Last Sunday I participated in a “Bio Blitz” in one of our many parks here in Auckland. The mission was to spot and identify as many birds, insects, snails, geckos, skinks, spiders, etc. as we could within the span of two hours. About a dozen folks showed up and it was a very successful adventure, especially for the youngsters in the group. My favorite shots from the outing were these two of an Australian pied cormorant (Phalacrocorax varius), commonly called a shag here, with her chick, in her nest on a nearby tree overhanging the water.
One of my favorite spiders visited me in my work shed the other day and when I transferred it to the garden, it was apparently quite happy to explore a handy flower for long enough to make for a pretty good photo session. It’s a Holoplatys apressus, and one of the smallest I’ve seen (the diameter of the white flower is about 2 centimeters, about ¾ of an inch). This genus is unique in that the extremely low-profile body shape permits them to squeeze into unbelievably small spaces, which has earned them the common name of “flattened” jumping spiders. This species is endemic to New Zealand and is commonly found under the bark of manuka and kanuka trees, as well as on driftwood, which has led to theories that their ancestors may have “rafted” here from Australia, where there are many more species (at least 38 are reported on the iNaturalist website). I see them on the walls of my shed about once a month, on the average, and they are very shy. I’ve featured them on this website twice before, back in 2020—here and here.
This little fellow joined me in my workspace in my work shed a few days ago and seemed to be quite happy to be moved out into the garden via a few handy lawn flowers (the diameter of the white one is about 3/4 of an inch, or a bit under 2 centimeters)—in fact, he apparently couldn’t wait to be outside again, as he only gave me enough time for three quick photos before he was off into the green. Happily, one of them gave me enough detail to work with. He’s a Trite parvula, with the delightful common name of “house hopper.”
I had intended to post this yesterday (Wednesday), but other matters demanded more attention, so I’m a day late—but it’s still Wednesday back in Minnesota as I write this. I’ve been going through some old photos from summers back at the cabin, and I came across this encounter that I had with a tiny common white-cheeked jumping spider (Pelegrina proterva). One of my shots from that session is a long-time favorite, and I included it in my 500th post some 6½ years ago (here). I’ve had a new look at the others that I saved, and would like to present another. I’m not sure of its gender, but its body length was considerably less than a quarter of an inch (maybe about 3 mm) long.
This day marks the beginning of spring here in the southern hemisphere, and I greet it with mixed feelings. We have spent another entire winter here in New Zealand, again having been unable to return to our traditional northern Minnesota summer cabin. But, on the other hand, we have been able to share the time with our family here, to our great delight. In the meantime, the Delta variant of C-19 has found its way here, and we went into alert-level 4 lockdown a week and a half ago, and are to continue at this level for at least another week and a half. Rest assured, however, that we are well-supplied and watching over each other in our respective family bubbles, reading stories and singing to the grandkids on our computers, and turning our attention to long-postponed domestic projects. We’re also able to keep a good watch on what’s happening in our garden, and yesterday this crimson rosella brightened our day by spending a few brief moments outside our back window. Trying times indeed, but wishing you a sweet new season.
And now for something completely different. It has been my custom to present images in my Webnesday posts of the spiders whose acquaintance I happen to make, but this time I’m featuring the results of the work of many. We had spent the night in a much-too-expensive “boutique hotel” in the town of Bluff, at the extreme southern tip of the South Island, a little more than two weeks ago, and awoke to barely-above-freezing temperatures and some lovely fog. After an extremely mediocre breakfast, we drove north to Invercargill and settled in for a stroll into Queens Park (yes, Mrs. Thistlebottom, I spelled it correctly: There is no apostrophe; this is a recurring minor annoyance here, but that’s another story). This was, if memory serves, my fourth or fifth visit to Queens Park, and each one has been memorable in its own way. This time there was a special mystery (or should I say mistery) about it that we found especially endearing. And more to come, so stay tuned.
We’ve just returned from a 10-day family excursion to the South Island. This has become a tradition for us, and the main goal—for the younger members of our family—is snow sports. But the weather gods did not grant us their favors until the last two days. We were staying near Queenstown, and while the rest went up to play in the snow, CD and I decided to take a drive on Highway 6 toward the town of Glenorchy, along the shores of Lake Wakatipu (the accent is on the third syllable). Here are two of the images I made, but stay tuned, I plan to follow with more shortly, hopefully within the next few days.
Amid many pressing distractions, I’ve managed a quick look at my archives for this date in history and found this image that I made 15 years ago from my window seat during a flight from Mexico City to Phoenix, Arizona. I think I had crossed the border when this scene presented itself, but I can’t be certain. It doesn’t have the resolution I’ve come to expect in more recent times, but I rather like its resulting larger grain, and I’m very fond of its abstract patterns and shadings and the way the plants bracket the various waterways.
On the morning of the third day of my fishing adventure a week ago, I was blessed with this view of the inlet that feeds Lake Otamangakau, as we approached it. I really do love a nice foggy morning, and they are very rare in Auckland. I would have liked to have been able to spend much more time with the dewy webs on the precipitously-steep stream bank, but they were beyond the reach of my physical and photographic capabilities at the time. Maybe next time I’ll be able to bring my serious tripod—and perhaps also a pair of stilts.