Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Clay Cliffs

Just pictures this week.  I have been away on a photography field trip, and then to a convention, so there was not a lot of time to add material here.  The field trip was to Otematata, in the Mackenzie Country, one of my favourite areas of New Zealand.  One fine sunny morning we visited the Clay Cliffs, near Omarama, and here are some of the pictures from that morning.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Northland Kauri Forest

Forest Canopy
Kauri trees (Agathis australis) are conifers in the family Araucariaceae, which grow very large.  They can be more than 50 m tall, develop a girth up to 16 m, and live for more than 2000 years.  The genus Agathis includes other kauri trees from Australia, SE Asia and the Pacific Islands.

Kauri tree

Kauri, Agathis australis

New Zealand kauris were heavily exploited for their timber and their gum in the past so they are far less common now.  Fortunately, there are many small areas of forest habitat in the north of New Zealand where kauri is regenerating well, across much of its original range.  These regenerating groves of trees are commonly found on steep ridges and hillsides.

Kauri bark and gum

Kauri trees have distinctive greyish-coloured bark, with a ‘hammer’ mark texture caused by  flaking pieces of bark.  There are both male and female trees, which produce cones of different kinds.  Male cones fall to the ground once they have released their pollen, while female cones take 3 years to mature, turning from bright green to reddish brown.  Once mature, they release their seeds.

Green kauri cone

Kauri trees produce a sticky gum, or resin that oozes from their bark, leaves and cones, fills in holes or damaged areas, and then hardens.  This protects the trees from disease, and allows them to grow to a very old age.  Kauri gum used to have high commercial value, mainly for use as a varnish.  Gum diggers extracted the gum from swamps and soils where kauri trees had grown in earlier times; dropping branches, and eventually falling to the ground and becoming covered by debris.

Forest remnant in Whangarei

 Many other trees grow in kauri forest.  Some are large, some small, and many of them are restricted to northern parts of the country, including tanekaka, or celery pine (Phyllocladus trichomanoides) pictured here.  The tree fern is another common feature of these forest areas.

Tanekaka, celery pine

Tanekaka, celery pine

Tree fern

Monday, April 7, 2014

Waipu Cove in Northland

Waipu Cove

After our long hike, we caught the bus back to Auckland and hired a car for a few days to explore some of the parts of Northland we had previously walked through.  One of our favourite spots had been Waipu Cove, where in November, fairy terns had been on their nests.  Although they had finished breeding by late March, we saw a few on the beach, with other terns, godwits and oystercatchers.  I shall return another time with my telephoto lens for some photographs of the birds.

Debris from cyclone


Kelp attached to rock

However, the beach was littered with debris from the recent cyclone.  We picked through a large array of shellfish, crabs and other sea creatures, some that we had never seen before.  There were many different seaweeds including kelp with large pieces of rock attached, evidence of the violence of the storm.

Dunes at Waipu Cove

We stayed at Waipu Cottages and Camping, which borders a nature reserve protecting a stretch of beach along with the lagoon of the Waipu River behind.  From our tent, it was a short walk across dunes to the beach.  Shags nested in the trees bordering the lagoon.

Waipu Cave

We drove inland one day to Waipu Cave, which has attractive formations near the entrance.  There is also a walkway that goes through forest to a viewpoint looking out over the sea.  It is a magnificent coastline.

Sunset from Waipu Cove