Shakespear Again, Pt. 2: The Birds

You know the drill: I take photos of birds, they’re not very good, I post them here anyway :)

Getting things started with a magpie.

There are a number of different types of birds called magpies. They share black-and-white coloring but not a lot else — unlike the European magpies, these are not corvids (crow-like birds) even though they do kind of look like them.

They’re native to Australia; here, they’re considered an invasive species and are basically pests.

The Pukeko, or Australasian Swamp Hen, is a common sight in New Zealand.

Another common sight, and one I’ve written and posted about many times before, is the fantail. I love these birds.

I’m not 100% what this bird even is, I just wanted to post this photo because I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten a better shot of a bird on the wing before :)

I told this story before, but every time I see a brown quail I’m reminded amusingly of how Taylor once thought they were kiwis. You don’t have to try hard to see these little guys at Shakespear Park.

I honestly don’t quite understand why you see brown quail in all these protected bird sanctuaries when they’re not at all endangered or threatened (and are, in fact, introduced from Australia). But hey, I’m glad they have a safe place to chill out and be quail.

The New Zealand wood pigeon, or kereru, are also not threatened and are also quite frequently present in sanctuaries such as Shakespear.

They’re a real comical sight, being the 747 jumbo jet of New Zealand birds. I saw so many of these guys, but I just took the picture of this one.

The boisterous tui is one of the most iconic birds in New Zealand (in addition to the fantail, the pukeko, and of course the kiwi). Instantly recognizable either visually or by their song, which to me sounds kind of like a fax machine, tui are not threatened, and thanks to the hard work of NZ conservationists will hopefully never become so.

You may recall last time I was at Shakespear I got to photograph these birds, the Eastern rosella, for the first time. I just happened to see a few of them sitting in a field and managed to snap some decent shots.

There were two pairs, one set in the trees and one on the ground.

Lovely! Now if you could just stay there while I sneak a bit closer….

Oh, well nevermind.

Thank you for indulging my bird nerdery. Next time we’re going to go someplace I only learned about recently and have already been there twice and really like! See you then!


Shakespear Again, Pt. 1

My friends, it’s time for a drive.

Specifically, a drive up to Whangaparaoa and Shakespear Park. That’s right. Get ready for some sheep.

Longtime readers will recall that I’ve been to Shakespear several times, so much so that I wasn’t quite sure how to title a post about a place I’ve posted about so many times before! I’m going to try and make this post just a highlights reel, since I’ve documented the walking trails sufficiently by this point.

Hopefully this post isn’t too boring to those who have read the previous ones!

As always, I started out by going through Waterfall Grotto. Since I had my tripod with me, I tried a long exposure of the waterfall just for fun. Compare the below to the above and let me know what you think!

(This one is a 5-second exposure; anything more than that and it started to get pretty blown out.)

Walking up the hill to the lookout yields the usual lovely views :)

I like this one looking back at the town of Whangaparaoa.

Of course, Rangitoto.

Notice something weird in the left-hand part of the photo? Yeah, me too. Let’s Zoom and Enhance(tm) using the big lens:

Why, it’s the HMNZS Otago! She’s a patrol vessel in service to the Royal New Zealand Navy. It’s nice to have a big enough lens that “hey, what’s that boat?” questions can be answered pretty definitively :)

I love New Zealand and her rolling hills! What a beautiful country.

It’s Tiritiri Matangi! Every time I see that island it warms my heart. My overnight stay on Tiritiri last year is one of my fondest memories of the last time I was here.

Whangaparaoa Peninsula sticks out far enough into the gulf that the city is visible in the distance. This is Auckland at paltry 200mm zoom.

We can do better :)

At these distances, atmospheric refraction actually becomes an issue. It’s 27 km (16.7 miles) from the lookout to the Sky Tower, and 27 kilometers’ worth of water-laden air makes a difference.

Still cool looking though!

Looking out the other way…oops! Looks like it’s raining out over the gulf. Maybe I should start to hoof it around the track!

As I continued to walk, the clouds rolled in. Fortunately I managed to complete my hike and make it back to my car before the precipitation started.

I absolutely love Shakespear Park. I could come here every week. Once I decide to retire from my desk job I’d love to work as a conservation ranger in the NZ park system! But for now I need to take the path back home.

Don’t worry, though, we’re not done with Shakespear yet! Next post will be the obligatory Bird Photo post! See you then :)

Highwic Historic House

Newmarket is a chic shopping district just outside Auckland City. It’s got bookstores, grocery stores, department stores, a fancy movie theater, and even an IKEA — everything the modern person could want. Whether it’s clothing or accessories or makeup or hardware or furniture or even a car, just head to Broadway St and walk up and down until you find it.

It’s even got a historic manor-turned-museum, literally right off the motorway.

Highwic House dates back to the mid 1800s and was built by Alfred Buckland (one of his many grandsons would later name Bucklands Beach after him; I’ve taken a few trips out there).

Walking up the pathway, the first thing that jumps out at me — besides the lush vegetation, of course — is the color scheme of the house. Makes me think of ice cream for some reason, maybe because one of my favorite ice cream places uses pastel pink and yellow in their logo!

I decided to take a roundabout route up to the house so I could see the grounds first. As I turned off to the path, I saw this gnarly tree!

Heading around the side path, there are some nice stone stairs leading back up toward the gardens…

…and a little gazebo! How cute! I’m not sure what the purpose of this is, but I like it.

There’s a lot of nice little wandering paths through the gardens. Must have been a lovely place to walk for the onetime residence of Highwic!

When life gives you an orange tree, photograph it and put it on your blog.

The gardens have nice Winter plants and look quite pretty! Some of the planting beds were a bit shabby, which I suppose is to be expected for this time of year.

Coming up to the house itself, there’s a fairly large lodge building in addition to the main house.

Wandering inside, you can see it’s quite spacious (and has, anachronistically, a small electric heater in the corner as well as a large fireplace). You can actually rent this hall for weddings and events and the like!

The house itself costs money to go in, and I declined to do so because I thought I’d be coming back at a later date. Turns out I didn’t, so maybe I should have opted for the tour. Ah, well, at least it will still be there if I do decide to come back!

Even though we didn’t get to go inside, I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of Highwic House!

Come back next time for a visit to someplace a bit further afield. Spoiler alert: I get to use my big lens again :)

Bastion Point and Mission Bay

Mission Bay is not too far from the city, across the Panmure Bridge, and is home to some shops, a movie theater, and two lovely parks. We’ve been here before, and I’ve visited many a time, but with the weather nice and a desire for photography in my heart, I headed out once again.

Perhaps the most recognizable feature of the lower park is this fountain. It’s quite large, and on nice days you will often see small children playing in it. More than once I’ve been meeting people at Mission Bay and we have said we’ll meet at the fountain. Nobody has ever been confused as to which fountain we’re meaning.

Mission Bay is one of the closest beaches to Auckland. The water of the bay is generally quite warm — not so much this time of year, of course, but I went in once on a crisp day in early December to find the water actually felt warmer than the air!

I’m not here to lounge around the beach, though. Attractive though that prospect is, I didn’t carry 40 lbs of camera equipment over here to sit around on the sand. If we walk down the road a bit and go up this nice set of stairs, we will find ourselves walking up to Bastion Point.

Bastion Point’s most prominent feature is this, the Michael Joseph Savage memorial. This too carries a park-like atmosphere, with some older gentlemen playing with a remote-controlled boat in one of the ponds. I don’t know much about Mr. Savage, but I hope he would be pleased that his memorial hosts many kids (of many ages) playing around in front of his monument.

(If the 35mm lens has one flaw, it’s that it generates lens flares like it’s filming a Michael Bay movie. I don’t always notice them until I get back since I’m not in the habit of looking at every shot after I take it, so it’s quite annoying. C’est la vie when you’re an amateur-grade photographer I suppose).

The sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom and covered in a nice sheen of dew…all is right with the world.

Lion-head fountains are always classy!

There’s more to the park than just the memorial, though. We’re going to venture down the hill a bit to one of my favorite photo spots.

Here we are: an old WWII lookout post!

Using a bit of gumption even a fairly unfit person such as myself can scramble his way onto the roof of these lookouts. It’s easier when alone, as one’s dignity may not survive the climb.

The shots are worth it, though! I love this photo of Auckland. Ahh, how I’ve missed this city!

Just for fun I took a behind-the-scenes photo too :)

I did make a subtle jab earlier at the older guys playing with their toy boat, but I confess I have a toy of my own I wanted to play with as well.

Here we have Mt. Rangitoto, photographic subject extraordinaire. This shot is with the 35mm lens sitting on my tripod. If you look in the harbor below the island, you see a small lighthouse.

Let’s Zoom and Enhance ™ to get a better look at that lighthouse. But it’s pretty far away, so even 150mm doesn’t show it all that clearly.

So let’s Zoom and Enhance some more!

Yes, the 35mm isn’t the only new lens I bought. I also have a superzoom lens! This shot was taken at 450mm; the lens can go to a max zoom of 600mm (unfortunately, the little lighthouse did not make a particularly interesting photographic subject at 600mm).

Moving away from the lighthouse, it’s always fun on nice days to see all the sailboats out in the harbor!

It can also be fun to zoom right up on them and look at the people in the boat!

Thanks for joining me on this little excursion! Next time we’ll take a little jaunt to an even more historic location!

The Return to Auckland!

Friends, I am back!

Yes, as of early June I’m back in Auckland!

Naturally one of the first things I did was to climb Mt. Eden and take a photograph of the city :)

I’ve got some adventures to share with you too! Some familiar old locations and some new ones. It’s Winter right now, sadly, but I’ve still found some windows of nice weather to head out and explore!

One thing I’ve found that’s true for me (though may not be true for you) is that I really need a home base before I can really feel comfortable enough to go exploring. This is my new apartment, and literally the day I moved in I started going out on adventures.

My friend Tyson and I headed out to see Hunua Falls. It was a quick trip (and actually a stopoff as part of a trip out to the Waitawa disc golf course). That’s just the sort of place New Zealand is. You can make a quick jaunt out to see something amazing as part of a normal trip.

My new apartment is in the Viaduct Harbour area, and indeed is so close to the harbor I can see a bit of it from my window. I saw this rainbow right outside where I live one rainy day!

Living right on the harbor means I see some interesting sights. One day I looked out of my window to see a cargo ship the size of a city block docking at the port!

Another day there were two Chinese warships right outside the hotel next to my building!

When I’m walking back to my apartment in the evening I often get to see nice sunsets. Here the setting sun has put so much color in the sky that Rangitoto gets some of it too!

Victoria Park, where some friends from church and I like to pray, is frequently the beneficiary of New Zealand’s spectacular sunsets as well!

I took this shot while walking back from meeting a friend at Auckland University. That is a clear Winter sky and a nice crescent moon!

The city herself continues to delight and amaze. Living where I do, I was trapped by the Americas Cup parade (literally; there was no way for me to get from the Viaduct area to anywhere else until the parade passed by). I decided to stand by and enjoy the spectacle.

Some friends and I attended the Maori New Year celebration at Sky City.

There were some Hawaiian dances (why there were Hawaiian dances at the Maori New Year celebration was, and remains, a mystery).

I have been continuing to chronicle the many colors of the Sky Tower and enjoy its presence in my life once again.

Auckland, how I have missed you. May our adventures be many.

Raleigh’s Historic Oakwood District

It was a warmish, clear day in April, and I was looking for something to do. I had been wanting to explore Oakwood for a while, so I figured I’d take a trip out downtown with my camera.

Oakwood consists of two areas: some neighborhoods with windy streets and old houses, and a cemetery. We’ll explore both today.

Minor photography note, every shot in this post was taken with my 35mm prime lens, which is new to my repertoire and which I’ve really been itching to try out!

Getting right to it; this house is so fancy, it has a name: the Tucker House.

This house has quite a large tower in the front, presumably for the convenience of the local ghosts.

This house has a color scheme that probably looks best in late December.

One of the few things I both learned and retained from my trip to Monticello half a lifetime ago is that Thomas Jefferson was all about the octagon and used it in his own architectural designs wherever possible. I don’t know if this house’s octagonal tower was inspired by Jefferson or some other visionary, but it certainly looks cool!

I did take a lot of pictures of houses, but after a while they get a little boring. Have a stone lion instead.

The houses also did not prove to be much of a challenge for my 35mm lens, so I took some flower photos too.

There is in fact part of a house in this photo.

I also ran across this guy, the Political Protest Mexiraptor. Dinosaurs can’t vote, but he still decided to do his part in US politics.

Don’t move on too quickly from this photo. Take it all in. There’s a lot. When you’re done, go back and admire the stone gargoyle in the background who is having none of it.

I am, and always will be, a sucker for swings hanging from trees.

Probably if you live in one of these houses, strangers walking around taking pictures of your home and your flowers comes with the territory. At least I hope so, because I certainly did.

But you get the point. There are houses.

We now venture into the cemetery to take pictures of things that aren’t houses, at least not in the traditional sense.

Those of you familiar with the Raleigh area might see some names here you recognize from around town. This obelisk commemorates Richard Stanhope Pullen, who donated the land to the city that would become Pullen Park.

I didn’t know until this trip that senator Helms was buried here.

Indeed, the paths through the cemetery lead by many incredible, ornate monuments.

Coming across this sight, I contemplated having my body’s resting place be underneath a monument replete with stony visage gazing out at all who approach. I believe the following adequately sums up my feelings on the matter:

Bury me in a pauper’s tomb
this is all I crave;
no ostentatious monument
will keep me from the grave.

No granite obelisk need I;
no mausoleum of stone;
all I ask is a plot of land
to lay my weary bones.

I need no costly resting place
when to my grave I roam;
’tis enough to know that I was loved
while this earth was my home.

So do not set my legacy
upon this mortal ground
for when I die, I’m confident
my soul is Heaven-bound.

I do appreciate, however, the colorful trees and flowers around the cemetery. If my mortal remains could nourish something like this, I’d be content.

I doubt those buried under the fancy tombs rest any more peacefully than those under this dogwood tree.

And with little effort, nature’s obelisk overtowers man’s.

I hope you enjoyed this tour through the houses of Oakwood’s living and dead.

Next post will be a bit further afield.

Eno River State Park: An Afternoon Stroll

Well, still in North Carolina.

Actually (spoilers) I’m not, but I’m still working through my backlog of stuff I intended to post to this blog while I was in North Carolina but didn’t because I’m just so stinkin’ lazy.

Anyway, one fine afternoon in October my friend Bruce and I decided to take a nice stroll. We went to Eno River State Park, just North of Durham near Hillsborough.


There are a number of paths one can take, but I invariably take the same route: starting at the carpark off Cole Mill Rd, take the Buckquarter Creek Trail, circle around the Holden Mill Trail, then take Ridge Trail up, back down Shakori Trail, and then circle back to the carpark. For a shorter walk the Holden Mill Trail can be skipped altogether.

The adventure starts here at the Piper-Cox House. This park has quite a few ties to its old lumbering, milling, and quarrying roots, and those interested in history can find some quite cool factoids about how this land was once exploited. It is now fortunately preserved instead!

The trailhead is quite easy to find. This trail, with one notable exception, is quite well-sorted and easy to follow.

A mere amble from the carpark brings us to Fews Ford. If you are looking to beat the Summer heat, this may in fact be your destination — the hot months often see betogged children playing in the water and adults (with or without dogs) also enjoying the cool stream.

I was here once and saw a snake in the water, so do look sharp if you’re just lounging around. But they won’t mess with you if you don’t mess with them.

If we were headed to the Cox Mountain Trail, we would cross the ford here. We are thankfully not heading that way.

It’s October and we’re wearing tramping gear rather than swimsuits. This is where we’re headed.

The trail borders the eponymous river for some ways, which is pleasant.

Some challenging bits of track are made easier by wooden stairs, demonstrated here by Bruce.

In other places, stone stairs have been installed, pensively inspected once again my my friend and hiking companion. It’s unsurprising that this area has seen some quarrying activity in the past.

At times, the river shows hints of a nice clear green…

But in most places remains decidedly brown.

Regardless of which color it affects at any moment, however, the water is pleasingly clear. (This should go without saying, but just in case: attempting to drink from Eno River will likely not turn out well.)

Trekking along the riverbank allows us to see some interesting root systems!

We also got to see this guy, a blue heron! He was not particularly perturbed by our presence but was also not especially interested in moving into a better location to be photographed. So it goes.

The normal loop has a bit of this rocky shoreline, which can be a little challenging to traverse but not too bad. The Holden Mill Trail has a bit more of it, so if you don’t like this sort of terrain then maybe give it a miss.

This bridge leads from the Buckquarter Trail (red blazes) to the Holden Mill Trail (yellow blazes).

Though the Holden Mill Trail does go along the river, it loops inland and leads through the woods on the return journey. It is still quite a nice trail and a very nice walk!

Upon returning to the Buckquarter Creek Trail and crossing over to the Ridge Trail, the terrain (as the name of the trail might imply) begins to increase in elevation. The trail is still fairly nice — note the frequent water bars for drainage — but there’s a definite change between the Buckquarter and Holden Mill Trails and the Ridge and Shakori Trails.

Nothing illustrates the difference in trail maintenance than this crossing, which you will note involves leaping nimbly-pimbly from stone to stone. Granted, in New Zealand the stones wouldn’t be there and you would just be expected to get your feet wet, but for those with balance issues such as myself, a footbridge would have been appreciated.

But no matter. We effected the crossing and carried on.

This view rewards the intrepid hiker who climbs all the way to the top of Ridge Trail. You can choose to either turn around and go back the way you came or go back along the Shakori Trail.

If you do opt for the Shakori Trail on your return, you will encounter this sign when you rejoin the Ridge Trail. In case your sense of direction is not the greatest, you want to go toward the Knight Trail on your way back (the Knight Trail is a spur; you can hike it out and back if you like, but I find it most useful as a landmark in case you get turned around).

That is, in brief, Eno River State Park. It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon, and afterward we were pleasantly tired and ready for some dinner.

There will be maybe a couple of more posts from North Carolina (haven’t quite decided yet, to be honest) and then…well, stay tuned!

Hanging Rock State Park, Pt. 2: Hidden Falls and Window Falls

Longest gap between parts 1 and 2 ever? Possibly. C’est la vie. But now I’ve got the new Imagine Dragons album playing on shuffle and I’m ready to get back into the photoblog groove. Let’s do this thang.

There are a few different waterfalls at Hanging Rock State Park available for exploration; on this trip I chose to just visit Hidden Falls and Window Falls, probably because I’m lazy.

The trail to the falls is, as was the trail to the overlook, quite well-marked.

It is my least-favorite type of trail; the one that starts out going downhill. It becomes steep enough to require switchbacks, such as the one seen here. It’s still well-paved enough that it never truly becomes rough going even when returning back up the hill, but if you go for a nice refreshing splash in the waterfall you’ll get all hot and sweaty again by the time you reach the carpark.

This admittedly does feel a bit like reaching for things to complain about, so let’s press on.

You need to make a decision whether to go to Hidden Falls or Window Falls first. Window Falls is two tenths of a mile away, but why is there no distance marked for Hidden Falls?

Oh, because it’s literally right here. I guess let’s do this one first then.

(Can we talk about the complete misnomer for a moment? In what way are these falls hidden? I realize that Hanging Rock did not originally have an asphalt carpark and well-paved trail right to the falls, but you can hear them from quite a ways away and anyone following the river will stumble right over them (hopefully not literally). I suppose compared to some of the much larger waterfalls in the area these are relatively hidden, but still, it’s not like it takes a lot of work to find them.)

It’s been a hot and dry Summer, so the falls, never especially impressive to begin with, are barely a trickle beside most of the ones featured here. But since it was basically no extra effort to see them, hey.

I can take a few steps back to make them slightly more impressive.

I tried taking a long exposure to get a nice super-artsy shot, but it’s just so daggone bright outside today that 1/15th of a second was the slowest I could muster (and the upper left is still a bit blown out). I know all of you photo aficionados who appreciate all my artsy shots are totally disappointed ;)

Moseying down the trail to Window Falls, I came across the world’s most cheerful trail blaze.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and…oh, hang on, they reconverge right afterward.

This image probably illustrates the intended meaning of Frost’s poem better than most of the ones I reference it for.

Upon reaching the falls, you will first come upon this outcropping of rock. This is actually the upper bit of the falls, and I wandered around this bit for a while. I got a few photos but nothing particularly interesting, and no shots of the falls from above, so I’ll leave all that out of the narrative.

Getting down to where the actual falls are requires descending this lovely bit of stairs.

We are then faced with a decision. I didn’t realize “Window Falls” was a multiple-choice question! Turns out this choice is about as meaningful as the split paths above.

Turning to the right, which is the correct answer to the sphinx’s riddle, we see the eponymous window.

There’s a bit of fence up and some rock face to climb, but there’s nothing other than one’s inherent physical limitations preventing hikers from making their way right up to the window.

And through the window is, well, Window Falls.

The falls, in all their glory…complete with lens flare. Bad photographer. No cookie.

Thankfully I captured a backup shot with my Nexus 5.

The intrepid and well-shod explorer can follow the stream all the way down…

…to where it pools and lazily flows…

…into this bottom pool…

…and then over this cliff.

(I don’t know if that tree is a lazy attempt to keep hapless explorers from tumbling off the aforementioned cliff or if it’s just a coincidence).

