Friday 24 April 2015

Kaniere Canaries

In this, the last post from Lake Kaniere, I wanted to share with you a few of the lovely bird shots I took. Our birds might not sing like canaries but they all have their own special tunes.

Of course my favourite little bird is first. This tiny adorable male South Island Tomtit (Maori name Miromiro) was full of spunk, he wasn’t afraid to let you know you were intruding in his patch. Just because he’d chosen part of the DOC campground as his territory didn’t mean he was going to vacate it when it became overrun with campers, dogs, cars, boats & caravans. He just had more things to hang from or use as vantage points in his hunt for bugs and intruders. Often I saw him sitting on the very top point of a gazebo or tent, on boat rod holders, camp tables and even the satellite dish on a bus.

I’d hear his sweet little song as he rested in the bush near our van and then his high pitched alarm call rang out when I stepped outside- this was good because I could then get a fix on him and follow him from spot to spot as he flew the circuit of his territory. He caught a number of caterpillars in this tree, bashing them on a branch to soften them up before swallowing them whole.

He kept up the attack on his reflection in any car mirror or shiny window as he had done on the day we arrived. Every day he would spend five minutes or so flapping at the reflection before giving up and moving on. Until his next circuit.

It must be a thing with Tomtits because you might remember we first saw it happen when a female Tomtit attacked the ute mirror when we were driving up the Arrow River to Macetown.

After all the rain we had, you would have thought that a tiny little bird would have had enough of water. Not this little guy, he had a ball (bath) in this muddy puddle for at least 5 minutes.

And here is his mate- well actually it’s not, but it is a female South Island Tomtit, they are much less confiding than their male counterparts. This one was very cautious and even though she came in close she made sure she always had a branch between me and her.

The camp was full of Bellbirds/Korimako feeding on the berries of the many sub-alpine trees that grew around camp. Usually the bellbird has a very melodious song but going by the weird squawking we quite often heard, the juveniles have a lot of trouble learning to sing in tune. They do practice alot though which helps me locate them in the thick branches. This juvenile wasn’t too worried about me standing underneath him, I think he was glad of the audience. In between trying to perfect his singing ability he was filling his belly with mingimingi berries.

There were also a number of large Mahoe (aka Whiteywood) bushes, they were usually full of noise as the Bellbirds, Tuis, Silvereyes, along with a few introduced bird such as Blackbirds had a feast feeding on the plentiful supply of small purple berries.

There were about ten weka around camp- although two died while we were there- we’re not too sure how, they could have been ill or it could have been one of the 15 or so dogs that were in camp over Easter. Once again the sign said ‘no dogs allowed’ and once again nobody took a blind bit of notice.

I know a lot of people think weka are pesky buggers (and they are) but I’m quite fond of them; they have a heap of character to go with their inquisitive nature. A solid beak (that they often poke where it’s not wanted) and strong legs (to carry them off faster than the shoe that whistles past their head).

One day after Easter and after the camp ground had cleared out, I happened to look out the back window and there down near the bottom of the road was a small black ball of fluff snuffling about on the grass verge. I couldn’t believe my eyes, surely not, not another possum out in daylight (you’ll remember we saw a possum on our walk at Cave Creek).

I grabbed my camera and crept down the edge hiding behind some rocks on the way. He didn’t move until I got within a couple of metres of him, when he got a bit of a fright and stumbled off into the undergrowth. He then tried to climb up the flax. Of course that didn’t work, he just shredded the leaves with his massive claws and slid back to the bottom where he just sat there staring at me.

I left him alone thinking he must be ill and would probably die in the next day or two. Especially after the torrential rain we had for the next two days, but no, the next day at about the same time I saw him out on the verge again. Then he slowly made his way up the road casually grazing along the way. He spent alot of time stripping the leaves off a large dock plant before moving on and then making his way down another path.

On the third day, he was starting to look like a drowned rat and he had lost the little bit of fear he had, not even bothering to stop eating as we approached. I gave David a piece of banana to feed him and he scoffed it, checking around for more as soon as it was gone. Ok, Ok, I know, don’t shout at me. But how could I not feel sorry for this cute little fellow even though I know he is one of the most destructive imported pests in New Zealand.

