Off the beaten track

Photo of a small waterfall taken with a slow shutter speed
Waterfall in Birdwood Reserve. Sony a7Riii, 70mm, 10s, f/20, ISO 50, 0EV, ND filter 12 (8+4)
Week 1 of the Art of Birding Challenge (#artofbirdingweek1) and the first assignment was to go somewhere off the beaten track where we hadn't been before and take a photo that might inspire someone else to also visit. I chose Birdwood Reserve because I wasn't sure my legs were up to taking on the Faultline Track at Zealandia, which was Plan A.
Photo of the sign indicating Birdwood Reserve
Sign for Birdwood Reserve opposite 31 Waiapu Rd, Karori. The historic valve tower in Zealandia can be seen in the distance.
Birdwoord Reserve is in a steep valley adjacent to Zealandia, along Waiapu Road, with connecting tracks to various streets in Karori. We walked from the entrance opposite the Zealandia office buildings, down to the floor of the valley, then up the scarp on the other side, down the Birdwood steps, exiting into Birdwood carpark. Then it was just a short walk back down Waiapu Road to complete the loop. I'd actually recommend going back through the reserve, if you have time, as it's far prettier than the road.

The Reserve plays an important role for many of Zealandia's birds - it's part of the first ring in the "halo" surrounding the fenced sanctuary and provides habitat for many native birds along with helping create a "green corridor" to link up Wellington's reserves and green belt. Because it is outside the Zealandia fence, there is no protection from mustelid predators, and instead the birds rely on the local community to bait and trap instead. We were happy to see evidence of a caring community, with a number of chew cards and tracking tunnels, along with signs of native plantings and very little litter.
The bottom of the valley is the most picturesque and there are many photo ops of the Kaiwharawhara Stream as it meanders through the valley, including a weir and a little waterfall. I still had Janice's ND filters, so had another go at the slow-mo water effect (which was a challenge that nearly thwarted me with the 2017 Dogwood Photography Challenge). This is my shot for my Week 1 entry for the #ArtofBirding2018 challenge (photo at top).
Photo of a pink banana passionfruit flower, with immature green fruit, against a soft green background
An invasive but beautiful banana passionfruit vine in flower. Sony a9, 400mm, 1/200s, f/8.0, ISO 100, 0 EV.
It's a little bit of a huff-and-puff up the hill, but on a well-formed track with many switch-backs that ease the gradient. Nearer the houses at the top of the scarp, there was more weed invasion, including this gorgeous but invasive banana passionfruit. 
Photo of a gnarly tree trunk and roots
Kōtukutuku (tree fuchsia) trunk and roots. Sony a7Riii, 44mm, 1/50s, f/6.3, ISO 320, -2EV.
Because of the spillover from Zealandia, there is plenty of bird life, including kākā, kākāriki (heard but not seen), and tūī (Linton had the birding lens today so no birds pics from me). There are also plenty of native trees, including koekoe and kōtukutuku (I love their gnarly trunks and roots). Keep an eye out for a beautiful mature rewarewa near the top of the scarp.
Harbour view
A peak at Wellington Harbour as we exited the reserve, looking over the Chaytor Street/Waiapu Rd intersection. Sony a7Riii, 39mm, 1/800s, f/18, ISO 500, -2EV (mistakingly)
All up, the walk took just over an hour, including messing about taking photos. The reserve tells a different but complementary story to Zealandia, and has a different feel about it despite it being next door. Well worth a visit, in our opinion.
#artofbirding2018, #aob2018, #artofbirdingweek1, #birdwoodreserve, #zealandia, #greenbelt, #nzconservation, #wellington, #whywellington, #offthebeatentrack, #sonya7riii, #sonya9
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