A Winter Walk Through the Park

Pakowhai Regional Park ginkgo tree
Pakowhai Regional Park ginkgo tree

Four days after winter arrived, we finally went for a walk in a park near Hastings. We’d passed by it many times before, but the yellow ginkgo trees caught my eye and I had my camera with me. I declared we would be going there on our way back home (without any rebuttal from the driver). Pakowhai Regional Park

Pakowhai (pronounced POK-o-fie) Regional Park was clearly a dog park. People there (of which there were many) either had a dog or a baby. This is one park where dogs are allowed to run off their leads. Considering how crowded it was with children, I could only imagine this happening in the States. There were a couple of pit bulls running loose but I wasn’t concerned. They don’t have the bad reputation here that they do back home. Everyone seemed to be happy, including the friendly dogs who came up for a pat.

Pakowhai Regional Park

I immediately went the opposite direction of everyone and headed for the trees while the sun was still out. Unbelievably beautiful, it was hard to take my eyes off of them. It made me think about Pollard Park in Blenheim. It wasn’t quite the caliber of that one, but it did have some typical New Zealand scenes.

Pakowhai Regional Park

Large, mature trees that are perfectly shaped and super green grass that contrasts with fallen leaves. A mix of evergreens and large clumps of flax with a stream or river running through it, is always clear and cold. It’s nature’s eye candy and just makes you feel good to take it all in.

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Leggy pine trees lost a few members, but I liked that they made use of the stumps. One tree had been uprooted from the recent heavy rains we had.

pakowhai regional parkpakowhai regional park

pakowhai regional park

We walked back toward the parking lot and I was surprised to find a gathering of large cabbage trees. One had been cut down and the heart shaped trunk caught my eye.

pakowhai regional park

Some beautiful VERY white gum (eucalyptus) trees appeared around the bend, looking like the skin on an animal.

pakowhai regional park

On the way out to Hastings, an apple orchard caught my eye as we were coming off a bridge. It was high enough to see over them so I said we had to pull over before getting to the bridge so I could walk up there and take a picture. This is a big fruit town, so most of the orchards you see are a lot of these creepy, multiple armed apple trees. They look like they come alive at night and run around terrorizing the town.

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These seemed harmless enough and their yellow and orange leaves stretched as far as the eye could see. If you look close enough, you can make out some apples still clinging onto life. It’s not a sight I’m used to seeing, coming from wine country, but definitely worth capturing. Now, the citrus trees are ripening so we’ll have more oranges and mandarins than we can eat. I could think of worse problems to have.
fall apple orchard napier

Maud Island

Maud Island
Maud Island

We had the rare opportunity to take a (long) trip out to Maud Island yesterday. There are public tours there a few days out of the year. Once infested by mice, it was declared a predator free island and critters like geckoes, skinks, a super rare frog, weta and birds are living happily there. We had to undergo quarantine procedures before boarding the boat and also before setting foot on the island. Shoes, bags and clothing had to be scanned for any dirt, seeds and rodents (luckily nobody brought along any). Then once on the dock of the island, we had to step in a bin of disinfectant to make sure our shoes were clean again.

Leaving from Havelock, about 20 minutes from home, the group of 26 people, all locals and some Ozzies headed out onto the Marlborough Sounds under cloudy skies. This old boat caught my eye among the others.

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Setting out onto the Sound, not many boats were out which is typical. We went by some mussel farms and were fortunate to see this Gannet colony up close. Fluffy down floated around in the air, as can be seen in the photos.

Marlborough Sound house

Marlborough Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Gannet colony Pelorus Sound

Once we approached Maud, the rangers and their kids waited for us to arrive. The picture below was actually when we were leaving for anyone who notices the change in the water depth compared to the one below it!

Maud Island dock

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Maud Island ranger’s kids in pink and blue

After a short welcome, we walked the track to an area where they gave a presentation about the invertebrates found on the island, with live samples for us to hold!

Maud island sign

Among the critters were geckoes and a skink. One of the geckoes hangs out in the flax and I bet you’d hardly be able to see it.

