31 December 2008

Wall, penultimate evening of 2008

Evening wallYesterday evening the last ten minutes or so of sunlight turned the valley into something spectacular. I had a record shot prepared for this evening, but decided I liked this better. I might or might not post the other one later.

Happy New Year, everyone. May it bring the peace and joy we need.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

30 December 2008

Scrambling rose

White rose
What must the world seem like to a thrips*, or a tiny wasp?

*"Thrips" is both plural and singular. It's like "species"— one doesn't say "specie" (unless referring to coins, collectively).

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

29 December 2008

Kea, Avalanche Peak

Kea on Avalanche Peak
One of the pair of kea (Nestor notabilis) on Avalanche Peak in Arthurs Pass National Park; the mist-filled Crow Valley in the background. Perhaps a less striking photo than the earlier one I posted, but I like the way this seems to convey the bird's personality and it shows the bird in its true context.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

28 December 2008

Park Valley from Mungo hut

March 2005. Morning mist clears from the Park Valley, the last major tributary of the Mungo headwaters, as my brother and I wait for the helicopter. We'd spent a week at Mungo hut, mostly rain-watching, but in Westland it pays to be philosophical about the weather.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

27 December 2008

Bantam egg

White egg, white cloth
Colour can be more subtle than we generally realise.

[Six of these delightful little bantams' eggs were a gift I can hardly bring myself to eat. I'll manage, though.]

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

26 December 2008

Home is more than place

Cloud over home
"Birds in flight, claims the architect Vincenzo Volentieri, are not between places, they carry their places with them. We never wonder where they live: they are at home in the sky, in flight. Flight is their way of being in the world."
—(Geoff Dyer, from "Out of Sheer Rage: In the Shadow of D.H. Lawrence".)

I'm reluctant to call anywhere "home" because it can be taken to imply "home" is nowhere else, or indeed that it's a specific place — and only a specific place. But I'll put aside the nit-picking just for a moment and say this place, under this wild sky, is, for the time being, home.

[Photo at dusk just over a month ago, when the ti kouka (cabbage trees) were flowering profusely.]

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

25 December 2008

Miniature falls, Pohangina River

Swift water, Pohangina River
Detail from the Pohangina River on Tuesday (23 December). If you look closely at the lower right-hand edge of the backlit triangle of water in the centre of the frame, you'll see several tiny dark shapes. They're flies of some sort — possibly crane flies, perhaps the remarkable net-winged midges (Blephariceridae), of which Aotearoa has eight described species and several more known but not yet described. By the same time the next day, all this would have been underwater.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

24 December 2008

Mother and child, Ranthambhore National Park

Langur and baby
Well, it's Christmas Eve, and all going well I should be out of the hills — with lots of sightings of whio, I trust. Right now it's the 21st, the evening before we head to mid Pohangina hut to start the survey, and I'm scheduling this post for the evening of the 24th in case I'm too stuffed to fire up the rorohiko and work up a photo. This one seems as appropriate as any because it depicts at least two things I'm wishing for the season — that we love and take care of each other, and that wild things, wild places, and wildness itself, will survive. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Update, 24 December: The helicopter flew me out this afternoon, in weather that had me wondering whether I'd still be up in the Pohangina headwaters on Christmas Day. I ended up doing the survey alone as JJ was crook. A couple of beautiful days, then the rain began last night; I got about three quarters of an hour up the river on the last section of the survey before discretion supplanted enthusiasm. If I'd left it much later to turn around, I might not have got back to the hut, as the river was rising rapidly. But all's well, and I had a great time up there. Yes, wildness still survives.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

23 December 2008

Downvalley from Chomrong, Nepal

View down the valley from ChomrongOn the Annapurna Sanctuary Trail. It's a steep climb up from that river.

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22 December 2008

A dream of dark water

Dark water
A dream of dark water, something whispering under branches. A hollow splash, ripples spreading. The moment begins to fragment as the slow stream swallows sound and light.

[Below the bridge over Te Awaoteatua Stream, 2 November 2008.]

