For the Birds

The last NZ Festival in 2014 included an event called Power Plant which was a trail of light and sound installations set up in the Wellington Botanical Gardens. It was a well recieved and popular event so there was a follow-up organised for this years festival called For the Birds. As the name suggests this new event had its influence in our feathered friends and overall it was a more thoughtful and relaxed experience while still encouraging interaction and cultivating a sense of wonder.

Books, birds and bird houses

Books, birds and bird houses (Cuckoo Ensemble – Artist: Jony Easterby)


Talking, glowing eggs

Talking, glowing Huia eggs (Nests – Artist: Marcus McShane)


Now extinct

Now extinct, the eggs of the Haast’s Eagle (Nests – Artist: Marcus McShane)

Initially the installations were mostly static with small moving parts and subdued lighting. The bird houses above had small bellows that sounded in cycles, mimicking somewhat mournful two note “cuck-oo” calls. The glowing eggs I found very engaging and very relevant. There were a number of nests containing eggs, each set representative of a species of New Zealand bird now extinct. The eggs glowed in time to an audio track of conversation between the birds inside the eggs and their hunters, for instance the unhatched Huia bemoaning that people would want their feathers when they look much better on the bird as intended. There was a lot of humour in the conversations as well which I found helped with the engagement.

Mysterious birds

Mysterious birds (Owls & Kingfishers – Artist: Mark Anderson)

Movement began to be introduced with installations traversing large areas. The mysterious calls of the Owls and Kingfishers piece came from small devices attached to long wires that were strung between trees and above the stream bed. We’d turn as we heard one approach and then watch as they came towards us and then disappear as the lights dimmed at the end of their path, only to spark up and pass back again a short time later. Alayna found it a little disconcerting but that was understandable for a 2 and half year old up well past her bedtime. I just wanted to find a space where I could try and get some photos without interrupting the constant flow of fellow visitors.

The glowing tunnel

The glowing tunnel (Feather Arch – Artist: Ulf Pedersen)

A glowing tunnel gradually formed as we walked up a slope, first appearing as lights in the distance and then becoming ephemeral walls and ceiling around us as the light source was approached, light becoming stronger and then fading as the smoke was pushed across the path. It was a beautifully still night so the smoke moved and dissipated slowly keeping the structure of the tunnel very well defined as passers by waved their fingers through the projection.

Birds through the wires

Birds through the wires (Piano Migrations – Artist: Kathy Hinde)

A crowd had formed in from of the Piano Migrations installation watching as shadow birds fluttered through the upended piano strings, their movement apparently touching on strings to make a strange music. Is was quite mesmerising, attested by the amount of time people stood by and took it all in.

Bird house silhouettes

Bird house silhouettes (Shadow Birdcages – Artist: Jony Easterby)


The bird arch

The bird arch (Lapwing Display – Artist: Jony Easterby)


How it works

How it works (Shadow Birdcages – Artist: Jony Easterby)

We came out of the forest into the dell that is the Troupe Picnic Lawn with a number of works scattered around. The Shadow Birdcages attracted a number of people who often posed to have their own shadow portrait captured with the bird cage silhouettes. Keryn and Alayna were immortalised in kind as evidenced at the top of this page. Stepping around the screen the birdcages could be seen and provided a separate interesting sight, hanging suspended while bathed in light.

Off to one side the silent outlines of lapwing flew up and then down into the still surface of the stream that defined the lower edge of the dell. The reflections completed the loop, an endless mirrored flight.

Looking at the spinning feathers

Looking at the spinning feathers (Feather Dervishes – Artist: Mark Anderson)


Cello and nightingale

Cello and nightingale (Nightingales with Cello – Artists: Kathy Hinde & Jony Easterby, Cellist: Elena Morgan

The path then headed upwards and opened out as we neared the Cockayne Lawn and rock gardens. Alayna enjoyed watching the Feather Dervishes and was quite keen to touch them as well, something we had to quietly dissuade. A number of large white feathers were spinning while lit by bright white lights and made an intriguing spectacle. All around the trees and vegetation was lit in an array of dusky autumnal colours providing a warm and inviting atmosphere. There was a variety of installations and near the end we stood and listened as cellist Elena Morgan played counterpoint to a recording of nightingales.

All up it was a wonderful walk full of interesting and thought provoking sights and sounds. We can’t wait to see what amazing event may came along during the next NZ Festival.

A Summer of Adventure

The Adventure Wellington Meetup Group has been a hive of activity over the last few months. We’ve only attended a fraction of the events that have been on offer but the following should give a taster of what we’ve been up to.

First up was an overnight trip to Wellington Zoo. Normally the sleepover is taken up by school groups, this was the first time they’d hosted a large group of adults. We were shown around the zoo during the evening and also were kept busy with a few interesting games. There was time spent creating some enrichment play things for the cheetah and that night we sleep in a room that was shared with hedgehogs, fish and a few lizards (all in enclosures).

MG 9269Photo by Brendon & Keryn

One of the critters that we kept company with overnight.

The next morning we watched the cheetah interact with our creations and had a behind the scenes visit with the resident lions, which turned into a real adventure when the lions took a close look as the last few people were exiting the walkway that led to the lions den.

MG 9406Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Showing interest in the constructed giraffe.

MG 9485Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A curious lion.

Over a number of weeks kayaking lessons were organised with Fergs in the city, anyone who wanted to take part in future kayaking trips needed to attend a lesson. We joined one lesson and had a good few hours getting tips on using the kayak including learning how to exit and re-enter safely while out at sea. We performed out exits and entries in the lagoon in from of the boat house adjacent to Frank Kitts park and had quite the audience from the party taking place in the boat house. I provided quite a bit of entertainment with my repeated failed attempts to get back in, constantly trying to clamber into the kayak and then flipping out in a tangle before getting myself seated.

