The Last 12 months

It’s nearly a year since my last post which was about the carnage caused on the river bed by introduced mammals and a couple of native predators that have found the white-man’s impact on the environment to their advantage. My silence has in part been that I’ve just been putting one foot in front of the other for over a year. In part too because I’ve been side-tracked into contributing to iNaturalist both as an observer and, because I don’t think one should just take without giving back (or forward), I’ve been aiding with identifications where I can. Also I don’t have internet at home anymore so posting takes a while and there’s the blogs that I follow to keep up with. I often take a run of photos thinking that’ll be a good story but for the reasons above plus just being plain dog tired never get around to doing anything with it. Well here’s a potted rundown on some highlights from the last 12 months.

In 2021, late snow

found a komako hanging out in the Cooks Strait kowhai

While moving house for a job to the south, prompted deep dives into the freezer for fruit

to make leather

and jam

Tree Croppers delight: raspberry and apricot jam, real West Coast (Hokitika) butter on whole-grain toast with a cup of Ceylon tea.

Summer went by in a blur dominated by computers but as summer started to wane a few things came together, walking into a valley high above the Rangitata

to map the Scottish broom

followed by a heli-flight to spray the crap out of it, while hopefully not killing too much of the good stuff

another big flight

around the PCL (public conservation land) boundary of a mountain range

PCL (left) vs pasture

somewhere – high country farmland on the left, PCL on the right.

It gives perspective – here for the Rakaia

and here Hakatere – away in the distance on the skyline behind and slightly left of the lefthand shelterbelts the summit ridge of Aoraki/Mt Cook is a reminder of how small this island is.  Remember to click on an image to see it full size.

Out weeding kettleholes I came across this early rising hedgepig and realised that in the uplands they have adapted to blend with the tawny short-tussock grasslands. Down country they’re always much darker.

by autumn I managed a trip west to Buller

and found the water disturbingly warm

and like a snowglobe discoloured with sand rich in mica

Back east another heli-flight up the Potts Gorge – that rock slab is a disappointing 200m vertical

to historic Potts Hut

Musterers graffiti has lasted in pencil lead since at least 1906

muster 1906, middle column

I was left wondering if shepherd R. Murray -1969 (below), might be the now retired owner of Bluff Station north of Kaikoura (where the house fell off the terrace in the recent earthquakes); while P. Harmer in the right hand column is likely the father of the current owner of Castleridge Station, 30km’s as the magpie flys.

But I had a job to do hiking around a number of important ecological sites

Part of the Arrowsmith Mountains around Potts Hut. In NZTM each square is 1km x 1km, 5/8ths of a mile; contours are 20m c. 70ft

stopping occasionally to take in the vastness of it all

and with plants reminding that winter is coming (we don’t have many deciduous plants but we still get winter colour as they shut down)

crossing stony barrens

to hidden wonders

Chain bog in the Dogs Range, Arrowsmith Mountains

I’d been aware of the silence, I mean SILENCE, no birds, crickets, cicadas, no wind just water but often not even that, and I’d been enjoying it when I realised how odd it was, not even a scolding kea

Adult kea at Arthur’s Pass

Kea mischief – found the chilly bin

no sooner had I had that thought and the peace was broken by the growing whine of the wakahurihuri come to take us out from wilderness to radios, traffic and computers, the transition is so abrupt its weird, like coming out of a picture theatre after a matinee.

Another helicopter weed job, this time I got to walk it first and take in the expansive views over Hakatere from lake Emma to Lake Heron (I won’t bore you with another shot of a helicopter)

Coming into winter I had an errand in Duntroon so thought Id take the scenic route but even after entering the McKenzie it stayed bleak. The large basin East of Aoraki/Mt Cook is known as The McKenzie Country, there’s a few versions of the story as tales and songs, one version has the chorus

Oh McKenzie, McKenzie was that you I saw

Roaming those back hills just up from Ben More

With 50 odd sheep and a good shepherd’s dog

Was it your ghost in the morning fog

Part of the legend is a number of sightings of a ghostly shepherd and dog when mist rolls down and phantom whistles and dog-barks

…he stole squatters sheep and he drove them away

with words from a dog, who hypnotised sheep

to a far distant land, where no man had been

And the killer verse

Some say he was a criminal

Some say a good man

Put down by the law, and his dog she was damned

They took him to prison but he set himself free

Caught him again, his dog hung from a tree

On winding through the single lane McKenzie Pass I was surprised to find a three sided monument commemorating his first capture and almost immediate escape under the cover of darkness. James McKenzie is popularly viewed as a folk hero on a par with Robin Hood and Ned Kelly, but whoever commissioned this obelisk called him a freebooter, yet thought enough to do one side in Gaelic

and one in Maori, although it cracks me up that one of the 2 maori accompanying John Sidebottom went by the moniker – Seventeen

In Essence: James McKenzie was captured here by John Sidebottom and the Maori, Taiko and Seventeen, but he escaped that night. 4th of May 1855

It’s a bleak land, The McKenzie so dry that grass only grows on the southern (shady) slopes and any potential on the other slopes is smothered by the hieracium scourge.

With Duntroon now SE I took the road to the Hakataramea Pass

deep into the boonies but if the sign is a sign, not far from Bogan-ville

Back in the Hakatere faulted valleys blended into the sky

Hiding traces of past endeavour

Posts of native ‘broadleaf’ are pointed to slow decay

By June the snowline was coming down (North American style)

as we set out

to open predator traplines

near the historic Double Hut

To help save the Rangitata (white-bellied) skink

White-bellied (Rangitata) skink. Photo supplied by Dept. of Conservation, photographer unknown.

That’s it for now.

This entry was posted in Ashburton Lakes, Canterbury, Environment, fruit, Road Trips, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Last 12 months

  1. johnmacmot says:

    Good to see you surface, Graeme. You certainly have covered a lot of territory!


    • graemeu says:

      Hi John, thanks for the comment, I got given a phone number for you after your big shift, just keep forgetting to get in touch when I’m in your area.
      Hope you’re on tall piles!


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