Did I walk around to the bottom to see the rest of the falls? Dear reader…

…how could you ever doubt!? (Is the one shot I took of the lower falls absolutely terrible? Yes, that’s also true.)

There you go. Those are two of the easiest to get to and, if we’re honest, least impressive waterfalls this park has to offer.

That’s all from Hanging Rock State Park, but hopefully that whetted your appetite because more adventure awaits….

Hanging Rock State Park, Pt. 1: Hanging Rock Overhang

Hanging Rock State Park is in central North Carolina about two hours away from the Raleigh area. It was a nice Saturday and I was getting antsy cooped up inside. The time was right for a hike! I’ve been to Hanging Rock a number of times and done several of the trails there. This time we’ll be heading up to the overlook and then exploring a couple of the closer waterfalls.

Regular readers are used to seeing a different convertible parked at my hiking spots :). Yes, this is my North Carolina sports car, and she did a great job making it all the way out to Hanging Rock and back!

The overlook trail starts out extremely well paved! You will note that it’s very well marked with very helpful signage and visible blazes. When I complain about New Zealand trails being a little hard to figure out in places, you now know what I’m comparing them to!

Even once the trail transitions to gravel, note that it’s very wide and also has erosion barriers and benches. This is definitely not your backcountry tramping track!

You might also note that the trail is going downhill somewhat from the carpark. This bodes ill, as it means the last bit of the return journey will be uphill. C’est la vie.

After the first major uphill bit of the trail, the gravel gives way to packed dirt.

The packed dirt then gives way to this.

Once you reach these stairs, the good news is you’re already about halfway there. The bad news is that it looks more or less like this the rest of the way up. Even for a stair enthusiast such as myself it gets a bit old after a while!

I did have to stop and admire some of the cooler bits of the trek up the stairs, though. I was also gratified that, while the hike was still quite an exertion, I was definitely doing better than any of the other times I’d tackled this hike. New Zealand walking paying off!

The trail winds itself up the side of the hill, sometimes getting a little steep and rough. Yes, even well-paved, well-marked, comfy trails like this one are still have their difficult bits!

As someone who has in the past found it difficult sometimes to follow a trail if it zigs when I expect it to zag, I greatly appreciate the clear markings of the Hanging Rock Trail. I was left in no confusion about which way to go here, that’s for sure!

There are some very cool overhangs in this area, leading up, of course, to the Hanging Rock itself.

And here we are under the overlook! All we have to do is get up to the top of that rock. I left my jetpack in the car, though, so I guess I’ll have to take the long route.

Once you see this, you know you’re almost there!

As I was walking back, I passed a couple on their way up. One asked “is this Hanging Rock?”, and the other seemed unsure. Here’s a Top Tip: if you have to ask, you’re not there yet. It will be quite obvious once you arrive.

Speaking of arriving, here we are!

I’ll give you some more shots of Hanging Rock in a moment, but first I’d like you to pause and admire what a great day this was! North Carolina can yield some nice photographs too, with enough effort! (If you zoom in on only one of my photos in this post, make it this one :)).

I climbed all around to try and provide you with some conception of how crazy Hanging Rock is, but I don’t think any one photograph can do it justice. It’s just a massive, jutting series of cliff faces.

Perhaps most impressive are the few trees that manage to hold on. Hanging Rock is definitely ideal for taking broad landscape photos; you get them even when you don’t mean to just because you can see the landscape all around!

I climbed down the other side a bit to get this shot. There’s a big fissure that can either be circumnavigated or jumped. You can guess which one I did.

Here’s a shot down said fissure. There’s a lot of down there.

Hanging Rock is a great place to induce vertigo. These are the trees I walked through on the way up. If you stand on the rock long enough, you will probably see a bird flying below you. That’s always a fun one to mess with your equilibrium!

And here’s a shot back toward the trail.

I hope these shots have helped give some sort of conception of just how much rock there is at the top of this hill!

After telling you for a while what great scenery you can get from the rock, I’m finally going to show you some!

To a Kiwi it would be almost unimaginable to be this high up and yet not see water in any direction! Yet even though North Carolina is a coastal state, there’s over a hundred miles between Hanging Rock and the ocean.

Even on such a clear day, the scenery dissolves into haze before it runs out.

Central NC is approaching the mountains and as such has its share of peaks. There’s definitely more in the distance though.

And if you climb to the side a bit, you can see out even further around the trees!

But the day was marching on, so it was time to head back down. As you might imagine, it’s much easier going the other way! Here’s where the gravel turns back into pavement.

