Cats and birds have recently caught my attention.

As have sea creatures.

So yep, that's nature's habitat bases pretty well covered.

Land, sea and sky.


When you grow up living by the sea you see creatures ... sea creatures.

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And we saw a lot of them through a lot of years but never once lost the wonder of watching them.

Dolphins, orca, sharks and a couple of whales ... the latter once had me and other seafront locals standing high atop the rising banks of shingle aiming our binoculars toward a couple of big air-blowers a few hundred metres off the shoreline.

There would inevitably be discord on such occasions as dad only had one pair of bins' and there were usually about three or four of us.

There were more cries of "you've had your turn" than there were blasts from the air holes of the whales.

One other time we were walking home from school along the beach (rather than the railway line) and were astounded to see three or four pretty sizeable sharks just beyond the breakers.

They were slowly meandering along, fins cutting a path, right where we'd often drift out for a swim.


There was no swimming that day.

I vaguely remember one old bloke arriving from one of the old houses down the south end with what appeared to be a leg of lamb or mutton.

He rolled up his trousers, got to the wave break point and heaved it out into their path, and he was astonished by their response.

They didn't do anything.

Maybe they were vegos?

One sight we always enjoyed was the dive-bombing of the gannets.

During the springs and summers we saw them a lot ... sometimes days in a row when the fish were there and we never tired of watching them.

They held us in awe with that flash-fast roll then a dive so rapid you just held your breath.

They speared into the water leaving the barest of splashes ... the speed was incredible.

And we'd often count down the seconds until they emerged from the sea several metres from where they'd entered.

"He's got one!" someone would yell as a sliver of silvery white could be seen between the darkly outlined beaks which sprouted out from the pretty yellow head like knives.

And there were times the sea surface was boiling with frenzied little yellow eyed mullet ... thousands of them taking to the surface because the kahawai and kingfish lads were coming up underneath them for dinner.

So the big fish came up after them and the gannets rained down on them from above.

Who'd be a yellow eyed mullet huh?

A couple of weeks back folks walking the beachfront watched with delight as a couple of the latest cape arrivals challenged a couple of wandering dolphins for the tucker they were both after.

One gannet plunge was mere centimetres from the arched back of the dolphin.

It was unusual to see, but not unusual in the world of these fish fossickers.

I checked it out in a detailed and fascinating paper about gannets which stated "some marine mammals herd fish towards the surface where the fish remain in diving depth for seabirds — however potential disadvantages to plunge divers of these high-density associations include risk of accidental collision".

Like queuing up for the last hot dogs served up at half-time at the rugby.

Oh, and gannet dives are either 'U' shaped (95 degree dive angle) or 'V' shaped at a 43 degree angle ... and they can go down four or five metres no worries.

And when they take their very first flight to Australia they never fly over the land ... they tend to go way down south and turn right at Stewart Island, and off they go.

They never saw combat though, unlike thousands of cats during World War I, which I learned about at a most appropriate time ... the lead-up to Armistice Day.

Yes indeedy, moggies served on the front lines, on the battlefields of France and Belgium and at sea aboard the great battleships.

They were sent to serve in the trenches as the trenches became home to rats and mice, which meant the vital food for the troops could be tainted by feeding rats were it not for the moggies who hunted them down.

And cats could detect the very slightest whiff of mustard gas before a human could.

They saved lives, and most importantly of all they provided friendly, happy company for the battle-hammered troops.

They became valued companions, and there are stories of tears being shed by hardened lads after their little mates were lost.

Bless 'em all.