Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

Matthew and I met some delightful winged New Zealanders during our recent South Island trip.  Some of them were natives while others were immigrants.  Here are a few of those encounters; some composed with time to spare, others nabbed on the go – all photographed with love and respect.

09.02.17:  We begin on the east coast of the South Island…

09.02.17 : A southern black-backed gull and his shadow add to the horizontals on Birdlings Flat beach.

A southern black-backed gull and his shadow add to the horizontals on Birdlings Flat beach.

On the stones at Birdlings Flat is a young white-fronted tern.

On the stones a juvenile white-fronted tern and I regard one another.

12.02.17:  Further south at Waitati near Dunedin…

At Waitati a tui leaps out of a bush. Tui have been called "Parson Birds" because of their white 'clerical' feathers at their throats.

A tui leaps out of a bush. Tui are also known as parson birds because of the white ‘clerical’ feathers at their throats.

14.02.17:  Makarora is a forest-and-mountain place deep within the South Island, towards the west coast…

14.02.17: Fantails are tiny birds and extremely fast. Most certainly this one had a sense of humour. She led me on a merry chase as she danced all around me, making it almost impossible to capture her image.

Fantails are tiny birds and extremely fast. This wee bird leads me on a merry chase, dancing all around me, making it almost impossible to capture an image.

She looks me straight in the eye for a split second - and then she is off again, darting all around me.

A look straight in the eye for a split second – and then – off again, flitting in every direction.

Another tiny little forest bird is the South Island tomtit...there one second, gone the next.

Another tiny forest bird is the South Island tomtit…there one second, gone the next.

A New Zealand bellbird feeds from a flowering flax bush. This bird has such a beautiful song.

A sweet-voiced New Zealand bellbird feeds from a flowering flax bush.

One of the more colourful native birds is the wood pigeon. I see this bird rather like Sylvester sees Tweetie in "Looney Tunes"- like a live pot-roast.

One of the more colourful native birds is the wood pigeon…a perfect accompaniment to any tree blooming with fruit or berries.

New Zealand birds are often hard to see. They are shy and well camoflagued.

Some New Zealand birds are hard to see, being shy and well camouflaged.  I nearly miss this bellbird – who I think is a fledgling.

Where's Waxeye? Another great example of camouflage at work.

“Where’s Waxeye?”  Another great example of camouflage.  Sometimes I think I am alone, only to turn and see that I am being watched by a small pair of eyes.

Tui are the most excellent singers in the bird world. They pick up the sounds they hear and incorporate them into their complicated repertoire. I stood still and listened to this tui for several minutes.

Tui are most excellent singers.  They pick up the sounds they hear (such as telephone rings or machinery noises) and incorporate them into their complicated repertoire. I stand quietly and listen to this tui – in awe – for several minutes.

Tui are mesmerizing.

Tui are striking to look at as well as listen to.  They rush through the trees chasing one another at terrific speed.  It looks as if they are having a good time.

You might need to study this photo for a moment. Can you see it? A wood pigeon has a whole plum in its beak. It swallows the whole thing in one gulp! Incredible.

A wood pigeon has a whole plum in his beak. And then he swallows it in one gulp…just like that.

15.02.17:  We go through Haast Pass to Bruce Bay on the exposed west coast …

A something

A pipit on the shore where river meets sea at Bruce Bay.  All along this walk are blackberry bushes (blackberries on photo’s left).  I eat blackberries as I wander along.

15.02.17: I'm also crazy about Southern black-backed gulls. They are large gulls, rather like small albatross; very elegant. Here is the second 'flying gull with shadow' photo of this set, only this time over a frothy sea.

Southern black-backed gulls are elegant large seagulls, rather like mini albatross.

Water-splash! These waves were pounding in like fists, but the gull is perfectly at home.

Water-splash! These waves are pounding in like fists, but the gull is perfectly at home.  (And what is a bit of splashing water to a gull anyway?)

