Posts written by Colin Miskelly

Robert Falla and the Westland petrel

  • Westland petrel (Procellaria westlandica), Paparoa National Park. Image: Colin Miskelly, New Zealand Birds Online
  • Robert Falla at his desk in the Dominion Museum, watched over by a spotted shag. Image: Te Papa MA_B.016181
  • White-capped mollymawk (Thalassarche cauta steadi). Image: Colin Miskelly, New Zealand Birds Online
  • The three versions of the Falla, Sibson, turbot field guide, published between 1966 and 1990. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

The museum’s fifth Director became our second knight. Te Papa turned 150 years old on 8 December 2015. To celebrate 150 years since the opening of the Colonial Museum in Wellington, the exhibition ‘You called me WHAT?!’ is open on Level 3 until the end of 2016. The exhibition, and this series of blogs, explore… Read more »

W.R.B. Oliver – jack-of-all-trades and master of most

  • Chatham Island red-crowned parakeet (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae chathamensis Oliver, 1930) – named by Oliver in his first edition of New Zealand birds. Image: Dave Crouchley, Department of Conservation/New Zealand Birds Online
  • Reginald Oliver collecting plants at Wilmot Pass, Fiordland, March 1927. Image by J.T. Salmon, Dominion Museum. Te Papa (MA_B.014931)
  • Dominion Museum building, 1984 (then known as the National Museum). Image: Mark Strange, Te Papa (MA_B.016888)
  • IShepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi Oliver 1937) stranded at Ōteranga Bay, Wellington, September 1998. Photograph by Peter Simpson, Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai (10041750)

Te Papa turned 150 years old on 8 December 2015. To celebrate 150 years since the opening of the Colonial Museum in Wellington, the exhibition ‘You called me WHAT?!’ is open on Level 3 until the end of 2016. The exhibition, and this series of blogs, explore the history of the museum by showcasing some… Read more »

Allan Thomson and the Cenozoic brachiopods

  • J. Allan Thomson (1881-1928). Image: Journal of Science and Technology Vol. 10 no. 2
  • Fossil lamp shell (brachiopod) Rhizothyris amygdala Thomson, 1920; holotype BR.001348, Hutchinson's Quarry, Oamaru, greensands
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  • Fossil lamp shell (brachiopod) Pachymagas hectori Thomson, 1920; holotype BR.001339, Landon Creek, near Oamaru, greensands. Named after Allan Thomson’s predecessor as Director of the Colonial Museum (later Dominion Museum), Sir James Hector

Our national museum’s third director was New Zealand’s first Rhodes Scholar, but was cut down in his prime. Te Papa turned 150 years old on 8 December 2015. To celebrate 150 years since the opening of the Colonial Museum in Wellington, the exhibition ‘You called me WHAT?!’ is open on Level 3 until the end… Read more »

Augustus Hamilton and the gold-spangled butterfly

  • Hamilton’s black mountain butterfly (Percnodaimon micans). Lectotype of Erebia pluto micans Hamilton, 1909. Te Papa AI.024867. Te Papa image
  • Bust of Augustus Hamilton, Director Colonial Museum 1903-1907, Director Dominion Museum 1907-1913. Te Papa ME016792. Image: Te Papa
  • Hamilton’s black mountain butterfly (Percnodaimon micans) – underside of wing showing golden scales. Lectotype of Erebia pluto micans Hamilton, 1909. Te Papa AI.024867. Te Papa image
  • Hamilton’s frog (Leiopelma hamiltoni) holotype. Te Papa AM.000012. Te Papa image MA_I069445

Our national museum’s second director was an ethnologist with broad interests in natural sciences. Te Papa turned 150 years old on 8 December 2015. To celebrate 150 years since the opening of the Colonial Museum in Wellington, the exhibition ‘You called me WHAT?!’ is open on Level 3 until the end of 2016. The exhibition,… Read more »

Sir James Hector and the Kerguelen connection

  • Lyallia kerguelensis, Ile Mayes, Iles Kerguelen. Image: Colin Miskelly, IPEV / Te Papa
  • Hectorella caespitosa, Sealy Range, Southern Alps. Image: Antony Kusabs, Te Papa
  • Commerson's dolphin, Golfe du Morbihan, Iles Kerguelen. Image: Colin Miskelly, IPEV / Te Papa
  • Hector’s dolphin. Image: Steve Dawson, New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust

The Kerguelen Islands are among the most remote islands on the planet, lying in the middle of the southern Indian Ocean about 7300 km west of New Zealand (or 17,000 km east if you prefer). Yet they have at least two unlikely connections with New Zealand – a plant and a dolphin. And both are… Read more »

The mysterious attraction of the Hutt River to crabeater seals

  • Crabeater seal, Melling, Lower Hutt, July 1934. Image: John Salmon, Te Papa image MA_A.000173
  • Weddell seal, Napier, June 2007. Image: Department of Conservation
  • Ross seal, Paekakariki, September 2002. Image: Department of Conservation
  • Crabeater seal beside the Hutt River, March 2015. Image: Anneke Mace, Department of Conservation

In late March 2015, a crabeater seal swam up the Hutt River (which flows into Wellington Harbour) and died. It was a remarkable occurrence – the crabeater seal is an Antarctic species rarely recorded in New Zealand – but no-one realised at the time that this was precisely the place in New Zealand where a… Read more »

A glimpse of ancient Mauritius: Ile aux Aigrettes, restoration island

  • White-tailed tropicbird chick being hand-fed, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Mauritius fodies: male (left) and female (right), Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Pink pigeon, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Telfair's skink, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

I first heard of Ile aux Aigrettes at a conference on island pest eradications held in Auckland in early 2001. A delegate from Mauritius spoke about a failed attempt to eradicate Indian musk shrews from the 25 ha island, which had already been cleared of feral cats and ship rats. The island next registered in… Read more »

Once were dodos

  • Dodo statue, Ile aux Aigrettes. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Mauritius kestrel. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Pink pigeon. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • What am I

The dodo is the world’s most famous extinct bird. Its quirky appearance makes it instantly recognisable in popular culture, including in classics such as Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and the animated short film ‘Ice Age’. One of the reasons it is so well known is that it is considered to be the first… Read more »