Guess the creature

Reader Barry sent this tw**t, and readers can have fun guessing what it is. (I have no idea.) I’m off to the Museum in Wellington.

New Zealand: A sheep station (and mussel lagniappe)

Yesterday Don MacKay and I were invited to a “sheep station” (the word “ranch” isn’t used here) to tag along with a bunch of American wine buyers visiting New Zealand to sample the local sauvignon blancs and pinots. Don and his wife Karen are long-time friends of the station’s owners, Paul and Muff Newton, and the Newton’s big station, which goes way up into the hills, is called Kaituna Ridges. While the link says it has 5000 Romney sheep, it’s more like 8000 after lambing season. There are about three sheep for every person in New Zealand (about 4 million people).

The wine buyers were given a visit to the station as lagniappe (and, I suppose, to give them a taste of local culture in hopes that they’d buy more wine!), but we were allowed to see the demonstrations too and even have tea and scones. It was two hours or so of great fun.

Here’s part of the station. Paul and Muff’s property, and the areas grazed by their Romney sheep, go way up into the hills. The anmals roam freely, eating the grass, and are collected by using a combination of a four-wheeled motorcycle and a passel of working sheepdogs.

It was warm yesterday, and sheep congregated in the shade:

There are about a half-dozen working dogs on the station. The black and white ones are the New Zealand equivalent of border collies: smart, active, and good at following whistled commands to round up sheep. Their legs are longer than border collies as they have to run long distances uphill, and have been bred for that. Care is taken not to overwork the dogs.

There are also a couple of larger brown dogs that not only chase the sheep, but are trained to bark, also on whistle command. The barking scares the bejeesus out of the sheep and make them run fast to the station or paddock. The combination of the barkers and “round-up” dogs make bringing the sheep in very efficient. And it has to be when you have 8,000 sheep!

Paul with one of his dogs, which he secured between his legs.

Muff did a swell demonstration, using a small plastic whistle, whose sound carries great distances, to call in a bunch of sheep. Someone asked her how many calls she could make, and she had no idea, but they can make a dog do anything. Further, the calls are dog-specific: they can be issuing commands to three dogs at a time, all working a group of sheep, and each dog knows which command is for him. I have no idea how this is done, but it does work, as you can see:

The sheep were collected from a great distance and brought to us in a compact pack. The whistle tells each dog whether to run round the flock clockwise or counterclockwise. This is an amazing demonstration of human/animal mutualism, though what the dogs get out of it I’m not sure! (It’s exercising their genetic imperative.) It’s impressive to watch how a dog can corral a lone sheep that escapes the pack and bring it back to the group.

Cornered!

We were then treated to a demonstration of sheep shearing by Paul, who began life as a shearer.  Each shearer, and they hire six during shearing season, brings his own moccasins (to avoid injuring the sheep, as you hold them with your feet), as well as his own shearing head to cleave the wool.

The sheep come in through a door one at a time and, I must say, are handled rather roughly. Time is of the essence as there are so many sheep. A good shearer can do a sheep in about 2.5 minutes, but there are contests and records, which includes over 600 sheep shorn by one man in 8 hours, or about one sheep every 48 seconds! It’s hard work, and professional shearers go from station to station, moving between New Zealand and Australia.

It begins:

Shearing:

The flank:

Front leg and belly:

Under the head:

Done! A denuded sheep (a thin layer of wool is left):

The wool from one sheep:

A close-up: the wool from these sheep is curly, forming little spirals:

Muff spins the wool into thread and then knits it into lovely caps and scarves. Sometimes she makes a thread of wool mixed with possum fur, which makes for a very soft fabric.

Some sheep, like Merinos, which have very fine wool, are shorn with shears. Here are instructions for taking care of your shears:

Havelock, the nearest large town to the MacKay’s house, is famous as the Green Mussel Capital of the WORLD. New Zealand green-lipped mussels (Perna canicula) are farmed in the nearby bays but processed in Havelock. The local tourist office has three friendly green mussels in front. ‘

Green-lipped mussels are large (not as large as the ones below!) and delicious.

