Monday Miscellany from the Saddle

We have had another stunning night & day in the heart of Otago Alps. We have certainly lucked into one of the most stable weather systems to reach us this spring. The very low humidity currently has meant that there have been very few clouds in the last 24 hours which tends to make photos of the landscapes here not quite so interesting so I have been focussing on a few other things until a few clouds return.

Albert Burn Saddle

View across the Albert Burn Saddle this morning. The warmer temperatures have resulted in spectacular snow melt since we arrived here making for some interesting patterns as the underlying rock & terrain is exposed.

There was a forecast for a large meteor shower in the region of the constellation Gemini at around 2am this morning. I was prepared to photograph it but unfortunately that forecast didn’t come to pass. For me anyway.
The Geminid meteor shower sequence is an annual occurrence in mid December and can be seen from nearly everywhere on the planet and in space too no doubt.
Most meteor showers are the result of cometary debris, but the Geminids are linked to the unusual asteroid 3200 Phaethon – a rocky object with a comet-like orbit, which suggests it may have a cometary origin. We still have a small decaying (declining) moon which lightens up the sky and landscape tomorrow morning the moon rises at 2.14 am so our best chances of seeing the showers should they decide to enthral us will be prior to that.

Kea Preening

Kea preening herself this morning.

Mercifully the many raucous Kea visitations are during daylight hours and they seem to be part of the furniture here. They are certainly not self conscious and seem quite happy to preen and tidy themselves seemingly oblivious to our presence.

Kea preen

A bit more on the left

Other side

And a good tidy up on the other side.

The biodiversity and vibrance of the plant and insect life here is spectacular. Exquisite herb and cushion fields abound right up to the chalet. It seems that many of the plants are poised to commence flowering any day now having only recently emerged from a complete blanket of snow & sub zero temperatures for the last 6 months.

Cushion plant

Community Association of Cushion plants near the chalet

Raoulia hectori

Raoulia hectori about to burst into flower.

The geology here on the saddle is fascinating also. We have huge bands of folded schist which formed from submarine sediments at least 100 million years ago. We are right at the boundary between the Pacific and the Austro / Indian tectonic plates which have forced the layers up from the seabed to where we are now in the last 5 million years or so.

foliated schist

Foliated schist rock that began life as a marine sediment layers

Schist fragments at Whare Kea Chalet

Fragments of Schist that were recently conjoined and likely fractured through ice formation and frost lift.

Internet curfew is fast approaching again so thats about it from me for today. We will finish with a couple of photos that Brook took yesterday on his smart phone.

Kea at saddle

Brook’s photo of Steel Eye Kea at the Albert Burn Saddle (Perhaps that ought be Steal Eye – given our previous experiences with him)

Mt Aspiring from Albert Burn

Albert Burn Saddle Tarn & Mt Aspiring photo by Brook

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