A little glimpse of Paradise

A little glimpse of Paradise

A few weeks back my partner and I were very fortunate to have been invited onto Mahakirau Forest Estate on the Coromandel peninsula.

The purpose of the visit was to locate and photograph some Archeys frogs. Unfortunately due to the dry hot weather we have experienced this summer, my timing was a little off and conditions were not conducive for locating these little gems. However, I am ever so grateful to Sara from Mahakirau for showing us around and allowing us to meet a few of the other local wildlife stars that have made this place home including (with much excitement) one of NZ’s last remaining frog species, the Hochstetters frog.

 The Mahakirau Forest Estate comprises almost 600 hectares of native forest divided into 24 private properties with introduced animal and plant controls. 

Mahakirau Forest Estate Society Incorporated is undertaking pest control (to protect and restore biodiversity) on behalf of all member landowners.  The Society are a highly motivated and active group of individuals driven by the desire to protect and enhance the Coromandel and New Zealand’s natural environment, and in particular, its threatened species.

Their hard work is paying off as is evident from the wide ranging plant and animal species that are making this environment their home. This includes extremely rare Northern striped gecko, Hochstetter’s and Archey’s frogs, North Island kaka and North Island brown kiwi, alongside significant indigenous vegetation. Helms butterflies, painted cave weta and longfin eel have also all been found in the estate. There are strong resident populations of kereru, tui, bellbird, fantail, tomtit, silver eye, grey warbler, kingfisher, morepork and shining cuckoo.

 We were fortunate enough to come across the following wildlife……

Northern Striped Gecko (Toropuku “Coromandel”)

The Northern striped gecko is considered to be New Zealand’s rarest and most elusive reptile, and possibly one of the world’s rarest gecko. 

Discovered in 1997 on the Coromandel Peninsula, they are nocturnal and well camouflaged by their stripes and colour, which hopefully will mean they will slowly increase in numbers in this little pocket of the Coromandel.

This little guy has now been catalogued and named ‘Otis’.

Hochstetters frog (Leiopelma hochstetteri)

The Hochstetter’s frog is the most widespread of the remaining four New Zealand native frogs and has been sighted around the upper half of the North Island, including at Waipu, Great Barrier Island, the Coromandel, central North Island, and the Raukumara Ranges.

It has partially webbed feet and has more warts than our other native frogs. They are nocturnal, staying under refugia during the day. Hochstetter’s frog prefers moist gaps under shaded debris, like rocks and logs and along streams and seepages. They are carnivorous, preying on invertebrates such as spiders, beetles, and mites.

Hochstetter’s frogs can live to 30 years old. Adults do not breed until they are three years old, laying up to 20 eggs each season.

Under the New Zealand Threat Classification scheme, the Hochsetter’s frog is listed as “At risk–Declining”.

Weta & Stick insects

The Wetas were rather spectacular in size and you can’t help but stand and stare in awe of these ancient dinosaur-era type insects.

We were also treated to varying sizes of stick insects whilst wandering around.

Several different spider species were also observed but I refrained from photographing these, although they were quite pretty in their own right (from a distance).

This really is a beautiful little piece of New Zealand paradise and was an insight into how New Zealand may have been in the past prior to human interference and the decline of many of New Zealand’s precious flora and fauna.

I am full of gratitude to the wonderful land owners who are investing so much of their time, money and energy into protecting and trying to re-establish some of the species that are threatened and diminishing elsewhere in NZ.  Knowing that there are pockets of Hochstetters and Archeys frogs in this bush area gives me hope that there may be other little unknown pockets of them also surviving elsewhere in the NZ bush.

I am so very thankful that this wildlife has such amazing guardians, who are looking after them and endeavoring to help them survive and flourish. I cannot thank Sara and the other landowners enough for sharing their slice of paradise with us, and allowing me to tick another New Zealand frog off my bucket list 🙂

If you would like to donate to the protection of some of NZ rarest flora and fauna, (I know the team at Mahakirau would appreciate it) visit – https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/help-us-build-a-field-base-or-community-hub 
Alternatively please get in touch with Sara Smerdon

Turritopsis rubra

Turritopsis rubra

Turritopsis rubra

As the water temperatures get warmer in the Southern Hemisphere, more and more sealife starts to appear.

These little guys (approx 5mm) have been showing up at out local beach in the last few days.

To the naked eye they are just little red blobs covered in an opaque jelly but under the macro lens they are really something quite spectacular. 

Their little white tentacles furl and unfurl as they glide up and down through the water with the currents.

We swam with these guys last year and as far as we can tell they do not sting and are quite happy just floating around in the tide.

