Wednesday, 14 September 2011


An awesome day in the field doing more bird surveys in Hawkes Bay.  A long day though and I'm off to bed very shortly, but just wanted to post a couple of shots which I enjoyed.  I was out with Mike Lusk, a local guy who spends a lot of time out in the bush, and has a huge knowledge of native flora and fauna.  I was focused on survey the forest patches we visited for birds, but also wanted to photograph other bits and pieces we saw.  So when Mike found some Peripatus I was stoked!  This was something I had really wanted to photograph, and so the new macro setup was VERY handy.  Think I am slowly getting the art of it, but still a learning curve!

Anyway a couple of photos below...

Spider orchids in flower, this species is Big red spider orchid - Nematoceras iridescens

Peripatus ejecting it's sticky entrapment fluid

The curious peripatus!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Reintroduction Biology cover shot

Also just recently found out my image of a female stitchbird (hihi) taken on Tiritiri Matangi Island last September made the front cover of "Reintroduction Biology: Integrating Science and Management".  This book was edited by a couple of good friends, including John Ewen, Doug Armstrong, and Kevin Parker.  Thanks guys!

An honour

So the other day I was rifling through a stack of mail received during my time away (yes I still haven't got to the bottom of it after being home now for two weeks!).  There was an unmarked folder in the stack which I opened, and in it was an award!  It was a Meritorious Service Award from the Ornithological Society of New Zealand.  To be honest I was shocked and surprised, and really hadn't expected anything like that.

A couple of months earlier somebody had tagged my in a photo on Facebook.  It was a picture of the front cover of the latest Southern Bird magazine - produced by the OSNZ.  I failed to recognise why I had been tagged, but going back to it see that there is a citation in the for this award...come on people you have to be less subtle than that! ;)

The citation reads -

"Brent Stephenson has been the webmaster for the society's website since around 1996.  During this time he has maintained the pages and content to a high standard even though he has often been absent overseas on business. The redevelopment of the website would not have been possible without Brent's sterling work over the years."

So thanks very much to Bruce McKinlay for the nomination, and to the OSNZ for the honour.  Much appreciated.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Back to work

So it's time to get back into some bird survey work now that I am home, and with the weather the way it is to be honest that isn't too hard a task!  The last couple of days have been spent with herpetologist researchers Trent Bell and Sarah Herbert from 'Ecogecko Consultants' as we are both working on the same project with Hawkes Bay Regional Council and MWH to assess the Tukituki River Catchment for ecological values...they of course are doing the herps and I'm doing the birds.

So on Wednesday we headed to the back of Te Mata peak where they had already placed lizard 'houses' out and we checked them again.  It was a good start with several common geckos, but things petered out a little.  They had seen much more earlier in the year, so perhaps the cold weather has meant the critters were not as easy to detect.  Anyway, got to see a few and take a few photos with my new 100mm 2.8 macro lens.  Loving it, but unfortunately didn't have the adapter ring I needed to use the MT-24 flash head I've bought, so just using ambient light.  Of course got home and found it had been delivered and was in my mail box!  It was of course the most overcast morning we have had of late.  Nevermind, some nice shots anyway.  Not a lot in the way of birds around, just the usual farmland suspects.

That afternoon caught up with Aaron and Sarah, Aaron runs Wild Earth Travel from Christchurch so it was great to catch up with them.  Spent the afternoon chatting and also visited a few local spots including Te Mata peak, heading up to the top.  Stunning afternoon with lovely shadows and light on the hills.

Then yesterday we headed to the Silver Range, a fairly iconic Hawkes Bay location, is a hogsback ridge composed of alternating sandstones and mudstones, and has some unusual shrubland remnants, as well as some well vegetated stream valleys nearby.  So Trent had previously been there and set up lizard 'houses' and they wanted to survey those, whilst I was interested in learning what birds were about.  A beaut sunny blue sky morning, so a cracking day to be out and about.  We surveyed the lizard sites and found some great invertebrates, but no lizards.  This time the flash was able to be used, so my first real use of the flash and macro setup.  The results I'm sure will get better, but as a first attempt they are not too bad!  There were a lot of birds around including the usual common natives such as tui, bellbird, pigeon, grey warbler and fantail.  Encouraging to see the smaller insectivores as the really cold snap with a lot of snow recently would have been a tough time for them.  Obviously they pulled through in this area.

Spectacular views, sunshine, and interesting photographic subjects, what more do you need!

Trent and Sarah working hard!

The eastern face of Te Mata peak's limestone bluffs

Trent examining geckos capture from under the covers

Neonate common gecko (probably around 6 months old)

Not just geckos under the covers, queen German wasps were also sheltering from the winter, note the wings and antennae tucked out of the way to avoid damage.

Trent and Sarah checking the covers

Sarah showing off a neonate common gecko found under the covers

View along the eastern face of Te Mata peak

One of the lizard covers

Limestone bluffs with cattle for scale...yes those black dots are cattle

Trent inspecting the covers

A sudden mist bank appears...and it disappeared again within minutes

Adult common gecko

Adult common gecko

I"m gonna get you!

View of Mt Erin from Te Mata peak

Te Mata Peak views

Mt Erin in the distance

Working dogs tied up against the fence

Had enough, time for a snooze

Some of the vegetated stream gullies near Silver Range

Black tunnel web spider, about 70mm from tip of forelegs to end of hind

Looking up towards Silver Range - note the bare sandstone faces

Possible Carabid beetle found under a cover

Female vagrant spider found under a cover, another large spider common in the NZ bush

Closeup of the vagrant spider

Male tree weta, possibly Hawkes Bay tree weta

Very unusual dorso-ventrally flattened spider found under a cover, quite large with body length of around 20-25mm

Willow leaves 'springing'

Looking south along the Silver Range

Trent and Sarah on the Range

Sandstone bluffs

Sandstone bluffs with flax, kowhai and Olearia shrubland

Sun orchid of some sort Actually it is just a weed! Purple-eyed grass (Sissyrinchium iridifolium)

Donkeys looking unamused

Prime beef!


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Just to prove it's Spring!

Took these shots today, some lovely blossom...that I think is crab-apple?  On one of the main round-abouts in Havelock North where I live.  Time to test out the new 100mm IS/L f2.8 macro.  I think it will get a workout over the next few months, it sure is a nice lense to handle and looking forward to putting it through its paces with the MT-24 flash.  Today however, was another gorgeous blue sky day!

Beautiful blossoms!

Honey bee in action