28 March 2015

Piupiu (Crown fern), No. 1 Line track

The endemic piupiu (crown fern; Blechnum discolor), one of Aotearoa's most common ferns, grows abundantly along the No. 1 Line track, along with many other species of ferns. This photograph shows a typical view of the interior of the bush along the upper part of the track, with a large piupiu growing a few metres from the track. The fronds in the middle that look a bit like the bill of a sawfish are the fertile (spore-bearing) fronds.

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

27 March 2015

The flight from Kazakhstan to Nepal

In September I flew from Kazakhstan to Kathmandu. The views during the flight were breathtaking.

[This is a larger version of one of the photographs on the new Pohanginapete post Three fine things.]

All content © 2015 Pete McGregor

21 March 2015

Evening; the road from Manali to Leh

India still calls me back. I still have things to do there, people to see. But even if I did those things and met those people again, I doubt the ache to return would diminish. More probably, it would increase. India does that.

This is where we stayed the night before continuing to Leh the next day.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

15 March 2015

Helophilus campbelli: proof that flies are beautiful

When people hear the word 'fly', they too often react with disgust. They think of houseflies and blowflies and maggots, filth and disease and decay, and they forget  most of the important and wonderful things about flies in general. Many hoverflies, for example, have predatory larvae that eat pests like aphids, while the adults help pollinate plants.

The fly in this photograph is also a hoverfly, and to me it epitomises another wonderful thing about flies: many are spectacular, even beautiful. Sadly, I doubt many people have ever seen one of these alive, and of those who have, few would recognise its significance. I only knew to look more closely when I heard the very loud whine made by this fly as it flew low around the base of a giant rimu on the No. 1 Line track. When I got close enough to see the fly clearly, I realised I'd never seen one before. Several times it stopped and crawled into the recesses between the rimu's buttresses, as if searching for something.

I managed to photograph the fly and posted the observation on NatureWatchNZ. Thanks to some thorough investigation by a friend in Otago, who even sought advice from one of the world's foremost experts on hoverflies, we now think this is Helophilus campbelli, which was originally described in 1921 as Myiatropa campbelli. That 1921 description included some diagrams and a low-contrast black-and-white photograph of a pinned specimen, but since then no other photographs appear to have been published — at least not until now. However, seven species of New Zealand Helophilus remain undescribed (we know they're distinct species but no one has published descriptions and names for them), so this might eventually have another change of name.

I still know almost nothing about this fly. What was it doing as it crawled into those recesses? Was it looking for somewhere to lay its eggs? What do its larvae feed on? How common is it? (Not very, if my experience is typical.) The life of this and many other flies remains mostly a mystery, and the opportunity to shed a little light on those lives seems to me to be yet another thing flies offer us. Wouldn't you be delighted to discover something no one knew about a fly as beautiful as this?

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

10 March 2015

This is not Wind in the Willows

Most of the characters in Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows enchant me, and the two main characters, Ratty and Mole, are no exception. However, while I find rats fascinating and think they deserve similar respect to more popular fluffy animals, I don't deny the harm they cause.

I photographed this Black rat (Rattus rattus) a couple of nights ago along the No. 1 Line track. You can read more on the new Pohanginapete post.

That eyeshine — from the headlamp, I think, rather than the flash — gives me the impression the rat's peering over its reading glasses ;-)

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

07 March 2015

North Island Glade Copper

Several species of coppers live in the Valley, and while the taxonomy of these small butterflies is still being clarified, the blotch on the underside of the hindwing of this individual identifies it as Lycaena enysii, the North Island Glade Copper. I photographed this just a few metres from the Pohangina River, near Totara Reserve.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor

05 March 2015

Hound's tongue on the No. 1 Line track

This is the wonderfully named Hound's tongue fern (Microsorum pustulatum; kōwaowao); in the background you can see part of the lower section of the No. 1 Line track. I've lost count of the number of times I've walked this track, but I doubt I'll ever tire of it.

All content © 2014 Pete McGregor