30 December 2015

Whio, Pohangina headwaters

This is the female — the mother of the five chicks — cruising around with the family when I met them on Boxing Day. I'd love to be back up there now.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

29 December 2015

Whio family, Pohangina headwaters

On Boxing Day I walked down the Pohangina river from Leon Kinvig hut to Ngamoko hut. The river was gorgeously limpid but many crossings were swift and powerful; fortunately, the deepest (almost reaching my waist) were slower. One small gorge, however, requires either floating — something I wasn't prepared to do on my own — or a steep climb, traverse, and descent along an overgrown track.

I'd almost reached the riverbed at the end of this track when I heard a whistle and knew instantly this is what I'd been hoping for. The track at that point skirts a near-vertical drop, and, looking down, I could see the deep green pool where the river exits the gorge.

Swimming in the pool was a family of whio: the two adults and five chicks.

I photographed them from above then carried on down to the riverbed and continued photographing as they swam slowly into the gorge. They allowed me time for only a handful of photographs, but I'd be a true grinch to complain about having just a few minutes to enjoy the sight of these wonderful birds.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

24 December 2015

End-of-year kereru

It seems fitting that one of the final photographs of 2015 should not only be from the No. 1 Line track, where I seem to have spent an increasing amount of time, but of a bird — the older I get, the more I'm thrilled by time spent in the company of birds and other animals. This kereru startled me when it flew from its perch close to where I was ambling down the track yesterday, but it landed nearby and allowed me some photographs. Not much light under the canopy, but the compensation was the lovely background colour.

I'm off for a few days in the Ruahine. The weather's looking good, and I hope that when I return, I'll have more photographs to share — including some of birds. Merry Christmas, everyone :-)

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

20 December 2015

Hover fly on Wahlenbergia, No. 1 Line track

On the No. 1 Line track this afternoon I'd stopped to photograph a sun orchid but its flowers remained closed despite occasional periods of sun. Who'd have thought flowers can get grumpy? But a few tiny Wahlenbergia flowers remained resolutely open, and I'd noticed this hover fly (Melangyna novaezelandiae) making repeated visits to this flower, so I waited until I was rewarded with this photograph.

The official common name for M. novaezelandiae is 'Large hover fly'. 'Large', needless to say, is something of an overstatement (I guess it's just to distinguish it from the 'Small hover fly', Melanostoma fasciatum).

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

13 December 2015

Melia at dusk, Pohangina Valley

All around the valley the farmers have been making hay even when the sun hasn't been shining. The hill between my place and the southern Ruahine Range has an intriguing pattern, but this evening at dusk it was the bead tree that drew my eye. I've photographed this many times before but can't resist its allure. This time I decided to give the photograph a different kind of feel — something to reflect how I was feeling. Something, I hope, to make you pause.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

08 December 2015

December evening, Pohangina Valley

Sometimes at dusk the light takes on a peculiar subtlety that greatly appeals to me. A couple of evenings ago I stood at the edge of the terrace and looked up the valley and thought how lucky I am to live here. The light had almost gone (it was much darker than it looks here), but I photographed anyway, with the ISO dialled way up and the aperture wide.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

03 December 2015

View from the top seat, No. 1 Line track

Yesterday, after the rain had eased and before it threatened to set in again, I did a quick walk up the No. 1 Line track. I didn't stay long enough at the top seat to brew tea, but I did set up the tripod and experimented with some photographs.

Fine weather's, ... well, fine, I suppose, but weather like this offers more interesting opportunities for photographing. As usual, I felt hugely grateful to have such convenient access to a place like this.

The yellowish-orange plant is mountain horopito (Pseudowintera colorata), the bright green plant is haumakaroa (Raukaua simplex). Both are among the most common shrubs in this altitudinal zone.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

30 November 2015

Clematis time in the Ruahine

Many of New Zealand's native flowers are small and nondescript, even though they have their own kind of restrained beauty. A few, though, are eye-catching, like the native Clematis, which flowers profusely at this time of year in the Ruahine.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

24 November 2015

Wasp and spider

Just above the car park at the end of No. 1 Line this afternoon, I watched this small wasp dragging this spider towards a burrow (visible in the background). The process seemed very inefficient — the wasp would drag the spider a few millimetres, release it, wander off, eventually come back to the spider, leave it again, go and disappear into the burrow then emerge again, check the spider, and so on. I didn't have the patience to see if it did eventually drag the spider into the burrow. At the rate it was moving the paralysed spider, the wasp's probably only now at the mouth of the burrow ;-)

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

17 November 2015

Pheasant on No. 1 Line

As I started driving down No. 1 Line late this afternoon after a walk up the track, this pheasant trotted along the road in front of the car before slipping through the fence into a steep, rough paddock. I stopped a little further along where I could see back to where the pheasant was standing. Although not optimistic, I hurriedly changed lenses and managed a few photographs from a long way off. This isn't technically a great photograph, but it gives the impression of this spectacular bird in its environment.