Maud island skink
Maud island skink

 

Maud island gecko

Maud island gecko
Maud island flax gecko

Then there was the weta. I’ve never seen one in person and they were CREEPY!!! People apparently in line wanting to hold them. The female has a large ovipositor that looks like a long horn that she deposits her eggs into the ground with.

Maud island weta

dead weta
Dead weta
dead weta
Dead weta

Then there was the Maud Island frog. The only place in the world you can see it. It’s rare in that it actually births live frogs, with the tadpoles forming inside the egg and the mother carries them on her back. They’re also the longest living frog…up to 40 years! They don’t move far during their lives only spanning an area of 30 square metres!

Maud island frog

There were also these creepy weevils that looked like little blood suckers!

Maud island weevil
Maud island weevil

After the talk we walked to the WWII gun emplacement and storage areas. There was a blue penguin nesting box in one of them which was odd. We even saw a blue penguin swimming in the Sounds on our way back home.

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Some lovely views along the track and needless to say, very peaceful except for the Tui birds singing their strange song.

Maud island view

maud island track

I loved this giant fern leaf about to uncurl. It was about the size of my hand.

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This was the home of the rangers, with a small strawberry patch and I believe a large fig tree in their yard.

Maud island ranger house

We headed back out on the boat and came across an island with this toilet which goes to show the Kiwi humour!

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Back at the harbour, some lenticular clouds that look like a UFO.

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lenticular cloud marlborough sound havelock

It was a great day although it turned cold on the way back and the long 3+ hour boat ride was less than comfortable.

As an update to the hedgehog I mentioned in my last post, we found there are 3 babies living under the house. I haven’t seen the mother again and am afraid she may have been killed in the road so the babies are on their own.

baby hedgehog

 

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Cute hoglet foot while having a feed.

You know me…I cut up some small pieces of raw chicken and fed and watered the first one I found and also put him (or her) on the scale, weighing in at 126 grams. That’s still pretty young to be without mom, but right on the edge of it. I then found a second one the day after who had lost its left eye, so I’ve dubbed that one “Lefty.” He was almost half the size of the first at 76 grams and was happy to have a feed and some water as well. Once Lefty was put back under the house, the other two came out and they did a little dance around each other which was very sweet and Lefty retired back to the nest while the others searched for food.

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I will continue to supplement their diet if I find them outside to make sure they have a fighting chance and I also put a large mussel shell under the house with some water in it as it’s super dry here and I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry, even if they don’t drink from it. You can check out the video of the first cutie eating below. I love that they’re called hoglets or urchins when they’re small!

That’s How You Shake It Up!

blenheim rowing club

Thirteen hours after the earthquake hit early this morning, I sit here waiting in anticipation for another one. The house is continuing to shake every few minutes and I’m thankful to still have one. This is the worst I’ve been through yet at 7.8, hitting Hamner Springs, a little over 3 hours away. A couple of minutes after midnight we were violently shaken awake and we bolted out of bed thinking the house would collapse. After getting outside, I looked up and saw lightening. I thought to myself, “That’s odd…I’ve never seen that here before.” It was actually the power lines sparking and soon thereafter, the electricity went out. I had no hope for getting power back on until late in the day. We wouldn’t have water either because we’re on a well. I thought of my friend with her emergency prep kit…which we don’t have. I tried in vain to get an internet connection through my phone but couldn’t. He finally got through and saw the magnitude of it and where it hit.

Thankfully, the power was restored a couple of hours later. Aftershocks continued throughout the night and I didn’t fall asleep until 3am, getting up around 6 to assess the situation. Fortunately nothing but a few seashells had broken, falling from a tall glass vase (which somehow survived) on the mantle. The TV fell off the stand but didn’t break. The chimney however, (which is for the antiquated stove in the kitchen that isn’t used) appeared to have moved slightly and has a crack in it.

