23 de junio de 2024

What a year for species - my highlights of 2023.

As 2023 has come to a close I thought I would create a journal post highlighting some of the areas of Aotearoa I have explored this year and some of the species I have encountered. 2023 has been an amazing year for me to see many areas of the North and South Island, including a more remote location 800 kilometers from New Zealand; Rēkohu/Chatham Islands.

Between the 1st of January 2023 and to 31st of December 2023, I have explored some incredible places observing 2,050 species, which has been extraordinary. Some of my most common species observed were plants, insects, arachnids, fungi, and birds with some of my favourites shared throughout this journal post. In no particular order, I have documented some of the areas of Aotearoa I have visited and shared some of the species that I think were interesting records for these areas.

Ōtautahi - Christchurch

Living in Ōtautahi - Christchurch for five years while studying has been the perfect combination of being close enough to the mountains for weekend adventures and having such a diverse urban ecology on my doorstep. This includes many places in Christchurch including estuarine habitats, remnant native bush, exotic woodlands, lakes, wetlands, botanical gardens and even gravel pits can host some interesting species. A few interesting species found I found in Christchurch are listed below.

Kāruhiruhi - New Zealand Pied Shag
(Phalacrocorax varius various)

Kererū - New Zealand Pigeon
(Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae novaeseelandiae)

Dwarf Mistletoe
(Korthalsella lindsayi)

Totara Aphid
(Neophyllaphis totarae)

New Zealand Sacred Kingfisher
(Todiramphus sanctus ssp. vagans)

Pūteketeke - Crested Grebe
(Podiceps cristatus)

Sunflowers & Bombus
In addition to all the cool native species,
there is still beauty in some exotics such as these
Sunflowers I grew with plenty of Bombus visitors.

Whistling Tree Frog
(Litoria ewingii)
found in Barnett Park, although introduced still rather cute!

Rēkohu/Chatham Islands

The Chatham Islands, located about 800 kilometers east of New Zealand's South Island, form an isolated archipelago renowned for their unique biodiversity and rich cultural history. Comprising one main island, Chatham Island, and several smaller ones including Pitt Island, the region is home to a variety of endemic flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth. The landscapes of the Chatham Islands are diverse, ranging from rugged coastlines and sandy beaches to expansive wetlands and rolling hills. The islands hold significant cultural importance to the Moriori people, who settled there around 1500 years ago and developed a distinct way of life deeply connected to the land and sea.
I was lucky enough to visit the Chatham Islands at the beginning of October! On a trip organised by Lloyd Elser accompanied by many other naturalists. Although our trip was cut short one day by the treacherous weather delaying our flight we made the most of our time on the island!

Chatham Island Christmas Tree
(Brachyglottis huntii)

Chatham Island Māhoe
(Melicytus chathamicus)

Chatham Islands Forget-Me-Not
Myosotidium hortensium

Chatham Oystercatcher
(Haematopus chathamensis)

Sand Buttercup (Ranunculus acaulis) being
pollinated by a Blossom Fly (Dilophus nigrostigma)

(Corynocarpus laevigatus)

Chatham Island Akeake

(Olearia traversiorum)

One of the largest known Daisys in the world - The Chatham Island Tree Daisy/Akeake. The tree is endemic to the Chatham Islands where I was lucky enough to wander through these incredible forests. It naturally occurs along the coast of the island but makes up parts of lowland forests (such as

this one here within Henga Scenic Reserve). Flowering usually occurs from November to January, but we were lucky to see some budburst on a few of the trees along the trail.

Te Pataka o Rakaihautū - Banks Peninsula

Port Hills

Featuring Muehlenbeckia complexa

Ngā Kohatu Whakarakaraka o Tamatea Pōkai Whenua – Port Hills are often the one-stop shop for many outdoor enthusiasts in Christchurch. Often looked over by some are the interesting flora and fauna that remain. Parts of the Port Hills were deforested with colonisation but there are still patches of bush that remain on the hills and support many endemic species. Key patches of forest on the Hills that I have explored have included, Omahu

Bush, Kennedys Bush, Thomas Scenic Reserve, Victoria Park and many areas along the Summit Road. On the Port Hills in 2023 I often encountered Kererū (New Zealand Pigeon) feeding in Tree Lucerne (Chamaecytisus prolifer), cicadas providing a strong chorus such as Kikihia subalpine, Wide-banded Tiger Beetles (Neocicindela latecincta) scurrying on the open clay banks and off course not to forget the endless mats of Muehlenbeckia weaved on the slopes of the hills.

