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Archive for the 'Nature' Category

Birds and Four-legged Beasts

Camera Critters

This week I have photos of two different critters taken during my recent holiday in Phuket.

Kingfisher, Phuket

I think this is a type of Kingfisher. He sat very still while we kayaked around him and took lots of photos.

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We hired a tuk-tuk to go the a restaurant and watch the sunset. This was one of the elephants we saw on the way there. He’s bedded down for the night with his dinner at his feet.

To visit other Camera Critters go here.

Women on the Move!

Our local council runs a program called Women on the Move. Each month they organize a day trip to help women get out in the great outdoors, exercise and have some fun. I took a day off writing today and joined their day trip to Tiritiri Matangi.

Tiritiri Matangi means “looking to the wind”. It’s an island sanctuary in the Hauraki Gulf, not far from Auckland. Not that long ago Tiritiri was farmed and the original forest cut down to make way for grassland. The Department of Conservation took over the island and hundreds of volunteers replanted native trees to reforest the island. All pests such as rats, cats, mice and stoats were eradicated. Once this was done some of New Zealand’s rarer birds were introduced to the pest-free sanctuary.

Before we arrived at the island by ferry we were asked to check our shoes and remove mud etc. We also had to check our bags and remove any rats or mice or other pests we found. Luckily I was all safe on that score!

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The weather has been horrid for the last couple of weeks but today it was a gorgeous morning. We walked through the bush, stopping regularly to check out the birds we saw.

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Today we saw:
Kakariki (a green parakeet)
North Island robin
Kokako (very rare)
Wood pigeon
Tui
Bellbirds
Stitchbirds
Whitehead
Saddlebacks
Takahe (thought extinct and rediscovered in 1948)
Fantails
Pukeko

They have kiwis on the island, although they’re nocturnal so we didn’t see any. They also have tuatara but the winter sun wasn’t enough to entice them out of their burrows.

It started raining just as we headed to the lighthouse for lunch. There’s a takahe called Greg. He’s 16 years old and is very bossy and cheeky. He hovered under our tables and tried to grab our sandwiches if we held them within his reach. He wandered inside the coffee shop, much to the amusement of the group of school kids and tried his luck in there before one of the ladies shooed him outside.

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After lunch we explored a little more, checking out the birds at the feeders before we headed down to the wharf to catch the ferry back to inner Auckland. I really enjoyed my day on Tiritiri.

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This is what a normal takahe looks like. They normally graze on grass not sandwiches stolen from lunch boxes.

A Potager Garden

When we first moved to our current house the section was bare, and the soil consisted mostly of clay. After throwing around some ideas we decided to design a potager garden.

A potager is French and it’s a raised bed garden, normally for vegetables and herbs. Hubby built three box squares out of timber and filled them with good quality soil. We made a decorative path between them so it’s easy to plant, water and harvest and not long ago, Mr. Munro planted a hedge of shelter trees because it seems to be windy where we live.

Mr. Munro spends hours out in the garden and periodically, I have to go out an inspect his latest improvements and crops. This year we’ve had fresh potatoes, lettuce, zucchini, red onions, leeks, green beans, basil, radishes, beetroot and the tomatoes are starting to ripen. It’s so handy just wandering out to the garden to pick whatever vegetables we’ve decided to have for dinner.

Here are some photos of Mr. Munro’s garden:

Mr. Munro's garden

Mr. Munro's garden

Mr. Munro's garden

I have to confess I’m a bit tired of zucchini but I’m really enjoying the green beans and can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen so I can make fresh tomato sauce to have with pasta. Do you grow your own vegetables? What do you grow? And if you don’t have a garden, what is your favorite vegetable to eat?

Magical Seahorses

Thirteen Things about SEAHORSES

When I saw one of the excursions possible from the ship was a visit to a seahorse farm I cast my vote immediately. I told Mr. Munro we should visit and he agreed since we both love nature, animals and the like, and it was something we can’t do here in New Zealand. I fell in love with seahorses during my visit to Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater world in Auckland. Our claim to fame – I believe Kelly Tarlton’s pioneered the giant perspex tubes that you see in aquariums World wide.

1. Seahorses are generally monogamous and they can’t live alone. They must have a mate.

2. The seahorse is the only animal in the entire animal kingdom in which the MALE has a true pregnancy.

3. The MALE stays pregnant most of its life.

4. Seahorses inhabit the coral reefs and sea grass beds in all the oceans of the world.

5. They’re an endangered species.

6. Over 30 million seahorses are taken from the wild every year for use in Chinese medicine.

7. Over 1 million seahorses are taken from the wild for pets. Most die.

8. They will eat only live foods such as brine shrimp and are prone to stress in an aquarium, which lowers the efficiency of their immune systems and makes them susceptible to disease.

9. A seahorse has highly mobile eyes to watch for predators and prey without moving its body. It has a long snout with which it sucks up its prey. Its fins are small because it must move through thick water vegetation. The seahorse has a long, prehensile tail which it will curl around any support such as seaweed to prevent being swept away by currents.

10. Ocean Rider in Kona, Hawaii started up to breed seahorses so they weren’t taken from the wild for the pet fish trade.

11. As mentioned in No. 8 above seahorses eat live food in the wild. Ocean Rider’s first challenge was to get their seahorses to eat dead food. One brave little seahorse – I think his name was Jack but I can’t remember for sure – tried one and all the others copied him. They moved Jack from tank to tank to train all the other seahorses.

12. Check out Ocean Rider for details on buying and caring for seahorses and register for their bulletin board to get into contact with other owners.

13. A pair of Mustang Seahorses of medium size costs around US$300 for a pair. Mustang seahorses are good for first time seahorse owners. They are tropical, colorful, bold, gregarious, social, hearty and healthy! They all feed EZY on frozen mysis enhanced with Vibrance® right from your hand!!

Ocean Rider has been breeding the Mustang since 1998. They first offered Certifiticates of Authenticity and High Health for the Mustang in 1999. All Mustangs are now shipped with these Certificates.

And finally, here are a few photos from our visit. It was a bit hard to photograph the little blighters but we did our best! These are the tanks and that’s me with my floppy hat.

Sea Horses

Sea Horse

And these are my fingers holding a seahorse. They’re just so danged cute. Ah, that would be the seahorses, not my fingers :wink:

Sea Horse

The Bog Man

I was fascinated by this story and the photos in my National Geographic newsletter today. It’s about bodies discovered in Denmark’s bogs, most of whom seem to have been sacrifices. Check out the photo of the man with the battle hairstyle and the one with the red hair. (They think the bog has made the man’s hair turn bright red)

This is the link here