28 February 2015

Black tunnelweb spider

If spiders scare you, you might want to skip this post. Otherwise, keep scrolling down to see the photograph.

This is the most commonly encountered tunnelweb spider around here (although they're not actually all that common). I'd been looking for one to photograph for a while, so was delighted to finally find this medium-sized individual under a rock on a bank of the Pohangina. These spiders have the delightful scientific name of Porrhothele antipodiana, and although they resemble the dangerous Australian funnelwebs in the genus Atrax, they're considered harmless. No doubt a bite would hurt — they're large spiders with impressive fangs — and any bite or sting from an invertebrate with a venom carries some risk of an allergic reaction (a single bee sting can sometimes cause an anaphylactic reaction, with potentially fatal consequences), but these seem to me to be a reason for delight rather than fear.

After the photographs, I gently encouraged it back under its rock.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

24 February 2015

Curious miromiro

On my way down the No. 1 Line track a couple of days ago I stopped to try to photograph a riroriro (grey warbler) — an exercise in frustration (I did manage some passable photographs, though). Soon after I began the attempt, this little miromiro (North Island tomtit, and yes those names are very similar) showed up. The mottling on her head suggests she's a juvenile.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

22 February 2015

Autumn on the way

February's not even over and already the fungi show themselves. This is Cyclocybe parasitica (formerly Agrocybe), one of several clusters of recently emerged fruiting bodies on the old poplars. The stag has stripped the velvet from his puny antlers; light comes later in the mornings and leaves earlier in the evenings; the first university semester begins tomorrow.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

18 February 2015

Apparition (4): Foetal

The last in the series. Here's the first.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

16 February 2015

Apparition (3): Bone

No. 3 in a series. No. 1 here.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

14 February 2015

Apparition (2): Genie

No. 2 in a series. Here's No. 1.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

12 February 2015

Apparition (1): Woman

Something a bit different. I saw a quotation in a Little River gallery a few weeks ago: 'The purpose of art is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable'. I've heard various versions of this, attributed to various people, but it seems apt.

One of a series; more coming.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

10 February 2015

Cinnabar moth caterpillar

Years ago I used to work on various aspects of biological control of weeds in New Zealand. One of the the target weeds was ragwort, and although the programme has had reasonable success in some areas, mostly because of the introduction of the ragwort flea beetle, ragwort is still common (too common) in some parts of New Zealand. This caterpillar, the larva of the cinnabar moth, was introduced into New Zealand in the early 20th century but had little effect on the ragwort problem. After redistribution efforts in the 1980s, it's now much more widespread and probably contributes to ragwort control in some areas.

This, however, was the only caterpillar I saw near the top of the No. 1 Line road a few days ago, so the flourishing ragwort population will no doubt remain untroubled by cinnabar moth depradation, at least for this season.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

08 February 2015

Hare's tail grass, Taylor's Mistake

I remember as a small boy seeing these distinctive seedheads and wondering what they were. Now, when I encounter them I'm often struck by a strange feeling — something like a sense of Time passing; not so much a feeling of having grown old but as if I've somehow sidestepped the years and found a direct link to the past. An odd and wonderful feeling.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

06 February 2015


In Christchurch recently I slept the last couple of nights on a mattress on the floor. After I rose in the morning, the cat usurped the bed.

WordWeb defines 'usurp' thus: 'Take control of (without authority and possibly with force); take as one's right or possession'.

No force was involved in this case, but everything else fits perfectly.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

03 February 2015

Christmas Day 2014, Ngamoko Range

The tarn at the top of Knights Track on Christmas Day. Those streaks and spots in the sky (if you look closely) are snowgrass leaves and other detritus. The wind was fierce and the rain caught me shortly before I reached Toka Biv.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor