Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Matapouri

with 36 comments

I took so many pictures on our 2017 trip to New Zealand that I never got the chance to show a lot of them here, especially because we bounded off on a couple of other big scenic trips last year. Over the next four weeks I’ll make amends and fill in some of the gaps with more than two dozen posts. While most of the photographs will show things for the first time, in a few cases you’ll see a different take on a place or thing that appeared here last year.

On the way from the Auckland Airport to Paihia a year ago today (going by the calendar and ignoring the time difference between Texas and New Zealand), we detoured over to Matapouri on the east coast of the North Island so we could get our first good look at the ocean on this new adventure.

At one point I noticed a young gull hunched down on the sand. As I slowly approached, the bird flopped around a little but didn’t fly away. It was injured, as you can see here. Fortunately for it, I wasn’t a dog, cat, ferret, weasel, or stoat. Ah, the benignity of the nature photographer.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 7, 2018 at 4:49 AM

36 Responses

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  1. I’m sooo glad you’re resuming posts about NZ!

    Jenny Meadows

    February 7, 2018 at 5:14 AM

    • You could say it’s another case of back to the future, farther back than all the Canadian pictures that appeared here over the past few months. I plead guilty to scenic places.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2018 at 6:06 AM

  2. Good for you for being a benign photographer, Steve. But there are many who are so intent on getting great shots that they are willing to disturb, harass, or otherwise bother wildlife, regardless of the effect on the animals!


    February 7, 2018 at 7:17 AM

    • During our 2015 visit to New Zealand I went to a beach one morning and saw a guy who ignored a prominent sign by letting his dogs run loose. They repeatedly charged the shoreline and forced the seagulls to fly away for safety. Last year in Canada I had a run-in with a guy who let his dog wander loose in a wildlife preserve. I’ve learned from long experience that there’s no way to reason with those people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2018 at 7:44 AM

      • I have been in similar situations, and I always debate how to deal with it. At times, I say something, but usually those interactions are very negative. It is very frustrating.


        February 7, 2018 at 8:47 AM

        • Frustrating indeed. Those people believe that nothing in the universe is more important than their dogs. In the Canada encounter, another guy approached me afterward and said he agreed with me. I wish he’d also said that to the man with the dog. Strength in numbers, and all that.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 7, 2018 at 9:10 AM

  3. I can see two ‘animals’ in that rock, sitting face to face! 🙂


    February 7, 2018 at 8:05 AM

    • Your imagination far outdoes mine this morning, Indira.
      Oh, wait a minute: now the left rock could be a seal with its head raised.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2018 at 8:09 AM

      • Exactly, with a baby off to the right, behind the daddy seal in the middle (although seals don’t live in families like that).


        February 7, 2018 at 9:38 PM

  4. Well if you must go on SO many BIG trips Steve I suppose we have to wait patiently to see the results 🙂
    (Me? Jealous? Noooooo…)


    February 7, 2018 at 8:11 AM

    • Jesting (and wonderfully scenic places) aside, we’ve both learned how much there is to see close to home, you in Cornwall and me in central Texas, which provided almost all the photographs shown here in the first four years of this blog. Even then, not straying far, there were times when not a single picture from a day’s outing appeared here because so many pictures from other recent outings clamored to be shown. That said, I’m happy that the recent backlogs correspond to such scenic places. Sounds like it’s time for you to launch off on another one of your big trips.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2018 at 8:20 AM

      • I’m hoping for Australia at some point this year. But I have to say that I am quite content where I am right now. 🙂


        February 7, 2018 at 8:46 AM

        • Australia’s a happy destination, even if it’s so large that some of the most scenic places are far apart. You can find out about some good nature places to visit on the east side of the country at


          Steve Schwartzman

          February 7, 2018 at 9:06 AM

          • Not sure on the destination yet. Son currently in Perth, but was made redundant before Christmas. All depends on where he gets a job! Could be anywhere in Australia, or even New Zealand or Europe. It’s a case of ‘watch this space…’


            February 7, 2018 at 9:14 AM

  5. I see a seal, a giant tortoise, and an old-time toppled space craft in that outcropping of rock. I wonder what that means psychologically? Ha ha!

    It always bothers me a bit to see an injured bird/animal, but I realize it’s best to leave it be and not cause any further stress.


