Friday, 29 February 2008

Curious Object No Longer

Every morning around 0600 the bird scarers to protect the grapes start banging. They are some sort of automated and random explosive charge. A farmer told me that they are one of the methods (and an expensive one) used to protect the grapes. For people who live near them it must be quite unpleasant. Anyway I discovered what the curious object in the posting for Friday 22 February entitled Curious Object is a quieter bird scarer.

From Te Mata Peak

Yesterday we drove up Te Mata Peak south of Napier. From there the views are spectacular. On a clear day one can see the whole of Hawkes Bay. The following pictures are taken facing the South and the West. The person in the red top is Fiona, Mo's daughter who lives in Sydney.

Te Mata range (Craggy Range) facing South from the peak

Facing South-West

Facing West towards the central ranges (covered in The Long White Cloud)

Lunch at Te Mata Cheese

Yesterday we went up Te Mata Peak and on the way back stopped for lunch at the Te Mata Cheese Company's cafe. Like so many eateries in Hawkes Bay the food and service was very good indeed. The beautiful weather allowed us to eat outside which is all part of the Hawkes Bay eating experience. We had an antipasta platter for three including three Te Mata cheeses. There was no way we could finish it and brought home a substantial doggy-bag. Indeed we were so full that for dinner six hours later we just had a pick-at-it salad meal.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

When asked what his study of biology had taught him J B S Haldane (who said "The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but is queerer than we can suppose.") replied that he'd learnt of God's 'inordinate fondness for beetles'. Indeed there are more beetle species on Earth than all the world's plants put together.

Like, I suspect, the majority of people I had never shared the love my Brother and his daughter, Helen, have for nature's insects. Their enthusiasm has, however, rubbed off on me over the years and for quite a while I have been photographing bugs and things. I'm not even afraid of hornets and wasps whilst I'm trying to photograph them - only when I don't have a camera to protect me do I become a nervous wreck in their presence!

When I came to New Zealand a whole new world of insects opened up in front of me. Not that we don't have millions in the UK but at the Cottage they appeared every night and day and persuaded me to photograph them. I have already posted an entry about the Wood Wasp but one of my first beetle encounters was with a Huhu Beetle or, in Maori, a Tunga Rere which is New Zealand's largest and heaviest beetle with a body length of about 4cm and antennae of up to 12cm.

Beetles can range in size from a fraction of a millimetre to more than 20 cm in length. The heaviest beetle is the African Goliath Beetle which can weigh up to 100grams - enough for it to crash through a glass window. The bodies of most beetles are very strong and well armoured. Some can carry 1700 times their own weight - the equivalent of three people carrying a 747 jumbo jet.

Beetles make up about 40% of all insect species making it the largest order of insects in the world. About 370,000 are known world wide: over 5500 in New Zealand with 90% of these unique to this country. Most are found only in native forest so their survival depends on the protection of this unique habitat.

Traditionally beetles were grouped by Maori into broad behavioural categories, a few tribal names for which are still in use. Mumu (or mumutawa or tanguru) includes the rounded beetles like scarabs, ladybirds and leaf beetles which often fly in swarms and often with a humming sound. Papapa or papaka are the broad, flat scuttling beetles (like tiger beetles) and other scurrying beetle-like creatures such as slaters and cockroaches - the name means 'flat' or 'lying close to the ground'. Tataka traditionally refers to beetles (and some moths) which fly around clumsily at night (eg longhorn beetles like the 'huhu').

I bought a wonderful book by Andrew Crowe when I came to New Zealand called Which New Zealand Insect. The categories are logically arranged and well set out and it has over 650 life size photos. I've found it invaluable. I was therefore rather surprised when I photographed a tiny (4mm long) insect yesterday which I took to be a beetle of some kind and of which I could find no parallel in the book. I could not, therefore, be sure of an identification. What I always do in these circumstances is seek CJ's help. However sometimes asking someone about an insect which may be a native to a country on the other side of the globe stretches knowledge a bit too far. So the jury is still out on Number 3.

Huhu Beetle - Tunga Rere (Prionoplus reticularis)

Burnt Pine Longhorn (Arthopalus tristis - was Ferrus)

A distinctive and tiny 4mm long insect - name awaited

Australasian Harrier

We came across this Australasian Harrier (Kahu) on the road into town a few days ago.

Clean Streets

The streets of Napier are, generally speaking, very clean. One reason is that people seem not to drop litter in the streets (although they seem to throw it out of cars in the countryside!?). Another reason is that we have a little van sponsored by McDonalds that seems to pop up in every part of the City every day. In fact I often wonder if there's a fleet of them but I'm told not.

Monkey Puzzle Tree

In Nelson Park where I play petanque is a Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana). Described on the Napier City Council's Website Page devoted to Notable Trees Within The City as a well-shaped specimen with its characteristic straight central trunk and dome or umbrella shaped canopy with spoke-like branches. It is a female tree over 70 years old - the Araucaria araucana is usually dioecious, with the male and female cones on separate trees.

The Araucarias are a geologically ancient genus of evergreen trees endemic to South America, Australia and several Pacific Islands. Araucaria araucana is a native of Eastern South America from Chile southwards to Tierra Del Fuego. They are believed to be able to live to 1000 years and are often known as living fossils.

