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You know, I am very fond of sheep, especially of lambs. But it is true, most of them are really stupid...
Fondest memory: The sheep you see on this photo were a kind of record runners on one of our trips to the Woolshed Creek carpark. Shortly after the turn from the Ashburton Gorge Road they stood on the road – but instead of just stepping beside the road and making way they ran in front of our car forever. And I mean: until we parked at the carpark some two or three kilometres later.
Then the sheep ran back to where they had appeared in front of our car – and raced back to the carpark in front of the next car. And so it went on – probably the whole day. They still arrived in regular intervals when we came back to the carpark after our walk.
I am not sure if the sheep were just friendly and not purely stupid, and wanted to welcome the visitors, and show them the way…
If it was pure dumbness it was good that it was not a very nice day, so not a lot of people decided to go for a walk at the Woolshed Creek, so the sheep did not get chased back and forth too many times…
- Road Trip
- Hiking and Walking
My special friends (1): Fantails
Favorite thing: I have often mentioned them as they are such enchanting birds, making you believe that they fly around you because they find you so nice and not the insects that fly around you. And I must say, they do not only enjoy the food that you make swirl up when walking around. I am sure they also enjoy the human company. And they are everywhere around in the Awa Awa Rata Reserve, and also at many other places in the forests of the wider Methven area.
The Latin name of the fantail is Phipidura fuliginosa.
The Maori name is Piwakawaka.
Fondest memory: Once I had a fantail in my garden who had lost his tail, either by a cat attack or going through moulting. As soon as I went to the garden the fantail arrived as if he had waited for me, sat down on a branch, and told me his story, and he stayed sitting there, and I spoke to him and he spoke to me, and so we spent several minutes every day chatting to each other. Other fantails in the garden have displayed the same behaviour.
The fantails also seem to enjoy you calling them. When I talk to them, or whistle, they always answer, even if they do not come close at the end. But most of them even fly rather long distances to check out who is talking to them.
Whereas I have regular fantail visitors in the garden nothing compares to the lots of fantails you might see or meet in the Mt. Somers area. The Alder Track in the Awa Awa Rata Reserve is fantastic, and my number two place in this region would be the low track of the Sharplin Falls walk at Woolshed Creek.
The lovely thing about the fantails is how they dance in the air and perform aerobatics. They are kind of restlessly moving, twisting and jerking on a perch, fanning their long tail feathers like a peacock. The small head is lovely, and the cutest thing is a kind of little white eyebrow.
Not all fantails have a brown upper body, ochre underparts, and white and black bands across the chest. Some fantails are totally black, called black-phase fantails. They make up 15 to 25 per cent of the South Island’s fantail population. This number seems a little high to me, regarding my birdwatching results. In the North Island they are extremely rare.
They do not only forage in the forest but also love to fly around or sit on the highest trees in open shrubland, in hedges, and river margins – everywhere where insects are found abundantly. It is a tough job for fantails to survive a cold winter. They stay long in their sleeping-trees until they fly out for searching food.
My special friends (2): Tomtits
Favorite thing: I love them to pieces. Although the tomtits with their large heads and short tails are not as chatty as fantails they delight me with their cuteness. They appear without making a sound to check out who has intruded their territory, and suddenly sit in front of you.
Fondest memory: Whereas the fantails hop and fly around, so it is difficult to photograph them, the tomtits seem to have posed for photographers since Adam and Eve. They sit at easy-view branches or trunks, wait a while until you have taken your photo, and only then fly to the next branch, and pose again, and so on. I could stay around them forever.
Plus, the South Island tomtit is really beautiful, with the breast not only white as the North Island tomtit’s, but yellow, and some even into orangey. And the little white dot over the beak is also enchanting.
The scientific name of the tomtit is Petroica macrocephala.
The Maori call them Ngiru-ngiru (North Island: Miromiro).
My special friends (3): Bellbirds
Favorite thing: They love this area. They cannot only feed on the honeydew of the mountain beeches which – of course – is a favourite food of honeyeaters. They also feed on the pollen from mountain flax, and cabbage trees that grow in the clearings of the Alder Track (and later the white berries). When pollen and fruit get sparse they also feed on insects and spiders.
Fondest memory: The bellbirds are the most fabulous singers in the forest, their voices resounding like in a concert hall. The males are olive green, with the tail and wings dark bluish black, and there is a yellow patch at the wing. The females are slightly browner.
The Latin name of the bellbird is Anthornis melanura.
The Maori call them Korimako and Makomako.
My special friends (5): New Zealand woodpigeon
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The beautiful woodpigeons are majestic birds, measuring about 50 centimetres. If they fly over you they can give you a fright, as with their large wings they can make a scary noise. Their noisy swish of wings is very distinctive. When I was new in New Zealand and had my first experiences with woodpigeons I thought something or somebody would attack me from the air and wrapped my arms around my head LOL
They love to sit on high branches and scan the area for food. They are herbivorous and mainly feed on fruit. Their favourite fruit is miro, tawa, puriri, kahikatea, coprosma, nikau palm, elderberry and plums. When the fruit supply is scarce they also feed on flowers and leaves of kowhai, tree lucerne, broom and clover, etc. So you will not only find them feeding in trees but also on paddocks. I once saw 15 woodpigeons at a time feeding on a paddock near Lake Matheson on the West Coast (near Fox Glacier).
