Posts written by Colin Miskelly

Seasonality in birds and birdwatchers

  • Shining cuckoo graph
  • Shining cuckoos are often secretive, but are unmistakeable when seen well. Image: Duncan Watson, New Zealand Birds Online
  • An adult grey warbler (left) feeds a recently fledged shining cuckoo chick. Image: Malcolm Pullman, New Zealand Birds Online
  • An adult shining cuckoo shows its iridescent dorsal plumage. Image: Nathan Hill, New Zealand Birds Online

One of the characteristic sounds of spring in New Zealand is the clear, upward-slurred whistle of the shining cuckoo. Along with its long-tailed cousin, the two cuckoos are the only New Zealand forest birds that migrate away from New Zealand after breeding. This is in sharp contrast to temperate countries in Europe, Asia and North… Read more »

New Zealand’s best bird photographer?

  • A vagrant Japanese snipe photographed at Lake Rotokaeo, Hamilton. Image: Neil Fitzgerald, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Northern-Bullers-Mollymawk-flight
  • The holotype of Pelagornis miocaenus (a fossil seabird) from Armagnac, France, held in the Paris Museum. There is a single specimen referred to this species from North Canterbury. Image: Alan Tennyson, New Zealand Birds Online
  • The red-kneed dotterel has been seen once in New Zealand. This adult was photographed at the Werribee sewage treatment works in Victoria, Australia. Image: Sonja Ross, New Zealand Birds Online

Three hundred photographers (and two painters) have contributed images to the New Zealand Birds Online website, which was launched in June 2013. Each of the 461 bird species on the website has its own page, with one image selected as the ‘master’ image, and additional images presented as a gallery of thumbnails that can be… Read more »

New Zealand’s favourite bird

  • Kakapo - out of sight, but not completely out of mind. Image: Dylan van Winkel, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Eastern rosella - the most-viewed introduced species on New Zealand Birds Online. Image: Josie Galbraith, New Zealand Birds Online
  • The North Island brown kiwi was the most viewed kiwi species, but was only the 32nd most viewed species. Image: Rod Morris (Department of Conservation), New Zealand Birds Online
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Have you ever wondered what is New Zealand’s favourite bird? Forest & Bird ask this question annually, but their ‘Bird of the Year’ competition is skewed by the unashamed lobbying of passionate bird lovers, along with alleged multiple voting, leaving us none the wiser as to what is our true national favourite. The New Zealand Birds… Read more »

Critters of the Snares Islands

  • A Prodontria longitarsis chafer beetle on Veronica elliptica at night. Image: Alan Tennyson, Te Papa
  • Lyperobius nesidiotes photographed on Anisotome acutifolia on Broughton Island in 1984. A recent survey failed to find its host plant on Broughton Island, the only site where the weevil was known to occur, and so it is possible that this rarest of the Snares Islands’ insects has quietly chewed its way to extinction. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Anisotome acutifolia in flower near the Razorback on North East Island, Snares Islands. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Colin Miskelly standing next to a large punui (Stilbocarpa robusta) on the Snares Islands. This plant had leaves up to 73 cm across. Image: Alan Tennyson, Te Papa

A Te Papa team recently visited the Snares Islands Nature Reserve, 105 km south-southwest of Stewart Island, where they completed a range of seabird and plant research projects. Here, Colin Miskelly (Curator Terrestrial Vertebrates) describes some of the smaller inhabitants of the Snares Islands. Watch Science Live: Expedition Snares Island to find out more about… Read more »

Anthony Hume Whitaker, MNZM (1944–2014) – a tribute

  • Whitaker’s skink (Oligosoma whitakeri), Pukerua Bay, January 1997. Tony Whitaker discovered this species on two islands off Whitianga, and it was subsequently found to occur also at Pukerua Bay north of Wellington (and nowhere else). It was named in honour of Tony by Graham Hardy in 1977. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • McGregor’s skink (Oligosoma macgregori), and Sail Rock viewed from Dragon Mouth Cove, Taranga (Hen Island). Tony Whitaker found McGregor’s skink to be present on Sail Rock during landings there in January 1969 and March 1971. McGregor’s skinks from Sail Rock were translocated to nearby Lady Alice and Whatupuke Islands after Pacific rats were eradicated on both islands. Images: Colin Miskelly
  • Whitaker’s skink (Oligosoma whitakeri), Pukerua Bay, January 1997. Tony Whitaker discovered this species on two islands off Whitianga, and it was subsequently found to occur also at Pukerua Bay north of Wellington (and nowhere else). It was named in honour of Tony by Graham Hardy in 1977. Image: Colin Miskelly
  • Tony Whitaker (centre) with Department of Conservation staff Ian Cooksley and Mark Townsend during a ‘pre-rat-eradication’ lizard survey on Kapiti Island, May 1995. Image: Colin Miskelly

Tony Whitaker (or ‘Whit’ to his many friends) was the godfather of modern herpetology in New Zealand. Following more than half a century of fieldwork to the remotest corners of New Zealand, there were few lizard species that he had not seen, nor lizard researchers that he had not cheerfully assisted. Tony’s passion for, and… Read more »