3-5 November 2023

Wow, what a fabulous weekend we had in and beyond Wellington. The trip was organized by Simon Woolf and he made sure we made the most of our time. What a great host. We were also joined by Steve Fox (bird photographer) and Gary Jones (President of Porirua Photography Club), who helped on the transport side on Saturday.

We checked into the Cambridge Hotel on Friday afternoon and Simon took us for a tour of the south coast, particularly Lyall Bay, and then via a circuitous route to the veryimpressive Alfred Memelink Artspace Gallery in Petone. There we were treated to the opening function (including wine and canapes) of an exhibition by Rachel Walker, a very impressive bird and nature artist, and by none other than Simon himself with some stunning Black and White photographs of birds, as well as a phenomenal one of a southern-right whale caught breaching in what looked to be directly in front of the Government Beehive!

Pickup at 8am on Saturday and a drive up to the top of Wrights Hill for great views of Wellington, with cloud and sunbeam landscapes. We even had a kārearea (NZ falcon) fly past. Then onto Zealandia. What an amazing predator-free sanctuary right on the edge of a big city. We were treated to seeing and, mostly being able to photograph, kaka, tui, koromiko (bellbird), tīeke (saddleback), pōpokotea (whitehead), kakariki (red-fronted parakeet), hihi (stitchbird), takahe, kōtare (kingfisher), and tuatara.

After lunch, we headed off to the Pauhautanui Lagoon (Porirua), Waikanae’s Waimea Lakes (trees loaded with pied shags, including chicks) and the Waikanae Estuary, where we were treated to seeing a pair of NZ dotterels with two 2-day-old chicks. After a Thai meal close to the waterfront, we ventured down to the beach for some sunset photos with Kapiti Island in the background.

On Sunday, Simon led us to several beaches and rocky outcrops on the southern coast, including two pleasant cafes. Also included were a stop at Wellington’s park of art – Carlucci Land – and a climb up to NZ’s first wind turbine and superb panoramic views of Wellington and its surrounding bays, etc.

A giant thanks to Simon for his initiative, time, conviviality, stories, and humour. Also for exposing us to appealing sides of Wellington’s environ of which we were unaware. We all – including Simon – had a great time.

By Richard Jones, Meg Errington, Peter & Katherine McCusker, Robert