I never fail to get a thrill from seeing a wild pheasant.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

15 November 2015


Many of the plants along the No. 1 Line track are flowering now, but it was this wineberry (Aristotelia serrata) seedling that particularly caught my eye this afternoon.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

10 November 2015

Last night's visitor: Coptomma variegatum

Last night as I was about to head to bed, I noticed something on the ceiling. A closer look confirmed it was this cerambycid (longhorn) beetle, which must have flown in while I'd had the house opened up in the evening to cool.

I transferred it to a container and in the morning released it outside on the verandah railing, where I photographed it.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

31 October 2015

Honey bee

A large clump of flowering arum lilies at the front of the terrace has been attracting myriad insects of a great variety. Honey bees have been working the flowers enthusiastically; getting a decent photograph has been an exercise in frustration.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

26 October 2015

A seat with a view (No. 1 Line)

I've mentioned the No. 1 Line track so often now, I thought I should show you the top seat. I walked up there again today, brewed tea (that's it on the seat) and scribbled a few notes. The shrub's a horopito — mountain pepperwood (Pseudowintera colorata) — one of the most abundant shrubs in this altitudinal zone. The weather's pretty typical, too.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

19 October 2015

Moss drop

I'd stopped to search the overcast sky for the falcon I'd heard calling around the top of the No. 1 Line track late this afternoon. No luck, although just hearing these marvellous birds and knowing they were so close was lucky enough.

Then I got distracted by some pixie cup lichens growing on the long-fallen, overgrown tree stump on which I'd been standing. As I photographed the lichens I realised the stump also had a profuse growth of beret lichens, and as I photographed those, I noticed this tiny tuft of moss caught in a water drop and suspended from a line of spider silk. The more you look, the more you see.

(P.S. If, like me, you can see at least one face in this drop, you might be interested in this article, which discusses pareidolia.)

[Update, 20 Oct. 2015: I published another post on Pohanginapete this morning: An hour upon the stage. It's long (about 3500 words), so allow plenty of time if you're interested enough to read it.]

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

16 October 2015

It's blackbird nesting time again

For the past few years a pair of blackbirds has nested just below the roof of the walkway at work. Largely unperturbed by the constant human passers-by, they've raised a couple of broods each year. The first chicks this spring are growing at a phenomenal rate, so I decided to photograph them before they leave the nest. Look carefully and you'll see three chicks (well, not much of the third, but enough!)

I'm usually reluctant to photograph nests, or even search for them, because of the potential disruption, which in the worst case can lead either to the adults abandoning the nest or to predators like cats finding the nest. Here, though, they're used to the attention, and in any case I stood well back with the long lens on the camera for this photograph.

I love the way birds use the things we think we built for ourselves.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

09 October 2015


The foxgloves have begun to bolt. They're strikingly graphic plants at most stages of their life history and, even though they're considered weeds, I'd think the place poorer if they weren't here. So too would the bumblebees.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

04 October 2015


It's about time for something awesomely cute.

I photographed this little jumping spider just a few days ago in exactly the same place where I photographed an apparently identical jumping spider in mid December last year (same position on the same fallen tree). It's a reasonably safe bet that it's the same undescribed species. I don't know how long they live or whether it might have survived the winter, but it'd be nice to think this was the same individual.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

27 September 2015

Moon and fence

The gibbous moon, whether waxing like this or waning, always unsettles me. The restlessness sets in; I need to be moving on, going somewhere, seeking strange places.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

18 September 2015

The path with no end

This is a heavily processed composite of three photographs, intended to convey an impression. If I could say what the impression was, the image wouldn't be necessary.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

09 September 2015

Tui again

Another photograph of one of the dozen or so tui in the flowering cherry trees at Massey University on Saturday morning.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

05 September 2015

Tui in spring blossom

Several days ago, Lisa alerted me to the fact that the flowering cherry trees at Massey University were alive with tui. This morning I finally spent some time there with the camera, getting frustrated by the rapid movements of the tui, their infuriating habit of feeding from the flowers on the far side of the cluster, and the bright sky that always seemed to intrude in the background. The wind felt colder than a spring wind had any right to be, too, and by the time I gave up I must have been close to hypothermic. I did manage a handful of acceptable photographs, though. Thanks, Lisa :-)

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

04 September 2015


Yes, it's another kereru, but photographing these birds without pointing the camera upwards can be difficult. So, when I could climb the bank opposite this bird to photograph from the same level, I took the opportunity. Not technically great, but I like the feel of the photograph.

