Tuesday, January 22, 2013


This is an experiment to add a widget to link my observations on NatureWatch; apparently I copy and paste the text and voila...

That was easy!

I posted my first observation to NatureWatch this afternoon; it was easy to upload the photo and fill out the form and I ticked the box to get a definite identification. Great to get such a quick response and to confirm that it was a Garden Orbweb spider. It will make hunting out the small and fascinating even more interesting! I'll now have to find a photo of myself so that I don't look like Jacko, the toy monkey I had when I was young!

The NatureWatch website is a wee bit clunky but persevere with it and you will be rewarded with stunning photos and videos and a mine of information. Have a look at their Facebook page too at http://www.facebook.com/nzbrn

One of my favourite books to take in the bush is 'From Weta to Kauri - a guide to the New Zealand forest' by Janet Hunt and Rob Lucas. Its 192 pages are packed with most of the native flora and fauna that you are likely to see in the bush - insects, reptiles, birds, plants, vines, shrubs, trees, ferns, orchids and fungi. This would make a great starting point; the cheapest I've seen recently is on Fishpond (what a great website) for NZ$26.86 with free delivery http://www.fishpond.co.nz/Books/From-Weta-to-Kauri-Janet-Hunt-Rob-Lucas/9781869416553

I watched Campbell Live this evening that presented Gareth Morgan's take on a sinking lid policy for owning cats to give native birds a greater chance of survival. Before I did my environmental diploma I would have sided with the SPCA; sadly the truth is that our native birds need a huge boost to survive extinction and if this means being more responsible with pets, ie keeping them in at night, creating enclosed cat runs, putting double-bell collars on them, then is that such a big ask? I support  culling all feral cats but don't see how that can be effective unless greater controls are kept on domestic cats as well. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Second anniversary

They say that time flies when you're having fun but I can't believe that two years have gone since I moved here. Maybe time rockets by when you are living your dream! I am so lucky to be living here and learning about our unique environment - I wish I had started when I first arrived in New Zealand as our beautiful ngahere (native bush) holds so much treasure that it will take many decades to see it all.

Track trimming at Dancing Star - looking one way...
...and the other
Still, it's better late than never and I get so much enjoyment from spending time in the bush. It's so easy to only notice the big things - views, large trees, gullies and streams - but the small stuff really grabs my fancy. Take these Akatea, Metrosideros diffusa, white climbing rata flowers, for example. When the buds first open, they look like upside-down ballerinas with legs going in all directions...

...but give them a bit longer and the 'legs' straighten up and point to the sun.

Or how about the pattern on this huhu beetle, Prionoplus reticularis?

Check out the stinging hairs of our native scrub nettle, Urtica incisa - best to avoid all of the native nettles, great that they have distinctive leaves to warn you!

Next time you are walking through some native bush, take a look at a square metre of ground; count the different species that you see, note the shapes of leaves and the colours and textures. Can you see any blossoms or fruit? There's a new website called NatureWatch (http://naturewatch.org.nz) where you can explore what has been seen around your area, learn about native species and, if you want, record your own observations. There's a fantastic service offered where you can put up a photo of anything and ask for it to be identified - what a neat way to learn.

Changeable weather with hot days followed by hail, cool morning temperatures and quite a lot of rain have made it challenging for my vege gardening; some seeds are up but I think I'll need some sort of covering (plastic/glass) to get much of a harvest. Here's what it looked like this afternoon...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Summertime on Stewart Island

Happy New Year! I had a lovely holiday break which finished perfectly with a visit from family. Having 3 pairs of hands (and lots of knowledge!!) is so much easier than doing everything myself - I waste half the time trying to think how to do it, and the rest of the time trying to carry it out!

New Year's Day on the island was the wettest 24 hours for a long time with around 100mm rain. I had localised flooding around my property but it was minor compared to some other places; this is the top end of Hicks Road...

There's a road under there somewhere!

A major slip on Horseshoe Bay Road took half the road with it and the bank will need stabilising first so fixing it will be a major exercise. You realise how isolated you are on this island when events like this call for heavy machinery, engineering expertise and a load of building material. It's probably one of the busier sections of road and although it's possible to keep it one lane in the short term it's going to be a pain if it's not fixed soonish.

A few days later we were having the hottest day on record! It was a stunningly sunny day and it was great to have experts on hand to chainsaw the two trees close to the garage. After the hard slog we walked to the Bay for very welcome ice blocks and ginger beer.

Good to get these taller trees away from the garage
Halfmoon Bay on a scorching 33.1°C day
We had a good time on Ulva Island, the only South Island open bird sanctuary, did some sightseeing and took the Real Journeys Village and Bays guided bus tour - three nights just wasn't long enough to get round everywhere but plans are afoot to tramp the Northwest Circuit here in 2015.

Bathing Beach
A young fledgling toutouwai (robin) on Ulva Island
A great display of flowering rata
Close up of flowering rata
Two new additions have appeared on my section; firstly a TipTop ice-cream cabinet that was in one of the clearings - it's now been carried out of the bush and I'll use it as a seed cabinet. Secondly, I've built a large compost heap so now have a mini-Mt Taranaki close to home!

Anyone for an ice-cream?
Halfway through building a compost heap
I needed to call on the expert this week when the waterpump didn't turn off despite all taps being off. Rex has fitted a new one way valve section to the intake side and (touch wood) everything is going sweetly again. I've learned a lot about water pumps in the process too. The builders turned up at the same time to replace the roof nails with the proper roofing screws so shouldn't have a repeat of the roof leak I had last year, luckily before the ceiling was painted.

My waterpump
Jarrod's crew replacing the roofing nails with roofing screws
Never a dull moment on the island; what a great place to live!