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

Archey’s Frog (Leiopelma archeyi)

Archey’s Frog (Leiopelma archeyi)

Archey’s frog (Leiopelma archeyi) is New Zealands smallest native frog.

The species is categorised as Nationally Vulnerable under the New Zealand Threat Classification System and as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Because populations are rapidly declining, the species is at significant risk of imminent extinction.  

Archey’s frogs are now only found in three North Island locations: Coromandel Peninsula, Whareorino Forest and Pureora (Pukeokahu).

The Pureora population was translocated by the Department of Conservation in 2006, with a top up in 2016.

They have been establishing well, helped by DOC’s constant predator control and yearly frog monitoring.

I was fortunate enough to be able to tag along with the dedicated DOC and Auckland Zoo team members to help with their 2019 frog monitoring.

Spot the frog 

With mottled skin colours of green, brown,orange and red, they are masters at blending in with their surroundings, they are also very small and come out at night time to feed, making them incredibly hard to locate.

Archey’s frogs do not croak and sit incredibly still when there is a predator in the vicinity, so locating them visually under torch light is the only way (and even then they are extremely hard to spot).   

The monitoring team work through a grid pattern, with ground level searching through leaf matter, ferns, moss and in and around plants and fallen trees. 

Once a frog is located, it is carefully placed in a bag for transporting to a shed a few metres away where they will be measured, photographed and weighed before being returned to the exact location they were found. Details of the location found is noted down to the centimeter so as they can be returned to the exact same spot.   


The photo to the left shows the variation in size, from a small baby frog through to an adult.

To give you an idea of how small these little gems are, on this particular night:

Smallest frog:
Length – 10 millimetres
Weight – 0.14grams

Larger frog:
Length – 31 millimetres
Weight – 4.81grams 

Archey’s frogs are one of the world’s rarest and most endangered amphibians. This species, along with others in the family, have changed little over the past 200 million years, and therefore they represent “living fossils”.

The data collected from this monitoring will identify individual frogs, helping to monitor and better understand what is leading to the species’ decline.

Auckland Zoo also have a captive programme dedicated to developing captive breeding techniques and this along with the hard work from all the dedicated DOC team members in predator control and monitoring will hopefully prevent this species from becoming another extinction statistic.

This was an amazing experience and one I will never forget. I am in awe and very grateful of the hard work and dedication from this team that worked well in to the wee small hours each night to ensure that these little ‘modern-day dinosaurs’ have a chance at survival.

  2019 RESULTS

  Archey’s Frog (Leiopelma archeyi) Monitoring – Pukeokahu, Pureora Forest Park

  56 captures of 45 individuals
  Of the 45 individuals:
  – 1 was a founder from the 2006 release,
  – 7 were from the 2016 release,
  – 19 were new individuals not recorded before 
 – 18 individuals as previously recorded recruits.

  One individual (P366) had not been seen for 7 years.

To find out more about our native frogs and native frog conservation visit the links below:

  • New Zealand Frog Research Group (University of Otago) – Donate Here

Reference material from DOC, Wikipedia & Auckland Zoo

D-Photo Sigma Amateur Photographer of the Year 2019

D-Photo Sigma Amateur Photographer of the Year 2019

Nice surprise to see that my ‘Pretty in Pink’ image placed second in this years Sigma Amateur Photographer of the Year ‘Macro Category’ run by
D-Photo magazine.

With over 14,000 entries and 250 shortlisted images its such a buzz that this got chosen.

Congratulations to all the winners, this competition is definitely one of the largest in the NZ photography community and there is a great and varied selection of amazing images entered.



With 2017 drawing to a close its time to reflect on the year and start planning for 2018.

Its been a busy year for me this year with lots of exciting news along the way.  It’s mainly been macro work this year, and as much as I would have liked it to be more storm and astro orientated, we haven’t had as many opportunities this year to get out under the stars or share Mother Natures stormy stuff.

I entered a few competitions throughout the year and was buzzing when the results came out ………

Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition – awarded a ‘notable image’ for my shot of Torea:

D-Photo Magazine Amateur Photographer of the year – placed 2nd in the Macro category with this image:

NZ Geographic Photographer of the Year – Winner of the ‘Resene Colour Award’ with my little spidy shot:

As always it is interesting to see what the machines come up with and it’s never quite the ones I would have picked but here are Instagram’s best 9 selection for 2017.

Whats 2018 hold……

I am hoping to have a go at focus stacking and have my fingers crossed for some more storm and astro opportunities. I also have just finished putting in a frog pond at home (this was so i didn’t have to risk getting hit by golf balls at the local pond on the golf course). There are at least 10 new green residents so without a doubt there will be more frog shots on the way. In general it will be a year of experimenting more and seeing if I can mix it up a little.

Thank you to everyone for viewing my pictures and for all the support and comments throughout the year.

Wishing you all an exciting and successful New Year and 2018 🙂





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