I’ve just had a relaxing weekend on the Awhitu Peninsula, staying on the organic small holding of my friends Tanya and Charmaine. There, the skies are big, the peace immense, and the bird life plentiful. On their land they made a small pond, which attracts many water birds. In the field surrounding the pond, Californian quail move around in a small, camera-shy band. They are as big as hens, and their plummage is almost blue in the winter light.

Easier to photograph are the two ‘widows’, who enjoy a good life scratching around in the orchard: a duck, and a very fat hen.

And when I walked down the end of the road, to the coast, there in the distance I watched a blue heron, peacefully feeding.

So much space, peace, and beauty. I feel soothed and expanded from the weekend. Bird watching is a marvellous way to empty the mind.