Monday 21 January 2019

Two Bays, Two Camp Sites- Northland


Well, that short break became a long one. Unfortunately we had to delay our plans for a couple of weeks when David became ill while we were out on the boat. Luckily & thank God we have been able to stay on at our friends place in Kerikeri while he's been recuperating, parked up (like friendly gnomes) at the bottom of their garden. 

It has truly been a much appreciated life saver and especially being on power and able to run the air-conditioning during the hot & humid days we've been having. It was a worry when our tanks were getting full and David was not feeling like he could manage to drive the rig across town to the dump station. The solution? The shortest trip yet to a 'dump station'; across the lawn to connect up to our friends septic tank. The perfect solution!

David is on the mend although he does get very tired so we'll be doing much shorter trips as we head south down Northland's west coast.  But anyway, back to a blog (which is now a long way behind!)...

From Puriri Bay we headed south back along the long & winding dusty road, back towards Whangarei. The alternative was to continue on along the Old Russell Road to Russell and cross on the ferry to Opua but that involved a bit of co-ordinating; we needed to arrive at the top of a high tide so we could drive onto the ferry and not scrape our bum. It was also quite expensive for a 5 minute ride for a rig of our size, and besides, we had another DOC camp to check out before we went further north.

Otamure Bay is another beautiful little bay just over the hill from Whananaki, which is the seaside settlement on the north side of the longest pedestrian bridge in the Southern Hemisphere, which you may recall, we visited a few weeks earlier from Whananaki South.

The white sands and sparkling blue waters of Otamure Bay are fringed by huge pohutukawa trees which provide shelter and shade for visitors to the public reserve.

The large DOC campground, which stretches the full length of the bay, is behind the reserve.

Unfortunately, the boundary fence between the camp and the reserve would made it difficult for us to inflate the Takacat and get it down to the water so there was to be no fishing for David during this stay. He could have perhaps inflated it on the other side of the fence but then he'd have worried about it parked up over there at night and also it was still quite a distance to haul it down to the water.

As it turned out the fish weren't biting that hard anyway. Jocelyn & Murray (and one of their family members with a new 5th-wheeler) were also parked up at Otamure Bay when we arrived. That's Murray, 'fisherman extraordinaire', who manages to feed a camp with fish. Well, he wasn't having too much luck this time, just the odd one here and there.

The campground shared the bay with just one other property, a lovely holiday home tucked into the corner and surrounded by bush. This little folly- a tiny boat house and jetty- was at the front of their garden overlooking the beach.

And when the owners arrived for a few days the flag went up, the deck chairs came out and the lifebuoys were added to the hut. It looked like the perfect spot to relax, have a cool drink and enjoy the views.

At the other end of the bay a beautiful stream (naturally stained with tannin) flowed under the overhanging pohutukawas and out to sea. This is where I'd be swimming if the weather was a little warmer! 

Just along the road and across the bridge over the stream, is the entrance to a gorgeous hidden gem. It does involve a short sharp 200m walk up and over a bluff but it's well worth the effort. 

The Watkin Powell Track delivers the walker into the beautiful & secluded Tauwhara Bay with its white sand, emerald green waters and magnificent gnarly old pohutukawa trees. 

This would be the perfect place to take a romantic picnic for two, to sunbathe & have a swim and out of season you’ll most likely be the only visitors all day.

There are a few secluded holiday homes tucked into the bush and flax above the bay and at the far end, a large mown grassed area under a pohutukawa with this old dinghy waiting patiently for the summer.

We drove through Whananaki (north) on our way to Otamure Bay and of course I had to pop back over the hill to check it out in more detail later in our stay. 

I stopped at the top of the hill to take a photo looking down over the estuary. I also wanted to check out a camping ground after I'd seen a sign and a glimpse of it out the window as we were passing earlier in the week.

And wow, what a fabulous looking camping site, and this, according to the farm's website, is only one of several sites on the farm on both side of the headland that forms the northern border to the Whananaki estuary. I do see that it only mentions tenting on the website & I wonder if campervans and motorhomes are welcome too. I can see that access may be an issue to some of the sites.

Further on down the hill the small village- made up of permanent houses,  luxury holiday homes and classic kiwi baches- sits on the edge of the large estuary.

And this time I approach the pedestrian bridge via the front door!

Any road with 'wharf' or 'church' in its name is a major magnet for me when I'm exploring and of course I have to check them out hoping to find something interesting to photograph.

I drove to the end of the Whananaki Wharf Road which was rather short... and onto the bumpy part where it said it was no longer maintained by the council. There are a number of baches along the edge of the estuary here and it must be a worry for them during king tides and with the global warming threat hanging over their heads.

I walked to the end of the track and out onto the old wharf...

