Tag Archives: fantail

2150. Oh for a photo in focus

Recently I’ve been busy; busy busy busy; and I’ll tell you why. But first there’s some explaining to do.

A common bird in New Zealand is the fantail. It’s smaller than a sparrow but with a tail that fans out. In some places (such as where I live) there are dozens of them. They don’t behave like most birds. They flitter-flutter around your head when going for a walk. They’re catching insects that are disturbed. Picture a juggler going for a walk with three or four feathered friends being juggled in the air. If you twirl a tree leaf back and forth between thumb and forefinger, a fantail might sometimes land on your arm! They also come through your house cleaning up any spiders and bugs.

AND because they don’t keep still for any amount of time they are almost impossible to photograph. I have a reason for wanting to photograph one in particular which I shall tell you about shortly.

The usual colouring of a fantail is a dull brown back, yellow breast, and tail feathers that are white and brown. Here is a photos of one that kept almost still for long enough.

Recently in my nearby little town of Stratford, a pure white fantail appeared in a park. Dozens of would-be bird-watchers crowded the park each day in the hope of a glimpse. Only one onlooker managed a half decent photo. I haven’t seen the bird.

Now here’s my secret… About two minutes from my house, in a little glade of trees, is a pitch black fantail. Every day I take my camera on my walk. He/she is usually there flitting about, but seems a little shyer than some of the other fantails. Hence, after a month I have only two out-of-focus photos.

I don’t want to announce its where-about because who wants dozens of onlookers walking onto ones property? So that’s what I’ve been busy doing each afternoon after lunch. I shall post a further photo on this blog should a successful photo session occur. I thought a black fantail to go with the white fantail could be fun.

Tomorrow I shall post a piece of music called “Fantails” composed for oboe and piano. It doesn’t try to capture the fantail’s call which is a twitter-twitter to disturb insects. Rather the music tries to capture its flitter-flutter-all-over-the-place-flight. And who knows? Today’s walk might perhaps be my lucky in-focus day!

1600. Stream lines

Recently – like a month or so ago – I got a message of congratulations from WordPress on this blog’s 6th anniversary. It’s actually been going a couple of years longer because I suffered a bout of scruples, deleted the first few years, and started again. Be all that as it may, this is Story 1600. At first I intended to write 100 stories, then 365 (one a day), then 555 stories (the number of keyboard sonatas written by Dominico Scarlatti), then 1001 (in honour of the Arabian Nights), and then 1500, and now 1600… and what the heck…

Sticking to a time-dishonoured tradition on this blog, a significant story number calls for a celebration of some sort. So this is a walk with my camera (I don’t have a mobile phone as I’m so “tomorrow”) starting from the back of the property where I live. There a spring trickles out the side of a hill. I’ll follow the trickle of water for as far as possible before hitting neighbouring property and we’ll see what happens… (Note that photos of the crayfish and the pukeko are not my own, and nor are the last three photos).

The spring seeps out the bottom of the hill and creates quite a swamp.

It’s a complete soggy bog, almost impossible to walk over, although the dog (who seems to have joined me uninvited) has no trouble traversing the mud.

Little rivulets quickly appear and within maybe forty yards (36 metres or so) a small stream has formed.

Soon after, a little pool is shaped, gathers strength, and would crash down in white water torrents if things were multiplied by a 100!

Now the cat has joined me – uninvited. Oh well – what is a celebration without friends?

Almost immediately, the newly formed stream flows through a stream-cut channel and a natural fernery.

It enters a glade of willows – mainly fallen – where the water divides into stagnant pools. The thicket and swamp make it almost impenetrable.

Very soon the water re-emerges and flows down a gentle valley. By now it could be called a “stream” and over time it has carved out its path, exposing rocks and boulders.

Beneath the boulders many freshwater crayfish hide. They are a protected species – so no hors d’oeuvres tonight!

A skylark sings high in the sky. I can’t see it for the glare, but I’m joined by six fantails. These tiny birds dart and flutter around my head, twittering madly. They drive the dog crazy, but the cat remains nonchalant – knowing from experience that such zig-zagging creatures are uncatchable. Of course, it could be claimed that I’m a fantail whisperer and they twitter around my head because they love me. But my walk disturbs gnats in the grass, and this presents a feast for the fantails. Their fluttery flight is impossible to capture with my camera, but one bird sat long enough on a fence wire to allow a photograph!

There are literally thousands – if not millions – of Little Blue Butterflies and Common Copper Butterflies feeding on the winter-flowering daisies and dandelions. My steps create clouds of tiny butterfly wings!

A lone pukeko doesn’t mind being disturbed.

Soon the stream becomes wider and still. It’s as if it’s collecting itself, waiting to tumble to the next stage.

And here it’s on its way!

Immediately it forms a deep pool that has an eel lurking in it.

Someone thinks it’s his private swimming pool.

Thank goodness there’s a surf life-saver watching.

From here, the stream goes into shady undergrowth. It passes into a culvert, under a road, and out onto a neighbouring farmer’s farm.

I guess the walk has taken about 25 minutes. The stream cannot be followed anymore. But I know it later joins the Patea River.

It passes through Stratford, my local town. The volcano behind is Mt Taranaki.

From there, at a town called Patea, it flows out to sea!

Phew! What an exhausting walk!