Photographing's taken a bit of a back seat lately while I attend to other matters. Sorry.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

23 August 2015

Torea pango at Camp Bay, Wellington harbour

On Saturday my friends biked the coastal track to the Pencarrow lighthouse while I walked the shoreline and tried to find photographs in the hard, contrasty light of early afternoon. After spending some time photographing a hauled-out fur seal, a group of little shags, a moth under a small lump of rata driftwood, and a fragment of wave-polished paua shell, I saw these two variable oystercatchers preening just above the water's edge on the shingle beach. I put my bag down, changed lenses, and crept a little closer, gradually and carefully. I didn't want to disturb them, so lay down on the shingle and began to photograph. They seemed unperturbed, so I wriggled a little closer. The almost impossible light — overhead and casting harsh shadows — and the black plumage and bright stones and sea left me wondering why I was even attempting to photograph.

Sometimes, though, the only options are to do what you can or to give up and guarantee failure. I chose the former.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

17 August 2015

Evening rain, No. 1 Line road

Another view from the No. 1 Line road last Saturday evening as I drove back from a wet walk up the track.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

15 August 2015

Rain on the No. 1 Line road

Misty cloud hung around the southern Ruahine today, hiding the tops, lingering in the lower gullies, suffusing the land with mystery and possibility. Even as low down as my place, intermittent drizzly rain kept everything sodden, and I knew a walk up the No. 1 Line track would mean a long, slippery climb in the rain. I hadn't been up there for a fortnight, though, and that felt like an age. I prepared for rain and drove to the carpark.

The bottom two thirds of the track had been cleared since I'd last walked it. A professional job—DOC contractors, probably. They might have been there yesterday and might be back to finish the job on Monday. I had mixed feelings about the new highway but had to concede it made the walking easier.

At the top I sheltered on the track behind the seat, out of the worst of the gale. Down in the valley the wind hadn't even been noticeable. I decided not to brew tea and instead ate the walnut-and-raisin roll and scribbled a few notes, trying to shelter the little notebook from the drizzle, then packed up and picked my way back down the slithery track to the car. Not the best of days, weatherwise, but a satisfying walk. By the time I started down the road, evening had arrived. I stopped partway down the road, wound down the passenger wind and photographed this. It's a fair impression of the weather.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

08 August 2015

Autumn, Pohangina Valley

Hard to believe this was the valley just over three months ago. Now, those bright poplar leaves have vanished and the drenched and sodden land lacks all trace of colours other than drab, drear greys, ill greens, and the sad browns and diseased yellows of decay. On the southern Ruahine tops, not far from here, fresh snow will no doubt still be falling. Just when winter seemed to be starting to relax, it's back.

This looks south down the valley. The hills in the distance are the last of the northern Tararua Range; they too will be deep in snow.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

04 August 2015

Back in the tagasaste — tui again

This particular tagasaste ('tree lucerne') attracts tui, korimako, kereru, tauhou, and a goodly number of bumblebees. A couple of days ago I watched two tui feeding in one area of the tree while a beautiful male korimako (bellbird) fed avidly in another area. The larger tui chase off the smaller korimako, but on this occasion the bellbird managed a good session.

[I've published a new post — Ghost thoughts — on the other blog. Check it out if you're interested, and leave a comment.]

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

02 August 2015

Kereru close-up

Another heavy, louring day; another day when the birds seemed to pay little heed to the guy wandering slowly around, occasionally pointing the camera at them. This kereru seemed comfortable just sitting, doing nothing. What light did filter through the overcast sky came from the wrong direction, but with a kereru this cooperative I couldn't resist photographing.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

26 July 2015

Violet coral — the fungus

To my mind, fungi rank among the weirdest of all living things. However, 'weird' can mean fascinating (again, to my mind, which I'm sure some people consider at least as weird as fungi) and in some cases beautiful. This exquisite, tiny fungus grew with several other similar clusters on one of the tracks through the Totara Reserve a short distance up the valley from my place. I'd been there on a beautiful sunny afternoon a few days ago with excellent friends, one of whom spotted these spectacular clusters. I'm still waiting for the identification to be confirmed, but I'm fairly sure these will turn out to be violet coral (Clavaria zollingeri).

Update (2 August 2015): The initial ID was violet coral, but after some conferring the experts have decided this is in fact Ramariopsis pulchella.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

21 July 2015


One of New Zealand's smallest birds, riroriro (grey warbler; Gerygone igata) live in a great range of habitats throughout the country. Of the commonly seen birds, they're also one of the hardest to photograph because they seldom pause for more than a split second and, when they do, nine times out of ten it's behind a twig which also just happens to obscure the most important part of the bird — the eye, usually.

I followed this one around as it gleaned its way through the trees and shrubbery at the edge of the terrace. The sun crept closer to the hills in the west and the light grew progressively warmer. Several times I pressed the shutter button just in time to photograph the twig on which the little bird had paused — no bird in the frame, of course.

I'd like to say persistence pays off, but this was the very first photograph in the series. Sometimes you just get lucky.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

16 July 2015

Kereru (New Zealand pigeon), Pohangina valley

On a heavy grey afternoon threatening rain (and sometimes delivering on the threat), I walked to the edge of the terrace. Mostly I needed to get out of the house, to recall the feeling of walking after too much sitting, but I also thought the birds might cooperate for photographs. They've been unusually accepting lately, letting me approach closer than usual. I want to think they're beginning to understand that I'm no threat, but I suspect the reason's less flattering and probably has more to do with their preoccupation with food during this lean time of year.

This kereru, one of two sitting next to a flowering tagasaste, kept a close eye on me but seemed otherwise comfortable enough. I kept just far enough away to avoid scaring it into flight. Birds have more important things to do than waste energy flying from non-threats.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

14 July 2015

Kiritaki hut, south-eastern Ruahine Range

The walk to Kiritaki hut (a.k.a. the Sea-Mac Motel, for reasons unknown to me) seems like an age ago now, even though only a few weeks have passed. Still, a lot's happened since then, and no doubt the hut a few days ago would have been embedded in deep snow. When I visited, it sat below the snow and ice, but the ground around the hut in the morning was hard with frost.

[P.S. Apologies for doubling up on the previous photograph. Maybe my brain had frozen.]

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

10 July 2015

The big chill

Much of the central and southern North Island is currently smothered in snow and ice, with the main highways north closed. The snow hasn't yet got as low as my place, but I thought another photograph from my recent walk to Kiritaki hut would be appropriate.

[New post up on the other blog: 'A kind of review (or maybe not) of Brian Doyle's 'The Plover''. If you're used to my usual kind of writing, you might want to brace yourself.]

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

07 July 2015

Tarapunga (red-billed gull), Petone Wharf

Petone sits at the head of Wellington harbour, and the long wharf that extends from the shore is an excellent place to view gulls, which lurk here to capitalise on any success the numerous fishers might have. This is an immature red-billed gull. While still abundant, the population of this species is declining rapidly and its official status is now 'Nationally vulnerable'.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

05 July 2015

Evening, Wellington harbour

This afternoon I returned from a few days near Wellington. Yesterday evening I'd taken a short, brisk walk up one of the bush tracks near Point Howard, and had stopped to photograph the last of the sun above the harbour. I could almost believe the worst of the winter had passed, but that would have been wrong. Even now, another icy front makes its way up from the south, and the forecast for this week looks grim.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

01 July 2015

Southern Ruahine Range, midwinter

A week ago I walked up the No. 1 Line track and across to Kiritaki hut on the Hawkes Bay side of the Ruahine Range. The following day I walked back the way I'd come, in better weather that allowed more of a view north along the range. Much of the snow had turned to ice, and, although it didn't extend far down the mountainsides, most of the track wound through the icy zone. Not until I began the descent towards the main No. 1 Line track did I leave the snow and ice behind. When I did, it was with a slight sense of sadness.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

27 June 2015

No. 1 Line to Kiritaki in midwinter

The walk from Kiritaki hut back over the range to the car at No. 1 Line tested my concentration. After a bitterly cold night, much of the snow had frozen, making the footing even more treacherous. Still, I had plenty of time as well as the inclination to stop frequently to photograph and eat another biscuit and admire the spectacular environment through which I was picking my way. This shows a typical section of the track.

