The long hot dry summer continues with temperatures in the mid 20s most days. Apart from a fall of about 50mm in early February there has been very little rain this year and none is forecast for the next week.The bush is getting extremely dry and whenever the wind blows there is noticeable leaf fall.
On the plant front there is a good flowering of scarlet climbing rata and nikau palms. The easter orchid (raupeka) has begun to flower and the scent wafts through the bush. Judi describes the perfume as sandalwood and honey. Judi has also discovered another location for the rare King Fern which is very exciting. Apparently pigs (and plant collectors) love it which may account for its serious decline across the country - and its presence on the estate is another reason that it is important to control pig numbers - and human access.
Butterflies have been few and far between - apart from the ubiquitous whites. I have only seen one monarch, a couple of coppers and blues. Back in January one more Helms Butterfly to add to the pre Christmas records. We have had plenty of cave and bush wetas around the house and glow worms have put on a fine show in all the usual locations.
We have seen no frogs although we try to avoid disturbing likely areas. At night we have seen kokopu in the picnic area swimming hole.
Bush birds appear to have had a good season and there are many young bellbirds and tui around. Silvereye numbers are high with small flocks constantly calling. Fantail numbers seem to be up on previous years, with many young birds around. Grey warbler are singing strongly but I have not seen many tomtit recently and shining cuckoo have either left or are silent. Kingfisher are still around but they are very quiet. There are plenty of Morepork calling at night and they will always come to the house when the flood lights are on and puriri moths are around. In January we saw and heard a kaka fly past a full moon calling and recently a night flying long tailed cuckoo flew over the house calling.
During the heavy rain and low cloud on February 4th we had the lights on enjoying the morepork when a very pale bird flew along the front of the house and crashed into the shrubs above the deck. It flapped around long enough for me to grab the binoculars and see that it was a species of petrel. Presumably it was disorientated by the wild weather and very poor visibility. Size, white underside, pale panel on the upper primaries, pale rounded head with dark smudge around the eye and short bill suggest it was probably a black-winged petrel (Pterodroma nigripennis). Unfortunately, I was unable to get a really clear view to confirm the identification. It would be fantastic to think that the bird was prospecting for mainland breeding sites as I understand that they have been seen at night over headlands along the mainland coast but no doubt that is drawing a very long bow and the poor bird was probably just lost.
At the risk of tempting providence, enough water to fill the tanks would be welcome!