November 2013

To Coppermine Saddle and Back

We were interested to see if we could find any Forget-me-not (Myosotis monroi) flowering, a plant that is confined to this area and north-western Marlborough, chiefly in fell-field on the mineral belt. Well, we were too late but we did find a couple of the white flowers which were sort of the left overs. Never mind, there is always next year.

Copper Mine Saddle

Copper Mine Saddle

We started walking from The Brook car park and that first half hour climb is the worst! Once on the old railway line, the going is nice and just an even climb through the native bush. A stop for morning tea at Third House, with two swallow nesting in the shelter, and then around to Windy Point. On the way we observed a falcon soaring high with a smaller bird higher still. As the falcon flew off we couldn’t see anything in its clutches so the small bird must have escaped somehow. A little further on from Windy Point we had our lunch out of the wind and then walked on to Coppermine Saddle (878m asl). The Dunite rocks on the mineral belt certainly have something about them with their dun colouring as with the serpentine rocks with their various shades of green through to black in colour. We were looking for old mine shafts too and we even found one.  Chromite was mined here mostly and this was used for the manufacturing of dyes, in tanning and in steel manufacturing. The copper ore mining soon ran out so didn’t last long. There and back was a walk of about  24km in all.

Five Days @ Kaikoura

Late November Shirl and I joined our walking group for a visit to Kaikoura. The first fine day we headed for Mt Fyffe   (1602m asl) and the plan was to drive up to the hut in our four wheel drive vehicles and walk to the summit from there. Upon this day I found out the severe limitations of my Hyundai Tucson! Okay, I know it is nowhere near up with the big guys but I did expect a much better performance. The road up was in fairly good condition for most of the way but there were a several sections where the road was rutted and gouged by water and although we managed to clear the first of these I knew it was time to retreat when we came to the second. All the other vehicles reached the hut with no problems. In my opinion, the Tucson fails by not having a low crawler gear. This meant that a couple of my passengers and myself had a longer walk than we had thought! Never mind, we got there but there wasn’t much time spent on the summit. From the Fyffe Hut it took me 1 hour 20 minutes to walk to the summit. At least it was a great day weatherise with clear views all around. Laid out below was the Kaikoura Peninsular while behind, the peaks of Snowflake (1870m), Saunders (2146m) and Manakau (2608m) lay in wait nearby. Well, they seemed to be waiting and they can wait too as their slopes looked very rugged and it looked like a lot of hard work to do any climbing with them.

I was keen to visit the nesting gulls on the peninsular seashore so while the others of the group went for a walk

Nesting Gulls

Nesting Gulls

I wandered along the sea front just looking. It wasn’t long before one came to the gull nesting colonies and I was surprised at the number of them compared to a visit ten years ago. Good to see and these were the red billed gulls but no terns nesting with them. Ten years ago they were, however, I have been told that terns are notorious for just upping from one spot to nest somewhere else. I hope so anyway. I liked watching them and to observe the small fish that one of the pair would bring to the other while the red bills just seemed to argue with each other all the time while their young bathed in the sunshine. Here and there a black back gull nested nearby but mostly by themselves.


Sneaking Past

I walked past several red billed gull nesting sites and in the distance I could see another so headed in that direction. I soon found a number of seals resting across my path so it required some sneaking to by-pass them all. Sometimes you knew one was nearby by the strong fish smell but one couldn’t rely on this alone. As they lay about sleeping they could easy be mistaken for a dead rock. Only two raised their heads, had a look and

Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher

then went back to sleep. Upon my return I was standing  looking to see if any of the resting seals had shifted, when two herons flew by. One was attacking the other and as they swooped directly overhead, one struck the other causing it to fall onto the side of a hill. The attacker flew off no doubt quite satisfied but the fallen had to extricate itself from some light scrub and a number of agitated nesting red bill gulls. I’m sure the  gulls helped it get airborne again as it soon flew out and landed among some rocks by the sea, to sort out its ruffled feathers and dignity I guess. If the gulls happened to see the heron again, I wonder if they would sling off or is it only humans that do that sort of thing?

Returning I watched some birds moving around seaweed washed up on the beach and rocks. They seemed to be starlings but I wasn’t sure. Then I saw what looked to be a shag resting on the beach but approaching, I found it was the root of a tree. I passed three dead young seals. Quickly, in each case.  They have a special fragrance like that and I wondered how it could be put to some use. Perhaps the police could use it for clearing out of control party’s or drunken riots? They would need special ‘gas’ masks for themselves though.