Here I am in front of the town sign:

We went out for a mussel dinner on Tuesday night. This is the best place to get them, and also has a good selection of local craft beer. Here are Karen and Don, with all of us ready to tuck in:

We started with a dozen fancy Bluff oysters, just coming into season.

Don had a dozen slightly broiled mussels with four different toppings. See how large they are?

Here’s my dinner: a dozen green-lips steamed with wine and butter, served with fries, garlic mayo, and a good brew. They were terrific, and a dozen were enough for dinner after the oyster starter. The green lips are clearly visible.

A male mussel (females are orange as they have roe). It’s a substantial bite.

Each New Zealand town has a monument to its young men who died in World Wars I and II, many in Gallipoli. In World War I, the Kiwis fought together with the Aussies in the ANZAC alliance: the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.

Havelock has two famous sons, both of whom left New Zealand to make their names in science. One is William Pickering, an aerospace engineer who, in the U.S., designed guidance systems for both ballistic missiles and spacecraft. He’s commemorated near the war memorial.

William Pickering (who was on two Time Magazine covers)

The other, more famous, is Ernest Rutherford, the physicist who won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry. His achievements were many and legendary; here’s a precis from Wikipedia:

In early work, Rutherford discovered the concept of radioactive half-life, proved that radioactivity involved the nuclear transmutation of one chemical element to another, and also differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation. This work was done at McGill University in Canada. It is the basis for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry he was awarded in 1908 “for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances”, for which he is the first Canadian and Oceanian Nobel laureate, and remains the only laureate born in the South Island.

Rutherford moved in 1907 to the Victoria University of Manchester (today University of Manchester) in the UK, where he and Thomas Royds proved that alpha radiation is helium nuclei. Rutherford performed his most famous work after he became a Nobel laureate. In 1911, although he could not prove that it was positive or negative, he theorized that atoms have their charge concentrated in a very small nucleus, and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model of the atom, through his discovery and interpretation of Rutherford scattering by the gold foil experiment of Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden. He conducted research that led to the first “splitting” of the atom in 1917 in a nuclear reaction between nitrogen and alpha particles, in which he also discovered (and named) the proton.

Ernest Rutherford

Are religious people a bit thick?

I had a discussion a few days ago with someone who told me that many very smart people he knew were also religious. I thought about that for a minute, and after reflection I just couldn’t agree. I don’t think one can be really smart and religious at the same time.

Yes, I know that some people who are academically smart and who have done great things, like Newton, were and are deeply religious. But in the old days you had no choice about being religious: you imbibed faith with your mother’s milk. And there was little chance to think for oneself, for it was either a death sentence or permanent ostracism if you questioned religion, and there were few ways to find like-minded souls.

Now, however, it’s different, for—except in some benighted lands—there is far more freedom to learn about nonbelief and hear the arguments against God; parents and society aren’t so insistent about instilling religion in young folks; and you face less ostracism if you’re a nonbeliever. (Of course it’s always easier if you keep that to yourself.)

And many public intellectuals—and virtually all accomplished scientists—are atheists. Why? Because there’s no credible evidence for God. It’s palpably and painfully obvious that religion is a human construct and that the tenets of different faiths are not reconcilable. The things that the faithful say they believe are simply ludicrous. I cringe, for example, when I hear a “smart” person like Rabbi Sacks or the Archbishop of Canterbury profess such stuff.

To me, this means that someone, regardless of how “smart” they seem, is at the very least irrational if they believe in God or the attendant superstitions. It is as if their brain is a jigsaw puzzle with one crucial piece missing: the piece that accepts important propositions in proportion to the evidence supporting them. And to me that kind of irrationality is a form of stupidity, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “dullness or slowness of apprehension; gross want of intelligence.” It’s not that they’re totally stupid; just partially stupid.