When I began leaving the ice and snow behind on the descent to the car, I felt a twinge of sadness. Times like this don't come frequently enough.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

25 June 2015

The track to Kiritaki hut

Yesterday I walked up No. 1 Line and carried on along the re-marked track, all the way to the other side of the Ruahine Range, to spend the night at Kiritaki hut. I returned this afternoon.

The walking wasn't easy much of the way, but the reward was spectacular — for the same reason. This photograph shows one of the easier sections, on the way in yesterday.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

20 June 2015

Evening detail, Pohangina Valley

The lower North Island's being flooded right now. I'm O.K. up here on the terrace, even though the ground's completely waterlogged and some large areas of ponding have developed. If this rain keeps up, the already massively swollen Pohangina River will probably flood the river flats and there's a slight chance the road might close. That won't affect me, because I can hunker down, stay put, read, write, brew tea, and not go anywhere. Others won't be so lucky.

But a few days ago we had a brief spell of brilliant weather, and an evening like this.

[If you're interested, I have a new post over on Pohanginapete: The No. 1 Line hare.]

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

17 June 2015

Tui in tagasaste

On this morning when the temperature felt only slightly above absolute zero, I took the camera for a walk to see the patterns of frost. I saw something much more spectacular — this tui sipping nectar from the flowers of a tagasaste (tree lucerne).

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

15 June 2015

Storm bird

In the gales we've been having, small birds must find life difficult. I was surprised to see this piwakawaka managing surprisingly well. Not sure what the gunk on its wing was, but it didn't seem to impede the bird's flight.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

13 June 2015

The last leaves of autumn

Over the last few days we've had tremendous winds, along with drizzly rain interspersed with brief,  torrential downpours. Last night the house shook and I wondered whether the new verandah roof would go the way the old one went last year. It proved up to the task, though, and the house came through unscathed. This afternoon, needing time outside, I braved the gale and took the camera for a walk. Surprisingly, not all autumn's leaves had been ripped from the trees.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

12 June 2015

Through the leatherwood

Beyond the top seat, the old track, re-marked earlier this year, winds its way through horopito and toro and on into dense, old leatherwood. Here, if you stepped off the track and somehow managed to wriggle and heave through the tight tangle of tough limbs to a small clearing somewhere, you'd have a hard time telling which century you were living in.

Remoteness is not always a matter of distance.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

06 June 2015

Morning rainbow

The rainbow in the east over the southern Ruahine Range had already appeared early that morning over Zigzag Road in the west.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

04 June 2015

Hard to resist

In this day and age when everyone seems to have some kind of camera, even if it's just built into a mobile phone, who can resist the urge to photograph a good rainbow?

Tuesday began with a spectacular double rainbow in the west and ended with this one in the east. I couldn't resist.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

01 June 2015

End of a rifleman

On the No. 1 Line track early this afternoon I met the family of Titipounamu who, my records are beginning to disclose, seem to frequent this particular section of the track. They seemed particularly vocal and foraged energetically, never staying still for more than a second (as far as I could tell, that's literally less than a second, and I mean that in the literal sense, not the figurative sense of 'literal' that seems increasingly popular. Grump.)

I managed several photographs that leave the identification indisputable, but, of the others, I particularly like this one.

[Nip on over to Pohanginapete for a new post: The Hermit Marshes.]

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

29 May 2015

Evening from the No. 1 Line road

I came down late from a walk to the top of the No. 1 Line track, where I'd brewed Lapsang Souchong tea, scribbled a few notes in the little moleskine, let my thoughts wander, watched the shadow creep up the far side of the gully. By the time I reached the car the light was fading fast. A short distance down the road I stopped, dialled the ISO to 1600 and wondered how to evoke what it felt like to look out over the valley towards the Whanahuia and the mountains encircling the headwaters of the Oroua.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

22 May 2015

Still hanging around — Piwakawaka

The piwakawaka are still making good use of the verandah. Sometimes I find it difficult to believe they're not more interested in the camera than in using the railing as a staging post for insect-snatching forays, but I don't mind. If they're happy to pose, I'm happy to photograph.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

17 May 2015

Return of the piwakawaka

The two piwakawaka returned this morning, doing circuits around the house and posing to be photographed. Mostly they preferred the same end of the verandah, where I had to shoot towards the sun.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor