Saturday, 20 August 2016

Love is in the Air- Napier

A stay in Napier is not complete until I've paid a visit to my favourite suburban park to check out my favourite exotic ducks. Though sadly, another duck is missing, leaving just one lonely Plumed Whistling Duck from the original three who have made Anderson Park pond their home for the last 4 to 5 years.

It is not known where the ducks came from but it is thought that they were either storm blown vagrants or perhaps illegally imported eggs that hatched and then been dumped at the pond. Their natural habitat is in tropical northern Australia & Indonesia so they were a very long way from home. Here are the two ducks, taken last October.

The remaining duck has latched onto a pair of black swans, following them around on the grass and in and out of the water. It passed close to me while walking with the swans but as soon as they moved off a way, the duck gave me a wide berth.

The male black swan was very protective too, hissing and chasing me if I got too close. Although I suspect he was probably protecting his lady, it had the desired effect of protecting the duck too.

Amongst the mixed menagerie of domestic and wild ducks that call the pond home, are a number of ducks suffering from 'Angel Wing'; an incurable disease caused by a high-calorie, low vitamin diet of bread. Anderson Park is a favourite place for parents to bring their children to feed the ducks and while there are notices asking that they don't feed the birds, it would seem that nobody takes any notice. This poor fellow will in the end, pay the price.

There was a lot of noise and activity coming from the weeping willow on the island across the pond...

Love is in the dozens of Little Shags/Kawau Paka squabble over nest building duties, feeding duties (for the few that have chicks already) and love making duties! 

Meanwhile, back on the mainland a Barbary Dove is making cooing sounds to his mate in a tree...

...and showing off his exceptional skills at collecting nest material. 

This is the first time I've seen Barbary Doves at Anderson Park; Barbarys are an introduced species with small wild populations in Northland, Auckland, Waikato and the Hasting areas. I've also seen them near Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty. Since my visit to the park, one has visited Mum & Dads' bird feed table for the first time and I've seen a few sitting on power lines out near Meeanee, so I'm assuming they are fairly well established in the Napier area too.

I walked around to the far side of the pond and who should be making their way at speed across the pond towards me? A loved up pair of swans with a duck in tow...someone needs to tell that duck "...threes a crowd!"

The swans put on an elaborate courtship display of synchronised swimming just for me... 

and him...who was waiting patiently in the background while they circled each other, swam back and forward...

...bowed and twisted their necks together, and then tapped bills..

...forming a perfect heart. All the time their little friend just floated about in the background. Eventually the show was over and the swans headed back towards the island with the plumed whistling duck following at a respectable distance. I wonder what will happen to him when the signets arrive.

I carried on around the edge of the pond and managed to get a quick shot of the notoriously flighty NZ Shoveler Ducks/Kuruwhengi before they took to the pond.

I had one more bird to check out, and he is usually found on a third pond at the far end of the park. I walked along the edge of the stream which joins the ponds, spotting bellbirds, tui, warblers, swallows and kingfisher along the way.

And two or three White Faced Herons/Matuku Moana fishing for their breakfast in the shallow waters. This one is wiggling his foot in the mud, see the bubbles? He's hoping to dislodge a small fish or eel that he can quickly snatch.

It was a thrill to get to the end of the path and find an old favourite still lording it over the back pond. For as long as I can remember there has been a White Heron/Kotuku at Anderson Park. Not all the time and not always by himself (once there were 3 white herons) and probably not the same heron either, but I've very rarely missed seeing a white heron on this pond. 

It's quite ironic that we spent 4-5 weeks on the West Coast- the home of the White Heron- a couple of months ago and failed to see one. Well, that's not quite true. I did manage a fleeting glimpse of one near the Haast River bridge as we sped by. A small white dot on a gravel island as the far end of my view. And then to later hear that one hunts in the NZMCA Park at Hokitika on a regular basis really upset me. He's never called in when we've been there.

You can see that the long feathery breeding plumes are forming on the wings. The only Kotuku heronry is near Whataroa on the West Coast, they don't breed anywhere else in New Zealand (you'll remember we need to revisit Okarito Lagoon to do a tour during the breeding season). It's likely that this heron won't be breeding this year; they are already gathering on the Coast.

