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Archive for the 'Nature' Category

Moon Crazy

Hubby and I have been taking a lot of photos with our new camera. Here is a selection of moon shots. It’s amazing seeing the craters so clearly.

Moon

This is the moon as we saw it from our back yard with no magnification.

Moon1

A little zoom and the shadows and craters are more obvious.

Moon2

Hubby thinks the placement of the craters is why people speak of the man in the moon.

Moon3

And here’s a close up of his face.

Moon4

This one is zoomed up even more, and you can see the craters.

Would you like to fly into space or become an astronaut? Did you want to be an astronaut while you were growing up?

The Mimic and the Coward

I think I’ve mentioned Mr. Munro has a new camera. He took these great photos of a tui, one of New Zealand’s native birds. The tui is very cool and is unusual as far as native birds are concerned because it has adapted to the changes in habitat and flourished. It’s not strange to see them flying around city parks or the local neighborhood, especially if there are trees full of blossoms. They feed on nectar and we’ve seen a lot lately, feeding on the spring blossoms.

The tui is a mimic, and they’ve been known to bark like dogs, copy musical instruments such as bagpipes. They have a whole rang of clicks and warbles and whistles. A tui that hangs out in my street has a different “vocabulary” to tuis that might live five miles away.

Tui

Tui

Tui

tui

The tui has a distinctive tuft of white feathers at its throat. Maori legend says that this tuft signifies the mark of a coward. The Maori god Tanemahuta asked one of the birds to go to live on the forest floor to take care of the pests. The bird that volunteered would lose his colorful plumage and his ability to fly. The tui and the other birds who declined all received a punishment. The tui received the white feathers. And the bird that volunteered to live on the forest floor – that was the kiwi, of course.

Are you a bird watcher?

In Quest of the Tuatara

We’ve visited Wellington several times and Zealandia before.(formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary) Last time our visit was during the winter and since we both really wanted to see a tuatara, we decided to try our luck again.

Zealandia is an inland island – sanctuary for some of our rarest native birds. The entire place is surrounded by a tall, pest-proof fence that keeps out wild cats, stoats, weasels, possums, rats and other introduced pests that decimate our native bird population.

The site was previously a water reservoir for the city, but since Wellington has grown it became unviable. There was also the problem of an earthquake hitting. The area was replanted with native trees and turned into a sanctuary.

Old Resevior

This is the old reservoir.

Native Duck

Native New Zealand duck – the scaup. It’s the smallest of our native ducks. The scaup is a diving duck and disappears for long moments under the water.

Takahe

This is a takahe, one of our flightless birds. It was thought to be extinct after 1898 but was rediscovered in 1948. There are two takahe at Zealandia – a pair – although they are infertile so are not adding to the low population. They eat tussocks, grass, shoots and insects.

Kakariki

This is the kakariki parakeet, one of NZ’s natives. They have become endangered due to loss of their natural habitat.

The day of our visit was warm and sunny – the perfect weather to tempt the tuataras out of their burrows. Tuatara are rare reptiles that are found only in New Zealand. I’d never seen one before since they mostly live on off shore islands and at a few sanctuaries.

We saw their burrows and finally, much to our excitement we spotted a tuatara!

Tuatara in Disguise

Tuatara

I still get excited whenever I think about seeing them. We watched them for ages, not that they do much except sit there soaking in the heat from the sun. It was a real privilege to see such a rare creature.

Is there any animal or bird that you would like to see in person?

In Praise of Strawberries

dreamstimefree_1868210_Strawberries

The strawberry season is drawing to an end down here in New Zealand. I’m a huge fan of strawberries. Let me count the ways….

Reasons Shelley Likes Strawberries:

1. The appearance of the first strawberries is a signal that summer is underway.

2. They’re low in calories and very tasty. Often I’ll pick and eat. They never make it inside.

3. Strawberries and chocolate are a match made in heaven. They’re the perfect treat to eat during a romantic rendezvous.

4. Strawberries also go well with champagne. It’s that romance thing again!

5. Strawberry shortcake muffins are delicious. Recipe to follow tomorrow.

 

Sundry Facts About Strawberries:

1. They say wild strawberries grew in Italy as early as 234 BC.

2. Settlers of Virginia discovered wild strawberries in 1588.

3. The acids in strawberries help to whiten teeth.

4. They’re full of vitamin C, contain flavonolds and help reduce cholesterol. They also contain folic acid, potassium and fibre.