We’re not done with Hanging Rock State Park quite yet, though! Come back next time to see some waterfalls!

(I did this hike in 2016, I must admit, so next time might not come as quickly as you may hope…but it will come!)

A return to Shakespear Regional Park: The views and the birds

Welcome back!

As you may recall, I’m revisiting the fantastic Shakespear Regional Park. Last post, which you should really check out first if you haven’t already, showed the walk that I did around the peninsula. This post is showing off the things I saw on that walk, first of the scenic variety and then of the avian variety.

No time like the present, so let’s get cracking!

The Views

It is, I must admit, almost trivially easy to get lovely photos no matter where you point your camera. On Whangaparaoa Peninsula, you are almost always within view of the gulf.

Even if you point back toward the mainland, the peninsula zigs and zags in such interesting ways that you can’t help but get some interesting geography in your shot!

The bit sticking out here is part of Whangaparaoa Peninsula but not part of Shakespear Park. It’s a bit South of the town.

Of course, Rangitoto is visible from the park as well, and no scenery post would be complete without it.

Taking a bit of a closer look, we see in this shot I managed to find some sailboaters!

Zooming and Enhancing ™ even further, it is quite a lovely day for a bit of a sail, don’t you think?

While no Rangitoto, some other sailboats (or, possibly, the same ones, I suppose!) proved diverting photographic targets all on their own!

One sailed by when I was down on Pink Beach as well. I love how flat that horizon looks!

I’m not quite sure which bit of mainland this is a photo of, but it appears to be smoking!

This is Tiritiri Matangi Island, the island tossed by the wind.

A bit of zoom shows the lighthouse and ranger station. I still think back with great fondness on the night I was able to spend on that island.

Another thing I quite like is to get photos with Rangitoto and the city in the same shot.

And I suppose I’ll end this section with a photo of Auckland itself. Though I do remember my time on Tiritiri with great nostalgia, this is the photo that really sets my heart to yearning. Auckland City will always be very special to me.

The Birds

So enough maudlin. Let’s look at some birds. On this hike I actually talked to two council workers whose job it was to walk around the park and count how many of the various types of birds they saw. That sounds like a fantastic job, though as far as I know they were volunteers. I think being a professional bird counter would be a pretty fun gig.

Almost right through the gate, I saw the fattest wood pigeon I’ve ever seen!

I’m not sure this thing could actually fly, which is probably why it let me get so close without taking to wing.

I’m not entirely sure what this bird is. The head striping makes me think maybe a cirl bunting, but you could convince me it was a yellowhammer instead. Too bad the bird counting guys weren’t around to help me out.

(Edit: A kind Redditor called, appropriately, screamingkaka identified it as a greenfinch, an assessment which I agree with after looking them up. Thanks mate!)

This is a song thrush. Not usually featured here because they’re both nonnative and very common, but since I had gone to the trouble of getting a photo I figured I might as well post it :)

Fantail, or as the Maori (and I) call them, piwakawaka. These cute little birds are also quite common, but they are native, and they’re so adorable and iconic that I can’t help but photograph them.

Brown quail. These little guys are an oddity in that they’re non-native, but it seems efforts are still made to protect them. They were introduced from Australia, and they don’t particularly seem to like it in New Zealand. They’re pretty rare most places, but in Shakespear and Tiritiri they seem to have found a home.

Sacred kingfisher. Cool little native birds noted for their hunting skills.

Now. I’m walking along the shoreline, approaching the beach. And I see this:

Up until this point, I’ve seen some pretty interesting birds in Shakespear and have even photographed some, but to see not one but two Eastern rosellas is just fantastic.

Even more fantastic is that these two seem willing to let me sneak up reasonably close.

Much like the rainbow lorikeet, about which I have written much already, the Eastern rosella came from Australia. The NZ population is largely comprised of escaped pets and these birds are common enough to be tolerated rather than encouraged. But I personally have never photographed one before.

No doubt to a proper New Zealand ornithologist, this is not an exciting sight. But to me, it capped off an amazing hike. I was so glad to not only get a chance to see these colorful birds but photograph them as well!

And with that, I must bid farewell. Not just to Shakespear, but to New Zealand as well. Shakespear was my last solo hike before heading back to North Carolina.

I may have done a hike or two since coming back, though. Keep an eye on this space…maybe you’ll see some photos from this side of the world at some point. Until then!