Subtitled – Spot the Real Gannet!
Part of the Auckland Zoo conservation work on Rotoroa Island is involving the establishing of a gannet colony. Gannets already live around the coast of New Zealand so you may wonder how on earth do you persuade gannets that you have you desirable real estate for them to settle in?
The answer is with ‘realistically’ painted artificial gannets and by playing gannet noises over a loudspeaker to attract them in to land.
At the time of the photograph below, only one gannet had made home there, and had made friends with the artificial ones. Sad in one way, a possibly joyous start to a new colony in another way. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Can you spot the real gannet?
I wanted to just focus on one volunteer activity that has been incredibly eye-opening for me while helping out on Rotoroa island. That activity is picking up litter which has arrived on the beaches.
Casual visitors to any tourist location are often blissfully unaware of the work that goes on to keeping them looking pristine. That little piece of paradise requires a lot of work to maintain it. I have been amazed for all of the wrong reasons about what sorts of items appear on beaches.
There are those items which, of course, are deliberately left by people (not everyone follows the request to take rubbish home with them), and some which may have accidentally ended up in our seas and then on the island, but I have found the following things on a regular basis:
- Plastic bags
- Plastic clothes pegs
- Plastic bottles and bottle tops
- Fishing line and floats
- Bits of balloons (often including ribbon attached)
I even found a hat once! Sadly, I also found a dead penguin after a big storm.
My message is simple, first consider if you really need to buy and use such objects (surely we are past needing huge volumes of plastic bags now?). If you do need them, consider whether you can use biodegradable versions or re-use those items before you get rid of them. Finally, if you have to throw them away, first check if you can recycle before you dispose of the item in the safest place possible – and thus give the wildlife in our seas a chance to avoid the huge number of contaminants that arrive there every single day.
Humanity is an abomination where preservation of our earth is concerned. If we all take small steps, we can one day hopefully give future generations something to be truly proud of before it is too late.
Back in January 2016 I posted the first part about my visits and voluntary involvement on Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland (link here if you’d like to re-read). During the most recent summer, I had the pleasure and indeed privilege of returning to Rotoroa on a regular basis to help out the Trust in the day-to-day running of the island.
Volunteer jobs are never going to be glamorous of course, but helping tourists have a more special visit to this little slice of paradise, as well as doing my bit in assisting in the conservation of native species is an absolute joy. I realised that from when I set foot on the boat in the morning until returning to land in the evening, nothing else matters in the world except being part of this wonderful conservation island with a unique human history.
Apologies for the slightly lesser quality of one or two of these pictures, which were taken on an iPhone.
I think I have alluded over time about my dislike of New Zealand housing. I suppose that across the world houses have evolved to best try and meet the climate challenges of that area. I am not sure that New Zealand housing has evolved that much.
A “typical” house here is made of wood and has a steel roof (I use the quote marks because so many houses are quite individual due to a culture of self-building, not like the UK identikit properties). It is lovely to hear the rain hitting a steel roof. An example house is just below…
New Zealand’s climate varies massively from the far north to the far south and yet you would think that solar panels had only just been invented, that no-one can count to two given the amount of single glazing, that wall and ceiling insulation doesn’t exist and that air conditioning, electric blankets and dehumidifiers were the way of the future. Use of firewood seems quite common.
I am of course being quite sarcastic above, but houses that are far too hot in summer and far too cold (and indeed damp) in winter clearly have a problem. The phrase “rug up” is coined here for those times when you just have to wrap up warm while indoors in colder weather.
Finally, houses that are not fit for purpose are also probably not healthy to live in, especially in the colder months. There is almost a stubborn attitude that says “I can put up with a few cold months because I don’t need this stuff for the rest of the year”. The sad thing is that people continue to build these low quality houses. It is pathetic.
I would say this, if you fit double glazing, your house will be warmer in winter AND cooler in summer. If you fit insulation, you probably won’t need any electric heating at all. If you fit solar panels, you will probably have hot water provided for a lot of the year.
New Zealand has a reputation for being a “green” country, but the housing is about as poor as it gets, hopelessly energy-inefficient…and yet it carries a hefty price tag to buy it. Go figure. This country is incredibly short-sighted and wasteful and needs to get itself into a much greener gear. Give us greener houses and not greenhouses please!
A bit of a strange photo to share but I was amazed to note that the packaging for a Nestle Smarties easter egg contained NO PLASTIC at all. Even the smarties were just loose inside the egg, which made it more fun as it rattled.
I had to share with you because this seems an awesome step forward in the way we package our food I feel. Only the foil wrapped around the egg itself isn’t always recyclable…but then why use packaging in the first place if it isn’t necessary? There is so much waste in this area that it seems hugely important for manufacturers to think more about how they package, and for us as consumers to think more about our responsibility in buying products that consume less resources (or at least more recyclable resources) too.
Well done to Nestle on this one. Here is hoping that more responsible food packaging comes along in future – and maybe on larger easter eggs too!
If you’ve never been to New Zealand, I would like you wish you luck pronouncing the name of this Forest which sits around 20 minutes south of Tauranga on the North Island. If you will permit me, I will try to give you what I see as a phonetic summary – Oh-Tar-Nay-Why-Noo-Koo.
It is a Department of Conservation site which is home to a kiwi conservation programme and there are native birds enjoying the predator-controlled forest too. I wanted to tell you about this because of the magnificent views you are treated to if you are willing to do the Summit Track at around 90 minutes return (moderate difficulty – including a beetle hitchhiker). You are treated to a magnificent (and enormous) view stretching as far as White Island (the marine volcano which is 50km offshore to the North) and Whakatane to the East. It is stunning. My photos don’t quite do it justice but it proves that to be treated to the wonders of nature, you often have to put in a bit of an effort yourself first.
There is also a lovely B&B just down the road in Oropi called Rolling Hills Country Stay, just in case you are tempted.
Just outside Rotorua on NZ’s North Island, to the top of Lake Rotorua lies perhaps the clearest water I have ever seen – even clearer than what comes out of the tap in the house!
Here is Hamurana Springs which contains the largest natural spring on the North Island with around 4 million litres of water coming up per hour. It takes 70 years for the water to get to this point which must yet again prove that it is worth taking your time over a job well done!
It is truly beautiful to visit and you can clearly see that the ducks love it too. Trout are happily (and clearly) swimming around and someone even told me they had seen a rat swimming across the river earlier that day.
Part of the 45 minute walk to the spring and back is the Dancing Sands (you can watch a lovely video of this on YouTube here – click this link), a peaceful location where you watch the water bubbling up through sand. There are also huge redwood trees to be dwarfed by and native birds flying around. So idyllic.
If you get chance, this is a must-see, and totally free too!