The rigid, prickly leaves prompted the remark "it would puzzle a monkey to climb it" giving rise to the common name "Monkey Puzzle".

The photo of the tree is from the Council's website. However it was the fact that several of the cones had dropped by the car and where we walk to and from the petanque club that prompted this posting. The cones weigh about 1.5 kilos and are too spiky to pick up. If one landed on the car or one's head the damage would be considerable or even fatal - to a human, probably not to a car!

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

No Phone

Apologies for the fact that today's posting will be late and that I've sent no emails either. The phone went off last night and was off until about midday today. I've been out since then. Mo's daughter, Fiona, who lives in Sydney, is due to arrive in Napier in about 40 minutes. I'll be on line again later.

Monday, 25 February 2008

More Dressing up for Art Deco

Another selection of costumes from Art Deco Sunday.

Mail Arrives Here

When you post something to me this is where it arrives. This is the end of the public road system.
Our Mail Box

A modern plastic mail box. When you want the courier to pick up mail you put the red arm upwards.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Especially for Pat

Pat's perfect parked pink Packard - well actually it's a Ford Thunderbird but that doesn't go with the rest of the sentence.

The Monarch Butterfly

Probably the most commonly seen butterfly around Napier is the White.

Possibly the most common, although because it is very small (25mm wingspan) and lives very close to the ground it is rarely seen, is the Common Blue.

However the most noticeable is the Monarch or, in Maori, Kahuku. The Monarch arrived in New Zealand at least 120 years ago having crossed the Pacific from North America. It is this country's largest resident butterfly and is very common on warm sunny days particularly near its caterpillar's food - the swan plant (Gomphocarpus physocarpus). It spends two weeks as a caterpillar, two as a chrysalis then lives for about 2 months as a butterfly.

So this photo is one that I took when near Exeter with CJ, Helen and Ian last September. It is a male: note the black scent pouches near the bottom of the black veins nearest the body.

I would probably have written this posting anyway because the Monarch is so beautiful but I was even more fascinated by its migration story.

The Monarch is the only butterfly in the world known regularly to undertake [note the joined infinitive] a two-way migration. Indeed one female holds the record for the longest known insect migration, having flown 3432 kilometres from Canada to Mexico. At average speeds of up to 130 km each day this would have taken almost a month flying at altitudes of up to 1000 metres. Each year, at the end of summer, at least 100 million Monarchs [not an endangered species yet then!] make a similar southward journey to the mountain ranges of Mexico where they hibernate in the pine forests. At the end of winter they mate and start on their long journey back North. The most incredible thing about this northward journey is that it takes up to 5 generations 'leap-frogging' each other until the great, great, great grandchildren find their Canadian summer home again! How do they know where to go? No one knows.

In spite of its incredible journeys overseas, however, New Zealand Monarchs do not migrate long distances.

I have only once seen a Monarch butterfly land here although they fly around constantly very close - particularly on the Croquet lawn where they 'buzz' the balls. On the occasion that I did see one land the batteries ran out on my camera just before I tried to take the photo. By the time I'd put the new batteries in it had gone. Ah well.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus - Swan Plant

Cucullus non Facit Monachum

This is one of the curious quotations which has stuck with me since childhood - translation: A cowl does not a monk make. I knew of it from Twelfth Night but It also appears in John Dryden's Hind and Panther published in 1687, 71 years after Shakespeare's death. Apparently it was a common quotation of the times.

This particular monk was sitting in Emerson Street opposite where June and I were having coffee. A lady brought him one and sat beside him in silence for while. He didn't have a cowl anyway.

Purple Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis)

Now didn't you just want to know all that!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Dressing Up for Art Deco

A selection of the costumes from the Art Deco Sunday.

A Day's Guess What

The day started with me waking up. I tried to make that interesting but, frankly, it wasn't interesting at the time and it doesn't sound any more interesting now. But, hey, not everything can be interesting. As I am now about to demonstrate.

I had won our Club's qualifier for the Hawkes Bay Croquet Association Silver Badges Intermediate Golf Croquet and the final was this morning at the Te Mata Club. In fact all the finalists were from our Club and Te Mata. Te Mata took a clean sweep although my match went 5:7 7:5 and then on the last game I was in the perfect position on hoop 12 to win the match when I missed a 6" stop shot and the hoop and then was unable to get to the 13th hoop ahead of my opponent who won 7:6. It was a bummer but a really excellent match.

In Association Croquet all the Silver Badges went to our Club. I have my first one: C Grade. Won before I became a B Grade.

Mo arrives from Canada in two hours so I'd better get on.

Friday, 22 February 2008

The Gatsby Picnic

Between the Sound Shell and the Tom Parker Fountain and the Floral Clock and then on the beach side of the gardens are the picnic areas. Some parties set up a simple picnic party space for the day and some got to lots of effort to have a really good thematic display. Many people dress to the 1930s theme. The one thing that is guaranteed is that everyone will have a ball.

I Wonder Who Did That.

There must be a better caption. Can you supply it?

Curious Object

I'm sure that it must have a purpose. But what could it be. It stands alone at the end of a row of vines in the middle of the countryside.