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

21 December 2008

Clearing storm, Annapurna South

Annapurna storm
March 2007, at Tadapani on the Annapurna trail. The cloud begins to break towards evening, revealing glimpses of Annapurna South, like vignettes from the past. One might imagine the ghosts of long-perished climbers wandering restlessly up there, calling to their families, to their friends, to those who loved them. Do not forget us, they say.
All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

20 December 2008

Blue sky, white roof

White roof, blue sky
Two colours. My roof, on a day very different from today.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

19 December 2008

Nor'wester over fence post

Nor'west sky, Pohangina valley

A wild sky this morning; bad weather on the way, in time for the weekend. Still, it's forecast to have cleared by Monday, when I head into the Ruahine for the whio survey — we're doing the headwaters of the Pohangina; being flown out by helicopter on Christmas Eve :^)

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

18 December 2008

Musicians' jam session at The Celtic

Jamming at The Celtic
Each Tuesday evening the musicians gather at The Celtic. I hadn't been there for a long time, so I was surprised — and pleased — to see so many playing. It's all unplugged, too, so we who weren't playing could hold conversations without shouting. Although the place looks relatively empty, we had a good crowd; behind me were a couple of dozen people, and the smokers, of course, were all outside.

Update: I forgot to mention that this was at ISO 3200. Also, you can view a couple more photos on the latest post on PohanginaPete.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

17 December 2008

The hills of Kumaon, from Kausani

Kausani, in the Kumaon region of Uttaranchal (now known as Uttarakhand), is famous for its views of the Himalaya. But the view in the other direction, from the far side of the ridge on which Kausani sits, has its own charm.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

16 December 2008

Dog at Kausani

Dog at Kausani, Uttaranchal
Most dogs I encountered in India were in terrible condition — many were mangy or otherwise diseased; most were thin, some to the point of being skeletal; the usual behaviour was craven. A few I kept well clear of — rabies kills tens of thousands of people each year in India and although I'd been prevaccinated I didn't relish the thought of the post-bite course of injections. But occasionally I'd meet dogs that were obviously well looked after; lovely animals who evoked feelings of delight rather than pity. This was the first of those, at the guest house at Kausani in the Himalaya. I'd like to think his expression here was one of melancholy because I was leaving, but he was probably just bored.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

15 December 2008

Cat at the Jodhpur fort

Cat at the fort, Jodhpur
After rooms full of knives and ramparts arrayed with cannon, small lives like these in the shadows of human history, surviving in the face of the threat of the human future, filled me with hope.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

14 December 2008

Palm squirrel at Jodhpur

Palm squirrel, Jodhpur
The history of the great fort at Jodhpur is one of war, violence, and political machinations (among other things). Yet the fort's occupants are not just human; what small battles are fought among its other inhabitants have almost no power beyond their immediate vicinity.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

13 December 2008

Sack mender, Jodhpur market

Sack mender, Jodhpur
In an out of the way corner of the main market in Jodhpur, I came across two men mending sacks. I have no idea whether this was their only work; no idea how long they mended sacks each day. They did seem pleased I was interested, although perhaps they were enjoying the craziness of foreigners who were interested in sack mending.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

12 December 2008

Morning at the head of the White River

Snow, rock, sky
By the time we began the descent from the summit of Mt Wakeman the sun still hadn't risen high enough to warm the western slopes of the small side-valley. The first signs of bad weather drifted across the sky. We cramponned back down to Barker hut and spent the rest of the day relaxing and watching the cloud thicken. [Mid January, 2005]

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

11 December 2008

July snow

Just four months ago, snow coated the southern Ruahine, not quite reaching down to my place.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

10 December 2008

Snow and ice, Mt Ruapehu

On a climb of Girdlestone, one of Mt Ruapehu's subsidiary summits, in 2005

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

09 December 2008


From Boxing Day a couple of years ago. Just playing around.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

08 December 2008

Ya pear

Ya pear
Sometimes simple things can't be beaten.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

07 December 2008

Old ice, Otira Valley

Old ice, Otira Valley
By midsummer, only sun-eroded ice remains, the consolidated debris of winter avalanches slowly dripping away and forming the headwaters of the Otira River. Jono and I climb Rolleston twice — once by the popular Otira Slide route to check the descent route; then a couple of days later via the Otira Face. Days to remember.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

06 December 2008

At the wedding, Kileswar [2]

Villager, Barda Hills
Another man from the wedding party in the Barda Hills near Kileswar, Gujarat.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

05 December 2008

Beach sculpture [2]

Pebble pile at Birdlings Flat
Another photo of artwork on Birdlings Flat, just south of Banks Peninsula.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

04 December 2008

Stone curlews at Jamnagar

Stone curlews

The stone curlew, or Eurasian thick-knee (Burhinus oedicnemus), is a strange-looking bird whose primary defence is to crouch or stand perfectly still. We were lucky to see these just before the last sunlight vanished. I'd never seen them before, and to date have never seen them again.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

03 December 2008

Potter near Jodhpur

Potter near Jodhpur
In the countryside near Jodhpur. He threw pots by hand on a simple wheel comprising a massive stone wheel spun with a stick, its momentum keeping it turning while he shaped the pot.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

02 December 2008

Himalayan bulbuls at Kausani

White-cheeked bulbuls
Although the photo might suggest one bird is feeding the other, these Himalayan bulbuls (Pycnonotus leucogenys) in fact appeared to be disputing the ownership of the seed. It's easy to misinterpret the behaviour of birds (and other animals — including, and perhaps especially(!), humans). I try to avoid jumping to conclusions about what's happening; generally, I see no harm in simply watching, enjoying, and wondering.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

01 December 2008

Rhesus macaque at Rishikesh

Rhesus macaque
In her comment on the photo of the Tibetan wolf, RR mentioned how she'd tried to avoid anthropomorphism. It can be difficult with dogs, but it's hardest of all with monkeys.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

30 November 2008

French Pass beach boulder

Boulder at French Pass, Admiralty Bay
I don't know the geological term for the rock at French Pass, but much seems halfway between clay and the real thing: soft and easily erodible but still solid enough to form distinct boulders. The small settlement of French Pass sits on the shores of Admiralty Bay in the Marlborough Sounds, the north-eastern corner of the South Island.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

29 November 2008

Tibetan wolf

Tibetan wolf at Naini Tal zoo
Several wolves occupied a small cage at the Naini Tal zoo.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

28 November 2008

Camo cat on carpet

Jimmy asleep on carpet
They assume (correctly) one will notice them and avoid stepping on them, even when they're asleep and almost invisible on the most-used area of kitchen floor. [Jimmy a.k.a. Tigger; 23 November 2008]

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

27 November 2008

Nor'west storm over Lake Pukaki

Nor'west storm over Lake Pukaki
When the Southern Alps look like this, stay indoors. Read a book or admire the wildness from somewhere snug and safe. Whatever you do, don't attempt to cross rivers.
The road to Mt Cook village follows that left-hand (western) shore of Lake Pukaki.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

26 November 2008

The best mountaineer [Nestor notabilis]

Kea, Avalanche Peak, Arthurs Pass NP
I don't think it was trying to make off with my Leki pole, but you never know. Anyway, I don't know why it would need one — I'd gladly swap my poles for a set of wings like these.
New Zealand's kea (Nestor notabilis) are the only true mountain parrots, and might be the most intelligent birds in the world — definitely up there or surpassing crows, ravens and their ilk. While this bird distracted me, its mate was sneaking around behind me to check out my daypack.

[I've rescheduled the posts so I could add this one for any visitors from 10,000 Birds. Thanks Mike, for the generous link :^)]

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

25 November 2008

Sunrise through morning fog, the Catlins

Morning fog, Catlins
In mid February 2006 I explored the Catlins, the south-east corner of the South Island of New Zealand. Early morning; driving through fog. At the intersection where the road heads south to the coast, the sun began to burn away the mist. It's almost hackneyed, but it brings back the memory.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

24 November 2008

The sky over Jaisalmer

Mare's tails, Jaisalmer
Jaisalmer crouches in the desert, surrounded by sand and thorns. The fort looks out over the desert, down to the surrounding town, up to the sky. Here, you look up and the sky goes on forever.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

23 November 2008

Bishnoi man near Jodhpur (2)

Bishnoi man near Jodhpur
Another man from the Bishnoi family; same place, same time, same difficult light.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

22 November 2008

Bishnoi man near Jodhpur

Bishnoi man winding turban near Jodhpur
I tagged along with seven young Israelis on a jeep tour; I felt like a tourist but everyone — my companions, the guide, the people we met — seemed to enjoy the occasion. This elderly man certainly seemed happy to demonstrate his morning ritual, and to pose with the Israeli women. I assume he's been photographed countless times. The bright morning sunlight coupled with his brilliantly white clothing made photographing difficult, but, aware of the risk of blowing out the highlights, I underexposed and got away with it.