Okains Bay

Lycaena species found in the Bay

Okains Bay, nestled on the Banks Peninsula of New Zealand's South Island, is not only a place of natural beauty but also steeped in rich history and cultural significance. The bay takes its name from John Okains, an early European settler who arrived in the mid-19th century and established a farming community here. Before European settlement,

Okains Bay was inhabited by Māori who valued its fertile lands and abundant seafood resources. In 2023 I had my first venture to Okains Bay/Kawatea for an Environmental Science Club event taking part in the City Nature Challenge 2023. This was chosen to be one of the locations to complete part of the bio blitz to bring in different ways of observing such as beachcombing, rock pooling and exploring the dunes. For this area we mainly explored the beach, leaving much of the estuary to explore at a later date.

Saddle Hill Scenic Reserve

Lancewood (Pseudopanax crassifolius)

Saddle Hill Reserve, located just off Bossu Road on the way to the Southern Bays of Banks Peninsula. This reserve has incredible floral species, rich in Kānuka (Kunzea sp) and Horoeka (Pseudophanax crassifolius) where it ascends into Red Tussock grasslands (Chionochloa rubra) with scattered Golden Spaniards (Aciphylla aurea). I was lucky enough at the end of 2023 to be part of some research in this area which has unlocked some amazing discoveries! This experience not only deepened my appreciation for the natural wonders of Banks Peninsula but also highlighted the importance of conservation efforts in preserving such pristine environments for future generations.

Kaitorete Spit - Birdlings Flat

Dune System

Pīngao (Ficinia spiralis)

The dune system on Kaitorete Spit, located on the eastern coast of New Zealand's South Island, is largely composed of Pīngao (Ficinia spiralis) easily recognisable by its striking yellow-orange foliage. Pīngao, a golden sand-binding sedge, plays a crucial role in stabilising the dunes and

preventing erosion with its extensive root systems. The Kaitorete Spit dunes, shaped and secured by Pīngao, support a diverse range of fauna such as the Katipō spiders. This coastal ecosystem also supports a variety of other native species, including the hardy Matagouri (Discaria toumatou) and the New Zealand Daphne (Pimelea prostrata), a low-growing shrub that adds to the area's botanical diversity.

(Discaria toumatou)

New Zealand Daphne
(Pimelea prostrata)

(Latrodectus katipo)

Lewis Pass

Lewis Pass, a scenic mountain pass in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, is home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna. Among the alpine vegetation, the delicate Dwarf Gentians (Gentianella species) add a splash of vibrant colour to the landscape with their small, intricate blooms. These plants thrive in the high-altitude, rocky terrain, alongside the iconic South Island Edelweiss (Leucogenes grandiceps), whose white, woolly flowers stand as a symbol of endurance and purity in the harsh mountain environment. The ecological tapestry of Lewis Pass is further enriched by the presence of an unidentified weevil from the Curculionidae family, a group known for its remarkable diversity and adaptability. This weevil, although not yet fully classified, plays a crucial role in the local ecosystem, contributing to the intricate web of interactions that sustain the unique biodiversity of this alpine region.

Dwarf Gentians
(Gentianella species)

Unidentified Weevil

South Island Edelweiss
(Leucogenes grandiceps)

Lake Rotopounamu

Lake Rotopounamu, located in New Zealand's North Island, is a tranquil spot surrounded by native bush. During my visit, I had the exciting experience of photographing the Pōpokotea, or Whitehead (Mohoua albicilla), for the first time. These small birds, which help control insect populations, were a highlight of the trip. The forest around the lake is also home to towering Mataī trees (Prumnopitys taxifolia) and the unique Kidney Fern (Hymenophyllum nephrophyllum), both adding to the area's rich biodiversity.

Pōpokotea - Whitehead
(Mohoua albicilla)

(Prumnopitys taxifolia)

Raurenga - Kidney Fern
(Hymenophyllum nephrophyllum)


Kahu & Raupō

Circus approximans & Typha orientalis

Tokaanu, a small settlement located near the southern shores of Lake Taupō in New Zealand, is notable for its rich natural environment, including the expansive Raupō Swamp. This wetland area is characterized by the dense growth of raupō, or bulrush, which provides a crucial habitat for a variety of wildlife. Among the most striking

sights in the swamp is the Kahu/swamp harrier gliding effortlessly over the raupō, hunting Pukeko. The swamp is also home to the North Island Mātātā/fernbird, a species that is typically seen scrambling through dense vegetation. Just down the road from the swamp are Tokaanu's thermal springs, another natural wonder of the region. These geothermal areas support unique flora, including sundews and orchids, which flourish in the nutrient-rich, warm soils. The springs offer a stark contrast to the cooler, water-saturated environment of the swamp, yet both are integral parts of Tokaanu's diverse ecological landscape.