By the fourth day, he was following me up the road. And not stopping when I got down low to take a photo! Perhaps he had been someone’s pet? Although I think unlikely, his ears had a few war wounds so maybe he was just old and being nocturnal, his eyesight would have been impaired by the light.

We were leaving on the fifth day so I checked around by the flax bush where he had appeared each afternoon to see if I could see where he was asleep. I felt rather sad for him, he was curled up in a ball at the base of the flax, out in the open with the rain falling on him. He hadn’t even tucked himself in under the bush in the dark. At first I thought he was dead but he stirred when he heard me and then went back to sleep. So maybe he was sick……or it was too early to get up. We certainly don’t get bored on this journey, there’s always something unusual happening around us.

There are a number of short walks around the lake including the Canoe Cove Rimu Forest Walk which ended on a small beach with a sheltered cove tucked around the corner.

It was a thrill to find quite a number of Sky-Blue Mushrooms or Blue Pinkgill (Entoloma hochstetteri) alongside the track. While not rare they are more frequently found in the Coromandel (North Island) and West Coast (South Island) areas of New Zealand. A blue mushroom is quite rare in the world though, New Zealand, and of all places, India are the only countries that have this bright blue fungi.

With a conical shape it does look like something out of a fairy tale and the lush green backdrop of the moss simply adds to the expectation that a fairy or elf is about to emerge from behind one.

And while hunting for more Sky-Blues we found other fungi, not in such a brilliant colour though but interesting all the same. In the bottom left is the birds nest fungus- a tiny fungi no bigger than my little fingernail, the small brown dots are the spores(‘pills’) that have been splashed out of the ‘nest’ by rain once the top has fallen free. The white helmet fungus on the top right is also very small, & delicate. I have no idea about the weird coral looking fungus in the top left and in the bottom right the fungi were whiter than white, almost opaque.

Another short walk was the Kahikatea Forest Walk through virgin kahikatea forest. Kahikatea like having wet feet so some of the track is along a boardwalk over swampy land. Once the track leaves the boardwalk and moves deeper into the dark and damp forest, the trees are literally dripping in moss.

Towards the end the forest opens up again and we can see why, once again we see the destruction that has been caused by Cyclone Ita. Rather than the Beech trees we’ve seen elsewhere, it’s huge rimu trees that have been ripped out of the ground here. Back at the carpark we talk to a guy who is working at preparing the rimu to be lifted out by helicopter- it’s taken a year for consent to be granted to remove this valuable wood from conservation land and if they don’t start lifting it out soon it will spoil. He heads off into the bush with his chainsaw and we can hear another one off in the distance.

And a few days later and the night before we were due to leave, DOC arrived with a van load of road cones to block off our area of the camp. An Iroquois helicopter was going to start lifting out the logs the next day and it was going to be landing at the camp to refuel. As we were due to leave anyway, we stayed in our spot overnight and moved the cones into place the next morning for them.

We might have been tempted to shift the van over to another site and stay and watch but the weather was still not that great; David had to pack the boat up in the pouring rain. We decided it was time to move on. We both loved Lake Kaniere, is was one of the prettiest lakes we’ve visited, it was just a pity the weather wasn’t a little better given the two weeks we spent there.


  1. Thanks again Shellie, I find reading your blogs does heighten my awareness when I'm out in the bush walking/observing/enjoying. Your eye and information about the flora & fauna and history, broadens my interests, making me even keener to get out there and into the beauties of nature.
    Yesterday over in Golden Bay I found the Salisbury Falls, down the Bainham Road another magical spot for nature photography, will return at leisure to drink in some more and attempt to record artistically...I prefer the Male South Island tomtit call...thanks again! Loved the Blue a sax player..I'm constantly trying to be a Blue Fun Guy.

    1. Thanks Jimu, I'm pleased I inspire you to seek out more, although I have a feeling you don't need much inspiring! :) Aren't the Salisbury Falls just lovely, tucked around the corner where you least expect them. It's such a pity the swingbridge over the deep green pool got washed away not long ago. Another piece of history gone forever. Safe travels.


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