Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 28 July 2011 Contents LOCAL NEWS
28 July, 2011 | Page 5
An American woman who spends
summers in Fiordland has
published an electronic book
documenting the lives of great
crested grebes on Lake Te Anau.
Helen Blake, a keen amateur
photographer, and her husband
Steve, a trout fishing enthusiast,
have chased the New Zealand
summers for several years and
now own a property just out of
Te Anau. Mrs Blake said it wasn't
until her retirement that she took
up photography seriously. Her
passion is for wildlife photography
and in New Zealand that means
"At first I became familiar with the
forest birds around Te Anau such
as fantails, robins, wood pigeons,
and tomtits. Then one day I saw a
pair of great crested grebes with a
chick on Lake Te Anau. I had never
seen birds that looked like them
and I began to watch for them
whenever I went by the lake."
As well as documenting the birds
through her photos, Mrs Blake
kept a detailed diary of her visits,
paying particular attention to the
"At first we would arrive in Te
Anau in January so I would miss
seeing the grebes nesting. Then
we started to arrive in early
December and I began to see
the grebes build their nests and
incubate eggs. Each year, however,
their nest would fail mainly due
to high or low water and in one
case probably a stoat got the eggs.
It wasn't until the 2008-2009
nesting season that I saw a pair
hatch a chick."
During her visits to the lakeside,
Mrs Blake said she saw many
other people watching the grebes'
progress, however the nest
she was watching that summer
was largely ignored -- probably
because it was well hidden and
there was another, more visible,
nest on the lake that year.
With the cycle of life complete she
realised she had a fascinating
story to tell so she typed it up, with
her photos, and made five copies
-- one of which she gave to the Te
"I wrote the book to show what
an interesting bird the great
crested grebe is. The people of Te
Anau are very lucky to be able to
observe them on the lake."
Last year she checked in with the
library who said her story had
been a popular read so she looked
at ways she could make it more
widely available. She learned that
Amazon was already selling more
e-books than print books and,
from a publisher's point of view, it
was far more cost-effective.
"Over the years Steve had written
a few stories and articles about
fishing in Otago and Southland
and in 2010 he decided to publish
those along with some of our
fishing photos as an e-book on
Amazon. Once he had done that
we then decided to publish the
grebe book I had written as an
e-book," Mrs Blake said.
An e-book can only be read
on a computer but she said
downloading it was a very simple
process. It can be bought from
www.amazon.com for $US8.50.
The familiarity with the grebes at
Te Anau prompted Mrs Blake to
learn more about the species. In
the New Zealand
winter the Blakes
live in Montana
and she has
now found six of
the seven grebe
"Last April I made
a special trip to
looking for the
least grebe, which is the seventh
species in the US and I found it,
along with many other new birds."
Fossils showed that grebes had
existed for 80 million years. Today
there were 20 species of grebes
left in the world, two having
become extinct. Mrs Blake has
now seen 10 of them and hopes
she will one day get to write a book
about the grebes of the world.
Te Anau grebes on Amazon
Helen Blake, pictured in the United
States holding a captured golden
A successful pairing: great crested grebes photographed by Helen Blake on
Lake Te Anau. Their baby is hiding under the wings of the bird on the right.
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