Monday, 16 December 2013

We are enjoying a period of stella weather with warm, still, sunny days and the occasional afternoon thunderstorm to add a bit of drama. The last significant rain was at the start of December when we had 90mm in one night. The gales and cold of late September are a distant memory.
Early this morning I stood on the terrace for a few minutes and enjoyed the number of birds around. A flock of 30 or so silvereye was working through the bushes while fantails and grey warblers were very active. Bellbirds were busy and several young birds were calling from the denser areas of bush. Tui were very active flying between the tall rata. They are aggressively protecting their territories from all sorts of other bird species as well as their own kind. Every so often they make hair-raising chases through the vegetation after birds that have transgressed in some way. Competition with bellbird is understandable but it is difficult to understand why song thrush should be given a hard time! Many chases seem to involve silvereyes and in one, a silvereye attempted to escape by flying into the house, but the tui hurtled after it through the dining area and back out through the sliding doors! Bruno and Barbara have many tui visiting their flax and we have noted how tame the birds are around both houses. In November, when small shiny green beetles were coming out of the ground on the terrace, tuis were hoping around at our feet and noisily flying around our heads as they picked off beetles that took to the air. We have never seen so many tui on the estate. This is also true of the kereru. At times they seem to be in every rata and the valley below the house has been full of birds displaying.
Another species that may be more numerous than in previous years is shining cuckoo. Birds have been singing and calling across the estate since they first arrived up here on 27th September. At times as many as half a dozen can be heard from the house and their numbers may reflect the high population of grey warbler.  Californian quail are frequent throughout the estate and there have been several family parties near the picnic area and a family with twelve tiny bundles of fluff this morning near lot 21. The lack of stoats should give them a better chance. The same is true with the pheasants. There are several cock pheasants crowing most days and a hen pheasant with a brood of five offspring are at the picnic area.
Tomtits are around, but are a lot less vocal than during September and November. During spring we had never seen and heard so many on the estate.  That’s not the case with kotare (kingfisher). There seem to be fewer than in previous years although they may become more evident now that the cicadas have started.
Morepork numbers must be very high. On a still night as many as a dozen birds can be heard from the house. We found the telltale evidence that one has been perching on the deck balustrade - decapitating huhu beetles and dismembering pururi moths! 
Huhu beetle

Finally on the bird front, a fox terrier caught a kiwi somewhere on the 309. We are awaiting further information. The bird was badly injured but has so far survived the attack. It was taken to Auckland Zoo for treatment. It is a salutary reminder that dogs and kiwis do not mix.

The most exciting insect news in the past few months has been several helm’s butterflies. We had one around the house for a few days at the end of November and I have seen others further north on the estate. These are rare endemics.  I discussed their significance in an earlier blog posting.
Several trees and shrubs have been flowering well including Hinau, Quintinia, manuka, rewa rewa and tawari. Pigeonwood berries are prolific and many are lying on the forest floor. This suggests that rodent numbers are low following pest control efforts 
this spring.

Low rat, mice and possum numbers should allow impressive bush growth particularly if the warm weather continues.

Tawari  Ixerba brexioides


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