    February 7, 2018 at 8:39 AM

    • I saw a turtle of some sort too; then it became a horned lizard. The toppled spacecraft remains beyond my “poor power to add or detract.” Yeah, what these imaginings say about us, who could ever know?

      I don’t think there was anything to be done for that gull, though maybe a veterinarian would think otherwise. I imagine it depends on what was wrong with the bird.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2018 at 8:59 AM

  6. Just like the what-do-you-see-in-the-clouds, I’ve got a much more limited imagination than your other readers – – I see — Three Tortoises, Emerging from Their Baths.
    My sister’s red footed tortoises like to wallow in their water dishes, so those rocks look kind of familiar.

    Robert Parker

    February 7, 2018 at 8:52 AM

    • So the tortoise pump had been primed for you, so to speak, and mixing metaphors. To tell the truth, when I put this post together the rocks appeared to me as nothing more than rocks. Reality ruled me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2018 at 9:18 AM

  7. The first image is stunning! The second – I thought perhaps the gull was pretending to be injured to lure you away from a nest… The story reminded me of long ago I found an injured frigate bird on the beach. Feeling sorry for it, I returned to the casita and retrieved a small can of tuna and took it to the bird.. when I offered the tuna to the bird, it BIT ME! With a beak like a can opener, it left an impression on my arm that lingered for weeks!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    February 7, 2018 at 8:57 PM

    • On the shore of Lake Michigan in Illinois two years ago I saw a bird pretend to be injured to lure me away, presumably from a nest, in the way you mentioned. In the New Zealand case, I’m pretty sure the gull really was impaired because I could come right up to it and it didn’t move away.

      Sorry to hear about your “reward” for being a good Samaritan: getting bitten. For all the supposed intuition of animals, this one didn’t seem able to tell you were a friend and not a foe. Or maybe it didn’t like that brand of tuna.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2018 at 10:00 PM

  8. A beautiful, clean beach with a gentle slope, clear water, and interesting rocks with a garden of sorts growing on them: what could be better? It’s a wonderful vision, especially after this long stretch of cold, gray, rainy days.

    Accepting the injuries and deaths that surround us in nature is something I still struggle with. Recently I found an American kestral having lunch in a tree at the Brazoria refuge. When I zoomed in, I discovered it was holding a half-eaten baby bird in its talons; the two tiny, dangling legs were the clue. My first impulse was to turn away, but I reconsidered when I realized it might be some time before another such opportunity presented itself.

    Later, thinking about the fact that the nestling was down-covered, I wondered which species would have hatched babies so soon. It seems like an odd time for that to be happening.


    February 8, 2018 at 8:37 AM

    • Austin had the same gloomy weather for the past few days. Today is different: when I look out the window now, I see sunshine. Unfortunately I don’t see an ocean beach with curious rocks—except on my computer screen.

      Your kestrel incident reminds us that nature is brutal, with so many creatures preying on so many others. Nature documentaries remind us that only a tiny percent of turtle hatchlings, for example, survive to adulthood. Hobbes similarly described “the life of man” as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

      Are you planning to show a picture of your kestrel with the half-eaten baby bird? If so, I wonder how viewers will react. Only once did I ever show a picture like that, which you’ll remember:


      I’ll bet there are birders in your area who could answer your question about birds hatching so early in the year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 8, 2018 at 9:03 AM

      • If my photos were better, I wouldn’t hestitate to post one. But the bird landed quickly, I had to change lenses, and I forgot to turn off the car — so things turned out a little shaky. Still, there are a couple of photos that I might be able to clean up sufficiently; I hope I can.


        February 10, 2018 at 8:10 PM

  9. Gosh was that a year ago! Pleased that we will get to see more pics Steve 😃


    February 12, 2018 at 12:52 PM

    • Yeah, I know, I can’t believe a year has gone by already. How inconsiderate of time not to slow down for us.

      In any case, you’ll get about 30 more chances to see how an American viewed your great country.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2018 at 1:00 PM

  10. Love the beautiful blue of the water!!


    February 12, 2018 at 4:17 PM

    • Water with a color like this was a continuing delight in New Zealand. Not till we got to the Canadian Rockies half a year later did we see anything like it again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2018 at 5:09 PM

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