Posts written by Colin Miskelly

Further flax weevil finds from farthest Fiordland

  • Flax weevil on Round Island, Preservation Inlet. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Southern Winds in Cascade Basin at the head of Long Sound. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Flax weevil larvae, Preservation Inlet, November 2017. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Sites where flax weevil feeding sign was noted in Chalky and Preservation Inlets in November 2017. Red arrows show islands where live flax weevils were found. Map based on NatureWatch sightings contributed by the Te Papa and DOC team.

Until 2016, flax weevils (large flightless protected beetles) were known from a single island in Fiordland. Recent surveys by Te Papa and Department of Conservation staff have now found evidence of them on a further 56 Fiordland islands. Here, Te Papa scientist Dr Colin Miskelly reports on the latest findings from remote southern Fiordland. What… Read more »

Seabird discoveries in remote southern Fiordland

  • Colin Miskelly searching for petrel burrows on one of the ‘Fingers’ of Five Fingers Peninsula, Resolution Island, with the Southern Winds below. Photo by Alan Tennyson. Te Papa
  • A broad-billed prion chick on an islet off the southern Fiordland coast. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Team members landing on outer Garden Island, Chalky Inlet. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • A broad-billed prion (left) and an Antarctic prion (right), Chalky Inlet, November 2017. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa

Te Papa scientists Alan Tennyson and Colin Miskelly recently joined a Department of Conservation-led survey of seabird colonies in remote Chalky Inlet and Preservation Inlet in southern Fiordland. The team made the most of an extended spell of fine weather to land on an astonishing 77 islands. Vertebrate curator Dr Colin Miskelly here summarises some… Read more »

In photos: Giant eggs, tiny eggs, and the eggceptionally rare

  • Eggstremes. South Island giant moa and rifleman eggs to the same scale. Specimens ME.012749 and OR.007264 (latter collected by Captain John Bollons at Akaroa, date unknown). Photogtaph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • Laughing owl egg (44.2 mm x 39.5 mm). Locality and date unknown. Specimen OR.030062. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • New Zealand dotterel clutch, Maketu Spit, Bay of Plenty, October 2011. Specimen OR.029416, eggs approx. 45 mm x 32 mm. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa
  • South Island kokako egg (42.0 mm x 27.4 mm), Hokitika, date unknown. Specimen OR.007626. Photograph by Jean-Claude Stahl. Te Papa

Bird expert Colin Miskelly highlights some of the treasures in our egg collection, including those thought to be held only by Te Papa – as well as giant moa eggs, tiny rifleman eggs, and eggs that were acquired during dramatic events in New Zealand’s conservation history. Digitising our egg collection Most of the bird eggs held… Read more »

A new bird for New Zealand – Cox’s sandpiper

  • New Zealand’s first Cox’s sandpiper, Lake Ellesmere, November 2016. Photograph: Michael Ashbee, NZ Birds Online
  • Pectoral sandpiper. Photograph: Steve Attwood, NZ Birds Online
  • Curlew sandpiper. Photograph: Neil Fitzgerald, NZ Birds Online
  • Sharp-tailed sandpiper. Photograph: Tony Whitehead, NZ Birds Online

The latest addition to the New Zealand bird list is a legendary shorebird so rare that there are times when it is likely that none exist anywhere in the world. Bird expert Colin Miskelly introduces the Cox’s sandpiper. Sandpipers are small wading birds that separate people with a serious interest in bird identification from casual… Read more »

Cuckoos and their toxic prey – ‘urticated’ inside and out

  • Shining cuckoo. Photograph by Nathan Hill, New Zealand Birds Online
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  • Red admiral butterfly caterpillar (pale morph). Photograph by Norm Twigge
  • Red admiral butterfly (Vanessa gonerilla). Photograph by Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Cuckoos can stomach toxic caterpillars, but it appears they are also impervious to being stung externally, as bird expert Colin Miskelly discovers. A previous blog on this topic referred to shining cuckoos seeking out and eating prey that are toxic to other birds – including caterpillars with urticating hairs. ‘Urticating’ refers to hollow spines that… Read more »

A new bird for New Zealand – laughing gull

  • New Zealand’s first laughing gull, Opotiki wharf, January 2017. Image: Thomas Musson, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Non-breeding Franklin’s gull, Papakura, October 2009. Image: Peter Frost, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Ray McNamara feeding gulls in his backyard, Opotiki, January 2017. The laughing gull is perched on a fence post at top left. Image: Bob Rigter
  • Laughing gull in breeding plumage, Mexico, March 2015. Image: Nigel Voaden, New Zealand Birds Online

Christmas arrived two days early for Waikato bird-watchers Annette Taylor and David Riddell when they spotted New Zealand’s first laughing gull. They were heading to Gisborne, and had stopped for a picnic at Te Ahiaua Reserve, 7 km west of Opotiki in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Te Ahiaua Reserve is on the shore of… Read more »

11,000 images on New Zealand Birds Online – and the Brooks family’s Big Year

  • The 11,000th image – a plumed whistling duck at Anderson Park, Taradale, December 2016. Image: Scott Brooks, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Jay Brooks searching for a marsh sandpiper, Miranda, October 2016. Image: Scott Brooks
  • Laughing kookaburra, Campbells Beach, Tawharanui, August 2016. Image: Scott Brooks, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Ollie, Zef and Jay Brooks match their wingspans with that of an albatross, Taiaroa Head Albatross Centre, September 2016. Image: Scott Brooks

The 11,000th image loaded on New Zealand Birds Online was of a rare vagrant Australian duck, and it comes with an inspirational back-story of family-based discovery and adventure. The image of a plumed whistling duck near Napier was one of more than 70 images that Northland-based photographer Scott Brooks loaded on the website following an… Read more »

Plague skinks invade the Coromandel

  • Marlborough green gecko (Naultinus manukanus). Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Plague skink (aka rainbow skink). Papa Aroha, January 2017. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Copper skink (Oligosoma aeneum). Papa Aroha, January 2017. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Shore skink (Oligosoma smithi). Papa Aroha, January 2017. Image: Colin Miskelly

In my previous blog I listed four Australian bird species that have colonised the Coromandel Peninsula in the last four decades. But it is not only birds that are contributing to the Aussification of northern New Zealand. Australian plague skinks are now dominating the local lizard fauna. New Zealand lizards New Zealand has an astonishingly… Read more »

Sunshine, fishing – and changes in Coromandel birdlife over 45 years

  • Papa Aroha beach. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Brown teal, Papa Aroha, December 2016. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Part of the Motukawao island group. Gannets nest on Motukaramarama (Bush) Island on the left. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Spotted shags, Firth of Thames. Image: Jenny Atkins, NZ Birds Online

From welcome swallows to Australian magpies, bird expert Colin Miskelly looks at the variety of birdlife who’ve come to call Coromandel home over the past half-century. Spending the summer at the beach is part of the great New Zealand holiday tradition. For many families, attachment to a particular location results in them returning to the… Read more »