Saturday, 20 August 2016

Love is in the Air- Napier

A stay in Napier is not complete until I've paid a visit to my favourite suburban park to check out my favourite exotic ducks. Though sadly, another duck is missing, leaving just one lonely Plumed Whistling Duck from the original three who have made Anderson Park pond their home for the last 4 to 5 years.

It is not known where the ducks came from but it is thought that they were either storm blown vagrants or perhaps illegally imported eggs that hatched and then been dumped at the pond. Their natural habitat is in tropical northern Australia & Indonesia so they were a very long way from home. Here are the two ducks, taken last October.

The remaining duck has latched onto a pair of black swans, following them around on the grass and in and out of the water. It passed close to me while walking with the swans but as soon as they moved off a way, the duck gave me a wide berth.

The male black swan was very protective too, hissing and chasing me if I got too close. Although I suspect he was probably protecting his lady, it had the desired effect of protecting the duck too.

Amongst the mixed menagerie of domestic and wild ducks that call the pond home, are a number of ducks suffering from 'Angel Wing'; an incurable disease caused by a high-calorie, low vitamin diet of bread. Anderson Park is a favourite place for parents to bring their children to feed the ducks and while there are notices asking that they don't feed the birds, it would seem that nobody takes any notice. This poor fellow will in the end, pay the price.

There was a lot of noise and activity coming from the weeping willow on the island across the pond...

Love is in the dozens of Little Shags/Kawau Paka squabble over nest building duties, feeding duties (for the few that have chicks already) and love making duties! 

Meanwhile, back on the mainland a Barbary Dove is making cooing sounds to his mate in a tree...

...and showing off his exceptional skills at collecting nest material. 

This is the first time I've seen Barbary Doves at Anderson Park; Barbarys are an introduced species with small wild populations in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and the Hasting areas. I've also seen them near Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. Since my visit to the park, one has visited Mum & Dads' bird feed table for the first time and I've seen a few sitting on power lines out near Meeanee, so I'm assuming they are fairly well established in the Napier area too.

I walked around to the far side of the pond and who should be making their way at speed across the pond towards me? A loved up pair of swans with a duck in tow...someone needs to tell that duck "...threes a crowd!"

The swans put on an elaborate courtship display of synchronised swimming just for me... 

and him...who was waiting patiently in the background while they circled each other, swam back and forward...

...bowed and twisted their necks together, and then tapped bills..

...forming a perfect heart. All the time their little friend just floated about in the background. Eventually the show was over and the swans headed back towards the island with the plumed whistling duck following at a respectable distance. I wonder what will happen to him when the signets arrive.

I carried on around the edge of the pond and managed to get a quick shot of the notoriously flighty NZ Shoveler Ducks/Kuruwhengi before they took to the pond.

I had one more bird to check out, and he is usually found on a third pond at the far end of the park. I walked along the edge of the stream which joins the ponds, spotting bellbirds, tui, warblers, swallows and kingfisher along the way.

And two or three White Faced Herons/Matuku Moana fishing for their breakfast in the shallow waters. This one is wiggling his foot in the mud, see the bubbles? He's hoping to dislodge a small fish or eel that he can quickly snatch.

It was a thrill to get to the end of the path and find an old favourite still lording it over the back pond. For as long as I can remember there has been a White Heron/Kotuku at Anderson Park. Not all the time and not always by himself (once there were 3 white herons) and probably not the same heron either, but I've very rarely missed seeing a white heron on this pond. 

It's quite ironic that we spent 4-5 weeks on the West Coast- the home of the White Heron- a couple of months ago and failed to see one. Well, that's not quite true. I did manage a fleeting glimpse of one near the Haast River bridge as we sped by. A small white dot on a gravel island as the far end of my view. And then to later hear that one hunts in the NZMCA Park at Hokitika on a regular basis really upset me. He's never called in when we've been there.

You can see that the long feathery breeding plumes are forming on the wings. The only Kotuku heronry is near Whataroa on the West Coast, they don't breed anywhere else in New Zealand (you'll remember we need to revisit Okarito Lagoon to do a tour during the breeding season). It's likely that this heron won't be breeding this year; they are already gathering on the Coast.

'Mirror, mirror on the wall....' He (or it could be a she) stood like this, staring into the water, for over 10 minutes. Stock still staring, not flinching a feather, waiting for a fish to swim by. That is some patience. 

I left the heron to his fishing and walked back up the other side of the stream spotting a small flock of gulls resting on the grass near the middle pond. These aren't just any gulls, these are endemic Black-billed Gulls/Tarapuka and they have the undesirable status of being the most threatened gull in the world. Black-billed gulls mostly breed on the gravel of South Island's braided river systems and are often found around inland lakes and waterways.

I wonder how many people, both residents &/or visitors to Napier know the history behind Anderson Park. The city's largest passive recreation park was once a racecourse and the home of the Napier Park Racing Club which was formed in 1886. Racing ceased in 1960 and moved to Hastings.

Anderson Park has been a constant in my life since childhood; as children we rode our horses to Greenmeadows and the river, skirting the edge of the park on the way. We once walked our show pigs (on harness and leads) through the park to the shops (that's a whole 'nother story) and rode our bikes along the paths. (I also occasionally took shortcuts through the park on my motorbike- naughty girl) We flew kites, attended Christmas concerts, had school sports days, went to the circus, took nieces, nephews & cousins to the playground, watched a brother skateboard and learn to drive in the carpark. 

Later, when Mum & Dad left the farm they purchased a house right across the road from the park, and then shifted again to just around the corner from it. I also had a house not too far from the great green expanse and walked my dog regularly through the park. Over the years I've also walked and run (or staggered) along the paths on a multitude of exercise regimes. I've visited it at sunrise and sunset and at all times in between; it's a park of many moods but it can look quite stark during winter when the trees have shed their leaves or at the height of a typical Hawkes Bay summer when the grass is burnt to a dry cinder. But it's still a lovely park with beautiful mature trees and interesting waterways and birdlife. And it's still a favourite to me.


  1. Fantastic bird photos! Sad to see Plumed Whistling duck missing and some suffering from Angel Wing. I just came back from Langkawi, learned that eagle feeding with chicken skin and fat through out the years had severely shortened their life span.

    1. Thanks Offstone, yes it was sad to see a lonely uck but I guess it was inevitable with time. Interesting information about the eagle feeding, I can see that would shorten their lives. A little like the kea here which get fed (by tourists) anything that's handy in the car.


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