16.02.17:  At sublime Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier…

16.02.17: A pukeko is a New Zealand swamp hen. When I was a child I used to look out for them when we went on car trips.

A pukeko is a New Zealand swamp hen.   The colouring is attention-grabbing, the very opposite of camouflage.

Matt and I noticed that the pukeko used its feet in the gathering of food.

We notice that the pukeko uses its feet like tools – in the gathering and consuming of food.

The chaffinch is an introduced bird, brought over from Europe in the 1860s.

The chaffinch is an introduced bird, brought over from Europe in the 1860s.

THE END – but not the end.  Back home in Fremantle, Western Australia – and the birds are great here as well…

A couple of crested terns down at the port, photographed a few hours ago.

A couple of crested terns down at the port, photographed just a few hours ago.

“Thank you, Birds!”

Afterword:  Wherever in the world you are reading this from, next time you step out of the house or apartment listen to your local bird sounds.  We all take them for granted.  Because I’ve been working on this post for a couple of days, I am suddenly aware of the bird tweets, cheeps, trills, warbles, chatter, squawks, cries, honks, quacks, shrieks, hoots and melodious song around my home.  You can’t imagine a world without birds.  So tune your ears to their frequency…and be thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Small Country, Big Heart

a sign at Lake Matheson on the west coast of New Zealand.

A quote at Lake Matheson, South Westland.

Matthew and I have just returned from 12 days in the South Island of New Zealand.   Though we have traveled globally over the years, our country of birth never fails to inspire us.  I invite you to partake in some South Island landscapes.

Birdlings Flat is a wildly atmospheric beach near Christchurch. Here people fossick for semi-precious stones. A couple of white-fronted terns fly overhead.

Birdlings Flat is a bleak yet atmospheric beach on Banks Peninsula, near Christchurch. Here people fossick for semi-precious stones. A couple of white-fronted terns dart overhead.

Succulents thrive at Birdlings Flat.

Succulents luxuriate in the arid conditions of Birdlings Flat.

Wherever you are in the world, you may have heard about the fires this week on the Port Hills of Christchurch. Here is an evening view of the Port Hills which I took only 24 hours before the fires began.

A sunset view of the Port Hills of Christchurch taken from Tai Tapu.

Inland Canterbury is known as high country. This is Matthew's soul country. Near Lake Heron Station.

Inland Canterbury, west of Christchurch, is high country.   Near Lake Heron Station.

Up near Erewhon Station on the Rangitata river bed.

Matthew, in the distance, walks on a shingle river bed.   Rangitata river at Erewhon Station.

It was a long way across the shingle until we finally got to the Rangitata river. (On braided rivers, most of the river flows under the stones.)

One has to walk a long way across shingle until one comes to actual flowing river. (On braided rivers, most of the river flows under the stones.)

Finally, the flowing river, which we sat beside with flasks of coffee and home-made cake.

Finally, the flowing river, where we picnic on coffee from flasks and home-baked cake.

Patterns made by a river and patterns made by clouds.

Patterns made by a river and patterns made by clouds.

The hill beyond this stream is called Mt Summer, but you may well have seen it as the location for Edoras in "Lord of the Rings".

The hill beyond this stream is called Mt Sunday, but you may well have seen it on film as Edoras in “Lord of the Rings”.

A return to the coast. This is Blueskin Bay; an estuary 25 kms north of Dunedin.

A return to the coast.  Blueskin Bay; an estuary 25 kms north of Dunedin.

Coastal birds on the other side of the inlet at Blueskin Bay.

Coastal birds on the other side of the inlet at Blueskin Bay, Otago.

Later that day at Lake Hawea, a nearly-sunset rainbow formed.

Later that day at Lake Hawea, a nearly-sunset rainbow forms against a mountain backdrop.

View from the road at Lake Hawea. Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon were being filmed close by for "A Wrinkle in Time". No, I didn't see them - but I knew they were about.