We took the lesson specifically becuase we had signed up for a overnight trip out to Matiu/Somes Island, kayaking out to then camp overnight before kayaking back the next day. Unfortunately the Wellington weather didn’t play ball and when the chosen weekend arrived the weather forecast for the Sunday was not conductive to safe paddling so Fergs wouldn’t hire us the kayaks. This turned out to be a good call, the wind on Sunday combined with rain to make for terrible conditions. The trip still went ahead, we got the ferry out to the island instead. Some of us camped and the rest stayed in a house. We were greeted by the resident DOC ranger and spent the afternoon relaxing, have a look around the island walking the the tracks, checking out the old quarantine centre and for many getting dinner prepared. At dusk we went down to the shoreline to try and watch the little blue penguin parade as they all returned to the island for the night and then after dark we went walking again looking for tuatara and giant weta.

MG 9671Photo by Brendon & Keryn

An island skink.

MG 9693Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A feeding kakariki.

MG 9733Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Territorial seagull meets walking adventurer.

MG 9783Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Keeping warm in the late afternoon.

MG 9809Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Watching for penguins.

MG 9832Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Night jenga.

MG 9868Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Found a giant weta.

We woke to find our tent was starting to suffer in the wild conditions and this necessitated a quick exit and pull-down before tidying everything up undercover of a building. Keryn and a few others had also started a jigsaw puzzle and the next day was wet and windy so there was plenty of time to finish it off after we’d had breakfast. We were informed that the scheduled ferries were all cancelled and there was one ferry coming out expressly to transport everyone off the island so at the required time we were all packed up and waiting at little hut by the dock. The ferry journey was quite rough and a number of people took the opportunity for a last adrenaline rush by heading outside to the upper deck and riding the storm.

MG 9876Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Finishing the puzzle.

MG 9894Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The ride home.

Our next meetup was taking part in the Great Race, the largest organisational effort for the group so far. An all day race around Wellington culminating in a BBQ at the Dell in the Botanical Gardens, we started at the concourse of Westpac Stadium where everyone was assigned to teams. There were around 120 people taking part in teams of 4 or 5 and we all started with a destination and from there received further instructions, ending up travelling out to Miramar and back in to town completing tasks and solving puzzles along the way. Keryn and I were in a group with Rachel and Gareth and had a good time though some mistakes early on cost us a lot of time. Highlights included Keryn and Rachel swimming out to a platform in a jobbly Oriental Bay, effectively breaking the law by sitting in an old Rover that turned out to be a mistaken clue answer (something old, red and English – what are the chances someone would leave their car unlocked on the roadside, and how were we to know there was a phone box coming up?) and racing around Wellington Airport trying to find a pilot to pose with us for a photo. It was a long day but very fun and we’re looking forward to next years event already (assuming they have another).

MG 9909Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Lined up to begin racing.

MG 9910Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Snakes and Ladders for the Airport.

MG 9915Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Finding a dragon at the Weta Cave.

MG 9927Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Heading out for a swim (Rachel and Keryn on the platform).

MG 9943Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Deciphering a code in the Treaty of Waitangi.

MG 9948Photo by Brendon & Keryn

BBQ at the Dell.

Rather smaller in scope was an evening BBQ and walk at Otari Wilton Bush. Tasked with bringing food to share before the walk Keryn and I made pork empanadas with peach BBQ sauce (recipe taken from the excellent food blog Spicy Ice Cream)and Keryn also put together a batch of oatmeal afgan cookies. The food was good and once everyone had eaten their full we had an hour or so walk taking in some large rimu and good trails.

IMG 2175Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Cooking and eating.

IMG 2184Photo by Brendon & Keryn

walking off dinner.

Then there was a trip back out to sea with a fishing charter organised taking sail from the Paremata marina, nice and close to home. 24 of us were taken out with all the fishing gear provided including loads of bait and crew happy to help us all out from baiting our lines to untangling our lines and hoisting our catches into the boat. Some were more successful than others but in the end we all left with a bag full of filleted fish, largely kahawai and snapper with a few other odds and sods in there as well such as gurnard and a large moki that I caught.

IMG 2437Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Out to sea past Whitireia Park.

IMG 2446Photo by Brendon & Keryn

My moki.

IMG 2513Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Filleting the catch.

Most recently I joined up for a three hour lesson in sword fighting with Peter Hassall at Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt. Peter is an experienced stuntman who has worked on many television shows and movies and he taught eight of us some techniques and skills around using swords. It was all geared towards fighting for show rather than serious intent and Peter laced the lesson with numerous anecdotes and links back to his past experiences. We started with shortened broomsticks and moved on to prop swords and manuka staffs before some one-on-one time with Peter using blunk sprung-steel weapons. We ended with some short choreographed fights that each pair came up with, incorporating the moves we had been shown. Certainty a different way to spend an afternoon.

MG 0253Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Fighting with sticks.

IMG 2615Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Then with swords.

MG 0259Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Game over.

I’m not sure what we’l be doing next but there is always something new coming up. If I wasn’t on night shift I’d be taking part in a Paddle Boat race this weekend, there are Sailing lessons which look interesting, also paddle boarding lessons, rafting, lots of walks, more kayaking, hacky sack during lunchtimes for the city crowd (which takes me back to the good old days at Waikato University where we did the same), climbing, cycling, running and more. I don’t think we’ll be stuck for things to do any time soon.