...which overlooked the estuary entrance and Ocean Beach which we visited from Whananaki South the other week.

This is looking back into the estuary, you can see the ute parked at the edge of the photo (click to enlarge)...

...and oh look, there's that bridge again!

Sunday 6 January 2019

Goofballs & Bobbleheads- Puriri Bay


There'll be a short break before the next blog. We're back in Kerikeri catching up with some friends we missed on our last visit and then we're due to have a couple of days out on the briny with my sister & her husband. See you soon.

There was a lot of chatter, squeaks, grunts, flapping and jostling coming from the end of Puriri Bay, high up in some large pohutukawa trees overhanging the rocks and water. Not to mention the continuous circuit being flown by harried parents, out into the harbour and back again. Along with the noise, a large white splash of guano alerted me to a colony of Pied Shag/Kawau nesting in the trees so I went to investigate...

...from the rocks underneath. Which turned out to not be one of my best moves ever. I ended up ducking and diving as big squirts of white poo came flying down from above. I even had to dodge a regurgitated long slimy dark thing that looked like a half digested fish.

With no hope of getting photos from below I thought I might be able to see into the nests from the bluff above. And sure enough, I was able to fight my way through the undergrowth off the Picnic Bay track until I was standing on the edge of a small cliff overlooking a very busy shag colony with approximately 15 or so nests, most with chicks of various sizes in them. 

While the chicks wouldn't win any beauty competitions, I fell in love with these three fluffy goofballs who look like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. 

And just in case you're wondering, although it may look like I am very close to the birds, I'm not. I have a good zoom lens and I'm also blending in with the scrub that's growing on the bluff so the shags are hardly aware I am there (that was until I slid down the a short bank trying to get further along the bluff!) I can only see into a few of the nests, some are higher up in the trees, some are hidden behind trunks or under the canopy.  

I was alarmed at first when I saw some chicks with their head hanging down the side of the nest. I've seen this before and always assumed it was a dead chick but it's not. I was pleased to see the eyes open and later, the head pop back up. This is how they keep cool on a hot day. Don't you love the chilled look on the face of the one at the back (remember to click on the photos to enlarge).

While Dad (or Mum) takes a break, junior does some house keeping in this nest.

I took to calling the chicks Bobbleheads because as soon as they saw a parent land nearby, they'd pop up out of the nest and wobble about squawking and clambering over each other trying to get the parents attention. 

These tiny Bobbleheads appeared from the depths of their nest when they felt the nest move...

...when the parent moved to the edge of the nest to aim a poo over the side (there are 3 chicks, one is hidden low behind its siblings). There also appears to be three chicks in all of the nests that I can see bar one that had 2 chicks. 

Ablutions complete, the parent settled back in over the tiny chicks. The parents took turns brooding and keeping an eye on the smallest chicks while at the older chicks nests, both parents were doing a near continuous circuit; feeding-flying-fishing...

Back at the Goofball nest, a parent has arrived home...'s arrival is announced by a cacophony of noise as the chicks squawk and jostle for the best position, stretching their necks as high as they can go, poking the parents crop with their bill and balancing precariously on the edge of the nest. It's a wonder they don't push each other out of the nest!

After, what seems like an eternity and obviously triggered by the chicks begging, the parent regurgitates dinner...

... and the chicks head disappears down the parents throat...

...a bloody long way down! 'What else ya got down there Ma?'

'Leave some for me!'

The adults must hold a lot of fish in their stomachs, I thought that the smallest chick would miss out after he tried his best pushing and shoving but he just wasn't tall enough and eventually backed off. Once the strongest chick had had his fill he moved to the back and the 2nd chick helped himself and then finally the littlest one moved to the front and had his dinner.

I can't imagine how sore the adult's throat must become with all the regurgitating and then having sharp beaks shoved down their throats, and they're not gentle about it either. There's a video at the end of the blog if you want to check it out. Eventually the parent turned away and then after some more pestering it jumped over to another branch and took a quick snooze. 

Over at the little Bobbleheads nest, the noise is more subdued as the parent gently gulps, dry retches and finally regurgitates a much thinner liquid into it's crop, you can see the expanding crop here as it fills up...

...and then the chick just about disappears down the throat retrieving it. It wasn't until I saw the photos that I realised the little chicks were doing this too. I imagined that they would gently reach in and slurp the liquid! 

I think the smallest goofball didn't get quite enough food during the last feed...

...because he's decided to steal some of his siblings dinner!

They really are quite crazy! Perhaps this is how the smaller chicks do end up surviving. 

And here's the movie. Once again, excuse my movie making skills, I'm not that good at the best of times but with no tripod and balancing on the edge of a bank it was even harder to hold the camera steady. Persevere past the first frames and it does get better! Even if you might then feel sea sick!