Sunday, 8 February 2015

Gecko central

Coromandel Striped Gecko 

The most exciting news since the start of summer has been the discovery of three geckos on the estate. Two of these, discovered and photographed by Sara Smerdon, were Coromandel Striped Gecko – possibly the rarest Gecko in the world. The species was discovered on the Coromandel at the end of the 1990s and only a handful has been seen since. We are awaiting further information from scientists and DoC experts but most or all previous records have been from the 309 road north to Moehau. Sara’s records may extend the known range of the species. This is a beautiful and quite large gecko. Both the individuals Sara photographed had previously dropped, and were regrowing, their tails. Reviewing photographs on the internet I see that this is also true of other individuals. It will be interesting to know if this is the case with all gecko species or if these geckos are particularly vulnerable to predation.
Second Coromandel Striped Gecko
The other Gecko was found and photographed by Kevin and Cynthia and looks like a forest gecko. These photographs have also been sent away for verification.
It is important to know that it is illegal to handle or keep in captivity any of the native lizards. All are especially vulnerable to predation by cats and rats. These gecko records further illustrate the incredible diversity of rare species that we live alongside at Mahakirau.

Around the house there have been a number of Copper and Blue Butterflies as well as visits from the occasional Red Admiral and Painted Lady. The lack of cicadas is noticeable and we have seen fewer puriri moths than usual. Apparently cicada numbers are low across the country. This is a consequence of what was going on five years ago when they would have started their life cycles.

In the hot dry January we have just enjoyed, the bush has been relatively quiet as far as birds are concerned. We have several families of silvereye, fantail, tomtit and bellbird in the bush around us and kingfisher have been noisy at times. A lone kaka flew over the house in mid January – but they seem to spend time at  more elevated parts of the estate, only occasionally visiting us at 300masl.  Two Black backed gulls flew over the estate in December – a surprisingly rare occurrence. Californian Quail appear to have had a bumper breeding season with several parties of more than twenty chicks. The number of well grown young suggests that stoat and weasel numbers must be low – a tribute to the pest control team.

Shining Cuckoo are still calling occasionally. At the end of December we had an interesting experience when about ten cuckoos spent an hour or more in the mature Tawa tree immediately beside the house - calling incessantly. They were very agitated displaying to each other with outstretched and quivering wings and tail. Every so often there would be wild chases through the tree canopy and at other times they could be seen feeding on caterpillars. After they flew from the tree I heard them continuing to call about 100 meters away. The next day a smaller number of birds returned to the Tawa and began calling again. According to the Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds these communal displays may involve up to a dozen birds although I have not seen more than six birds together before.
Forest Gecko

Finally, it was a good spring and summer for many of the flowering forest trees. Hinau and Rata had particularly impressive seasons and now white rata are flowering well.