Friday 9 September 2011

Back to work

So it's time to get back into some bird survey work now that I am home, and with the weather the way it is to be honest that isn't too hard a task!  The last couple of days have been spent with herpetologist researchers Trent Bell and Sarah Herbert from 'Ecogecko Consultants' as we are both working on the same project with Hawkes Bay Regional Council and MWH to assess the Tukituki River Catchment for ecological values...they of course are doing the herps and I'm doing the birds.

So on Wednesday we headed to the back of Te Mata peak where they had already placed lizard 'houses' out and we checked them again.  It was a good start with several common geckos, but things petered out a little.  They had seen much more earlier in the year, so perhaps the cold weather has meant the critters were not as easy to detect.  Anyway, got to see a few and take a few photos with my new 100mm 2.8 macro lens.  Loving it, but unfortunately didn't have the adapter ring I needed to use the MT-24 flash head I've bought, so just using ambient light.  Of course got home and found it had been delivered and was in my mail box!  It was of course the most overcast morning we have had of late.  Nevermind, some nice shots anyway.  Not a lot in the way of birds around, just the usual farmland suspects.

That afternoon caught up with Aaron and Sarah, Aaron runs Wild Earth Travel from Christchurch so it was great to catch up with them.  Spent the afternoon chatting and also visited a few local spots including Te Mata peak, heading up to the top.  Stunning afternoon with lovely shadows and light on the hills.

Then yesterday we headed to the Silver Range, a fairly iconic Hawkes Bay location, is a hogsback ridge composed of alternating sandstones and mudstones, and has some unusual shrubland remnants, as well as some well vegetated stream valleys nearby.  So Trent had previously been there and set up lizard 'houses' and they wanted to survey those, whilst I was interested in learning what birds were about.  A beaut sunny blue sky morning, so a cracking day to be out and about.  We surveyed the lizard sites and found some great invertebrates, but no lizards.  This time the flash was able to be used, so my first real use of the flash and macro setup.  The results I'm sure will get better, but as a first attempt they are not too bad!  There were a lot of birds around including the usual common natives such as tui, bellbird, pigeon, grey warbler and fantail.  Encouraging to see the smaller insectivores as the really cold snap with a lot of snow recently would have been a tough time for them.  Obviously they pulled through in this area.

Spectacular views, sunshine, and interesting photographic subjects, what more do you need!

Trent and Sarah working hard!

The eastern face of Te Mata peak's limestone bluffs

Trent examining geckos capture from under the covers

Neonate common gecko (probably around 6 months old)

Not just geckos under the covers, queen German wasps were also sheltering from the winter, note the wings and antennae tucked out of the way to avoid damage.

Trent and Sarah checking the covers

Sarah showing off a neonate common gecko found under the covers

View along the eastern face of Te Mata peak

One of the lizard covers

Limestone bluffs with cattle for scale...yes those black dots are cattle

Trent inspecting the covers

A sudden mist bank appears...and it disappeared again within minutes

Adult common gecko

Adult common gecko

I"m gonna get you!

View of Mt Erin from Te Mata peak

Te Mata Peak views

Mt Erin in the distance

Working dogs tied up against the fence

Had enough, time for a snooze

Some of the vegetated stream gullies near Silver Range

Black tunnel web spider, about 70mm from tip of forelegs to end of hind

Looking up towards Silver Range - note the bare sandstone faces

Possible Carabid beetle found under a cover

Female vagrant spider found under a cover, another large spider common in the NZ bush

Closeup of the vagrant spider

Male tree weta, possibly Hawkes Bay tree weta

Very unusual dorso-ventrally flattened spider found under a cover, quite large with body length of around 20-25mm

Willow leaves 'springing'

Looking south along the Silver Range

Trent and Sarah on the Range

Sandstone bluffs

Sandstone bluffs with flax, kowhai and Olearia shrubland

Sun orchid of some sort Actually it is just a weed! Purple-eyed grass (Sissyrinchium iridifolium)

Donkeys looking unamused

Prime beef!



  1. thanks for posting this Brent, I had no idea there was gecko's close to me.
    Are they mainly found on the tukituki river side of the peak or on the other side.
    I have been meaning to get out there and photograph some geckos.

  2. Tokiko said
    beautiful piece of scenery,Mt.Erin is nice ! and gentle donkeys,adult gecko is stern face. your annotate is nice,funny ! you are great !!!.

  3. Awesome pics, Brent
    Trent & Sarah

  4. Thanks Trent, Sarah, and Tokiko! The photos turned out ok considering that first day at Te Mata Peak was overcast and cloudy.
    Tim, email me directly and we can chat.