Turritopsis rubra from above

Turritopsis rubra from below looking up

NZ Geographic Photographer of the Year 2017

NZ Geographic Photographer of the Year 2017

Very excited to get the news that one of my little Jumpy Spiders has been selected as a finalist in the NZ Geographic Photographer of the Year 2017. (UPDATE: Little spidy won the ‘Resene Colour Award’ in the NZ Geographic Photographer of the Year 2017)

You can view all the finalists and vote for the Panasonic Peoples Choice Award here. There are 65 finalists with images of our environment and society to choose from. Just select your three favourite images and place your vote.

The Photographer of the Year exhibition will be on-site at Cathedral Square, Christchurch, for a month from Saturday 4 November, and in a special exhibition at Auckland Museum from December 15 until the end of February. Both exhibitions are open seven days, and free to attend.

Happy Place

Happy Place

Can you see me III discovered last week that I have a workmate who has a pond on their property and that they were happy for me to hang out for the day at their place.

Such excitement as I pulled up and Can you see mespotted all the frog weed, signaling an ideal frog habitat.

Although the frogs positioned themselves in quite hard to get to places, I managed to spot in excess of 12 Golden Bell Frogs of various sizes.

Golden Bell Frogs are an introduced species in New Zealand. They are one of three introduced frog species (from Australia) that belong to the hylid tree frog genus Litoria (Whistling or brownFrog Slime tree frog & Green and golden bell frog).

Unlike NZ’s native frogs they have a visible external eardrum (tympanum), and a horizontal, not rounded, pupil. Only the whistling frog is similar enough in size or colour to be mistaken for a native frog. They all have loud calls, and an aquatic tadpole stage.

Previous Golden Bell Frogs I have photographed have been about the size of your little fingernail so was almost beside myself when one of the
frogs I found was the size of my palm, I have never seen one that large Golden Bell Frog
before, It was such a buzz.

I came close to falling in the pond a couple of times however it would have well and truly been worth it.

I have found a new happy place, and will definitely be back to explore more.

Shed a Tear




Summers Getting Closer

Summers Getting Closer

It is an exciting time of year here in the Southern Hemisphere as we are part way through Spring and all the insects are now starting to emerge.

Although we are currently in unstable weather with a lot of rain mixed with fine, there still seems to be lots of new insect activity.

Most recent finds are the Monarch Caterpillars which is a definite sign that Summer isn’t far away (17 already busily munching their way through my swan plants).

Long and winding road
Ladybirds are also starting to become a common sight in the garden.

This yellow and black ladybird is – ‘Illeis galbula’, a fungus eating ladybird.

It is very active and fast moving during the day and it lives on plants infected with fungus or black mold, which is a little unfortunate as that’s not quite what you want to have growing on your plants in the garden.

Little Steely Blue ladybirds are also quite abundant at the moment but we are still missing the red and black common ladybird. Fingers crossed they make an appearance the closer Summer gets.

Lavender Bract

Southern Hemisphere Seasons:
Spring: September to November.
December to February.
Autumn: March to May.
Winter: June to August.




Visiting A Live Volcano

Visiting A Live Volcano

Whakaari / White Island – is an active andesite stratovolcano.
White Island
Situated 48 km off the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, in the Bay of Plenty. It is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano, and has been built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 year
s. White Island has been in a nearly continuous stage of smoking since it was discovered by James Cook in 1769.

The Maori name for the island, Te Puia o Whakaari, has translated both as “The Dramatic Volcano” and “that which can be made visible”.

We arrived at the island c/- White Island Tours. After a 1.5hr boat trip from the mainland. We really couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day with beautiful clear skies and reasonably calm waters which allowed us to enjoy the scenery and bird life on the way there. We were even lucky enough to have dolphins join us on the trip back.

Once on the island the wonderful guides from White Island Tours, enlightened us with
some of the (somewhat tragic) history of the Island.

White Island

White Island

About 70 percent of the volcano is under the sea, making this massive volcanic structure the largest in New Zealand.

A sulWhite Islandphur mining venture began on the island in 1885; this was stopped abruptly in 1914 when part of the crater wall collapsed and a landslide/lahar destroyed the sulphur mine and miners’ village; tragically killing all 10 workers. They disappeared without trace, and only a camp cat survived. He was found some days afterwards by the resupply ship, and dubbed “Peter the Great”.

Although privately owned, White Island became a private scenic reserve in 1953, and daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit White Island every year. GeoNet monitors volcanic activity and visits the island around 10 times a year.

The main activities on the island now are guided tours and scientific research.

White Island

This was a totally amazing trip and a day I will always remember.