5. Black pepper and strawberries go well together. Better for diets, no?

6. If you ever go to the Wimbledon tennis make sure you have some strawberries. It’s a tradition, and they go through thousands of kilos of strawberries during the tournament. Around 27,000! And I have to say it’s an enjoyable experience.

7. They’re a member of the rose family.

8. There are around 200 seeds in each strawberry.

Are you a fan of strawberries, and if so, what is your favorite way to eat them?

Want One For a Pet?

Vulture sign

Vultures

We took these photos at the Everglades. The vultures were hanging around on the footpath and gave me the creeps. They’re ugly and were a bit smelly. I preferred the alligators.

Would you like one of these for a pet?

The Teddy Bear’s Picnic

Teddy Bears Picnic

I smile every time I see this photo. It reminds me of the song about the Teddy Bear’s picnic.

This photo of a group of young panda bears was taken at the Panda Research Center at Chengdu. Enjoy the song. I hope I don’t inflict you with an earwig!

Want to Grow a Bonsai Tree?

Yesterday Mr. Munro and I were listening to the radio while driving down the motorway. Hubby listens to a fuddy-duddy station with lots of chat, but it turned out to be interesting when the discussion turned to bonsai trees.

The lady speaking about them made growing bonsais sound very easy. Hubby and I like projects, so this weekend we’ve done some research.

Although bonsai is a Japanese word, bonsai trees were first known in China back in 1000BC. They were grown as gifts to give to the wealthy and were called pun-sai.

Bonsai Tree

Bonsai are grown in shallow pots and usually kept outside. They should be kept out of direct sunlight because there’s not much moisture in the pots. Quite a few varieties of trees are suitable to turn into bonsais, including several New Zealand natives such as the pohutukawa and kowhai. The lady on the radio mentioned Japanese maples are very pretty since their leaves turn color with the seasons. Basically you choose a seedling or small “junior-sized tree” from the plant nursery. Trim one-third of the roots off the tree and also trim the leaves so you gain a nicely shaped tree. The branches can also be wired to attain an attractive shape. Special soil is required – check at your plant nursery – and of course you need your special shallow pot. Once the bonsai are established, they require yearly root trims and shaping.

We have lots of small seedlings underneath our hedge, and we thought we’d try growing a pohutukawa bonsai.

Here’s a video on how to make your own bonsai tree

Do you like bonsai trees? Have you ever grown one?

Lazy Weekend Fun….

We decided it’s never too early to start getting our new puppy used to traveling in the car and went for an outing to our local Botanical gardens. Bella had a ball exploring, despite the heat of our summer.

Botanic Gardens

This is Bella exploring one of the rose gardens.

Botanic Gardens

I really liked this lily. I thought it was very pretty and took a photo or two.

Botanic Gardens

A wedding party turned up as we arrived. It was a Samoan wedding with a huge number of attendants. There were six bridesmaids plus groomsmen along with flower girls and little boys dressed in suits. The groomsmen wore black trousers and had lavender vests to match the bridesmaids’ dresses.

What did you do during your weekend?

NZ Christmas Tree: Pohutukawa

I mentioned pohutukawa trees over at Berengaria Brown’s blog the other day and promised I’d post a photo.

Pohutukawa trees are known as New Zealand’s native Christmas trees since they come into flower during late November/December. They have scarlet flowers and tend to like growing near the sea on clifftops. Our street sidewalk is lined with pohutukawa trees and it looks very pretty at this time of the year. This photo is the tree outside our house.

Pohutukawa Tree

Pukeko

A pukeko is a swamp hen, part of the rail family. While some of our native birds have become extinct because of introduced predators such as rats, cats and stoats, the pukeko has adapted easily and is very common. They happily live in town and city reserves where there are swamps and ponds, living on vegetation, insects and frogs.

I’ve always thought of pukekos as stupid birds. When we lived on the farm I used to watch them flying into power lines and fences. They do fly, but are not strong flyers and usually only travel short distances. They also make a high-pitch shriek – it’s not a particularly musical sound. The pukeko chicks are very weird looking and cute at the same time with big feet – watch the ad below to see for yourself. It’s an ad for an electricity wholesaler and has won heaps of ad awards. It always makes me smile.

What is the strangest bird you’ve ever seen? Do you like bird watching?