Posts written by Colin Miskelly

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

  • Broad-billed prion (parara) on Solomon Island, March 2012. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Jackbird (juvenile South Island saddleback - on left) and adult South Saddleback photographed 3 days after they were re-introduced to Solomon Island, March 2012. Photos: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Stewart Island robin on Solomon Island, March 2012. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Bush wren on Solomon Island, November 1931 (Edgar Stead photo 2001.59.20, Macmillan Collection, Canterbury Museum)

Te Papa’s curator of terrestrial vertebrates Dr Colin Miskelly is researching the life and work of the Canterbury naturalist Edgar Stead (1881-1949). This includes re-taking Stead’s photos from the same photo-point, taking other images to illustrate his diaries, and describing how the ecology and wildlife of each of 10 islands has changed since Stead’s visits. The… Read more »

Are muttonbirds radioactive?

  • Good enough to eat. Roast titi await palatability testing. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • A muttonbirder holds a pre-season titi (sooty shearwater chick). Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Adult sooty shearwater (kaiaka), Kundy Island. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Adult sooty shearwaters (kaiaka) depart from Rerewhakaupoko (Solomon Island) at dawn. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

The March 2011 Japanese earthquake and following tsunami took a terrible human toll, and also had devastating impacts on wildlife. As the tsunami tracked east it washed over the low-lying atolls of the north-western Hawaiian islands, killing thousands of albatrosses and petrels. The tsunami also crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power-plant, sending a plume of radiation… Read more »

No evidence that stoats have impacted on Kapiti Island’s birds

  • North Island saddleback displaying. Photo: Rob Cross
  • Timeline for stoat arrival, detection and the trapping of three individuals on Kapiti Island. The curve shows saddleback count results over the same period (average number of birds counted per 5 minutes), with no apparent reduction during the time that stoats were known to be present. Image: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • A saddleback specimen in the Te Papa collection – an unwilling sentinel species for stoat impacts. Image: Te Papa
  • The skeleton of the male stoat trapped on Kapiti Island in February 2011 is held by Te Papa (LM 2603). Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Kapiti Island is one of New Zealand’s premier bird sanctuaries. It is home to nationally important populations of little spotted kiwi, kaka, North Island saddleback, stitchbird and North Island robin, as well as other threatened bird species. The island was considered to be free of all introduced mammal pests after rats were eradicated in 1996…. Read more »

One step forward after three steps back – slow progress with restoring populations of New Zealand seabirds

  • Colin Miskelly holding a fluttering shearwater chick, Mana Island, January 2012. Photo: Kate McAlpine & Colin Miskelly
  • Translocated fluttering shearwater chick being fed a sardine smoothy, Mana Island, January 2007. Photo: David Cornick
  • Diving petrels and fluttering shearwaters killed by the Rena oil spill, Bay of Plenty, October 2011. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • Diving petrels and fluttering shearwaters killed by the Rena oil spill, Bay of Plenty, October 2011. Photo: Colin Miskelly

2011 was a grim year for New Zealand seabirds. They suffered the triple-whammy of nuclear-fallout from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant affecting the North Pacific non-breeding grounds of at least four species, a severe winter storm that killed up to half a million prions, then the Rena oil spill believed to have killed several… Read more »

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

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  • Location of Edgar Stead's 1934-35 campsite on Codfish Island (the end of Sealers Bay is visible at lower right). Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa, December 2011
  • Kakapo at night on Codfish Island. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa, December 2011
  • Codfish Island fernbird exiting nest among cocksfoot, Sealers Bay, Codfish Island. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa, December 2011

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… Read more »

Riders of the storm – the severely depleted next generation

  • Broad-billed prion chick, Trig Island, Codfish Island, December 2011. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Trig Island, off the east coast of Codfish Island. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa, December 2011
  • Prions killed during the July 2011 storm event. Photo: Alan Tennyson, Te Papa
  • Fluttering shearwaters killed by the Rena oil spill. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

2011 was a terrible year for New Zealand seabirds. The Rena oil spill in October received the most media coverage and provided dramatic images (see Rena oil spill blogs). More insidious were the impacts of the Japanese earthquake and ensuing tsunami in March. A plume of radioactive fallout from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power… Read more »

Re-articulation of Phar Lap’s skeleton – bold decisions and expert advice

  • How to mount a horse? Hayden Prujean and Alex Davies discuss the re-articulation of Phar Lap's skeleton. Photo: Te Papa
  • Robert Clendon and Dr Alex Davies discuss the positioning of Phar Lap's left forelimb and scapular. Photo: Te Papa
  • Dr Alex Davies checks the positioning of Phar Lap's thoracic vertebrae. Photo: Te Papa
  • Phar Lap's trunk skeleton imposed on a life-sized image of the mounted skin held in Melbourne Museum. Photo: Te Papa

Phar Lap’s skeleton is one of Te Papa’s best known exhibits. Perhaps the most famous horse ever to emerge from Australasia, the national identity of Phar Lap is as intensely debated each side of the Tasman as is who invented the pavlova. Foaled at Seadown, near Timaru, in 1926, Phar Lap was bought by the… Read more »

What bird is that? The grim task of identifying seabirds killed by the M.V. Rena oil spill

  • Cause and effect. Dead Buller's shearwaters spell the name of the Rena, with 2 northern giant petrels to the left, and rows of fluttering shearwaters and diving petrels above. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Karen and Lucy with oiled seabirds inside the pathology tent. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Colin Miskelly (Te Papa's Curator Terrestrial Vertebrates) with a heavily olied northern giant petrel. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa
  • Fluttering shearwaters coated in oil from the M.V. Rena. Photo: Colin Miskelly, Te Papa

Te Papa bird staff are providing expert assistance to Maritime New Zealand and Massey University veterinary staff in the form of identifying birds affected by the oil spill. Three current and one former staff member have been a ‘tag team’ since 12 October, identifying the hundreds of corpses recovered by the teams patrolling the beaches,… Read more »