Yealands Estate

Yealands Estate

On our way home we called into Yealands Estate vineyards near Seddon. I was interested to visit this place as they seemed to be very conservation minded. First though was to sit in a small theatre to view a short video of the set up and workings of the vineyard after which we sampled some wine (and even bought some too) and then were able to drive around the vineyards on our way out. They had developed 25 wetland areas and planted over 75,000 native plants. A NZ falcon breeding program was under way with a pair already residing on the estate and no doubt these birds help keep others away from messing up the grapes on the vines. All the grape prunings are bundled up into bales, dried out and then use as a heating source. Babydoll sheep are used to help with mowing between the vines and being short in the legs, they can’t reach up and eat the vines. Even the grape skins are made into compost and they hope to become self-sufficient in energy by the use of windmills. On some of the ponds, solar lights are fitted which attract the bad insects of which many of which fall into the pond only to be devoured by the trout. What else? How about chickens placed here and there with their little houses and they range around between the vines gobbling up grass grubs and such. Their by-product quite a lot larger than a grape but enjoyed by many no doubt. To top it all off, on a high point, loudspeakers poured out classical music over the growing grapes.

Classic wines for sure.

A Hopeless Trip?


Hopeless Valley

Alan was to attend a conference in Christchurch and on the way back home he dropped in to go on a tramp. Times were fixed so rain or shine, we were off up to the Hopeless Valley once again. We had planned to climb Mt Owen but decided against this for a sheltered valley. Hopeful at least. It was a long walk from the car park at St Arnaud to Lakehead Hut and then right up to Hopeless Hut all in one day but we got there. It’s a good little hut, sitting at 1030m above sea level with a great view, in spite of the rain. The next day we wandered up to the head of the valley in slightly drizzly conditions just exploring. We came across Notothlaspi australe (I think) of the penwiper family, growing on one of the screes and as we walked over the large rocks at other places, we spotted small, light grey spiders scuttling back under cover. They looked like little ghostly crabs and varied between 15mm to 20mm long.

Hopeless Hut

Hopeless Hut

We took nearly all of the next day to wander down to Lakehead Hut. A slight drizzle mostly but quite enjoyable all the same. We came across green hooded orchids in full flower, what I think was Olearia arborescens in flower and also quite a lot of the strawberry fungus that grows on black beech. These are Cyttaria gunnii, which look like small light yellow, pock marked, half sized golf balls.   For a change, the hut was host to all New Zealanders; four women from way up in Northland, a chap from Hamilton plus Alan and I. The next morning on the way back to St Arnaud we stopped at the wharf and spotted a trout dashing off. Then an eel loomed, sinister like, into view. On the bank by the wharf a duck sat with two ducklings and I wondered how many of her brood had the eels taken. I picked up a couple of small stones, lined up on the eel and dropped them one after the other. They were right on target but before hitting the eel, it rose up and grabbed each stone as it floated down! It soon spat them out so it wasn’t that hungry.

Kings Hut & Calling on Cecil.


No ‘swinging’

We joined our walking group – well, actually, we organised it, for a walk up the Wangapeka River early December. Two blue ducks flew under the swing bridge over the Rolling River as we crossed it so a promising start. It’s quite a long walk as we left at 9.10am reaching Cecil’s hut at 12.35pm. We had a leisurely morning tea though and also stopping here and there to look for trout. Our Irish friend Mags was with us again and I’m sure she was intrigued with the restored Cecil Kings hut, crossing 3 or 4 fords (creeks running across the road or upside down bridges if you like) and some cattle stops, on the drive in. I like these roads with grass growing in the centre too.


Up the Wangapeka

About an hour and a half from the car park, is the slip or landslide that must have blocked the river when it happened a couple of years ago. The river has broken through and I guess with each little flood, washes the opening wider and wider. The dammed lake has shrunk considerably to when we first visited it about the same time last year.

Will’s Gully Progress:

Spraying for weeds continues along with some late plantings. The Council Reserves manager had her annual inspection of the gully and I’m sure she was impressed at the growth and progress all round. She even gave me eight kahikatea plants to plant out in the Lone Fern Corner. This area has a little swampy patch so the kahikateas should grow well here. The total planting for this season is now 697. Not a great number but to drop a plant into a hole, the area has to be cleared of weeds first and it’s that first part that one gets a sweat up!  We have, or had, a tree lucerne growing well at home and I’ve used its seed to plant up in the gully. I know it’s not a native but I’ve found them very useful to fill a space quickly and through the winter months, its flowers provide food for the native birds. Even the native pigeons help themselves to the new growth in the Spring. It was sad to cut down the dead lucerne at home but it has successfully been re-incarnated up in the gully. It was good to see a Kingfisher resting on kingfisher nesting box at the Lone Fern Corner too. Fingers crossed to find the nesting box occupied next spring.


Rainfall for November at our place was 41mm which was more than last November (18mm) but a lot less than our November average of 104mm.


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