View from the passenger seat of the car as Matt speeds along beside Lake Hawea.  (Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon are being filmed in this area for “A Wrinkle in Time”.  They have been spotted, some say, at Wanaka.)

We stayed at Lake Hawea Station, a farm which has been in the same family since 1912.

We stay at Lake Hawea Station, a farm which has been in the same family since 1912.  I endure the strong wind to check out their sheep-with-view.

Just over a hill from Lake Hawea is Lake Wanaka.

Just over a hill from Lake Hawea is Lake Wanaka.

Over on the west coast of New Zealand is another thoroughly wild beach named Bruce bay. Actually the whole west coast coastline is untamed. Waves are extraordinarily powerful and the winds howl.

On the West Coast is another thoroughly wild beach named Bruce Bay.  Waves are extraordinarily powerful and the winds howl.  Acres of driftwood cover the sands.  Above the shoreline is majestic Rimu rainforest.

In the path of the force 10 westerly gale is a friendly coffee cart which makes terrific coffee and sells - ICE CREAMS.

In the path of the force 10 westerly gale is a friendly coffee cart which makes terrific coffee and sells – ICE CREAM!

North from Bruce Bay is the Franz Josef glacier and Lake Matheson. The lake is famous for its reflections of the Southern Alps. We came along slightly too late in the morning for the lake to be still like a mirror.

North from Bruce Bay is the Franz Josef Glacier and Lake Matheson. The lake is famous for its reflections of the Southern Alps. We arrive slightly too late in the morning for the lake to be still like a mirror.  Even with a slight ripple, the scene is awe-inspiring.

At Lake Matheson there are a few quotes on plaques.  One reads, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her” – William Wordsworth.  Another reads, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more” – John Burroughs.   Albert Einstein is also quoted, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”.  (Later, I faithfully copy these quotes into my art journal.)

A view of the ever-retreating (due to global warming) Franz Josef glacier.

A view of iconic Franz Josef Glacier.

We returned to the east coast via Arthurs Pass. What an astounding feat in engineering is the Otira viaduct! Can you imagine building a viaduct in such a precarious and actively seismic environment?!

We cross the Southern Alps via Arthurs Pass. What an astounding feat of engineering the Otira viaduct is!  Every time we drive on this seemingly floating road, we stop at the viewing platform to admire the audacity of its existence.

Matt and I stopped at Otira to pay homage to a view which I had once painted. Happily for us, a coal train appeared.

Matt and I stop at Otira to pay homage to a view which I once painted. Happily for us, a coal train appears.

And here is that old painting…

"Track and Field" - an oil painting from 2002.

“Track and Field” – an oil painting from 2002.

On our two week journey we also met and photographed many birds and animals.  They will be the subject of my next post.

 

 

 

 

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Transit Lounge

"Transit Lounge" 200 x 230 mm February 2017

“Transit Lounge”
200 x 230 mm
February 2017

Just as we humans wait in designated areas of airports for connecting flights, so birds have their own transit lounges where they rest.  Time for a little preening, gathering of breath, formulating plans, or just looking about.

At the port of Fremantle there are plenty of transit lounges, each a perfect size for one bird.  From my observation, a flying-in bird will kick off a lounge-occupying bird. “You’ve had your turn, Tern.  Hop it!”

Fly in, fly out.



I will be having a break from posting for the next two to three weeks.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Just a Moment

"Just a Moment" A mother-and-child moment at St. Paul in the Marais. January 2017.

“Just a Moment”
A mother-and-child moment at St. Paul in the Marais.
January 2017.

In my drawing “Just a Moment” a mother bends down to attend to her child.   Perhaps a small jacket is being buttoned up, tears wiped, nose blown, or reassurance given.  A mother’s life is made up of ‘just moments’ – tiny insignificant events which add up to years of loving care.

