently mentioned going flatting, and – as I must admit I had expected – someone commented about the use of “flat” as a verb. It’s common in New Zealand, as we talk about flats and flatmates, with whom we go flatting; in contrast, a “room-mate” implies a more intimate arrangement.

There was an earthquake yesterday that rattled the house and cupboards for a little longer than usual, just reminding us – in case we were getting complacent – that we live in very shaky isles.

Right now, there are at least FIVE kaka in the macrocarpa tree out my window, all squawking away, flying at each other, and entertaining me. Unfortunately, the light isn’t good enough to get some photos or video of them, but here’s a photo of a kaka visiting us on the other side of the house some time ago.

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