Another “must visit” on this trip to Wellington was the Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre. They are very well known for their captive breeding efforts of rare and endangered birds, and my particular interest was the Campbell Island Teal – a small flightless duck that had become extinct on Campbell Island, but which survived on an off-shore island. When I was at Campbell Island in about 1990 Department of Conservation (DOC) sent a team down to go to Dent Island to capture some of these teal to bring them to Mount Bruce to breed in captivity prior to the massive effort to remove the rats from Campbell Island, after which the Teal would be returned. This was all remarkably successful – rats gone, teal bred and over 150 of them were returned to Campbell Island. I had been hoping that some remained at Mount Bruce, but alas they had all been returned to Campbell Island some years ago, so we didn’t get a chance to see them, but we did get a chance to see other birds – some like the Takahe and Kaka we’d seen at Zealandia the previous day, others like the Kakariki, and the Kiwi we hadn’t seen yet.

A couple of particular highlights – the Kiwi egg in the incubator that we could see where the chick inside was pipping away at the shell ready to break out, and also seeing the very rare white Kiwi Manukura running around in the darkened enclosure foraging for food. Since the Kiwis are nocturnal, they are very hard to see in the dim light available in the enclosure, but we did get to see the pair of them.

And a great visit with Marlene – Marlene and I were at school together from 1962 when we were both 7 year old founding pupils at Fernlea School in Wainuiomata, through to the end of 1971 when she finished her 6th Form year and went off to journalism school – 45½ years ago –  we hadn’t seen each other since until this day.

 

We arrived in Wellington mid-Friday morning, having left Michigan late Wednesday afternoon – about 24 hours of travel in 3 flights from Grand Rapids – Houston – Auckland – Wellington. Once the rental car was picked up (it took a while as apparently the Dixie Chicks were playing Napier tonight and so the rental car outfit had 40 cars scheduled for pickup today, many of them to do with that concert) it was off to Zealandia to have lunch and see the wildlife there.

A great day of weather for it, and I got to see 3 species I’ve never seen in the wild before – the Takahē, which was thought to be extinct until it was discovered in a remote part of New Zealand in 1948, The playful Kākā – kind of a cousin to the Kea, and the Tuatara a lizard species that has its origins 200 million years ago!! (I have seen Tuatara before in more captive situations like museums, but not out in a vast area like we saw them today.) I had never seen Kākā or Takahē until today.

 

In the USA the Monarch butterfly populations are very mobile – wintering in Mexico, but traveling the length of the continent almost to breed in Canada and the northern tier of US states before flying back to Mexico. In Christchurch, New Zealand, the Monarchs remain in the city it seems, wintering over in a few parks spread around the city.

I set out to find some of them today, but alas a cold spell a few weeks ago had killed a lot of them. But I did find some at Abberley Park in St Albans, mostly high up in a tree sunning themselves in the Winter sun.

 

A visit to Christchurch, New Zealand by Roger and his siblings for a family get together with Dad. Roger flew out from the USA, Alistair came over from Melbourne, Australia, Ruth down from Auckland, New Zealand and we all met at Rachel’s house for lunch.

 

 

A visit to Christchurch for a week to see my Dad in August 2016 coincided with the first daffodil blooms in Hagley Park, so after a visit to see Dad on a Saturday afternoon, brother Alistair and I set out in the wee rental car to see if we could find some.

Mission Accomplished.

 

Thanks to TripAdvisor, I got a coupon for a free book from Shutterfly – who could turn that down!!

Here it is here:

 

Click here to view this photo book larger

Photo books are the perfect gift for any occasion.

and posting this “should” get me $10 off the next one 🙂

 

Alerted by a post on facebook from Todd Dopkowski that there were northern lights devloping over his place, Lisa and I looked outside around 8 pm, but didn’t see much. Foolishly we didn’t then get all the camera gear setup.

By 9pm it was showing, and 30 minutes later it was on. Then the scramble for the tripod, camera etc started. These are the pictures that Lisa took on her Nikon D50.

At the same time, Roger fumbled around with his Canon PowerShot S2 IS trying to find a setting that would work, and managed this poor imitation of Lisa’s pictures..

Roger's Camera's Interpretation

Roger’s Camera’s Interpretation

There were some amazing other pictures captured in various places. Here are a few links:

Album of viewer submitted pictures on WoodTV in Grand Rapids (includes one of Lisa’s images from above)

Aurora Gallery on SpaceWeather.com – contains links to some amazing shots taken in the USA, Canada and Norway.

This amazing time lapse taken over 2 hours by Michael Gavin at East Martin, Michigan – about 20 miles south of us:

WOW!!!

 

From 1-2 February 2011 we had quite a blizzard – not quite an outright record for snowfall – but the official recording at the Grand Rapids airport a few miles from us is 16 inches – second biggest snowfall in a 24 hour period. We did break the records for 1 and 2 February for most snow on each of those days. Some pictures around the front of our house are below.

Road conditions were terrible, and for the first time since at least Nov 1993 Lisa didn’t attempt to go to work even though we have a 4 wheel drive Jimmy. The County road crews got our road cleared by mid-morning.

 

ArtPrize hit Grand Rapids last year (2009) as a new idea from Rick Devos. Artists were invited to display their artwork at various venues in downtown Grand Rapids. Some were indoors, hosted in various businesses and others were outdoors. It was a huge success, although Lisa and I didn’t quite realise what it was about until it was over and the winner had taken away their $250,000 prize, AND sold the winning piece to the Devos family.

This year we vowed to be more active and so we spent Saturday afternoon wandering around downtown Grand Rapids with thousands of other people taking in some of the exhibits.

A few of my favourite works are here, and then a more complete photo gallery is below.

Simply Salvage by Brent Ahmicasaube in collaboration with Tad Caswell

Simply Salvage by Brent Ahmicasaube in collaboration with Tad Caswell

Interactive Barcode Portraits by Scott Blake

Interactive Barcode Portraits by Scott Blake

Play Me I'm Yours - Street Pianos by Luke Jerram

Play Me I’m Yours – Street Pianos by Luke Jerram

Paper Migration by Richard Shipps

Paper Migration by Richard Shipps

Svelata Admirers

Svelata Admirers

Continue reading »

 

Lisa noticed this on the outside of one of our UPSTAIRS!! windows this evening. The very cunning frog was hanging out (well was “sticking” out) on the window pane, ambushing bugs attracted to the light inside the window!!!

The Underside of a Gray Tree Frog

The Underside of a Gray Tree Frog

Excuse the apparently dirty window. (click any thumbnail to open a slideshow)

A photo gallery of some other shots from both inside and outside follows: Continue reading »

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