Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Growing wilder kids

July 18, 2014

I recently gave the Peter Spratt Memorial Lecture to the science teachers’ conference SCICON. There have been many calls for copies, so as it is a large file, I thought I would add it to the blog.

The full title is “Growing resilient children – getting kids wild about nature”. It describes the importance of getting children outside and into their environment and the ways that individuals can help improve community resilience.

FLEMING-Growing wilder kids

Spring in winter

August 23, 2013

Having just had the warmest July on record apparently, August has marched on by with a multitude of bright fine days. The average temperature hovers around 12°C, whereas further north Nelson and Gisborne have regularly touched 18°C.  Now the University of Otago campus is full of pink blossom and magnolia flowers, although the white cherries along the Leith aren’t out yet.  The kowhai are blooming at the head of North East Valley and my broccoli and cauliflowers are growing too fast for me to eat.  Spring in Dunedin should be at least a week away, but I am not complaining.  I’m back on my bike and enjoying the longer days and beautiful dawns.Image

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Today I drove out on Highcliff to revisit my favourite places on the Peninsula. First, a stop at the Tomahawk Lagoon, where I found four of the seven white herons (kotuku) that have called this suburban wildlife reserve home over the winter.  They retreated to their favourite dead tree, too far away for a photo, as soon as I got out of the car. They were still close enough to see their wonderful trailing tail feathers and large yellow bills.  The tide was draining the harbour and the day was still and cloudy, when I stopped on the high road. Rugby fans were celebrating the win of the Ranfurly Shield, in the toaster, which dominates Dunedin unmercifully.

The toaster

Turning to look north, the harbour claimed the sky.

Cloud harbour   New lambs

New lambs dotted the hills and the reflections of the boatsheds at Broad Bay reminded me of times past, kayaking in the bay.

Broad Bay

Home again and the kowhai flowers are nearly out, though snow is forecast for later next week. It has been a strangely warm winter.

Low cloud on Cargill

Orokonui autumn day

April 14, 2013

A fine, still day, where the mists lay on the hills and the bush was lit as if by bioluminescence. Today I saw my first robin at Orokonui – an unbanded bird, but quite adult looking. The tomtits were everywhere, attached to the side of trees with Velcro claws. I came across a kaka, ripping apart some bark. The fantails fluttered and squeaked around, picking off the flying insects the kaka disturbed. There were hundreds of fantails everywhere, more than I’ve ever seen at Orokonui, but they move too fast in the dark bush for my photographic ability.  A luscious afternoon in Tane’s forest.

A misty autumnal afternoon, viewed from Orokonui.

A misty autumnal afternoon, viewed from Orokonui.

The afternoon light caught the coloured neck feathers and beak.

The afternoon light caught the coloured neck feathers and beak of this kereru.

Young life in the bush.

Spot the fantail...

Spot the fantail…

Tomtits everywhere, like little yellow jumpered spies.

Tomtits everywhere, like little yellow jumpered spies.

Old man rimu sheltering new growth.

Old man rimu sheltering new growth.

The bright feathers of the kaka, high in the bush.

The bright feathers of the kaka, high in the bush.

I know I shouldn't post such "mistakes", but I love the sense of colour and movement here, as this kaka preens.

I know I shouldn’t post such “mistakes”, but I love the sense of colour and movement here, as this kaka preens.

NZ South Island robin greeted me on my return journey back up the hill.

NZ South Island robin greeted me on my return journey back up the hill.

NZ robin

NZ robin

A wonderful Wednesday in Rakiura

March 24, 2013

Rakiura is one of the Maori names for Stewart Island, which sits right at the bottom of the South Island. The original Maori name, Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui, reminds us that it is also the anchor stone of the great canoe (the South Island), from which the legendary superhero, Maui, caught the big fish that is now the North Island of New Zealand. The name Rakiura can be interpreted as “glowing skies”, a reference to the amazing sunsets and also perhaps to the Aurora Australis, which can often be viewed from this wild place. Rakiura is primarily a National Park. It is one of the places where human impact has been minimised, where kaka (bush parrots) sometimes greet you when you arrive at your accommodation and where you can still view kiwi in the wild.

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I spent a wonderful day on Rakiura last week, with friends visiting from the US. We spent the afternoon walking the tracks and beaches of Ulva Island, a small, pest-free island (no rodents, stoats, weasels or possums) in Patterson’s inlet, where the robins came to investigate the insects disturbed by our feet.

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That evening we dined on fat Stewart Island oysters and fresh blue cod,

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before heading off in a small boat for Ocean Beach with Philip and Greg of Bravo Adventures, through a blazing sunset studded with wheeling Buller’s Mollymawks.

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Once through the short bush walk and onto the beach, we stood on a smooth crescent of pale sand, with the Tasman waves cracking down beside us, half a moon to light our footsteps and the million billion stars of the milky way above our heads. Under the stars of the Southern Cross we saw four Stewart Island brown kiwi, foraging for sand-hoppers (amphipods), up to their faces in sand and seemingly oblivious to the six dumb-struck tourists watching them.  What a night!

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The following morning I bid this paradise farewell in a perfect dawn, as the fishing boats left for another day in fertile waters, and headed back to work.

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Orokonui

March 24, 2013

Bellbird chorus

The bellbirds were in fine form at Orokonui this afternoon. I even saw a pair mating – second spring? Plenty of tomtits but still no robins. The Easter orchid is flowering and smelling quite delicious.

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Taken a few springs ago.

Courting bellbirds, taken a few springs ago.

These are young bellbirds, revealing in the sugar water.
These are young bellbirds at an Orokonui feeder, revelling in the sugar water.