Last year, in June, after the North Island tour that ended in Northland, Vivien flew back to Europe and I settled down in Auckland. My plan was to work for RELEX while preparing the future… indeed, in about two months it would be time to leave New Zealand! How quick that year went!
I was very lucky to find an apartment in Mangere Bridge (thanks Carol!), a quiet residential neighbourhood south of the central district, on the shores of Manukau Harbour, a huge and shallow body of water that shelters tons of shorebirds in all seasons. I lived with a small family; they occupied the top floor while I had the ground floor, but we shared the kitchen. This wonderful arrangement offered me some much welcome social interaction, and I feel very grateful for those moments (thanks Nicola, Hugo and Maren!).
Down the road was the harbour and its perpetual tidal cycles. It was winter, which means it was summer in the Northern Hemisphere. As a result, the Arctic waders (godwits, knots…) were gone, but the South Island oystercatchers (Haematopus finschi) were in force. Those birds nest exclusively on the South Island, mostly inland, but when comes winter, they move away to coastal areas all around the country. Therefore, I had hundreds if not thousands of them to play with, and I regularly paid them a visit. They seemed to fly away as the tide retreated, presumably to feed on the exposed mudflats further in the harbour, but noisily came back when water was on the rise, to roost on the rocks and lawn of the shorefront.
Speaking of the shore, did you know that Auckland, the largest city of New Zealand, lies on a volcanic field? Yup, there are about 50 volcanoes in the area! The field is dormant, but it could become active again at any time… scary, I know. Many of the hills that dot the landscape are obviously volcano-shaped, but what I found interesting in Mangere Bridge is that the shore is also very obviously volcano-born: the rocks are very dark, and full of holes that once contained gases now long gone.
In the mud, mangrove saplings tried to survive.
The usual suspects along the shore, apart from the South Island oystercatchers, were the bulkier and shorter billed (and often pitch-black) Variable oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor), the Sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) and the White-faced heron (Egretta novahollandiae), and I’m presenting here a collection of images I made there, mostly at sunrise as I worked in the evening. Oh, the esplanade was lined with splendid Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa), endemic and beloved trees. I loved them ❤
I had trouble with the kingfishers. Unlike the time with Jonathan in Christchurch, I didn’t have a hide, and they didn’t seem very comfortable with my presence.
One evening, I found a “public bath”: it was low tide, and oystercatchers, starlings and gulls used puddles formed by freshwater streams flowing to the sea to clean thenselves. Facing the sun, I tried to show the photogenic spray they created!
Another time, I played with ripples that reflected sunset colours.
I hope this gallery could give you a sense of the place I worked with for quite a while. It’s hardly a quiet and pristine wilderness, with the highway and industrial buildings nearby, but wildlife somehow thrived nonetheless.
It was a good time for me.
Want to know where I went? Check out the map!
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