Look at it this way: if someone spent much of their lives worshiping Santa, elves, fairies, or even Zeus, and maintained in all seriousness that Santa delivers presents to Western children at nearly the speed of light each Christmas, you’d think they weren’t playing with a full deck. But somehow it’s okay if they do the same with Allah, Jesus, Muhammad, God, Vishnu, and the like. They can profess such stuff and still be considered “smart.” I can’t agree.

So I have to admit this: when a person who seems intelligent tells me that they are religious—at least in the sense that they’re theists who believe in unbelievable stuff—I immediately discount their minds. Yes, I can still respect what they say as scientists or doctors or electricians, or any area of their expertise, but I always regard them with a bit of pity. If that sounds arrogant, so be it; but don’t you pity a 9/11 theorist or a believer in UFO visitations? Why is religion any different? Why should we “respect” religious belief but denigrate belief in Bigfoot and homeopathy?

I understand that some adults are unable to shake habits and beliefs instilled in their youth—after all, evolution has almost certainly molded our minds to accept what our elders tell us in our formative years—but that’s less excusable these days, days when you can easily find arguments against God and religion.

I’ll admit here, then, that if you tell me you’re a theist, or adhere to a religion that makes untenable reality claims, I’ll think less of you. I won’t deem you “stupid,” which is an overall assessment of one’s mental acuity, but I’ll think you somewhat irrational and, as the Brits say, perhaps a tad thick.

Of course I expect readers to weigh in below. And tell the truth!

FFRF versus the Ark Park

In this video, which the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) says was filmed covertly, FFRF lawyer Andrew Seidel talks about how Answers In Genesis, Ken Ham’s organization, sworn to purvey lies about biology to children, has benefited from taxpayer subsidies. (As you may remember, the Ark Encounter has a supposedly life-sized version of Noah’s Ark which contains, among other things, miniature dinosaurs.)

The land for Ham’s “Ark Encounter”, Seidel says, was given to the park, the organization is still benefiting from tax breaks (meaning the citizens of Kentucky subsidize it), and now public school children can get in for only $1. (The normal admission price for children 5-12 is $28.)

The FFRF, rightfully, is trying to ensure that no public school sends its kids on school-sponsored trip to the park, as that is indoctrination in a specific religion expressly prohibited by the First Amendment. I wasn’t aware that that such trips were happening, or were being planned by some schools, but it’s not only unconstitutional but detrimental to education.

The FFRF is my favorite secular/atheist organization, and I’d urge you to join. Of all the organizations of that genre, it’s the one that, I think, really gets the most stuff done, thanks to Dan Barker, Annie Laurie Gaylor, and their crack staff of lawyers and assistants. It’s only $40/year, and you get a swell monthly newspaper loaded with cool stuff.

Readers’ wildlife videos

Tara Tanaka informs me that I put up the wrong video the other day, and so here’s the right one: a new one, 3.5 minutes long, called “For the love of cranes”. These are of course sandhill cranes, Grus canadensis.

Here are Tara’s notes.

I finally culled the remaining video I shot in November, 2016 at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Reserve last week, and have worked non-stop on this video ever since. There are some clips from our trip there in 2014, as well as a couple of clips I shot exactly one year ago in Florida. I will always look back on the days I spent capturing this footage as some of the best of my life.

The night that I videoed the super moon, I had been standing on the edge of one of the crane ponds where there were many Sandhills roosting overnight. As I was walking back to the truck in the moonlight, I heard a loud roar from what sounded like the far side of the pond, and then I immediately heard splashing and flapping. I had desperately wanted to see one of the mountain lions that was reported to be at Bosque last year, but at least I got to hear him.

It has lovely music as well as wonderful bird noises and adorable chicks. Be sure to watch it on full screen on the Vimeo page, and in high-definition.

Tara’s Flickr page is here, and her Vimeo page is here.

 

Wednesday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Welcome to Wednesday.