Tall Sundew
(Drosera auriculata)

North Island Mātātā/fernbird
(Poodytes punctatus vealeae)

Onion Orchid
(Microtis species - potentially parviflora)

Arthurs Pass

Hawdon Valley

To Hawdon Hut

Hawdon Valley is just a short distance out of Arthurs Pass Village. This valley is rich in beech forest carved by the meandering Hawdon River. Following the river up the valley, you can reach Hawdon Hut, nested between Mount Valiant and Mountian Wilson. Within the beech forest along the track, there is regular trapping of invasive predators which helps the bird

species in the area thrive. In this area is it possible to see Mohua (Mohoua ochrocephala) Kākāriki karaka (Cyanoramphus malherbi), Kākāriki kowhai (Cyanoramphus auriceps), Kakaruai/South Island Robin (Petroica australis), Miromiro/Tomtit (Petroica macrocephala), Kea (Nestor notabilis) and Whio/Blue duck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos)

(Notothlaspi rosulatum)

Mountain Wineberry
(Aristoteilia fruticosa)

Scarlet Snowberry
(Gaultheria crassa

Scree Pea
(Montigena novae-zelandiae)

Matagouri Plains

(Discaria toumatou)

The Matagouri (tūmatakuru) Plains in Arthur's Pass, New Zealand, present a striking and rugged landscape characterised by these endemic shrubs. Matagouri, also known as "wild Irishman," is a thorny shrub endemic to New Zealand, thriving in the dry, stony soils of these plains. This hardy plant dominates the terrain, creating a dense and spiky carpet adapted to the region's harsh conditions. This shrub also provides

important nectar sources for tachinidae flies which parasitise New Zealand Grass Grub, a native pest scarab beetle. Within the Alps there is Mountain Stone Wētā (Hemideina maori), a remarkable insect adapted to the cold alpine environment. This large, flightless orthopteran insect is known for its impressive ability to survive freezing temperatures. Birds Nest Fungi (Nidula species), which resemble tiny bird nests filled with eggs where its mycelium decomposes organic matter. The Southern Alps Gecko (Woodworthia southern alps), a resilient and nocturnal reptile, thrives in the rocky outcrops and scree slopes, where it finds refuge and preys on small insects.

Mountian Stone Wētā
(Hemideina maori)

Bird Nest Fungi
(Nidula species)

Sourthern Alps Gecko
(Woodworthia southern alps)

Bay of Plenty

Pōhutukawa - Mount Maunganui

(Metrosideros excelsa)

Pōhutukawa, also known as the New Zealand Christmas Tree. Around December and January, this stunning tree in the Myrtle Family (Myrtaeceae) can be seen almost everywhere in Aotearoa but its natural range being the North Island and northern South Island. Mount Maunganui just out of Tauranga is a prime example of the

immense flowering that can occur providing nectar sources for many different species. This tree is also a renowned cliff-dweller - while taking a walk around the mountain you can see how these trees cling to the mountain face overhanging the ocean where it conveniently creates nesting habitat for the Pied Cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius). Although I was a regular visitor to Mount Maunganui throughout my childhood, this was my first time seeing the colony!

Pied Cormorant,
with chick in the nest, not quite ready,
to leave the nest!

Juvinile Pied Cormorant,
anticipating first flight

Juvinile Pied Cormorant,
practising flying between Pohutakawa branches

Ōhope Beach, located on the eastern coast of New Zealand's North Island, is a scenic and biodiverse haven that attracts both wildlife and visitors. Among the notable species that inhabit this coastal area is the Northern New Zealand Dotterel (Anarhynchus obscurus aquilonius), a small shorebird classified as Nationally Vulnerable in New Zealand (NZTCS). The beach also serves as a vital nesting ground for the Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia), the largest of the tern species, recognisable by its robust build, bright red bill, and loud, harsh calls. Adding to the diversity is the Leopard Slug (Limax maximus), an introduced species that thrives in moist environments.

Northern New Zealand Dotterel
(Anarhynchus obscurus aquilonius)

Caspian Tern
(Hydroprogne caspia)

Leopard Slug
(Limax maximus

Southland - Gore - Riverton

My first trip to “the bottom of the middle of the South Island” staying in Gore and Riverton. Our stay in Gore was spectacular weather where we had the most perfect view of the Hokonui Hills and explored the area of Dolamore Park littered with Kereu and Fantail. This park also had some interesting botanical finds, including Kaihua or New Zealand Jasmine Parsonsia heterophylla in full bloom and New Zealand Mountain Greenhood Pterostylis montana which is an orchid endemic to New Zealand where it was found growing in a small colony.
Further South out of Riverton we visited Colac Bay/Ōraka out on the Peninsula where we had a quick swim and were lucky enough to come across a singular Spotted shag/pārekareka (Phalacrocorax punctatus). These shags are known to carry small rocks in their gizzard where this is through to either help the birds grind food or create an inhospitable environment for gut parasites. Later that day we explored the Pourakino River Mouth in Taramea Bay at low tide where we captured the South Island Oystercatcher (Haematopus finschi) feeding on the mudflats.

South Island Pied Oystercatcher
(Haematopus finschi)

Spotted Shag
(Phalacrocorax punctatus)

New Zealand Mountian Greenhood
(Pterostylis montana)

Kaihua - New Zealand Jasmin
(Parsonsia heterophylla)

Jounal post note

This journal post took much longer to produce than I intended (starting it back in Janurary), which has led to it being published halfway through the year. Through balancing my Master's Thesis and learning HTML in my spare time to make this post look good, I have finally been able to produce this. On top of that, I didn't consider how many amazing places and species I had seen and I found it hard to choose what to include. So although, this post highlights some of the best parts, there was still so much to share. Thank you to everyone I meet on my 2023 excursions and I hope to see many of you in the future. :)

J. Palmer

23rd June 2024

iNaturalist jupal04 Year in Review

Publicado el 23 de junio de 2024 a las 06:59 AM por jupal04 jupal04 | 2 comentarios | Deja un comentario

28 de septiembre de 2023

Biodiversity of Omori & Pukawa

Omori & Pukawa is a small settlement on the Southwestern side of Lake Taupō. This species-rich location is often bypassed as people make their way North or South along SH1 towards Taupō. Although this settlement has remained isolated, it is almost a blessing, allowing large patches of native forest to thrive supporting a multitude of invertebrate and vertebrate taxa.

This settlement is a location of special significance to me as I spent my childhood growing up in the Taupō region. As a child, I was naive about the flora and fauna in this location. It was not until the past few years that I began to discover the treasures of this small lakeside remnant. I have come to realise how much more there is to learn and discover within this area.

The forest within the Omori settlement consists of mixed podocarp forests including Rimu, Miro, Mataī and Tōtara. Tall Māhoe and Kōtukutuku are also prominent within the canopy. Further understory and edge species include Kāmahi, Puahou, and Kōhūhū with a dense lower canopy of ponga ferns, Rangiora, Kawakawa, Rewarewa and Porokaiwhiri just to name a few! The forest floor is covered in a soft bryophyte carpet and you can even find the hemiparasite Tupia within these forests. Through the bush, you weave down to the lakeside to find the perfect sheltered spot for a swim.

Within these forests live a plethora of invertebrate taxa ranging from ground-dwelling springtails to arboreal tree spiders. Notable species within this area are Titiwai (New Zealand Glowworm), Enantiobuninae (Harvestmen), Millipeds (Umastigonus), Degithina davidi, Segestriidae (Tunnel Spiders), Pūriri moth and North Island Lichen Moth. Although my opinion of notable species may be subjective, it is important to acknowledge the diversity of other invertebrates in this area such as molluscs, Orthoptera, Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Blattodea.

Of course not to forget the avian fauna of Omori & Pukawka. Home to the dawn chorus. Awoken by Korimako and Tūī, where the Kererū makes its appearance in the late morning. Walking through the forests you are always trailed by erratic flying pīwakawaka and glimpses of tauhou and welcome swallow. The native avian fauna is dominant in this area, but also closely followed by the abundance of introduced quails, green finchs and blackbirds.

Omori & Pukawa is a biodiversity haven which I hope is sustained and thrives into the future for others to enjoy and appreciate. This story acknowledges some of New Zealand's important taxa, but this does not go without saying; that this area is not resilient to change. Exotic species have still spread into certain areas of the forest. Invasive plants include Himalayan honeysuckle, willows, and blackberry which smoother some areas of the forest. In addition, German yellowjacket wasps, wild European rabbits and undoubtedly other predatory mammals flourish in this area. Despite these challenges, Omori & Pukawa's natural allure remains intact, sustaining a diverse range of species.

Through the knowledge that has been passed down to me, I hope to find Northern Kōura and Kōaro within the streams which were known to be abundant back in the 1950s as well as the remaining Herpetofauna and many more invertebrates.

First journal post, hope it came out alright :).
28th September 2023

In memory of Bryan Fedrick Hayes.

Publicado el 28 de septiembre de 2023 a las 08:47 AM por jupal04 jupal04 | 80 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario