Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Perfect Puriri Bay- Part 2


Continuing on from Part 1

On a perfectly calm day, David gave fishing a miss for the morning and we went exploring around the Whangaruru Harbour.

This abandoned bach on private Motukauri Island would have been a great place to get away from it all; it's waterfront, air conditioned, fishing available from the lounge door and it comes complete with its own super sized NZ Christmas tree. Paradise lost.

There are several small seaside holiday settlements on the other side of the harbour; one of these, Ohawini Bay can only be reached by driving along the beach two hours either side of low tide. A concrete track around the rocks at the end of the bay allows access to the next beach Parutahi and then it's up over a hill and into Oakura Bay.

I was keen to see Oakura Bay, our family stayed in a bach here when I was 12 and I have memories of us kids walking out to an island at low tide. I'd asked several people about this during our travels but everyone had said 'No, there's no island'. Well I finally saw my 'island', a small rock at the end of a short reef. It obviously seemed liked an island to my 12 year old eyes, and in my memory it even stretched half way across the bay!

While David fished the harbour I went exploring. Picnic Bay is just a short walk around a small bluff at the west end of Puriri Bay. As the same suggests, it's a popular place for day-trippers, and a sheltered bay for swimming if Bland Bay on the ocean side is rough.

I also walked the 5km Whangaruru North Head Track which I'd have to say was quite a challenge. Jocelyn had warned me that there were a couple of steep sections, which weren't too bad...

....and a lot of steps.

But I hadn't quite banked on 53 flights of them; 45 up and 8 down and all of them between 10 and 18 steps long! I like to keep count of the number of flights on walks. Usually I'm OK keeping the number in my head but not this time. I kept a track by taking a photo of the number at the top of a flight when it looked like there would be no more.

And that's why I now have about 10 or so leaf litter numbers in my photos, just when I thought I'd seen my last flight another one appeared! At least making them up gave me a chance to catch my breath before the next lot...

... along with taking photos of the native Greenhood Orchids I kept finding growing out of the steps.

The walk (and stairs) were worth it in the end just for the view of this beautiful little cove (which unfortunately you couldn't easily access)...

...and the rugged coastal views north of it.

I enjoyed the mass of Flax/Harakeke bushes alongside the track, all with flowering or in-bud spikes reaching for the sky. But I'd have to say I was happy to see the light at the end of a tunnel and know that it was all downhill back to camp from there.

During our stay at Puriri Bay, we made a day trip to Russell to top up with supplies. It's been a while since we've driven this road along the south coast of the Bay of Islands and without the rig on the back we were able to stop and admire the views along the way. Though these photos are ocean side south of Cape Brett.

And this is Elliot Bay, a stunningly beautiful private bay and beach. David has fond memories of summer camping here with friends just after he arrived in New Zealand back in the late 1960s, he thought he'd landed in Paradise. The farm, beach and camp area have been for sale for a number of years. It's yours for at a cool $15 million!

Puriri Bay was home to a pair of Variable Oystercatchers/Torea Pango and the day after we arrived I noticed them scratching about and carrying grass to the railings on the edge of one of the camping areas. I was up early the next morning to catch the sunrise and while they were both down on the rocks I went to investigate what they had been doing. A nest and an egg! They soon flew back squawking in alarm and dive-bombing me.

A couple of days later a second egg appeared...

...and then they took turns (although the female seem to do most of it) sitting and waiting...

...right in the middle of the campground on the edge of the bank, beside a track to the beach and with the holiday weekend fast approaching. I went and spoke to the camp manager and she gave me some tape and standards and I roped off the area around them, hoping that would offer them a little protection. It seemed to do the trick, most people avoided them or they were dive-bombed if they got too close- though this was usually little kids who had no idea what the tape was for and wanted to swing on it. They soon learnt.

This particular pair of birds were actually the friendliest Oystercatchers I have come across (when they weren't protecting their nest). They often flew in to get tip-bits from people who were feeding the ducks and I actually gave them pieces of snapper which they took from a couple of metres away. Disappointingly we left before the eggs hatched but I heard from another friend who stayed longer that two healthy chicks eventually hatched and were well looked after by a pair of doting parents.

If you've been a regular blog reader you'll know spring wouldn't be complete without a fluffy duckling drama or three!

I'm a sucker for duckling cuteness and no matter how many times I tell myself (and David tells me) not to get involved, I just can't help myself.

Puriri Bay certainly didn't disappoint. There were two families of ducklings in camp when we arrived and more joining them from the shelter of the reeds & creek on a daily basis as they hatched.

A continuous waddle of fluffiness moved back and forward through camp or along the beach during the day looking for handouts and trying to keep out of harms way.

I took a shine to the family in my photos because they were very friendly, they would often rest for an hour or so by our door mat. The ducklings weren't afraid to walk over my hands when I put them on the ground, so I was able to give them quick cuddles. Mum wasn't too concerned either. But that meant we had to watch where we stepped as they scrambled about over our feet too.

After a suitable rest period the ducklings would start to stir and shuffle about trying for a better place under the shade of mum's wings...

...then ready to go walkabout again, they'd stretch, do a little preening...

...and before waddling off have a drink and a swim in a bowl of water I put out for them. 

I used to have a large shallow planter dish for this purpose but I think somebody who shall remain nameless 'accidentally' left it behind somewhere. 

From the archives
Often the mother would leave the ducklings in a pile in the long grass near our front door, perhaps sensing that they'd be safe with us, while she flew off to God knows where, or sometimes she'd have been chased away by a drake and the ducklings would just wait for her return.

A Puddle of Ducklings
The numbers slowly dwindled as the days passed. It's a big bad world out there for ducklings. It's no wonder they have large broods as there are often only 2-3 left after a few weeks.

If they don't manage to get left behind by their unobservant mothers (I rounded up several ducklings to returned them to their family), they then have to walk the gauntlet past other duck mothers, bigger ducklings and marauding drakes all quick to give the younger ones a hammering.

And then there were the shags & pukeko. We witnessed both of these catching and killing ducklings; the pukeko were the worst, stalking the duck family until they saw a chance to make a grab and then making a run for it back to the high grass. Of course they were only feeding their chicks but still, it wasn't nice to watch (and not be able to do anything because we were too far away unlike the hawk I chased away another day).

I couldn't get close to the pukekos at all to take photos, the race off into the grass at any movement; this photo is at the long end of my lens and blurry but don't you love the chick's big feet!

But wait there's more!

Still to come- Shag City

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