Today is New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless‘s birthday (1968) famous for playing Xena, Warrior Princess and unlike many “action” women of the time, actually looked like she could kick the living daylights out of  the baddies du jour.

 

Eric Idle (1943) is celebrating his birthday as well. Long time member of the Monty Python group, his unique brand of comedy frequently took a musical bent and has enriched the world with beloved songs such as this one. (There are two people on this planet who don’t like the song, but mostly because they strongly disapprove of Life Of Brian).

Lastly, it is also the birthday of English composer William Walton (1902-1983). He wrote concertos and symphonies, but also composed for ballets and films; his style notable for containing eclectic and diverse influences.

From Poland our furry friends are discussing means of communication while they get comfortable.

Hili: Sometimes I’m lost for words.
Cyrus: Me too, but then I’m using body language.

In Polish:

Hili: Czasami brak mi słów.
Cyrus: Mnie też, ale wtedy używam mowy ciała.

As an endnote, reader Steve sent this in:

Further adventures of Business Cat.

by Grania

Twitter is the gift that keeps giving. Sometimes.

Today is one of those times. Regular readers of  this website will of course be familiar with the doings of Business Cat.

(Click on the white play button).

New Zealand: Pelorus Bridge and thereabouts

I’m staying near Pelorus Bridge (not a village but a small bridge over the Pelorus River), famous for being not only the first bridge from which somebody bungee jumped, but also for featuring in one scene in a Hobbit movie, to wit:

Part of the pretty Marlborough Sounds at the very top of the South Island, the Pelorus River was filmed as Forest River for the second of The Hobbit trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug. You know the bit where they escape the Wood-elves in barrels and float down the river to Lake-town? Well the drop was done at Pelorus Bridge. The Pelorus Bridge Camping Ground, which is an excellent place to stay, was closed for filming. The river is awesome to swim in – that area of New Zealand is especially nice and warm – and, no doubt, kayaking down it is set to become a lot more popular.

Here’s the bridge:

Filming right below the bridge:

Here’s where I am: the north tip of the South Island. Tomorrow I head for Picton to take the ferry to the North Island, landing at Wellington:

But my host Don MacKay, a retired teacher, biologist, gentleman farmer, Scottish descendant (who plays bagpipes), and great guide, cook, and host (along with his lovely wife Karen, see below) took me to the bridge because it contains a wonderful, dense stand of virgin forest, through which we roamed for several hours, also checking the possum/stoat/rat traps that are there to try to keep the birds from going extinct. (The South Island robin, one of my favorite birds in New Zealand, doesn’t exist in this stand.) Wikipedia again, explaining why we were there (second paragraph):

Pelorus Bridge is a tiny locality in Marlborough, New Zealand where the Rai River meets Pelorus River. State Highway 6 crosses the Pelorus River at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, which was used as one of the film locations for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

The scenic reserve contains one of the last stands of original river flat forest in the area. The forest contains a mixture of beech and broadleaf species, as well as mature podocarps such as rimu, kahikatea and totara towering over the canopy. Several easy walking tracks connect the camping ground, picnic site, river, and the carparks. A circular walk leads over a pedestrian suspension bridge over the Rai River.

The first thing we saw was a stuffed long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculata) in the local cafe (Don monitors this species in the area). It is one of only two endemic mammals in New Zealand, the other being a species of short-tailed bats (Mystacina tuberculata). (It was Darwin who pointed out that on remote islands having endemic mammals, they are invariably flying mammals, showing that the endemics evolved after colonization.)

Here’s the long-tailed bat, which can fly 60 kph:

The lesser short-tailed bat is unique among all bats because it’s semi-terrestrial! It has very thick fur and spends 30% of its foraging time hunting in the air, 40% feeding from plants, and 30% crawling around the ground looking for food, for which it has a unique adaptation:

To assist with this unusual style of hunting, short-tailed bats are able to fold their wings inside a protective sheath formed from their membranes, and the wings have only a very limited propatagium, making them more flexible and mobile. Movement along the ground is also assisted by strong hind limbs and a robust pelvic girdle, and by the additional talons on their claws.