'Mirror, mirror on the wall....' He (or it could be a she) stood like this, staring into the water, for over 10 minutes. Stock still staring, not flinching a feather, waiting for a fish to swim by. That is some patience. 

I left the heron to his fishing and walked back up the other side of the stream spotting a small flock of gulls resting on the grass near the middle pond. These aren't just any gulls, these are endemic Black-billed Gulls/Tarapuka and they have the undesirable status of being the most threatened gull in the world. Black-billed gulls mostly breed on the gravel of South Island's braided river systems and are often found around inland lakes and waterways.

I wonder how many people, both residents &/or visitors to Napier know the history behind Anderson Park. The city's largest passive recreation park was once a racecourse and the home of the Napier Park Racing Club which was formed in 1886. Racing ceased in 1960 and moved to Hastings.

Anderson Park has been a constant in my life since childhood; as children we rode our horses to Greenmeadows and the river, skirting the edge of the park on the way. We once walked our show pigs (on harness and leads) through the park to the shops (that's a whole 'nother story) and rode our bikes along the paths. (I also occasionally took shortcuts through the park on my motorbike- naughty girl) We flew kites, attended Christmas concerts, had school sports days, went to the circus, took nieces, nephews & cousins to the playground, watched a brother skateboard and learn to drive in the carpark. 

Later, when Mum & Dad left the farm they purchased a house right across the road from the park, and then shifted again to just around the corner from it. I also had a house not too far from the great green expanse and walked my dog regularly through the park. Over the years I've also walked and run (or staggered) along the paths on a multitude of exercise regimes. I've visited it at sunrise and sunset and at all times in between; it's a park of many moods but it can look quite stark during winter when the trees have shed their leaves or at the height of a typical Hawkes Bay summer when the grass is burnt to a dry cinder. But it's still a lovely park with beautiful mature trees and interesting waterways and birdlife. And it's still a favourite to me.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Napier- A Refreshing Walk


We've had a busy time in Napier although if you asked 'doing what?', it would be hard to answer. We've both been busy catching up on lots of small jobs on our computers and the vehicles... ours and Mum & Dads'! It's a great feeling when you cross items off your 'to do' list, although it seems I have been adding jobs to the top as fast as they're dropping off the bottom because the list looks just as long as when we arrived.

Snow still on the Kawekas this past week
It's been typical sunny and warm Hawke's Bay weather this past week or so but the big storm hit us not long after we arrived in Napier, with snow, rain and power cuts. I had a chuckle though, it was bucketing down outside, the wind was atrocious, snow had closed the Taihape & Taupo roads (a rare event, especially the Napier-Taupo) and the power was off for the second time in a few hours. 

My sister Gae & brother-in-law David, were visiting from Whangarei and we were having a small family gathering later in the evening. I went inside (we're parked beside the house) to see how they were all going- to be greeted by a miserable lot sitting in the dark, wrapped up in extra clothing, with no heating, no coffee, no breakfast, no TV and no way to cook for the party. I returned to my diesel heated van, to drink my coffee and eat my bacon & eggs while listening to my favourite music. Just another day for us, don't know what the fuss was about! Luckily the power did come back on later in the morning.

It rained solid for a good few days and by the time it stopped some of us were suffering from a dose of cabin fever, so Gae, David(BIL) & I headed to Ahuriri for a walk to blow away the cobwebs. While we were waiting for a friend to join us, I wandered down to Perfume Point to take some photos of the murals painted on the side of the lighthouse.

'Marine Protected Areas' by Aaron Glasson
The 'Sea Walls: Murals for Oceans' street art festival was held back in March. Over 30 large murals have been painted on walls around Napier. Their aim is to highlight marine environmental issues relevant to the local community. It was my intention to photograph them all before we left Napier, and I have managed to do just that later in the week. But I'm only going to show a few here, the ones we passed on the walk. I'll do another blog with the others later on.

We headed off down the boardwalk past East Pier Hotel...

