Our most northward destination was the Bainbridge home near Whangarei and we had a relaxing week with family around Christmas. From watching the daily antics of the numerous quail families, checking out the other wildlife such as the kereru after seen visiting the big puriri tree at the bottom of the front yard or the swallow nest in the shed converted from an old water tank, following Alayna around as she played in the little hut made from a laundry tub box or distributed sand from her sandpit boat on the back deck, walking the tracks in the bush next to the house, relaxing, opening presents on Christmas day, preparing food for Christmas day, eating all that food on Christmas day and the following days, visiting friends and family in and around Whangarei, and going for walks we kept ourselves busy.

There were three or four families of quail seen every day wandering through the gardens. The male in each family could often be found at a high point like the dead tree in the front garden keeping an eye out for dangers such as the harrier hawk that would often swoop by. The chicks ranged in size from tiny bumblebees of fluff to near full grown birds ranging with more independence from their parents.

Dad quail keeping a lookout

Dad quail keeping a lookout

There was plenty of other wildlife to find from the native copper butterflies found flitting between the various garden flowers to the tui regularly visiting the flowering flax.

A copper butterfly

A copper butterfly

Tui visiting the garden flax

Tui visiting the garden flax

The puriri tree was full of berries and this brought kereru to the tree in ones and twos to clumsily bundle from branch to branch seeking ripe fruit. At night there would be plenty of huhu beetles flying around seeking the lights of the house. In the mornign there would always be a few tired beetles crawling around.

Kereru in the puriri tree

Kereru in the puriri tree

Huhu bettle

Huhu bettle

Tracks have been created in the bush on the property and we took a few walks with Alayna to show her the sights of the forest. Alayna likes touching leaves and branches, feeling the textures and looking at the shapes. We also show her the different views, looking up at the canopy and down to the undergrowth.

Walking in the bush

Walking in the bush

Looking up at the pine canopy

Looking up at the pine canopy

An old plastic water tank that sprung a leak has been converted into a garden shed and we found a swallows nest constructed out of mud and situated at the top of a umbrella leaning against the wall. A short stepladder allowed a good view of the three or four chicks bunched together and keeping very still. The mum and dad zoomed around outside in some distress at the human intrusion so I didn’t spend long taking photos.

Swallow chicks near bursting from their nest

Swallow chicks near bursting from their nest

The next day I noticed something odd in the entrance to the shed and closer inspection found the umbrella on the ground and the nest in pieces on the floor. We suspect a cat found the nest and knocked the umbrella down in an attempt to get to the chicks. The chicks must have been about to fledge as I found one chick on the roof of the garage across from the shed. Later in the day I was looking in the shed and found another chick perched near the entrance inside. After a few photos the second chick unsteadily flew outside and into a tree. I think the other chicks ended up as cat victims.

The first escaped swallow chick

The first escaped swallow chick

The second survivor

The second survivor

Travis was also staying for Christmas and I joined him one evening for a walk he was doing with some tramping friends from Auckland. The plan was to see some glow worms on the Ross Track that led up one side of Mount Parihaka in Whangarei. Everyone else ended up walking to the summit while I stayed back to try photograph the glow worms and the waterfall that fell through the valley. I think I’ll now be seeking out good glow worm spots for more photos as the end result was quite cool (if I do say so myself).

A wall of glow worms

A wall of glow worms

A waterfall at night

A waterfall at night

Back at the car we were leaving when Travis spotted something in the headlights. It turned out to be a large kauri snail glistening brown and black on the bank next to the road. It was a pity we didn’t think to put something next to it to show the scale, the shell would have been about 10 centimetres across.

A kauri snail

A kauri snail

Christmas day was a relaxed day at home. Most of the presents were for Alayna and she had a great time ripping paper and inspecting all her gifts. There were books and clothing and duplo and a soft toy cat, a bucket and spade for sand play, toys for the bath, a buzzy bee and plenty of other things which will be keeping Alayna amused for months to come.

Alayna happy on the deck

Alayna happy on the deck

Christmas day presents

Christmas day presents

More presents!

More presents!

Alayna really enjoyed playing in the sandpit/boat on the back deck. The most fun thing ever was picking up sand with her hands or using her new shovel and throwing it everywhere but into the boat. I’m pretty sure she could have spent all day happily redistributing sand.

Sand play

Sand play

On Boxing Day we took Alayna to the beach at Wellingtons Bay just south of Tutukaka. Alayna had been to the beach before but this was the first time visiting during a warm summers day. The beach was busy with people enjoying the weather and we got Alayna into her swimsuit and took her to the water. Once we put her down at the waters edge she tentatively put a hand to the water and watched as small waves came up beach. She was soon smiling and slapping the water, giggling as waves came up over the feet.

Alayna gets acquainted with the beach

Alayna gets acquainted with the beach

Settling in on the sand

Settling in on the sand

A few days later we visited Karyn at Taurikura Bay on Whangarei Heads. It was good to catch up and see how Lexi is growing up, Lexi started walking on Christmas Day and we think Alayna has got much more interested in walking seeing Lexi still learning how to walk around with confidence. We went for a walk along the coastline and after lunch we all went down to the beach where Alayna loved being floated in the water and then playing in the sand.

More beach fun

More beach fun

On one of the final days we went for a walk on the recently opened Hatea loop which heads from the Whangarei marina to the fancy Te Matau a Pohe road bridge over the Hatea River. There were sculptures dotted along the walk including a large concrete Waka and Wave and stone gull seats.

Walking the Hatea Loop

Walking the Hatea Loop

Mangroves and boatsheds

Mangroves and boatsheds

The waka and the waves sculpture

The waka and the waves sculpture

Te Matau a Pohe is an impressive structure, dynamic and striking with its bold design being both sculptural and practical, the bridge hinging on the sculptural arms to open up and allow boats through to the Marina.

Looking across to Te Matau a Pohe

Looking across to Te Matau a Pohe

Up close with Te Matau a Pohe

Up close with Te Matau a Pohe

It was great to be up north and have a peaceful week away from the concerns of work and the normal routine. It had to come to an end and after a final brunch at the town basin we headed south once more for another night in Hamilton with the Burdetts (including a wonderful nachos dinner followed by black forest gateau desert and the a very good walk around Hamilton lake in the morning before we left) and from there over to Napier for the final part of our trip.

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