Monday, May 26, 2014

Blowin' in the wind

It's been an 'interesting' week weather-wise and several people, including me, are wishing we could turn the clock back from 9.27am yesterday so we could unplug our computer equipment to avoid an expensive power surge. The lightning strike/s apparently blew up a transformer, took out most electronic equipment that was on at the time, even those plugged into surge-protectors. My older computer was zapped and although I have a backup from April, it will be both time-consuming and difficult if there's more damage than just a blown power supply.

Our settled run of weather ended last Tuesday with a very wet 24 hours; the rain pelted down without a let-up resulting in some spectacular sounds as small trickles became raging torrents. It's unusual to get a day of solid rain here, usually it's showers breezing over with fine periods inbetween.

The DOC Visitor Centre looked more like a castle with a moat

Above and below: this is normally a wee trickle

Black Bridge at the bottom of Back Road - normally you can see most of
the large culvert
Tuesday's rain gave way to showers and gusty winds but the real wintry blast waited for the weekend when horizontal rain, hail and snow flurries came to visit. I didn't venture far from a nice cosy house with the fire lit. I thought it was perfect weather to catch up on converting a Microsoft Works spreadsheet to Excel until the lightning strike, surge and power cut put paid to that idea.

It was a social week for me; I went to the 'Wheel of Experience' show on Tuesday night, braving the dark and roaring waters and fortunately managing to walk down to the village and back in the dry. 'Wheel of Experience' tells historical stories through song and all 3 performers were excellent musicians - some of the instruments were intriguing; my favourite sound was from a cigar box slide guitar.

The set

l-r Dave, David and Peter get ready for the second half of the show

Cigar box slide guitar - what a great sound
My other social event was to visit friends for home-made pizza and to watch 'Life of Pi' on a large-screen 3D TV. What a lovely movie and even better seeing it in 3D where I could almost catch the fish as they swam round the life raft. Maybe I could hibernate my way through Winter with a stash of
books and a pile of DVDs :).

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Photo time - berries

You'd think that identifying plants by their different coloured berries would be easy but I've pored over a number of books and still can't make up my mind on some of them. It shows me how much I still have to learn about the diversity of our native ngahere (forest).

I know this one! Fruit of tātarāmoa, Rubus cissoides, bush lawyer

Possibly one of the Coprosma family

Beautiful Nertera ground cover. I need to crush one of the berries - if it is
unpleasant smelling then it's Nertera depressa; if it doesn't smell then
it's Nertera cunninghamii

Another Coprosma

Weeping māpou, Myrsine divaricata

Masses of berries on this Myrsine divaricata

Paler variant of Myrsine divaricate. Hugh Wilson's book, 'Field Guide
Stewart Island Plants' states that the fruits 'are berry-like, bright purple,
sometimes paler and rarely white'

Nohi, Luzuriaga parviflora, Lantern berry
I'm hoping to do a Plant Identification course in early July which will make it easier to understand the terminology used - as you can see from the following description of Lantern berry, there's a lot more to it than you'd think:

Description of Luzuriaga parviflora (Hook.f.) Kunth (1850)
Wiry, low-growing, semi-herbaceous perennial. Stem creeping at base, occ. 50 cm. long; internodes 2–4–(6) cm. long; nodes with scarious scales and short roots, giving off arcuate aerial branching twigs 4–25 cm. long; lower nodes of each branch with a brown scale in place of a lf, the lowest scale us. shortly tubular; new branches arising mostly in axils of these scales, rarely from axils of green lvs. Stem 4-angled, c. 1 mm. diam., the lvs alternate and distichous in zigzag pattern; each twig of limited growth with 4–12 green lvs, at intervals of 4–10–(20) mm., the uppermost internode so short that the last 2 lvs appear opp. Lvs 7–27 × 3–6–(10) mm., ± oblong, very shortly apiculate; margin entire; petiole very short and twisted so that the smooth, green, slightly keeled abaxial surface faces up to the light (resupinate); adaxial surface ± concave, the spaces between the main nerves notably pale and less smooth; 1–2 nerves on each side of midrib connected by several irregular, ± obvious transverse veins. Fls solitary and terminal between paired uppermost lvs; occ. 1 or 2 of next lower lvs also subtending fls. Fl.-bud, protected by c. 3 scale lvs, rests all winter before the pedicel elongates to 3–5 mm., and fl. develops and opens. Per. nodding; tepals c. 8–18 mm. long, opaque white; outer tepals c. 3 mm. wide with one mid-vein giving off side branches; inner tepals slightly wider, with band of 3 main veins, the mid-vein unbranched. Stamens much <tepals; filaments barely = ovary, little flattened, narrowed above; anther dorsifixed just below middle, versatile but mostly standing erect. Ovary 2.5 mm. long; style 2.5 mm.; ovules 2–3 per locule. Fr. c. 1 cm. diam., sub-globose, shortly apiculate, white, fleshy. Seeds c. 2.5 × 2 mm., pale, very hard. 2n = 20.
[From: Moore and Edgar (1970) Flora of New Zealand. Volume 2.]

Not quite berries - I'm very proud of the tomato crop I grew from seed!
I'll start them much earlier next Spring as they ran out of sunshine
this year but I'm still thrilled that I got any red ones.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Photo time - fungi

Autumn is fungi and berry time - and it was the berries that made me spot a new weed, a tall, fruiting Cotoneaster a metre away from the boundary track that I've walked most days for the last 18 months! It was a good excuse to spend the rest of the afternoon zig-zagging my way through the half hectare of bush and taking in the wonders that temperate rainforest offers.