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Spring Creek Reserve

We went to our river to walk the dog and huge fissures are now in the track. The Blenheim Rowing Club had massive liquefaction and even bigger gouges in the ground. The land looked as if it had been torn into strips, like a piece of paper. Earthworms tried to escape the shaking but were now stuck in the sandy mud. I tried to throw as many out of their soon to be graves as I could. Apparently this whole place was grassy, as you can see some sticking out of the mud. It must have looked like a boiling cauldron when it happened.

blenheim rowing club liquefaction worms

blenheim rowing club

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

I can’t say I’ve ever seen liquefaction before. It happens during quakes when saturated soil loses its strength and causes it to act like a liquid. Parts were like quicksand still and the mounds and craters looked like something you’d see on the moon.

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

blenheim rowing club liquefaction

GNS Science is reporting that in Marlborough (the region where I live), the earth moved horozontally two meters to the north and one meter down vertically.

Blenheim CBD is in good shape, with nothing going on as usual. Looked like a little work was going on at the ASB Centre and the Pizza Hut was buzzing with activity. Some shops were closed pending inspection, with their merchandise scattered all over the floor. The Warehouse, the largest shop in town, was also closed.

It’s an odd feeling of vulnerability that most people never have to experience. You wonder if another one will come and sit around waiting…for something. It’s unsettling to feel the couch rocking beneath you, wondering when it’ll all stop. There seems to be this strange feeling that you need to stay around home and not do much. Try to do something to keep busy, but not TOO busy. Make time pass and things will settle down. It’s hard to know how to feel about something you rarely go through. An event that could be life threatening and change your entire world in a matter of seconds. I’ve had a persistent lump in my throat and I notice my shoulders are unusually tense. I suppose this is what’s called anxiety!

Hopefully, the worst is over now. Although as I write that, a 6.3 just happened. And to add insult to injury, we’re expecting 140km/h winds tonight with heavy rain. It’s gonna be a long night.

Eerie sky after sunrise this morning
Eerie sky after sunrise this morning

Lambs and Flowers…It Must Be Spring!

new zealand lamb

We’re 11 days into Spring and it’s been a mixed bag so far. The nights are still quite cold with lows in the high 30’s and daily highs have been in the low 60’s. The sun feels quite hot when you’re in it (or maybe I’m just becoming accustomed to the cold). By far, it’s my favorite time of year here. It means I can plant flowers and my veggie garden starts to show signs of life again!

Some of the first lambs appeared on a friend’s vineyard so I took the opportunity to go see them. They always run if you get too close. I heard a mother snort at her baby when I got near and it stood up and bolted by her side. No cuddling possible, unfortunately. Their thick, saggy coats allow for fast expansion as these lambs grow quickly over the course of the next couple of months.

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Snow still on the mountains
Snow still on the mountains

Folks here use the sheep to “mow” the grass and they do a great job! It’s also a wonderful way to get free fertilizer for the vines. They have to shift them to different paddocks because they run out of grass to eat pretty quickly.

I’ve found a TON of mantis egg sacks all around the property and keeping a close eye on them. There were some early hatchlings, which I know know were not new emerges because I found a SUPER tiny one yesterday…only about a millimeter long. I plan on bringing in an ootheca (egg sack) and trying to ‘incubate’ it so I can watch the babies. I’ll have to free them soon thereafter though so they don’t starve or eat each other!

baby mantis

baby mantis

baby mantis

We went to my favorite park, which always seems to change. This time there were huge camellia trees which I had never noticed before (not even sure how that was possible) and the roses had all been cut back.

Bee inside a camellia bloom
Bee inside a camellia bloom
roses at pollard park
Rose garden

The weeping willows were starting to bud.

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Here are some photos of flowers on this magnolia tree showing a few stages of blooming. It needs that furry coat to keep warm during the frosty nights!

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The flowers were all smiling up at the sun!

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I had to say hi to my favorite huge tree.

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The acorns are gigantic, I almost thought they were peanuts!

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These odd looking flowers look very different from anything I’ve seen in the U.S.

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The golf course was looking immaculate as always.

pollard park golf course

As we approached the gazebo, all of the ducks and seagulls were enjoying being fed or simply hanging out in the nice weather. The duck was floating close to his girlfriend and the sun caught his colorful emerald green head perfectly! The water is so clear you can’t even tell it’s there!

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Kudos to the folks who keep this park looking so beautiful! I always look forward to going there. Hopefully the nice weather will get us out more and I’ll be able to blog a little more often!