Taranga / Hen Island – 1933 and 2010 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 1)

Edgar Stead (1881-1949) was a Canterbury naturalist famous (among other things) for exhuming the enormous Okarito blue whale skeleton now in Canterbury Museum, breeding the Ilam strain of rhododendrons and azaleas, and being an astute observer of New Zealand birds. His magnificent homestead ‘Ilam’ is now the Canterbury University staff club, and was the main set for Peter Jackson’s film ‘Heavenly Creatures’ (as the Hulme family lived there after the property was sold to University of Canterbury).

1.Roland Stead fishing in Dragon Mouth Cove, Hen Island, December 1933.  Photo: Edgar Stead. Macmillan collection, 2001.59.381, Canterbury Museum. Permission of Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

1. Roland Stead fishing in Dragon Mouth Cove, Hen Island, December 1933. Photo: Edgar Stead. Macmillan collection, 2001.59.381, Canterbury Museum. Permission of Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

As part of a project to publish the wildlife diaries of Edgar Stead, I am revisiting some of the islands that Stead camped on during the period 1929-1947. The main focus is describing how the ecology of the islands has changed since Stead’s time. The visits also provide an opportunity to take photographs to illustrate the diaries. This includes re-taking photographs from the same photopoint that Stead used.

2.Colin Miskelly in Dragon Mouth Cove, Hen Island, December 2010. Photo: Colin Miskelly.

2. Colin Miskelly in Dragon Mouth Cove, Hen Island, December 2010. Photo: Colin Miskelly.

Stead and his companion Major Robert Wilson visited Hen Island, off Whangarei, for 6 weeks in Nov-Dec 1933. They were joined for the second half of the trip by Stead’s wife Dot and their 11-year-old son Roland. The main purpose of their trip was to describe the juvenile plumage of the North Island saddleback, a species then confined to 500 ha Hen Island. North Island saddlebacks have since been translocated successfully to a dozen other islands plus Karori Sanctuary.

3.Pycroft’s petrel, Hen Island, December 2010. Photo: Colin Miskelly.

3. Pycroft’s petrel, Hen Island, December 2010. Photo: Colin Miskelly.

Other species studied by Stead on the island included the (then) recently described Pycroft’s petrel, kaka, kereru (New Zealand pigeon), tuatara, Duvaucel’s gecko and the egg-laying skink.

4. Tuatara, Hen Island, December 2010. Photo: Colin Miskelly.

4. Tuatara, Hen Island, December 2010. Photo: Colin Miskelly.

Stead published several short scientific papers after his visit, including one on the ‘Maori rat’ (also known as Pacific rat or kiore). The Department of Conservation administers Taranga / Hen Island as a Nature Reserve. In 2011 the Department intends to eradicate kiore from Taranga, freeing it of introduced mammals. This action is supported by Ngatiwai as tangata whenua, who have DOC’s agreement to maintain a population of kiore on nearby Mauitaha Island. Kiore are regarded as a taonga species by Ngatiwai, but have had severe impacts on many species on Taranga including tuatara, most lizards, and large land snails (Paryphanta and Amborhytida).

5.Rat-eaten Amborhytida tarangaensis snail, Hen Island, December 2010. Photo: Colin Miskelly.

5. Rat-eaten Amborhytida tarangaensis snail, Hen Island, December 2010. Photo: Colin Miskelly.

Other blogs in this series:

Nukuwaiata / Inner Chetwode Island – 1936 and 2011 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 2)

Kundy Island – 1929 and 2011 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 3)

Whenua Hou / Codfish Island – 1934 and 2011 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 4)

Rerewhakaupoko / Solomon Island – 1931 and 2012 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 5)

Taukihepa / Big South Cape Island – 1931 and 2012 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 6)

Pukeokaoka / Jacky Lee Island – 1932 and 2012 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 7)

Green Island – 1941 and 2012 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 8)

Ruapuke Island – 1941 and 2012 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 9) 

Western Chain, Snares Islands – 1929 and 2013 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 10)

Snares Islands –1947 and 2013 – In the footsteps of Edgar Stead (Part 11)

Related blog

Reptiles of Taranga (Hen Island) and nearby islands

 

By Colin Miskelly, Curator Terrestrial Vertebrates

 

One Response

  1. mike

    rare photo of tuatara Thanks

    Reply

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