Cotoneaster is a native of Asia but it is fast becoming a problem-weed here now that the birds have a taste for the berries. When I was on the weeds team, we found dense thickets near houses and enough Cotoneaster seedlings in native bush to suggest that it likes Stewart Island as much as I do. I only found the one plant on my section and will keep an eagle eye out for it from now on. I also pulled out more Darwin's barberry - I swear it grows 10 new seedlings for every one I remove.

I found treasure during my search - Autumn means fungi time!!

What a cutie

Brown fungi amongst the liverwort

Impossibly long stems

A family of ?Mycena interrupta - blue-eyed helmets with their
distinctive basal cup base???

Side view

Weraroa virescens - spindle pouch
There are heaps of these through the bush

How about a green one for a change?

Another greenie close by

A family of puffballs

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Looking around

Our run of settled weather continues - a bit of rain here and there, some sunshine inbetween and mild temperatures combine to make walking a very pleasurable activity. Looks like the rats have been up to other activities as I've been catching a number of juveniles around the boundary traps. The expected rat explosion after an excellent fruiting season has started with 5 rats caught in the last week, compared to a total of 15 for the first 4 months of the year. I'm using Nutella in half the traps and dark chocolate drops in the other half; so far there's no clear-cut bait winner with numbers split evenly.

The bonus of checking my rat traps daily means that I get to see the delicate fungi that only last a day and I see who/what else has walked the track after they leave their prints in the mud. Here's a few pics from the last week...

A delicate blue-tinged jelly-stemmed helmet

Fresh kiwi poo on the boundary track - the pink berry is a miro fruit
Devil's Matchstick or Scarlet Pixie Cup, Cladonia floerkeana - the apothecia
(red fruiting bodies) are just starting to develop

Cladonia floerkeana - a fructose lichen, I think
the stalk bit is called podetia
Cladonia floerkeana - Close-up of apothecia

Moss on tree stump

A bright orange gill fungi

Another gill fungi, a more subdued orange

Not sure what these are - one for NatureWatch

A dead spider in one of the traps
After so much looking down, it's good to stretch the neck muscles and look up...

Double rainbow 6 May 2014
Amazing cloud formation that stayed like this for over an hour 11 May 14

Sunset 11 May 14

Monday, May 12, 2014

I've been thinking...

I've had an introspective month; I finished the third book of 'The Owner' trilogy by Neal Asher, set in the 22nd century, where one man takes on the might of global governance. Although it's set 135 years in the future there are enough similarities in the way the world's progressing now with its growing population, decreasing resources and the widening gulf between the rich and the 'zero assets' group. It's a brutal and thought-provoking series; at the start of every chapter, Asher has an italicised paragraph that sets the tone - here's an example from the second book of the trilogy, 'Zero Point'...

'Back in the twenty-first century, a technological singularity did not just seem possible, it seemed inevitable; but those booting up their computer models of human technological development neglected one critical force: the power of human stupidity. For technology to develop so fast that it goes beyond the ability of humans to model it, the underlying bedrock of science must be rigorous and stable. Yet, even in that century, science was becoming unduly influenced by political thought and execrable creations like post-normal science. Science itself began to break down when Karl Popper's dictum of falsifiability was abandoned in favour of faith, and when funding for it became wholly controlled by political expediency. Scientific thought stagnated when the scientists themselves became frightened to pursue lines of research that led them away from whatever consensus happened to be the love child of the politicians who controlled the funding. They became merely puppets producing the results required of them, distorting their research to fit, taking their thirty pieces of silver and crying in their laboratories; dwarfs scuttling away from the shadows of giants like Feynman and Dyson.'

It will be scary when real life mirrors the science fiction I've been reading; when those that speak up get replaced by those willing to toe the line, and corruption displaces moral and ethical behaviour - or has it happened already!

There was a stack of housework to do when I finished reading so what did I do? A jigsaw puzzle of course!! Great for the brain to mull over the complexities of humankind and it rekindled memories of my childhood. We had the 'Book of the Flower Fairies' by Cicely Mary Barker and at times my big sister would let us choose one of the pictures and she'd make the outfit for us to dress up in. I can't remember which ones I chose but this one (Canterbury Bells) looked familiar. I've just googled the book and see that a brand new edition (link opens in new window) was released by Penguin a couple of weeks ago; amazing for a book to have appeal to so many generations (first published in 1923).

The last cruise ship of the season came last week - The World (link opens in new window) is a 196m privately-owned cruise ship where owners of the 165 residences travel the globe, stopping in ports for a few nights and enjoying onboard entertainment such as cooking and photography classes, a full-size tennis court and putting greens. It sort of looked out of place in Halfmoon Bay but the residents that came into the Visitor Centre were lovely - I hope they enjoyed what Stewart Island had to offer.

The World at anchor in Halfmoon Bay

Looking over the rooftops - the two-storied pub on the left, the green
medical centre on the right
At the other end of the spectrum was a visit a few days later by the waka, Haunui. This waka is retracing ancient voyages and is being navigated without modern technology. Read about it's arrival in Bluff on the Stuff website here (opens in new window).

The beautiful low tech waka, Haunui