Monday, June 25, 2012

Take a closer look

One of my favourite pastimes is to sit in the bush and look closely at what's around me. Temperate rainforest is full of diversity and brimming with interesting things. Understanding the dynamics of native bush growth (succession) opened my eyes to the harm that introduced plants and animals do and it convinced me to be a lot more mindful over what I planted and what I brought into an area.

The native Rubus species, more commonly known as bush lawyer, is related to the introduced blackberry and raspberry. Although their fruiting season is listed as January to March, I've been finding these berries on the bush floor that I can't identify as anything other than bush lawyer...

I'll have to investigate further and figure out whether it's Rubus cissoides (fruit like small orange to reddish blackberries), Rubus australis (fruit like small, shiny pale orange blackberries) or Rubus schmidelioides (fruit like small yellowish or orange blackberries). What do you reckon?

There are a couple of other plants that like to get their hooks into you; Uncinia, the native hookgrass, is well known to hikers who spend evenings cleaning them off socks and hairy legs! Rakiura has over half of the 32 known New Zealand species of sedge and identification requires the same level of patience that cryptic crosswords demand. If you're interested then and search for Uncinia; and"Uncinia uncinata" are some good places to start.

Perhaps Uncinia uncinata - you have to admire the way this
plant spreads its seeds around
Piripiri or Bidibids belong to the Acaena family and only 2 species are common on Rakiura. The seedheads are cute little spheres which cling on to clothing and hair. They look simple to pick off but when you touch them they 'explode' into separate seedheads and stick like crazy!

I think this is Acaena anserinifolia - the leaves aren't as narrow
as Acaena novae-zelandiae
Bidibid seedhead - can you see the arrowhead tips?

What happens when you try to brush the 'sphere' off

Individual seeds holding on tight

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hatch your own kiwi

In April I picked up a kiwi egg from the shop at Pukeariki Museum in New Plymouth. You put it in water and keep watching. I hope I won't spoil the surprise by the addition of these photos - it was fun to watch the 'kiwi' hatch although it would have been nice if it looked a wee bit closer to the one on the box.

Front of box

Rear of box

After 24 hours and 48 hours

After 72 hours

After 96 hours

A hatched kiwi! A lot of interest for $6.90.

Shortest day

Isn't Winter a great time for reading! I've overindulged lately so my apologies for not blogging as often. I was hoping to get a few blogs up tonight but am having a wee tussle with the technology and have lost my drafts into a black hole. Fingers crossed that this one works!

The shortest day has been and gone; great to know that we are over the 'hump' and that the days will be lengthening. Statistics for 21 June down here were:
Sunrise: 8:31:45am
Sunset: 5:04:32pm
Minimum temperature: 2.8 deg C at 7:59am
Maximum temperature: 11.1 deg C at 2:10pm

The Stewart Island Department of Conservation Field Centre has had its roof replaced over the last fortnight. Although it wasn't always easy putting up with the banging and scraping, our lot was nowhere near as arduous as the roofers. Well done guys for surviving the cold and frosty weather.

Working shorter hours has given me time to go for some longer walks and there's always good opportunities for photos regardless of the weather. It's great having my Sony DSC-TX10 waterproof camera, not only is it small enough to pop in my pocket but it doesn't matter if a shower breezes through whilst I'm using it.

Looking across to Halfmoon Bay from Ringaringa Golf Course

NZ Stick Insect - Acanthoxyla spp

Close-up of this amazing critter

I've had some big frosts here and, if I hang my washing out on the porch, it's as stiff as a board in the morning! I'll leave you with a few pics of the iced-over mud puddles on my driveway which didn't thaw until a couple of days later!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Snow time

The Weather Gods gave us our first taste of snow last Tuesday night - cool temperatures and sleety rain during the day gave way to large blobs of the white stuff around 10pm giving this shot of my deck before I went to bed...

First snow 5 June 2012
Wednesday morning was fine and chilly and my driveway mud puddles were covered with a thick sheet of ice. I left home at 8.30am before the sun had made an appearance on my section giving this photo a particularly icy look:

It was hard to see the icy patches on the road so it was a slower walk to work than usual. Emma is teaching me how to conduct field trips for school groups that visit the island and Wednesday was the turn of the Garden Mound Track - a fun walk in the summer and even more so in the snow! Islanders set aside Garden Mound as a conservation area early in the piece so it has never been milled; huge rimu, rātā, miro and kāmahi dominate the forest and I saw an abundance of orchids. It was jolly cold up there but sights like these made up for it...

Snowy fungi

Emma in the snow

Lovely bush with giant trees

Great views from the lookout

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A walk in the rain

I had to prise myself away from reading mid-afternoon as needed to check my rat lines. The light showers of early morning had increased to more general rain throughout the day so it was an ideal time to take my new waterproof camera with me. I enjoy walking in the rain and good wet weather gear means that I stay pretty dry most of the time!

My first rat line was surprisingly clear of rats for the first 20 or so traps - I've been catching 2 or 3 there lately. A small male kiore was at trap 22 and then nothing for the rest of that line. I decided to climb down to the beach rather than go over part of the bank that has slipped in places - just as well I did otherwise I might have missed this magnificent rainbow stretching over Paterson Inlet.

Using the panorama function to capture the double rainbow

The section of sky under the rainbow was very light compared to the sky above and the rainbow stayed intense for about 30 seconds before fading. Magic!

I finished my second line by 5pm and then walked up over the hill back to the village. The light was fading fast - just good enought for one last photo of Halfmoon Bay.

Halfmoon Bay at dusk

Last chance to see

Wet wintry days are perfect for curling up in front of the fire with a good book and yesterday was no exception; my good book was 'Last Chance to See' by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. I've long been a Douglas Adams' fan and sadly miss his skills of combining serious information with humour to make us question our long-held beliefs.

The book recounts the authors' travels to visit endangered species such as the Komodo dragon lizard, Garamba National Park's white rhino, Yangtze river dolphin and New Zealand's kakapo. Each chapter tells the same dismal story of disappearing habitat, introduced predators and mankind's insatiable appetite for destruction; pretty depressing stuff so just as well Douglas Adams manages to balance the negative aspects with heroic stories of hard work and determination to prevent the extinction of these species.

A quote from the book that I'd like to share is when Douglas Adams is observing a silverback gorilla:
"I watched the gorilla's eyes again, wise and knowing eyes, and wondered about this business of trying to teach apes language. Our language. Why? There are many members of our own species who live in and with the forest and know it and understand it. We don't listen to them. What is there to suggest we would listen to anything an ape could tell us? Or that it would be able to tell us of its life in a language that hasn't been born of that life? I thought, maybe it is not that they have yet to gain a language, it is that we have lost one."

Mark Carwardine highlights the extent of the problem at the end of the book:
"For millions of years, on average, one species became extinct every century.
But most of the extinctions since prehistoric times have occurred in the last 300 years.
And most of the extinctions that have occurred in the last 300 years have occurred in the last 50.
And most of the extinctions that have occurred in the last 50 years have occurred in the last 10.
We are now heaving more than 1000 different species of animals and plants off the planet every year."

Please make some small contribution to slowing this rate, whether it be your time, a donation, vocal support or just becoming more aware of the species that we share this planet with.