Thursday 12 November 2015

Sunday 24 May 2015

Malvern Hills

This morning was so bright and sunny I decided to drive among the nearby hills. It is late autumn and not all the trees have lost their leaves. The countryside is very green after recent rain, but the rivers and creeks are still dry or very low after the drought.
The willows are still colourful

The Craigieburn Range has more snow than the closer mountains

Mount Torlesse, with the Red Peak on the left, Back Peak and Otarama on the right

Willows in the valley
The road through the poplars

Thursday 21 May 2015

Sunday 17 May 2015

Peaks Above the Fog

For a little while today the mountain tops broke through the clouds.

Mount Torlesse
Back Peak and Otarama

The Waimakariri River was still running high and dirty after the rain

Saturday 16 May 2015

Fresh Snow

For a few minutes this morning the heavy clouds lifted above the mountains.

Mount Torlesse, with a little sunlight on Back Peak and Otarama

Monday 4 May 2015

Lunar Optics

My hopes of getting a shot of the full moon setting were dashed by a fog lying over the hills. The moon was visible as a fuzzy white disc. But then I really looked at it. What a feast for the eyes! There was a faint, though obvious moon pillar. And out to one side was a moon dog. I have seen these phenomena with the sun, but I haven't noticed them with the moon before.

Unfortunately my skills as a photographer, and my bridge camera were not able to capture them very well, but here are my efforts. You might have squint to see them. In life they were quite clear to my eyes.

Moon Pillar
Moon Dog on the right hand side

Sunday 3 May 2015

Last of the Praying Mantis

It is four days since I saw the female praying mantis that I have been observing. I have searched thoroughly for her, but she is not to be found. She may have moved to better shelter because the plant she was on didn't give much protection from the frost.

This is the last photo I took of her. Since then the big flies have been sunning themselves with impunity on her favourite leaves.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

The Praying Mantis Perseveres

During several days of damp, gloomy weather the flies remained in hiding and the praying mantis did not eat. She was visibly thinner until two warm days brought the big flies out. Since then it has been raining. This afternoon when the rain had stopped I saw her lying flat on her leaf, instead of standing with the front part of her body upright. I took a couple of shots of her and when I looked at the enlarged images I saw the reason for her odd behaviour.    (Click on the photo to enlarge)

The praying mantis is lying flat peering at a tiny fly on the leaf below

A moment later she has it between her two front legs. The fly's little round head can be seen to the right of the cyan colour patch on her inner thigh

I don't know what chance she has of a mate finding her. For the last three months I have seen only one other mantis, a male. He had lost one of his great front legs, which would reduce his ability to survive. Usually at this time I would expect to know the whereabouts of 5 or 6, both male and female.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Praying Mantis in the Rain

 Two wet days mean the big flies have stayed under cover. The praying mantis has not eaten since the day before yesterday. Nevertheless she remains on her leaf in the open, ready to snatch anything that comes within reach. By early evening she was still there and the rain had become heavier.

She was out very early this morning, in spite of the rain.
Sometimes a small fly came tantalisingly close.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Praying Mantis and Prey

The praying mantis I have been observing for several weeks caught and consumed two drone flies this morning. Recent cold weather means that she was unable to catch her food and her swelling abdomen had grown quite slim. Drone flies are bigger than blowflies and they will help fatten her up again.

New Zealand praying mantis, Orthodera novaezealandiae.

This was her first drone, almost finished. Note the dewdrops under her shadow, showing how she remains in one place without moving for long periods.

Here she is eating the second drone, with her leaf littered with unwanted fragments of both insects.

Note her jaw-like forelegs. One grips the body of the fly while the other has just lifted a piece to her mouth. The bright coloured spots on her inner thighs distinguish this New Zealand species from a similar Australian one.

Enjoying her meal.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Early Snow

It's unusual to get snow so early in the autumn, especially after a particularly hot, dry summer. But get it we did last night, and by morning it had turned to hard ice.

Abners Head in the early morning sunshine

Mount Torlesse late afternoon
My back path was too treacherous to walk on

Friday 27 March 2015

Hunting Wasp Drags Spider

The path in my greenhouse is covered with coarse chainsaw dust. Today I found a red wasp dragging a large spider. It was heavy going because the wasp couldn’t get traction with the loose wood fragments. As it tugged at the spider its back legs were working hard and chips were flying. Now and then it stepped aside to rub its head with its front legs. Eventually it got its feet on the edging board and rapidly dragged the spider up the 10cm board and over into a mess of gardening tools.

Trying to get traction.

The wasp's strength is amazing. The spider looks like a grey house spider. It has been paralysed and will remain alive for the wasp’s offspring to feed on.


Tuesday 17 March 2015

New Zealand Pigeon

New Zealand Pigeon

The Maori name is kereru

It is puffed up because of the cold wind
Today a native New Zealand pigeon visited my garden. This was such an unheard of event that I did not immediately recognise it. We are a long way from its forest habitat. There has been a sudden cooling of the weather. Perhaps it is migrating to a warmer place. All it wanted was a drink of water and a little rest.

This is a big bird, measuring about 51 cm. Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae.

Friday 6 March 2015


For the first time in months we had some real rain, earth-soaking rain, relief from the drought. At sunrise the sunlight slipped through a narrow gap in the clouds and lit up the underside of the cloud cover. Then, for a couple of minutes, the most magnificent rainbow appeared. The colours were so intense. The light below the rainbow was so radiant compared to above the bow.

Because of the low angle of the sun the arch was very high. I could not capture the whole of it in one shot. Here are two shots, the first at the climax of the colour, and the second as the sky began to darken.

It was a marvellous experience standing in the rain with that brilliant arch towering above me.

Friday 13 February 2015

Sheffield Ewe Sale

Due to the drought the Sheffield Ewe Sale was bigger than usual. On offer were some 12000 ewes and a hundred rams. The sale yard had to be extended to accommodate them all. Hopefully, all the sheep went home to different farms tonight.

Click on a photo to see the large version.

Checking out some of the ewes before the sale.

The sale gets under way. A few of the many stock trucks can be seen lined up on the roadside.

The sheep are auctioned pen by pen.
The rams in front take an interest in the proceedings. Their turn will come.

A stock truck driver's mate waits to get back on the road.

Friday 6 February 2015

Snow In Summer

Mount Torlesse with a recently harvested grain crop
Back Peak and Otarama

The moon over Porter's Skifield

The moon at 6.35 am

Saturday 10 January 2015

Lake Lyndon and Porters Pass

Lake Lyndon was a spectacular colour today.

Lake Lyndon
Lake Lyndon near the West Coast Road

The blue flowers are vipers bugloss and the yellow are birdsfoot trefoil
Coral Broom

Baby Grasshoppers

A Large Grasshopper
A hairy colletid bee escapes into her burrow.