Inverted dimorphism

This is the last story article dedicated to my trip to Lapland and Varanger, back in June. We will have a wrap-up post later on, and then we will be done with it. I have some more photographs from Finland and France I want to show you (many I haven’t edited yet…), and of course there will be more content from New Zealand, as I travel further.


Several animals look different depending on whether you’re looking at a male or a female. Think of the lion: males have a mane, which females lack. Think of the Paradise shelduck (Tadorna variegata): females are orange and white, while males are essentially dark grey.

Paradise shelduck (Tadorna variegata)

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Fenced thus safe: Zealandia, wild in town

New Zealand was separated from Australia some 80 million years ago. Over this period, life evolved into forms seen nowhere else, adapted to their habitat and their potential predators (or absence thereof). Before the arrival of men, 800 years ago, there was no terrestrial mammal in New Zealand, and many birds had lost the ability to fly. When the Maori introduced Polynesian rats (Ratus exulans), and later the European introduced countless exotic species, birds didn’t know how to defend themselves against these new predators. Pests ate birds, while men destroyed their habitat (and ate them too), and in no time, species declined dramatically. Some, like moas or the Huia, went extinct; below is a picture of all the animal and vegetal species that have disappeared since then.

Wall of shame

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I must confess it, I’ve had this article in mind for quite a while. Before I even arrived in New Zealand, I knew I would write an article with this title.

The pun was easy. New Zealand kaka (Nestor meridionalis) are parrots, and as such, I expected them to be noisy. My first encounter with them, in Hahei, confirmed it, but I never got to see them up close. When they flew over the property, though, their cackling voice echoed loud and clear. I was eager to meet them again.

I was looking forward to visiting Zealandia for this very reason. In the hills of Wellington, a huge fence closed an area of 225 hectares, creating a sanctuary free of pests where native fauna can thrive. Most of the birds are similar to those in Tiritiri Matangi, with a notable difference: the Kaka.

I heard them before I saw them, of course. As I walked along the lake, then in the forest, I heard them screech high above. Then I arrived to the feeders.

New Zealand kaka (Nestor meridionalis)

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What’s in a pic: Common redshank

In my first What’s in a pic article (two years already, check it out here!), I described how I used noise reduction to enhance an image. I also presented other tools and techniques, and now that I read the article again, I find my old self quite… naive. A lot has changed in how I approach photography and post-processing, that’s for sure!

In today’s article, I explain the thought process behind the picture of a Common redshank (Tringa totanus) I took on Kylmäpihlaja. Please see my last piece here for more pictures of this beautiful place and its inhabitants.

It started with this shot. I liked the light, warm and soft, and the foreground elements coming from bushes positioned between me and the bird. I liked the background too, but I wanted it more blurred, less distinct.

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A Midsummer night’s dream

In this flurry of New Zealand-related articles, let’s take a break and go back in time, to the most beautiful country in the world: Finland.
These days, I’ve found myself missing this place. First came the northern light pictures all over social media, and then the autumn colors in the forest. It’s not that New Zealand is bad, but Finland… awww, there’s something special about that place.

In the beginning of July, I spent a weekend on Kylmäpihlaja. This small island, located out of Rauma, in the Bothnian Sea National Park, is home to a lighthouse, and birds. Lots of birds.
I had been there about a year before, with my friend Bjørn, but we had spent only a few hours on the island, in the middle of the day. The profusion of birdlife had made me want to spend more time there.

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Steam and birds

After an enchanted stay in Matamata, among owls and wizards, I move south and east to Rotorua, on the shores of Lake Rotorua.

This town is known for its ubiquitous thermal activity – and indeed, when I arrived, I saw steam come out of the sewers. I should have expected it, but… wow, so unsettling! Then I started to understand the importance of it: spas and baths make use of it, but not only, for every motel advertises their hot pool, and most houses (if not all) use geothermal energy for heating.
In return, the whole town bathes in rotten egg smell. It didn’t bother me too much, but when I got out in the morning, it was always a shock. It reminded me of Turkey, Iceland and Chile.

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The day I arrived in Matamata was glorious: blue sky, warm air, and just a few big white clouds to add depth in the pictures. I checked in at the Matamata Backpackers hostel, a recent venue with a relaxed atmosphere, where I would stay two nights.

Reasons to visit this small, otherwise boring town are twofold: Wairere Falls, and Hobbiton.
The former is the highest waterfall on the North Island, an impressive 153-meter drop with a path leading up to the top. The second is the world-famous movie set, featuring the hobbit holes from the beginning of both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies by Peter Jackson.

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I left Celia and Victor on Saturday morning. I was a bit sad, for I had felt at home for a week, but I was looking forward to new adventures. After another easy hitch-hike along the rugged coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, I arrived in Coromandel Town at 11. I checked in at the hostel (Anchor Lodge, quite a poor one), bought some food, visited the visitor info desk, and on a walk I went!

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My dream, while I am in New Zealand (and maybe in the long-term), is to work as a conservation photographer: I want to be involved in conservation actions, visit places where people take care of birds, photograph the birds, the places, and the people, and write about them all.

Therefore, I’ve contacted several places to ask if they had opportunities for me. I didn’t get an awful lot of replies, but one had me very enthusiastic: Chelsea, from the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Center, offered me to come take pictures in their reserve, known for its waders. In return, I could sleep at the center.

That’s how I found myself in the middle of a windy nowhere, on a Friday morning, looking for birds.

Paradise shelduck (Tadorna variegata)

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