Monthly Archives: February 2012

Owls do cry in my urban environment

Sunday night was one of the first crystal-clear, cloudless nights we have had in a long time this summer. While it was cool outdoors there was no wind and the suburb quietens earlier on a Sunday night as people prepare for the week of work ahead.

I needed to go in search of our cat who was also enjoying this special night outside. As I left the house I could hear the welcome calling of our little native owl, Ruru or perhaps more commonly known as the Morepork owl.


The name “morepork” was given to it by European settlers who rightly thought its call sounded like “more pork”, “more pork”. Maori described its call as “Ru, ru.”

Hearing the cry of New Zealand’s only remaining native owl reminds me of my childhood. Summer holidays at beaches that were once remote spots would mean I would often fall asleep listening to the call of this small, sharp eyed, sharp eared owl.

It is special to hear it in such a busy urban environment but once again it is testament to all the effort that has gone into predator control, the establishment of nearby wildlife sanctuaries and the retention of large stands of trees. I hope we hear more owls calling in the night.

Cicada beats

A fellow blogger at Ruth’s reflections was wondering what triggers the sudden appearance of our noisy, New Zealand summer companions, the cicada. It seems that the cicadas in Christchurch had come out en masse about the same time I noticed an upsurge in numbers here in Porirua. They are late this year but in the past two or three weeks the air has been crackling with the songs of the males.

I did a little investigating and found that soil temperatures around 22C certainly spur on their growth but the interesting information that captured my imagination was this piece:

“Maori and native Americans share an interesting link with cicadas.
Both identify the insects with the Dog Star, Sirius, which is at meridian in the summer sky when the nymphs emerge.
While many people do not realise that New Zealand has more than one type of cicada, Maori recognised 12 types based on their song and identified their arrival with the Dog Star, named Rehua after a forest deity. Cicadas are considered to be his protégés.
Various native American tribes have names for the insects that can be translated as Dog Star cicadas.”

Is there a star gazer out there who can tell me when Sirius appeared in the sky above New Zealand this year….perhaps the powerful light of a star is the tipping point for masses of cicadas to emerge from the ground and begin their short but noisy lives?

Shakespeare at the beach

Some time ago there was a local newspaper article about Russell Plume, a local Plimmerton resident and former geologist who was picking up pieces of brick off the coast near Plimmerton beach.

He gradually collected a lot of bricks. Some were whole and others simply odd shapes and pieces. All had been weathered by the sea or by the streams and it was thought that they were washing up from an old quarry.

A friend commented that he had enough to spell out the works of Shakespeare and this spurred Russell on to producing 9 panels of quotes from Shakespeare using the bricks just as he found them. None have been altered in any way.

Here is one I captured yesterday on a sea wall at Plimmerton Beach. My timing was not in tune with the tides yesterday which meant I could not walk along and take photos of the other panels. I will do that another day.

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The linked article gives you more details but I also hope the panel he made as a gift for Christchurch will reach that destination and bring hope to its residents.

“What is the city but the people” (from Coriolanus), is a fitting quote.

That old tease, the sun

We seem to have been shrouded in clouds here for so many days this month. A month in which we should be experiencing sunny, summer weather.

Currently the sun often shows itself with great beauty as it sets. The sky last night was very dramatic.

And today, later in the afternoon, there was clear blue sky a way off to sea towards the northwest. But no sun has shone down on us at all despite the tempting teases.

Perhaps tomorrow…….