Webnesday (43)

It’s been just over a month since my last spidery post, and I’m very happy to be able to report that my wish to have another chance at a photo session with a new black-headed jumping spider, Trite planiceps, has been granted. It happened a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been meaning to feature it in a post, but I’ve been that busy. Anyway, even though it’s now Thursday here, it’s still Wednesday back in Omaha, so I feel justified in posting today. This lovely little lady beckoned to me from a cupboard door as I passed through Batty’s kitchen and I was happy to help her to get back into the outside world with the help of a small glass and a piece of thin cardboard. I released her onto one of the Ahlstromeria blossoms in a bouquet that I’d carried out onto the deck, and she seemed quite content to explore it and its companions for the better part of an hour before other responsibilities called to me and I had to go back inside. When I found her still in the bouquet the next morning, I eased her out into the wilds of the adjacent garden, where she’d be more likely to find satisfactory hunting and adventure. And I hope and trust that she’s found them.

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Snappy Snorkel

A little less than a week ago I had a chance to go for a swim with Squiddy in Goat Island Marine Reserve near the town of Leigh, a drive of a bit more than  an hour north of Auckland. The tide was in, so it was easier getting into and out of the water than it is when it’s shallower at low tide. It had rained recently, so the water was not as clear as we would have liked, but there was still plenty to see. The most common fish were snapper, and they were the only species whose curiosity brought them close enough for decent portraits. We only had an hour, but the water temperature was very pleasant and the sun shone for us!

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Menagerie Monday (6): Friendly Photophile

It is my general policy, when I encounter outdoor critters in the house, to help them back to the natural environment in which they should be more comfortable. Just the day before yesterday I met a tiny mantis in Batty’s house, that had apparently climbed in through an mantis 3529open window. When I carefully guided it onto my hand for transfer, it climbed onto the camera I was holding, whereupon I carefully set the camera down and took advantage of this fortunate opportunity to fetch a different camera to use for this portrait shot. Mantis 2180584But before I did, in order to give you an even better impression of its size, I carefully offered it the chance to explore my other camera as well, and it seemed only too happy do so. And then, after our brief session, I carried it back out to the garden again and let it go.

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Thoughtful Thursday: All-Day Rain

Our gorgeous weather has given way to thick, gray skies and constant rain that has been coming down since before dawn. The temperature has dropped and not only long sleeves, but also sweaters or fleece tops are in order. The wind is blustery as well, so the entire effect is that it’s a good day to stay indoors, hang out with the baby, have several hot drinks, plan meals, play games, catch up on emails and posts, and just generally enjoy each other’s company. I did, however, venture out briefly onto Batty’s deck for a glance around and some fresh air, and to enjoy the droplets  cascading down the lovely ferns. Rainy ferns 1030685

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Menagerie Monday (5): Cicadian Rhythms

No, that’s not a typo in my title. I’m enjoying having stepped into summer again, here in New Zealand, and one of the essential songs of summer for me is that of the cicada. Cicada 2120449 It has been warm enough that the local cicadas have been serenading us with their rhyth- mic, buzzing songs, and this afternoon one flew onto Batty’s deck and settled on a fern. Cicada 2120466It remained calm for long enough for me to do a few portrait shots. What a beauty!

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Webnesday (42)

My photo angel, Frances, has been very good to me.  As I indicated in my last Webnesday post a week ago, I have been hoping for another close encounter with one of my favorite arachnids, Trite (rhymes with “mighty”) planiceps, aka the black-headed jumping spider. Trite planiceps 2060295There are some 150 species of jumping spiders in New Zealand, and this one is, I’ve been happy to find, quite common. This little fellow caught my attention yesterday and volunteered for a photo session that lasted the better part of an hour. I believe that this was a male, as it had a row of dark hairs above its frontal eyes. Actually, he wasn’t all that Trite planiceps 2060268little—in fact, they are rather large, as jumping spiders go, with a leg span of about 3/4 of an inch, or about 2 cm.  He was very cooperative and tolerant of my intimate interest, and became comfortable enough with my proximity that he jumped onto my camera lens, probably because he saw his reflection and decided to meet the new handsome neighbor. Trite planiceps 2060351The flowering plant in my first two images, Crocosmia, is another non-native one, another immigrant indigenous to the grasslands of southern and eastern Africa, and the violet one in the background of the third is an Agapanthus praecox, which I featured in my last post. The Crocosmia are considered only mildly invasive here, and are also found in the eastern United States (where they are known as coppertips or falling stars) and in the UK (known as montbretia). I have seen them growing wild in the Big Sur area of California.

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A Trio of Travelers

Being a traveler here myself, I can well appreciate the attraction that this magical land holds for many others, and I’m planning to spend much more time in New Zealand in the future. But it has attracted many other foreign visitors through the years, of which not all are completely welcome. And some of them have taken root in considerable abundance. Agapanthus 204032One of these is the distinctive Agapanthus praecox, a native plant of South Africa, which, according to Wikipedia,  is thought to have been introduced by troops return- ing from the Second Boer War, which continued from 1899 through 1902. It gained considerable popularity in the early twentieth century, thanks in part to its extreme hardiness, high salt tolerance, and low maintenance needs. It has been listed on various weed registers in New Zealand since 1996 and is currently declared by the Department of Conserva- tion to be an “environmental weed.” In spite of its continuing popularity in home gardens, some efforts are being made to control the plant in the wild, and it has (at least twice) been recommended to be added to the  National Pest Plant Accord. Several Agapanthus grow outside Batty’s deck, very handy for examination and study, and I find myself drawn to them to look for the wee folk that find shelter and sustenance there. Agapanthus 204038Several varieties of spider inhabit their depths and prowl their foliage (I’ll surely bring you some of them in the near future), but yesterday another non-native visitor came into view. Mantis 3438New Zealand does have a native mantis (Orthodera novaezealandiae) but a foreign rival, the Springbok mantis (Miomantis caffra)—also from South Africa—found its way here Mantis 3461around 1978. Although the Springbok is not generally considered to be a pest, in an agri- cultural sense, it has slowly but steadily been replacing the native New Zealand variety, Mantis 3456which is quite easy to identify, as it is always bright green and has a large,distinctive, blue-purplish spot on the inside of each of its grasping forelegs. Native males are strongly attracted to Springbok females, which typically cannibalize them; native females do not. Which brings me to the third participant in yesterday’s scenario. The passion vine hopper (Scolypopa australis) is a very common sight on many plants. Native to Australia, it made its way to New Zealand around 1876. It has distinctive, oversized, delta-shaped wings. Mantis and  hopper 3442The juvenile mantis I was observing almost caught this one, but in spite of the little predator’s admirably-stealthy approach and lightning-fast attack, the leafhopper became aware of it in the last second and made its escape in less than the blink of an eye.

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