The most distinctive features of the woodpigeon are the striking red beak, feet and eyes. Their head, throat, upper breast and upperparts are metallic green with a purplish sheen and bronze reflections. A sharp line separates the upper breast from the white lower breast, belly and legs.
The Latin name of the woodpigeon (New Zealand pigeon) is Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae.
Maori names are Kereru (the most common one), Kukupa and parea.
The woodpigeons were an important protein source for early Maori. They caught them with very clever lassos that strangled the birds when they drank from bird troughs. You can see such constructions in the museum at Okains Bay on Banks Peninsula.
Flax (1) - The most important Plant for Maori
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Flax is a plant you find a lot in New Zealand and especially in the Mt. Somers area. The mountain flax (Wharariki; Phormium cookianum) is smaller than the flax you find in tussock grasslands and gardens (Harakeke; Phormium tenax), thus dying leaves look a lot less messy than those of the biggies. Still you need a very sharp knife or machete to cut them. They need forever until they rot.
This quality makes flax a very good material for weaving. You will find all kinds of hard-wearing woven products, like bags and mats, made by Maori weavers, but also decorative items like flowers. For this purpose they use special flaxes that come in different colours and have been cultivated over centuries.
In fact, flax was the Maori’s most important fibre plant. In ancient times Maori made clothing, sandals, mats, baskets, ropes, fishing lines, and nets from flax. They bundled flower stalks and made floats and rafts of them. Flax nectar was used as a sweetener. Flax fibres were used in plasterboard, underfelt, carpets, and upholstery material. Finally flax extracts were and are still used in medicine. Today you find it in cosmetics (cleansers, creams, soaps), one of the manufacturers is Living Nature.
BTW New Zealand flax has nothing to to with European flax after which it is named…
Europeans named it flax because the fibres were similar to the real one. One NZ flax is a lily species, and it is unique to New Zealand.
The common flax (Harakeke) grows up to three metres high. Mountain flax (Wharariki) only reaches up to 1.5 metres, and often it is much smaller.
- Hiking and Walking
Some more Links for Activities
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Skydiving at the Pudding Hill Airfield: www.skydiving.nz, phone (03) 302 9143
Rakaia Gorge Alpine Jet (jetboating): www.rivertours.co.nz, phone (03) 318 6574, freephone (0800) JETBOAT
Rakaia Gorge Scenic Jet (jetboating): www.rakaiagorgescenicjet.co.nz, phone (03) 318 6515, freephone (0800) 435 453
Adventures Inn New Zealand, 38 Forest Drive, Methven
www.adventuresinnnz.co.nz, phone (03) 302 8371, freephone (0800) 129 111
Aoraki Balloon Safaris (hotair ballooning): www.nzballooning.com, phone (03) 302 8172, freephone (0800) 122 423, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo 2 shows the booking office of Aoraki Balloon Safaris on Main Street.
- Hot Air Ballooning
- Sky Diving
- Water Sports
My special friends (4): Dunnocks
Favorite thing: This scruffy bird is a dunnock. Dunnocks are similar to female house sparrows but they have slimmer bodies (not to see when they fluff up their feathers like this one), and, as the main distinctive feature, a fine black bill.
Fondest memory: This dunnock attracted my attention by singing incessantly from the top of a shrub, and when I answered he even intensified his singing.
Latin name: Prunella modularis.
As it is a European introduction there is no common Maori name listed in bird books.
Flax (2) – Sweet Nectar for the Honeyeaters
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The flowers of the flax plant are called Korari. The colour is from yellow to orange and red. The pollen is an important food source for honeyeaters like the bellbird and tui. Silvereyes (waxeyes) also love flax pollen, and often whole flocks hang on the stakes.
Flax does not flower consistently every year. Only if the temperatures are mild from April to June (NZ autumn months) they have a lot of flowers in spring.
If you are interested in the above mentioned birds keep on looking for them on flowering flax in open country.
Information about Methven and Mt. Hutt
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is a very good travellers website, with plenty of information about accommodation, activities etc.
The Visitor Information Centre (i-site) is located on Main Street.
Contact details are:
Phone (03) 302 8955
For information about all kinds of accommodation and booking the first website is clearly the better one.
- Road Trip
- Skiing and Boarding
Wash dirty clothes at the local laundry
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If you want to wash your dirty laundry in public - go to Methven!
As you will get your clothes dirty easily with all the activities available in Methven, it is very helpful that there is a coin-operated public laundry on Main Street (The Mall). It is even open 24/7, so there is really no excuse to run around in dirty clothes ;-)
The self-operated laundry which has washing machines and dryers is part of a laundry business. If you are not in the mood to do the washing yourself, staff will wash, dry and fold your laundry while you race down the ski slopes or look down at the Canterbury Plains from a hot air balloon.
Self Service Rates:
Cold Wash NZ$ 4.00
Warm Wash NZ$ 5.00
Dryers (per 40 mins) NZ$ 4.00
All machines take NZ$1 coins only. All prices include automatically dispensed washing liquid.
Phone: (03) 302 8743
Self-operated laundry 24/7
Laundry service: Mon, Wed-Fri 8.30am to 5pm; Tue 8.30am to 7pm
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