Tag Archive: fauna

escape to summer, part 2

once the festwochenende had wound down, we repaired to the verdant bubble of cabin life, accompanied by my old friend and scrabble-rival spam.  more swimming, frisbee, good food and games followed, along with the next installment of the summer’s project: taming the local chipmunk population.  mom had started feeding the cheeky local chippies on two large boulders in the meadow, and had gotten them to the point where they would stomp and chuck impatiently if they felt they’d been underfed on a given day.  having read about the brazenness of chipmunks and seen the greedy gleam in their little seed-maddened eyes, i decided to see how close they were actually willing to get for a cheekful of sunflower seeds.
answer: very close.

over the next few weeks, we grew able to recognize at least four individuals with relatively distinct characteristics, who also mostly appeared in distinct locations, probably associated with individual territories.  some of them grew bold enough to climb our legs and sit on our shoulders, while others remained relatively skittish, although even these shyer ones would hand-feed if we sat still long enough.  we did feel some initial twinges of guilt about acclimatizing them to humans so shamelessly, but on the other hand, their territories clearly did not bring them in contact with any other humans, plus we read that they would forage on fine-weather days to create caches of food for bad-weather days and cold weather.  so really, we were just giving them some winter insurance, and their brief, strange season of tameness shouldn’t affect them too much.  i also can’t imagine that there’s much room for memory in those little skulls, so i doubt the habituation will last long.  i also suspect we will find a meadowful of sunflowers next year thanks to forgotten caches.
it’s pretty hard to find a creature cuter than a jumping spider… but these guys are worthy competition.

two tigers

hard to believe these guys were just kittens not that long ago

detached interest






a lot of stripes






omg ponies

last weekend, we went to wellington, planning to catch up with some good people and finally visit kapiti island, a long-time goal.  the people part went great; the predator-free sanctuary island park, not so much.  high seas, sleet and hail caused the ferry operators to (probably sensibly) cancel all crossings for sunday, the day for which we had booked our permit.  2009 doesn't seem to be a good year for our vacation plans, what with great barrier reef falling through over easter, so here's hoping our sojourn to the US in two weeks is a little less star-crossed.

well, as we were driving around upper (the) hutt visiting people, we came across these two shaggy bundles of equine ridiculousness.  they were basically hooved teddy bears.  and their tiny ears, velvety nuzzling noses and warm pony breath definitely helped to ease the disappointment a little.  miniature horses are often evil-tempered (small dog/napoleon syndrome, i guess), but these guys were lapping up the attention, and we were happy to give it to them.


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no trip abroad is complete without making a fuss over the local fauna.  although the more dangerous beasts of oz kept their distance (no snakes, blue-ringed octos or particularly bitey spiders), we did have some nice run-ins with the scaly and feathered.  ibises, although introduced, are now pretty ubiquitous in the cities.

lorikeets swooped regularly through the back yard of the pebbles-in-law, brightening the rain with their tropical colors and cheeky chat.

magpies, which are a terrible pest in new zealand, are at least tolerated in aus (where they’re native).  and their fluting song makes a nice wake-up call.

during the brief patches of sunlight, lizards crept out of every crevice to bask and collect a little solar energy.

although there were also some reptiles that also preferred to work by night.

and this tiny one probably would have preferred to be nocturnal, but he got confused and turned up in the house in the morning instead.

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animals on parade

we usually keep up an annual membership with the local zoo, which is walking distance from our house and a fine destination on weekends.  recently it’s lapsed somewhat, but looking back over pictures from our most recent trip, i think we may need to take care of that soon.

the herps & birds were stealing the show for the first part of the visit.

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more dive pretties

on saturday we dived the mokohinau islands.  it was a gorgeous day in spite of the choppy ride out and chilly 16 degree water, and we saw many good things!


Undersea pebblesNice colorsKina

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these rascals (and one more) were born at the local zoo earlier this year.  in the absence of time for proper written postings, they shall be my ambassadors for today.

scaly colleagues

in the wake of thesis submission, i have a few projects on the go.  however, i’m hoping to enjoy just a few weeks of leisure followed by gainful employment – i’ve applied for a collections technician position at the local museum, which seems like it would be both a valuable experience and good fun in the interim between finishing up all my phd stuff and heading off on the next adventure.  i’ve had an interview already and will know more by the end of next week.  in the meantime, i can dream of being able to visit these guys during morning tea every day… 




another one






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and now, a pufferfish

gonzo the kiwi!

hi from the House Of Plague.  the pebbles came back from england last week and summarily developed a fantastic case of bronchitis and/or pneumonia (the doctor wasn't sure), whose most endearing symptom is the racking cough that persists day and night.  and today, 8 days after he arrived home, my lungs are slowly filling with cement.  because we like to share!  yay!

anyway, that's not what this is all about – instead i have a special edition of Random Fauna On The Inkspot for you today, oh yes.  no bugs, no herps, no fur even… today it's feathers!  weeeeeird feathers. 

on a recent weekend road trip to wanganui, roger and i went to visit the local branch of bird rescue, where we had the very rare privilege of meeting a real, live kiwi.  and not just meeting her.  gonzo is a three-year-old female who suffered severe beak damage two years ago, including the loss of the sensory pads at the end of the lower beak that help kiwi sense their insect prey.  (there – i DID sneak bugs in.)  since then she has not fed herself and will never be fit fo release back into the wild.  but she can still be part of the kiwi breeding program, operation nest egg.  her need to be fed by hand several times a day means, however, that she has to be very comfortable around people – essentially a pet.  it may seem a little wrong to let a wild animal get so used to and dependent on people, but if you could see her beady little eyes drift closed, her beak-whiskers quivering with pleasure as she leans into a good scratch on the back of the head, you might decide her life's not so bad.

a kiwi is a pretty unlikely looking animal, a bird evolved to fill an ecological niche normally taken by mammals, in an island country where the only native land mammals are bats.  kiwi feathers are very similar to fur, being long, slender and coarse – more traditional feathers would only get shredded as they trundle through the dense undergrowth.  and the whole coat of feathers is surprisingly springy to the touch.  their bones are solid (gonzo weighed about 2.2 kg), their legs heavy and powerful, and their wings reduced to tiny naked stumps, with a single claw at the tip of each.  the whole demeanor is, in fact, much more reminiscent of a large rodent (say, a guinea pig), than a bird – less frantic hopping and head-swiveling, more sedate observation and whisker-twitching.  and testing of things by biting.

given their odd appearance and behavior, kiwi do perhaps seem like an odd choice for a national icon, and, as a nz comedian recently pointed out, naming a national airline 'kiwi air' (after a flightless animal that likes to dive nose-first into the ground) may not have been the most inspired marketing tactic.  but i have to say, it was a thrill to meet a kiwi – to see the scaly feet and rough feathers up close, to touch the fluffy underdown and watch her drift into a scratch-induced sleeplike trance.  kiwi are extraordinarily endangered in nz, and although there is relatively good awareness of and support for remedying their plight, one does occasionally hear the callous question, 'why save this evolutionary dead-end, when it obviously can't survive on its own anymore?'  well, i hope gonzo (in between raising healthy chicks, hatched from eggs that weigh 25% of her own body weight when they are laid – ouch!!) meets a few of those cynics and changes their minds.

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