Look at this bat crawling around like a rodent!!! You can’t see its wings!:

One of the first trees we came across, kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides), had beautiful patterned bark:

I cropped the trunk to make it look like an abstract painting:

It is of course very wet there, and the tree trunks are often festooned with lichens and ferns that fall off when the bark flakes off:

I don’t know if this is a fern or a liverwort, but I’m sure some of you botanists can tell us:

This is what the virgin forest looks like—mostly beeches, podocarps, and ferns with assorted other species of endemic trees. This patch of forest has no invasive plants, though of course there are invasive animals, including weasels and stoats, Australian brush-tailed possums, and two species of rats.

The forest is filled with black beech (Fuscospora solandri), an endemic that has a black trunk—but the color comes not from the bark, which is whitish, but from a black mold that covers the trunk. And that mold is there because the bark is infested with scale insects that, in two of their instars (life stages) secrete a honeydew from their rear ends after feeding on the tree’s phloem. Here you can see the mold coming off of the tree and covering the ground around it, showing that it’s not the bark color!

Wasps are now invading the forest eating the honeydew, which was previously a valuable source of nutrients for insects and birds, including the kākā parrot (Nestor meridionalis), sister species to the kea. In my photo below, you can see the long butt appendage of the scale insect exuding a drop of nectar.

The New Zealand Conservation folk are trying to get rid of the invasive wasps using baits that have a proteinaceous poison that the wasps carry back to their nests, feed to the grubs, and then is re-secreted to the wasps, killing them. It seems to be effective. If the wasps monopolize the honeydew, they will severely reduce the population of native insects and birds:

Don checking a possum trap.  He runs a trapline once a month. We didn’t do the whole thing, but did get two brown rats. I won’t show you the gory picture of a smushed rat. This trap kills the possum by putting a noose around its head, cutting off blood flow to its brain and quickly rendering it unconscious and then dead:

Berries in the forest are small, as are flowers. With no mammals in pre-human New Zealand to distribute seeds, the fruits have evolved to be attractive to and dispersed by birds. Likewise, the flowers are small, pollinated by birds and Lepidoptera (curiously, mostly moths, many of which fly by day).

Schefflera digitata, the seven-finger or (Maori) Patatē:

Coprosma robusta (?), the shining karamu:

The famous New Zealand silver fern (Cyathea dealbata), a tree fern whose leaves are green on the top side and silvery on the bottom. It was used by the Maori to mark their trails at night, as the silver bottom shines brightly in the moonlight. Don demonstrates the difference between top and bottom:

The silver fern is a national symbol here, appearing on the uniform of many national sports teams, including the famous All Blacks (rugby). It was also proposed to be part of the New Zealand National Flag, which now sports a Union Jack. They had a referendum two years ago to replace the current flag with a silver-fern flag (below), but the public rejected the design shown below, and the current flag (click on link) stays:

Two out-of-focus birds (my bad):

The pukeko, or Australasian swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus):

The New Zealand fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa). Don attracted them by shaking ferns; the dropping leaflets looked like moths, attracting this insectivore, which followed us along the trail:

Below you can see a typical growth form of several forest trees, in which the lower branches have small leaves and branches that stick out horizontally, reverting to large leaves and normal twigs higher up. It’s thought this is a remnant of grazing by moas (now all extinct), to prevent them from overgrazing and killing the trees when they were young. The leaves supposedly get large and hence more sun-exposed when they’re beyond the reach of the moa’s beak.

Given that there were about a dozen species of moa of different sizes (ranging up to 3.6 m [12 feet] in height and weighing up to 23o kg [510 pounds]), this hypothesis would be difficult to test. Sadly, the moas were hunted to extinction by the Maori long before Europeans came to New Zealand.

This “moa tree” is Plagianthus betulinus, or ribbonwood.

Below are Don and Karen MacKay, my fantastic  hosts, along with Sug (cat) and Geordie (d*g). Geordie (actually a lovely dog) is a miniature collie; Sug was a stray kitten who’s now 13 and lost her ears to cancer. Don and Karen were both teachers at the local school, but now Don does various biology projects (we went one night looking, fruitlessly, for long-tailed bats), helps with the local school, and tends the plants on the property; while Karen tends the sheep and chickens and produces a variety of products for natural therapy and organic skin care called Five Elements (her website is here).

Sug! The first picture is on her hind legs with tongue sticking out. Note that Sug is “Gus” backwards, and is also an earless white cat. Things are reversed in the Antipodes:

I get my cat fix:

The MacKay holding; there are 3.5 acres, twenty sheep, and eight chickens.

Karen and a ewe:

Don playing bagpipes. He’s very good, having played since he was a wee bairn. These are his grandfather’s pipes, over a hundred years old. They’re made from silver, ebony, and ivory:

We had a fantastic homemade feast last night: a huge pie made from wild pig, apples, peppers, and many other things, roasted yams, ears of corn, and broccoli—all washed down with a local Pinot Noir. Dessert was a homemade apple cake with ice cream (ice cream in NZ is of very high quality) and whipped cream.

Tucker!

Tonight we’re going out to dinner tonight for a feast of local green mussels.

Effusive thanks to Don and Karen for their over-the-top hospitality and to Don for his natural history wisdom.

Tuesday: Hili dialogue

by Grania

Today is the birthday of  Italian Renaissance painter Raphael (1483-1520) one of the three great artists of the period along with Leonardo and Michelangelo. He left an impressively large collection of work behind him, considering he died very young at the age of 37, from “excessive sex”, or at least, so said his assistant.

Maria Von Trapp (1905-1987) also claims  today as her birthday. Although everyone knows the Hollywood version of her story from The Sound Of Music, as one would expect the reality was not quite the same. Nevertheless, the family did abandon Austria as Hitler rose to the height of his power in Germany, fled to the United States and supported themselves by performing music publicly before settling in Stowe, Vermont.

Today is the anniversary of the 1979 Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown. A chain of malfunctions and a significant loss of coolant did not result in loss of life, but did forever change the way nuclear power was regarded resulting in anti-nuclear demonstrations and a hostility to its use as an energy source that remains to this day.

Over in Poland, the Princess is being enigmatical – as Shakespeare might say.

Hili: All of this makes one whole.
A: What does?
Hili: This and that.

In Polish:

Hili: To wszystko składa się w jedną całość.
Ja: To znaczy co?
Hili: To i tamto.

Finally, readers of this website are by now familiar with Gus, regular guest on this website. Yesterday Jerry met Gus’s mirror image.

The people I’m staying with have a white cat named “Sug” (short for Sugar), which is Gus backwards. AND. . .it is earless! (It had cancer on its ears.)

Sug!

Gus’s staff comments: Since everything is backwards below the Equator, Gus would of course be named “Sug” in New Zealand!

Gus meets Sug

Big fun in Nelson

I spent two days and three nights in Nelson, graciously hosted by American expats Tom and Ann, who spent much of their lives teaching in “American Schools” across the globe, but have landed in Nelson. As one of the sunniest places in New Zealand, a lovely town of 50,000 on the northern coast of the South Island, and having a thriving art, food, and wine scene, many retirees choose to settle here. I can well see why.

Here’s where I am:

I was exhausted the night I arrived, and so after dinner I repaired to bed. I was appalled to find I’d slept till 11 a.m.: something I haven’t done in—well, I can’t even remember sleeping past 8 a.m. I must have been tired. That made our visit to the Nelson Saturday Market (a famous institution) a quick one.

It was a lovely market, and everybody selling stuff, from clothes to arts to food, is required to have made the stuff themselves. Here’s a seller of spices and condiments, all of which he prepared himself:

Local honey of many varieties:

The famous and expensive “mānuka honey“, probably the world’s most expensive honey (a small jar costs about $30 in New Zealand currency, with $1 NZ equal to about 70 U.S. cents. It’s made by bees that pollinate the local mãnuka tree (Leptospermum scoparium), native to Australia and New Zealand.

It’s delicious stuff, and is touted as having antibacterial and “healing” properties, but in fact has not been proven to have any such properties when consumed by humans. It commands a premium for these properties, but it’s sort of a scam. Nevertheless, it is delicious stuff: very viscous and tangy.

Bowls made from the local woods are gorgeous. While it’s forbidden to cut down any native trees unless you’re clearing land for a farm, you can use driftwood so long as it’s below the high tide line (or so I’m told):

Had I room to carry stuff and was not afraid of breakage, I would have bought some of this wood:

Like this one, with a lovely pattern:

From there we went to have lunch with 8 members of the Nelson Science Society at at the nearby Mahana winery specializing in Pinot Noir (the Pinots and Sauvignon Blancs from this region are spectacular. It’s almost harvest time so the grapes are covered with nets to prevent depredation by birds.

My lunch: New Zealand lamb (of course) with mashed potatoes, vegetables, and a glass of full-bodied Pinot Noir.

There was also a New Zealand equivalent to sushi:

Here’s Bill Malcolm, a retired botanist who had read my account of the Great Kea Hunt. He brought a picture showing him with a kea that had landed on his head (lower right). Keas, even in recent years, were once much more abundant than now, and it was easy to encounter them.

It’s a good thing it didn’t put his eye out!

Here’s a local bird called the fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa). I photographed it through a window, and it’s a bit out of focus.

New Zealand currency is great: on one side is a famous New Zealander (here on the $5 bill is Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two men to climb Everest, with the mountain shown in the background). Coins for scale:

On the other side of every bill is an iconic New Zealand animal. This $10 bill appears to carry the Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata):

Breakfast next day was at a small cafe in a garden center; an odd place for a cafe. But, as I’ve found in New Zealand, the food is uniformly good everywhere. Here’s my breakfast of French toast with baked banana and bacon. Yum!

We then repaired to the WOW Museum (the Museum of Wearable Art, which is combined with the Nelson Classic Car Collection). The first part of the Museum are arty costumes, all of which have been worn on the runway. This little number is made from wood:

A dress with faces in it:

Believe it or not, somebody can wear this and walk in it: there was a film clip of this moving Braque-esque sculpture:

I guess the wearer sees and breathes through the hole:

A sort of Vesalius costume:

And on to the classic cars, of which there are many. I’ll leave the readers to identify them:

I loved this tiny car:

The interior:

The two-cylinder engine; I’ve put a coin on it for scale. It’s a tiny engine!

A Packard police car for my friend John Hempel, who loves Packard:

One of my favorite cars, an old Pierce-Arrow:

The hood ornament. Oh, for the days of lovely hood ornaments!

And older Packard; the photo below it shows the hood ornament—the only glass hood ornament I’ve ever seen.

The glass rooster hood ornament:

A 100-foot sailing yacht moored in Nelson Harbor. Some extremely rich person owned this thing, which was registered in the Isle of Man.

Yesterday afternoon we spent a few lovely hours with Tom’s friend Roger, a fanatic about rock and pop music from the Sixties through Seventies. He has 13,500 records: all vinyl (45s and 33s), catalogued by both genre and artist. We discussed various forms of old rock, including “northern soul” (an English musical form) and “skiffle” (which influenced the Beatles), listening to samples as we talked.

Here’s Roger holding a rare Rolling Stone album, apparently worth several hundred dollars.

He also owns a full-sized 1958 Wurlitzer jukebox, which Roger bought at an auction. It’s 60 years old, and still works perfectly!

Tom and Ann, my wonderful hosts in Nelson. Thank you!


And here’s the B&B where I stayed Sunday night: a little treat before I travel on. My backpack is incongruous in such a room!