Category Archives: Birds

Bay Watch

On the South Island coast I’m on the alert for local fauna.  My first sighting is a sea lion flinging an octopus about in Blueskin Bay.  That dark shape in the water is the sea lion’s head, octopus dangling from mouth.  (If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can make it out.)

Next morning I see the sea lion again.  This time breakfast is flounder (so I’m told).

…down the hatch it goes…

On the Otago coastline between Oamaru and Dunedin is an outcrop of rocks called Shag Point.  There, all year round, you can see a colony of New Zealand fur seals.  On this day it is pouring with rain and blowing a gale.  I can’t step out of the car without getting soaked so I take these photos from my car window.

At the turn off to Shag Point is a cottage.  Wow!  What an outlook.  Location Location!!

The next day we return to Shag Point as the rain has stopped.  I take a five minute walk from the car park and look down over the cliff.  Can you make out the seals on the rocks?  (It can be hard to tell a seal from a rock.)

This must be the nursery.

…and this is surely Father.  “Wake Up Father“.

After a few days in Otago we find ourselves back in Canterbury.  We stay in this heavenly homestead near Little River (not far from Christchurch).  The house was built in 1900.  We feel we are in a Katherine Mansfield short story.

I am always drawn back to Birdlings Flat, a beach entirely made up of stones.  A group of South Island pied oystercatchers make their way along the beach.

A black-backed gull ruffles his feathers.

Red-billed gulls rest and think about what to do next.  (My aim is to photograph without disturbing the birds, which I succeed in doing.)

The surf continuously pounds this southern-facing coastline.  I lie in the stones and watch the white-fronted terns as they preen themselves…

…call to one another…

…fly in…

…and fly out.

In the lagoon behind the beach a solitary white heron sounds an alarm.  Is it me he is worried about?  There is quite a body of water between us.

But still he flies away.  (Perhaps he always meant to fly away and it is nothing to do with me.  I hope so.)

Driving over the hills of Banks Peninsula we encounter a flock of sheep.  The farmer looks like Jed Clampett.

The view from the top of the hill is outstanding.  That must be Akaroa on the far side.

I suggest to Matthew he might like to check out some Barry’s Bay cheese.  While he is sampling the famous cheeses I hop across the road to photograph the birds.

A paradise shelduck forages during low tide.

On a small island in the bay birds not of a feather stick together.

Toi toi.

A pukeko takes me and my camera in her stride.

…and the next day we fly back to Australia.

 

 

A box of birds

“A box of birds” means happiness.

One morning two weeks ago my sister-in-law Clare, Matthew and I sit outside at Blueskin Nurseries Café in Waitati.  Clare suggests taking us to Orokonui Ecosanctuary just up the hill as we all love birds.  The sparrows watching us think this is a good idea.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary is an ecological island wildlife reserve developed by the Otago Natural History Trust in the Orokonui Valley, 20 km north of Dunedin.  The 307 ha nature reserve was surrounded by a predator fence in 2007.  The forest is being restored to its former glory by keeping pests out, revegetating and bringing back species that were locally extinct. 

The first birds we see are takahe.  These flightless birds were for a long time thought to be extinct.  What a joy to see a species of bird for the first time ever.  Here is the chick!

The following three photos show one of the parents feeding this chick.  Look how they use their legs, scooping up grass.

New Zealand forests are too often eerily quiet as populations of songbirds have been decimated by introduced predators over the decades.  But the forest at Orokonui is an absolute symphony of song.  No words of mine can describe what it is like to hear this orchestra of birdsong.   Here are some of the musicians.   First – the tui whose loud song is interspersed with clicks and rattles…

The melodious bellbird or korimako…who is belting out a tune while I photograph.

I have written a post about a New Zealand parrot called the kea, but here is a parrot I had never seen before called the kaka.  These gregarious birds are extremely entertaining to watch as they get up to their various antics.  I want to capture the red under-carriage during flight but they are too fast for me.

The brave little robin likes to come very close to us because she is after the insects we disturb as we walk along.

A bird who evades my camera most of the time because he is so quick is the fantail.  This bird flits and teases as he pursues flying insects.  Only when he ever-so-briefly perches do I have any hope of a photo.

How I love the tomtit – a tiny bird with enormous presence.

Even when we can’t see any birds at any particular moment, we can always listen to their music.

…and enjoy the scenery…

When our excursion is over we descend back down the hill to Waitati.

A pony walks over to be patted.

A spoonbill flies across Blueskin Bay.

The day is a box of birds.

Happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

City Slicker

“City Slicker”
A glossy raven at Jaures.
240 x 260 mm. November 2017

“City Slicker” – noun – informal, derogatory: a person with the sophistication and values generally associated with urban dwellers.

The opportunistic raven is nobody’s fool.  He is sleek, healthy, clever, and manages just fine thank you very much in the heart of the city.  Not unlike Fagin from “Oliver“, he is “reviewing the situation” when I observe him.   Our encounter is in Jaures – a less salubrious area of Paris than a tourist might want to visit.  However not being a tourist, but a flaneuse (a female who saunters around observing society) I find myself there.

It is business as usual for this feathered city slicker – while I make a hasty retreat back down the more genteel (and safe) path beside Canal St. Martin.

 

Treading the Boards

“Treading the Boards”
Coloured pencils and Sennelier oil pastels.
225 x 275 mm.
August 2017

In a theatrical setting; the port of Fremantle lit by morning sunshine, a seagull steps along a wooden plank with the studied deliberation of an actor treading the boards.

This drawing will be one of 21 Julie Podstolski drawings exhibited at Kidogo Arthouse, Bathers Beach, Fremantle, from 7th September 2017 (for two weeks) – with ceramics by Stewart Scambler.   

On the Rocks

“On the Rocks 1”

“On the Rocks 2”

The latest additions to my drawing series headed for Kidogo Arthouse in September 2017 are “On the Rocks 1” and “On the Rocks 2”.    These drawings will be the smallest in the exhibition at 195 x 200 mm each.

In the past three weeks I have been to New Zealand and back twice.  Each time I flew, one of the drawings went with me so that I could work while away.  These well-traveled crested terns were worked on in airport transit lounges, my sister’s house in Wellington and in the hospice where my brother was being cared for in Christchurch.  It was calming to scratch away with pencils in the unusual circumstances in which my drawings and I found ourselves.   They were both completed back home in my studio.

When holding an exhibition it is good to have a range of art sizes.  Not everyone has huge wall spaces (or wallets) for one’s major works.  A small sized drawing (or two) may be just the ticket for an intimate space.

“Entranced” opens on 7th September at Kidogo Arthouse on Bathers Beach, Fremantle.

 

Port Authority

Who knows a port better than one who inhabits it night and day?  The ubiquitous Silver Gull is right at home among the ships, containers, bridges and cranes of Fremantle.  Observant citizen of land, sea and sky, he could probably tell us the daily shipping news – if we asked.  He is the port authority.

“Port Authority”
Oil pastels and coloured pencils.   230 x 310 mm.  July 2017.

“Port Authority” is the second drawing of this particular gull.  I drew him last year with coloured pencils only.  This time I wanted to add oil pastels to the mix and do a bigger drawing.  And as you can see, he is looking in the opposite direction in the first drawing…because a bird needs to know what is happening all around him!

“Port Side” 
210 x 245 mm.  August 2016

I chose to put ‘port’ in the title again since these two drawings are clearly related (though I no longer have the first one).

 

 

My Blue Whale Neighbours

Who knew that Blue Whales hang out off the coast of Perth during our summers, a few nautical miles from where I am sitting typing at home right now?  Not me, until last week when I happened across Whale Watch Western Australia on the internet.  Not one to muck about, I booked myself a place on the  7 hour excursion which went out yesterday.  Here is some of what I saw…

At 8 a.m sharp we glided out of Sardine Wharf at Fremantle. The water close to shore was like a millpond.

“This way”, signalled a cormorant as we left the inner harbour behind.

Our destination was an area known as Perth Canyon.  This is a submarine canyon located off the coast of Perth approximately 22 km west of Rottnest Island.  It has an average depth of 1.5 km (5000 ft) and is 15 km across, making it larger than the Grand Canyon.  As it is a nutrient-rich eco hot spot, it is a perfect feeding ground for mega fauna including the Pygmy Blue Whale.  This cetacean is a subspecies of the Antarctic or True Blue Whale.  ‘Pygmy’ is a misleading name as this whale is not much smaller than the Antarctic Blue Whale – measuring around 70 to 80 ft long.

A Fleshy Footed Shearwater.

Another view of the shearwater.

Photographs of Blue Whales don’t do them justice.  This is a case of “you really had to be there” as only from the boat can you fathom how majestic and ENORMOUS these mammals are.  The crew of Whale Watch Western Australia love their subjects and were extremely respectful towards them.  They gently maneuvered the boat so that the whales were comfortable in our presence.

A mother and calf were close to us. When a third whale appeared, she nudged her young one into position next to the boat to keep the other whale at bay.

Summer being essentially over, soon our whales will head off to Indonesian waters to spend winter there.

An elegant fluke sequence as the whale dives…

A shearwater lands on the water to enjoy some  dispersing whale poo. (That is the orange-colour floury substance you can see in the water.) Whale poo is nutrient-rich and fertilises the ocean.

Delicious.

What a delight to see albatrosses!  After much checking of “The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds” and the internet,  I can safely say that this is a Yellow-nosed Albatross (Indian ocean form).  A medium-sized albatross such as this is known as a mollymawk.

What an exceptional day yesterday was.  To think that all this is happening so close to where I live.  I also saw dolphins, petrels and Australasian gannets but I didn’t get any good photos of them.  (They were too fast!)  Yesterday was a bit like going through the wardrobe in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and finding myself in Narnia; pure magic.

My neighbours are Blue Whales  – who knew?!?

https://www.whalewatchwesternaustralia.com/