Tuesday is my morning to go for a walk with my neighbour Margaret and her dog Bella. I am trying to get into the habit of taking my camera wherever I go, because if I don't I always see something worthy of a photo. However today I left my camera at home, because we usually take much the same route, so I thought that I wouldn't see anything new. And of course, because we walk for exercise, so I didn't want to stop to take photos all the time.
Did I say that I always regret it when I leave it behind? Today for the first time this spring, I saw ducklings on the river. The river is tidal where we walk, and it was low, so the fluffy little ducklings were skittering along on the exposed mud. Gardens were blooming everywhere - magnolia trees thick with blossom, and a number of flowers that weren't familiar to me. On the opposite side of the river bank I saw an odd dark lump perched on the top of a willow tree. At first I thought it was a bird. As I got closer I realised it wasn't moving, and it looked too large and too stumpy to be a bird, but I couldn't quite figure it out. Then as I got closer still, I saw the tail sticking out the bottom, which quivered slightly. So I suggested we cross the bridge over the river so I could get a closer look. When I got really close on the other side, I realised it was a shag - but larger and blacker than the usual pied shags that I see in the willows along the river. It had a ragged crest of feathers. I checked our bird reference books when I got home, and found it was a black shag. Although this website doesn't show it, it has a crest in the breeding season. This is when I started to regret leaving the camera at home. It's not a bird I've ever seen along the river before. We have lived here about twenty years, and I'm finding that there are more and more different species to be seen on the river, which is good to see in an urban area.
Now that we were on the other side of the river, I realised that we were near the home of Jill, a member of our church, who had invited the congregation to come and visit her garden to see something unusual. Her yuccas are flowering. Apparently they only flower once, so it is a sight only seen every few years, even with quite a large number of them in the garden. They produce a spectacular tall flower spike, almost as large as a house. I wasn't sure if I remembered the address correctly, but I found what I thought was the right house. I was taken aback by the unexpected grandeur of it, but a knock on the door confirmed I had the right house. It is on a low slope that rises from the river terrace. On the corner of two streets is a historic homestead, Riverlaw. It's large grounds was gradually subdivided, and there are several rather large houses along this area now - Jill's home is one of them. They have no fences, although hedges mark the boundaries between houses - consequently the houses look out on a beautiful wooded area that looks like one large park, with the river beyond. Jill was very welcoming and showed us around the gardens, and around the house which she and her husband have done a wonderful job of renovating over the last ten years. It was a real treat. However my plans for the day had rather gone out the window by the time we finished our very extended walk - both in time and distance!
Next time, I really will take the camera.
Firstly, shages are known in the rest of the world as cormorants, in case you wondered what they are. Secondly, I meant to mention that the godwits referred to in my Monday post have just arrived in New Zealand for spring. Consequently, yesterday the cathedral bells were rung at noon to welcome them. I think that's rather cool!