...along the front of The Boardwalk Restaurant where waves from the weekend storm has left sand, seaweed and driftwood across the path.

Some hardy paddle boarders were riding the waves a little further along Hardinge Road.

And we passed another mural- Endangered Maui's Dolphins- on a wall at Napier Port.

It was very cold with a bitter wind blowing as we turned onto Marine Parade but it was lovely to breathe in the fresh sea air. It was lucky Gae borrowed Mum's big thick jacket even though it nearly swallowed her up. While these Northlanders are well used to rain, they'd forgotten how cold it can get in the Bay. 

Well, it's not quite New Brighton Pier but Napier's new viewing platform looks pretty cool against a brooding sky and rough ocean.

It's probably just as well it doesn't reach any further than the high tide mark because I can imagine the problems it would have caused with people using it as a launching platform to swim from. The waters off Marine Parade are dangerous enough at the best of times, let alone when there's a storm a brewing.

And at least the view back over the beach and along Marine Parade is one we've never seen before. 

We make our way back to the road passing two old favourites along the way; the Tom Parker Fountain and Pania of the Reef.

We head towards Shakespeare Road to walk back over Bluff Hill. The 1909 old County Council building is now a luxury boutique hotel, this was one of just two significant buildings that survived the devastating 1931 earthquake.

I spot another mural tucked beside a nearby carpark- Plastic Pollution Affecting Sea Turtles

We stop beside a familiar building, the old Cabana Hotel at the bottom of Shakespeare Road. Gae, Jill and I all went to Napier Girls High School which is just up the hill. The Cabana Hotel had a very rough reputation in it's day and any girls walking into town at lunch time or after school had to walk the gauntlet past the public bar which was usually full of drunken dropouts and sailors from the boats in port.

We carried on up Shakespeare Road, a walk we would have done dozens of times during our teenage years, even though Gae & I caught a school bus from the farm to school in our early years, and then later, rode our motorbikes or drove our own cars. We were the lucky ones, you were only allowed your own transport if you lived out of town. But we often had a pass to walk into town for various appointments or shopping.

We passed the Naked Witch, which, according to Jill, in 'famous in Napier'. I wonder if it has anything to do with a certain notorious lady who lived her final years in Napier, loved purple and was a self-proclaimed witch.

We head down the other side of hill back towards Ahuriri, and I catch a quick glimpse of Napier Girls over the top of the old dairy, a shop I saw the inside of a few too many times.

We pass this unusual tiny little house tucked into the cliff at the bottom of Shakespeare Road. Its been there for a long while but none of us know it's history.  

The many houses of Scinde Island (Bluff Hill) and Ahuriri, most built before the 1931 'quake and when water surrounded the hill, and Ahuriri was a busy port.

Gae does her best impression of a 1930's flapper beside the historic Tram Shelter near Battery Road in Ahuriri.

In 1911, the council installed an electric tram system that linked Ahuriri to downtown Napier, the service ended after the earthquake but the well-preserved tram shelter still stands and murals in keeping with Napier's Art Deco theme have been painted on the walls of the building.

We carry on along Waghorne Street, an area steeped in history, where new apartments sit alongside tiny old fisherman's cottages and industrial warehouses. Ahuriri was one of earliest settled areas of Napier when the harbour at Iron Pot was the site of Hawke's Bays main port.

We say hello to Dulcie's owner as we pass, she's having a few battery problems, poor girl.

The things you see along the backstreets...

One of the old fishing cottages...

Another Sea Wall on the side of the Navigate Hotel & Apartments- Bryde Whales & Fishing Ships

And a final wall for now, in amongst the shops and cafes of Ahuriri village- NZ Endangered Marine Animals

We cut back up Barry Street to the waterfront and the cars, passing the restored facade of the Ellison & Duncan building with it's quirky window murals.

The original building was designed by Louis Hay as part of the reconstruction of Napier following the 1931 earthquake. Louis Hay also designed the nearby iconic National Tobacco Company building.

Back at the carpark we say goodbye to Jill and head home, happy with our walk and feeling very refreshed.