30 March 2014

Bird flying south near Levin

On the way back from a wonderful visit to catch up with friends in Eastbourne I stopped for a break near Levin. The Tararua Range lay behind rain cloud (as is often the case), but something about the layers of landscape prompted me to fish the camera out. After a few so-so photographs I changed lenses and tried again, and as I did so I noticed a bird (possibly a thrush but I'm not sure) speeding past. I pressed the shutter button almost by instinct.

[30 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, 1240mm f/2.8 at 40mm, ISO 400, 1/320 at f/8]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

28 March 2014

Silver-sided sector spider

Silver-sided sector spiders (Zygiella x-notata) have made themselves at home here. Unless they're wrapping up some unfortunate victim caught in the web, they stay hidden away during the day. Consequently, the only opportunity to appreciate them is after dark, when they hang out in the middle of their webs, like this one.

The 'sector spider' part of the common name is because their orb webs typically have a couple of missing sectors. You can guess the derivation of the other part of the name.

[28 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, 60mm f/2.8 macro , ISO 200, 1/200 at f/8; diffused flash]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

25 March 2014

Jimmy's last weekend

Some time over the weekend, Jimmy died. I only found out this evening. He was 18 — not bad for a cat. I'd known he wouldn't make it through the winter — I'd seen how fast he was growing thin — but the news still took me by surprise. This might have been his last evening; when I photographed this the thought never crossed my mind that he might have been living through the last hours of his life.

I looked for a photograph of him to post here, but that was a bad idea. This is better.

Jimmy and Ming were both here when I arrived, and now both have gone. Now the farm is without cats. Now I'm without cats. He wasn't mine, although I was probably his. We got on pretty well.

I miss him.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

23 March 2014

Forest gecko

Being nocturnal, New Zealand forest geckos (Hoplodactylus granulatus) aren't often seen by humans — a shame, because they're among the most beautiful animals I know. I've seen them only a few times, but I don't want to tear apart the old logs and other habitats in which they hide away during the day. So, when I saw captive geckos in the Environment Network Manawatu display at last Saturday's Festival of Cultures, I spoke with their keeper, who generously offered to open the doors of the cage so I didn't have to photograph through the glass. In the low light I'd have liked to use the flash, but was reluctant in case it disturbed the geckos (it probably wouldn't have, but I didn't want to take the risk). Despite the consequently small depth of focus, this gives some idea of how gorgeous these small lizards are.

[If you haven't found it yet, you might like to visit Pohanginapete to read the new post published today]

[22 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, 60mm f/2.8 macro , ISO 400, 1/50 at f/2.8]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

21 March 2014

Wasp season

So far this autumn the wasps haven't been a problem, but we've still got a long way to go before winter kills off the nests — if it gets cold enough. In much of New Zealand, last winter was mild enough so many nests survived, meaning the colonies got off to a good start in spring and wasp numbers over the summer have been problematic. Both species of vespulid wasps in New Zealand (the common wasp, shown here, and the very similar german wasp) are relatively recent arrivals; free from their natural predators, parasites and diseases, they can attain huge populations. Quite apart from the very real danger to humans, large wasp nests are an ecological disaster. Wasps foraging from nests that survived the winter and grew into 'supernests' can kill huge numbers of the other insects and spiders that form an essential part of native ecosystems.

[18 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, 60mm f/2.8 macro , ISO 200, 1/200 at f/8; diffused flash]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

18 March 2014

Lusi light at Foxton Beach

At Foxton Beach last Saturday I stayed with friends and waited for the remains of tropical cyclone Lusi to arrive. But, apart from an occasional light shower and a strong, buffeting wind, the only indication that the weather was out of the ordinary was the warmth of the wind. Morning brought more warmth, more wind, no rain, and light like this.

[16 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, Panasonic 100300mm at 201mm, ISO 200, 1/50 at f/8]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

16 March 2014

Young blackbird

This young blackbird, still without its full complement of adult feathers, hadn't yet learned to fear humans. That's probably of no real importance, but I hope it learns quickly that cats and dogs, both of which frequent the Massey University campus, should be regarded as real risks.

I could almost have used the macro lens, because this little bird allowed me to approach quietly and slowly to within a couple of metres. I made sure I moved away just as quietly and slowly to avoid alarming it.

[15 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, Panasonic 100300mm at 136mm, ISO 400, 1/30 at f/4.4]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

14 March 2014

Mayflies at Massey

For some weeks now, the walls around the outside lights of Colombo Village have been graced with an abundance of mayflies as well as some other insects (lots of crane flies, a few moths, an occasional beetle). I finally got around to photographing the mayflies a couple of days ago. The upper photograph is a fully mature male; the lower photograph is a female (a subadult — what the anglers call a 'dun' — I think). Note the difference in the eyes.

Mayflies are among the oldest groups of insects and are the only insects to have two adult stages with fully developed wings.

[12 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, 60mm f/2.8 macro , ISO 200, 1/200 at f/8; diffused flash]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

11 March 2014

Rock, water, Pohangina river

In the evening I wandered from the hut down to the river and photographed the irresistible flow. I hoped to see a whio, but it wasn't to be. A gusty wind swirled around the riverbed and the moon, not quite half full, hung low above the silhouette of the forest on one of the steep spurs that climbed to the Ngamoko Range. No stars had yet appeared. Eventually I returned to the hut and prepared a simple meal by the light of the headlamp.

[8 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, Panasonic 100-300mm at 100mm, ISO 200, 1/8 at f/4]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

09 March 2014

Oroua headwaters from the Ngamoko Range

I got back last night from a tough trip over the Ngamoko Range to Ngamoko hut. Usually I wouldn't consider it particularly difficult, but this time I felt unusually lethargic and the track from the tops down to the hut was appallingly overgrown, making safe travel far slower than usual. A headache that came and went and returned didn't help, either. Still, the effort had substantial compensations, not the least being views like this. Sadly, I again saw no whio in the river near the hut, but I did have close encounters with three deer on or near the track on the way down.

[8 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm at 100mm, ISO 200, 1/1250 at f/5.6]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

05 March 2014

Xanthocryptus novozealandicus: the lemon tree borer parasite

As the common name suggests, this beautiful ichneumonid wasp parasites larvae of the lemon tree borer (a native longhorn beetle) as well as other wood-boring beetle larvae. This individual's lack of an ovipositor (a long, thin structure that looks like a sting) identifies it as a male and therefore of no direct threat to beetle larvae. He cooperated nicely for this photograph, staying mostly motionless while I worked hard to get a well-focused photograph (a gusty wind made photographing difficult). Usually they're flying constantly, alighting only for a few seconds.

[4 February 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, 60mm f2.8 macro , ISO 200, 1/250 at f3.5]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

02 March 2014

Variable oystercatcher (toreapango), Pencarrow coast

A few hundred metres along the coast from Burdan's Gate, on the Eastern shore of Wellington Harbour, I watched a pair of variable oystercatchers foraging. Their one, almost-fully-fledged offspring (shown here) pursued one or the other of the parents, harassing them for a feed. I guess teenagers of most species resemble each other in at least some respects.

[1 March 2014, Olympus OM-D EM-1, Panasonic 100-300mm f/4.0-5.6 at 300mm, ISO 400, 1/2500 at f/5.6]

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor