The Farm in Diggers Valley

The week beginning the 29th of August 2009.
Saturday the 29th
not a tree frog

While this might look like one, it is not a real tree frog. Stephan was watering tomato seeds in my greenhouse and came and fetched me to have a look at this little creature, which was for some reason climbing my potted Tanekaha sapling. It is a Southern Bell frog, Litoria raniformis.

Sunday the 30th
the first Putangitangi chicks

The first of the Pūtangitangi (Paradise Duck) chicks have hatched: five in this family in the Windmill and Camp paddocks. They're surprisingly hard to see unless you spot the indicative parental behaviour. When there are chicks, their father dashes off in a very agitated manner, in an attempt to deflect attention from his partner, who will be leading the chicks at speed toward the nearest water. In the stream, or in ponded paddock water, the chicks are generally safest from predators (except for eels) because they can dive under the water to hide if threatened from above.


A fast-moving Fantail, chirruping away on a branch.

Monday the 31st

This month has been entirely different from August last year. I record the daily maximum and minimum temperatures at 9am each morning. The maximum is the previous day's afternoon high temperature and the minimum is generally from the overnight low. Here's how they compare:

  Avg Min Min high Min low Avg max Max high Max low Rain Rain days
Long-term Avg
5.6 11.6 -0.9 15.3 18.1 12.4 151 16
2008 7.5 11.0 -0.5 13.7 16.0 10.0 229 27
2009 9.1 13.0 4.0 16.1 18.5 14.5 126 15

So the warmest night this month was 13°C, and the coldest night was 4°C, which is nearly five degrees warmer than the average coldest temperature for August. The average at -0.9°C indicates that we generally have frosts in August, but this month we have not. It is that significant warming in the coldest parts of the daily cycle which has led to a great deal more grass growth than we normally experience at this time of year - and it also helps that the ground is reasonably dry.

I hope those figures are understandable. In years like this, I'm very glad we have some long-term data for comparison - it makes things very much more interesting than a casual observation that it's warmer than usual. A number of people complained that the winter was dreadful, but reference to the data continued to reassure me that things were as delightful as they felt.

Stephan went to a meeting today to discuss a plan for management and conservation of the Northland Kiwi population.

I spent some time with some of the cattle and discovered to my great relief that there is still a live calf inside grey heifer 529. She had some strange-looking mucous around her tail several weeks ago and was looking rather thin, and I wondered then if something had gone awry.

Thursday the 3rd of September
Roger's fence

Stephan has gone south for a few days to help Roger build some fences at Mōkau, where Jude and Roger have their holiday bach. Mōkau is a little south of Ōakura, which is south of Russell, along the Old Russell Road.

Virago Eva 81

This young animal is my favourite of the year. She is Eva 81, daughter of Demelza and Ardrossan Connection X15 and is the only X15 daughter here to test clear of the genetic defect Arthrogryposis Multiplex. I hardly dared to hope, as I watched her grow so beautifully as a calf, that she would miss out on being a carrier of the defect.

She has become reasonably tame, but in this picture she was on her own in the Flat 4 paddock, the others having crossed the river to the Road Flat. Eva got left behind and then wouldn't cross on her own. I've left the gate open for her and she may eventually find her way to rejoin her mob.

On their own, cattle can get quite nervous, being herd animals. It didn't help that the day was windy, which also upsets them.

Friday the 4th
Ducklings leaping from the riverbank

The river bank in the corner of the stream in the Camp Paddock (seen more fully here). I took the picture because right at that moment the family of Putangitangi chicks were hurling themselves off the top of the bank and into the water below, soon followed by their flying mother, because they'd been surprised by my presence on the other side of the stream.

Ducklings leaping from the riverbank

This is the same photograph, lightened to show the ducklings in the shadows.

The bottom arrow is pointing to one duckling floating on the water, with the splash of another just to the left. (Presumably there are two ducklings under the water somewhere, because I could only find three in the picture.) The middle arrow is pointing to a falling duckling and the top one to the chick just about to leap off the bank.

These birds are quite proficient at falling and bouncing safely, since most of them around here are born up in the trees and probably fell from a far greater height not long after they hatched.

Putangitangi duck and chicks

Once in the water, they're still very conscious of my presence, but happy enough to remain on top of the water. I have long suspected that this family may comprise Ms Duck's brother and his partner, because the male is rather more tolerant of my proximity than I would expect in a wild bird. The female is wild, but becomes less alarmed by me as her ducklings age, as long as they're on the water.

I took the cows and pregnant heifers to the yards today and gave them all another copper injection. I was intending to fit a third shot in before calving, but then reconsidered that plan, because the last injection would mean putting some very-near-calving cows through the yards and they're not always very gentle with each other when forced into close proximity.