I was meandering through St. Paul Village in the Marais on my way home for lunch after a very long walk.  I became aware of a mother and child who were walking at the same slow pace as me.  The little child was crying and crying –  wailing words in junior French.  At that time of day he may have been on his way home from daycare.  I felt for both; the forlorn child protesting at his lot, and the mother who plodded patiently alongside.

I thought about each of my daughters; Emily, Alicia and Lucy, when they had been little children…that plaintive cry, “Carry me“.  Going deeper into my memory I WAS the child, tired and demanding,  “Carry ME!”

Somehow the two figures crossed the road and walked away, perhaps while I was distracted by shop windows.  I looked into the middle distance and there they were – a perfect little composition.  Even the red ‘sauf’ sign was just right for me – a surrogate Japanese lantern.  I took a photo then continued on my way.

This was just a moment in the lives of all three of us.

just-a-moment-small-size

On reflection, each and every pencil mark is a moment too – so many moments gathered together to make up a whole drawing.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Rain Birds

"It's raining!"

“It’s raining in January!” a rufous night heron exclaims.

What an unusual event!  Steady rain in Fremantle in January.  And what is more, it is forecast again for tomorrow.   What do the seabirds think of this?  I will head down to the river to see.

Pondering the situation...

Pondering the situation…

"Yes I can"

“Yes I can”

Nonchalance

On the other side of the great leap

A good spot to contemplate rain (and food sources)

A good spot to contemplate rain (and food sources) at East Fremantle

Further up the river a pelican meditates.

Further up the river a pelican meditates.

Close up and personal with a juvenile rufous (otherwise known as 'nankeen') night heron.

Up close and personal with a juvenile rufous (otherwise known as ‘nankeen’) night heron.

Pied cormorant observes me.

A pied cormorant poses elegantly for me.

"Which is my best side, do you think?"

“Which is my best side, do you think?”

Sadly in the world of seabirds, fishing line is a curse. If only I could have cut this tangled line off the poor little leg.

Sadly in the world of seabirds, fishing line is a curse. If only I could have cut this tangled line off the poor little leg.

I had a beautiful morning down at the port.  For a while I forgot about the human world and relished the bird world; blessings bestowed by birds.

And now its time to fly...

And now it’s time to fly…

 

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Rain Bird

"Rain Bird" a crested tern at Fremantle. 195 x 240 mm. January 2017.

“Rain Bird”
a crested tern at Fremantle.
195 x 240 mm. January 2017.

Do you remember that a few weeks ago I showed you a drawing of a flying tern?  I called the drawing “Liberation“.  Back when I drew that bird, I also began another drawing of  him (or her), standing on a post seconds before take-off.  The barely-begun drawing was interrupted by my trip to France so it sat in a folder until this week when I felt like returning to it.

Though it was pouring when I took the source photos, I hadn’t made any suggestion of rain drops in “Liberation”.  Also in that drawing I decided to leave out the post completely.  This time the rain drops and post are in.

Alternative titles for the two drawings could have been…

Tern On

Tern On

Tern Off

Tern Off

“Liberation” had already sold so I couldn’t compare the colours of the two drawings – until now – when I am viewing these two images together.  I wonder if all those Paris drawings done in between these two bird drawings had any influence on my treatment of “Rain Bird”?

I have so many source photos for Paris but I miss my birds AND Kyoto.  My various subject matters are going to have to take terns (I mean turns) so that I don’t mourn their absence from my drawing life.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

On the Road

"On the Road" rue de Rivoli (looking south) on a Friday night. 200 x 262 cm in coloured pencils. January 2017.

“On the Road”
rue de Rivoli (looking south) on a Friday night.
200 x 262 cm in coloured pencils. January 2017.

On this night I stood on the edge of the footpath – camera poised – waiting for action.  Into my frame he swooped; a cyclist rushing southwards.

Peruse Contents of Posts index for more stories and pictures.

Image | Posted on by | Tagged , | 13 Comments