Bishnoi hold strong beliefs based on respect and compassion for all living beings. Among the 29 rules by which they live (Hindi Bis = 20 and no = 9; thus 29) is the injunction to inspect and clean firewood in case they inadvertently burn insects or other small lives. Other rules, such as the separation of babies and mothers for 30 days after the birth, while difficult to reconcile with western attitudes and knowledge, are intended to provide rest for women at important times.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

21 November 2008

Seedling, No. 1 Line

Seedling on ponga trunk
In the bush near the start of the No. 1 Line track, not far from the big rimu. This isn't a sprout, it's a seedling growing on the trunk of a ponga (tree fern).

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

20 November 2008

Pigeon at the rat temple

Click to read Dave Bonta's poem prompted by this photo
The Karni Mata Mandir, the rat temple at Deshnoke, near Bikaner in Rajasthan, probably isn't the healthiest of places. Even the rats and pigeons looked a bit worse for wear. But I loved it there. Yes, rats are vermin, but they're also living creatures—complex, intelligent, highly successful. Mammals, like us— and probably more like us than most of us like to admit. I found it moving that here, at least, they were treated with honour and respect. Perhaps my appreciation was part of the reason I was lucky to see the white rat.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

19 November 2008

Villager, north-eastern Gujarat

My friends had asked if we could photograph her. She nodded when Parbat translated the request, and as she studied the cameras pointing at her, I photographed from the side. That evening I managed to get many of the day's photos printed, and Parbat distributed them the following day. I like the thought of my photos remaining there.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

18 November 2008

Stone at Flounder Bay

Stone on stone
I don't know how the holes formed. Possibly some kind of invertebrate, or perhaps the action of the sea grinding tiny pebbles around and inexorably wearing away at the rock. Some holes seem too deliberate and regular, though — like tunnels (hence the suspicion of invertebrates). To give you a scale, this stone fitted comfortably in my hand. Stones similar to this littered the small cove, along with the remains of countless shells, driftwood ranging from old planks and bleached branches to a great, partly buried pine, and the usual scraps of plastic, old drink bottles, and faded jandals.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

17 November 2008

Driftwood stump, Baring Head

Driftwood stump, Baring Head
On the morning of the Baring Head Rock Hop the cloud had already begun to show signs of burning off as I trudged along the beach towards the boulders (those big rocks in the background are where the event takes place.). I hoped it wouldn't disappear completely—harsh, middle-of-the-day sunshine makes photography difficult. I photographed most of the day, enjoying the company, the camaraderie, the chance to photograph people having fun and challenging themselves. Bouldering's a wonderfully social sport; one of the least competitive I know, even if this was supposed to be a competition. In 2009 I'll climb at the Rock Hop, maybe photograph as well. I love both activities.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

Midsummer dusk at Flat Point

This is how I'd like to remember it. But now the far end of the beach has been "developed". A cluster of architecturally designed houses; lawns with private please keep off signs. A beach access sign directing the visitor. (We control who goes where. Thankyou). I thought of Snufkin and wished I knew where I could find hattifattener seed.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

16 November 2008

The shore at dusk, Hawkes Bay

Evening shore
Another wave rushes in, then recedes. Another wave rushes in; recedes. And so it continues, never quite the same, always similar. One sits and watches, and wonders whose human eyes first watched the waves at dusk along this shore. One sits and wonders whose human eyes will watch these waves for the last time, and what will remain. What will outlive us?

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

14 November 2008


Leopard, Naini Tal Zoo
The staff at Naini Tal Zoo had clearly attempted to provide at least some animals with reasonable living conditions (the tiger; the snow leopards, for example). But seven leopards in a cage roughly the area of a tennis court...

In December 2006, shortly after I left the Garhwal region of the Indian Himalaya, three young girls were killed and eaten by leopards (probably the same animal) within a week or so. I'd believed man-eating leopards could now be found only in the pages of books like those of Jim Corbett. I was wrong.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

13 November 2008

The Himalaya from Kausani

The Himalaya from Kausani

Kausani, in the Kumaon region of Uttaranchal, is famous for its views of the Himalaya. The strange black shape above the tree is a crow. A few seconds' work would remove it, but I don't want to.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor

12 November 2008

Red beech leaf in the Pohangina

Nothofagus fusca leaf in river
Red beech (Nothofagus fusca) leaf in the Pohangina River below Ngamoko hut. November 2007.

All content © 2008 Pete McGregor