Posts categorized as Field trips

How many species of the confusing shrub toropapa are disguised in the bush?

Toropapa flower, Whangaroa. Photo by Leon Perrie. Te Papa

Toropapa (Alseuosmia) is a genus of shrubs found only in New Zealand. Toropapa has been confusing botanists for over 100 years because they show extreme variation in leaf shape – even between plants considered to be the same species from a single location! Te Papa scientists Lara Shepherd and Leon Perrie, along with the Department of… Read more »

The mystery of the giant hoho weevils of Rangatira Island

  • Hadramphus weevil on hoho trunk at night, Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • Coxella speargrasses in the Department of Conservation nursery at Te One, Chatham Island. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • Map of Rangatira Island showing locations where blog images were taken. S = weevils feeding on speargrass, H1 = hoho tree near the hut, H2 = weevil site on summit track, H3 = weevil site in Kokopu Creek catchment.
  • Coxella weevil (Hadramphus spinipennis) feeding on coxella (Aciphylla dieffenbachii) at night, Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly

Te Papa curator Colin Miskelly has recently returned from volunteering for the Department of Conservation on the Chatham Islands. His inordinate fondness for weevils led to some new discoveries about one of Rangatira Island’s more cryptic yet spectacular inhabitants. The coxella weevil Hadramphus spinipennis was one of the 50 or so Chatham Island insects discovered… Read more »

Giant spiders and other critters of Rangatira Island, Chatham Islands

  • Slightly smaller and more brightly coloured than the female, a male Rangatira spider hunts on a mahoe trunk at night, Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • A male Geodorcus capito stag beetle. Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • Chatham Island skink Oligosoma nigriplantare. Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • Subantarctic fur seal Arctocephalus tropicalis. Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly

Rangatira Island is best known as a refuge for rare birds, but it is also home to a spectacular variety of flightless insects, giant spiders, lizards, and seals. Te Papa natural environment curator Colin Miskelly recently spent a month on the island as a volunteer for the Department of Conservation. The team was mainly focussed… Read more »

The petrels of Rangatira Island, Chatham Islands

  • Innocent until proven. A broad-billed prion on Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • A white-faced storm petrel fledgling climbing a tree in preparation for its first flights, Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • A broad-billed prion at its burrow entrance, Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • A downy black-winged petrel chick left unguarded on Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly

Rangatira Island is world famous for its immense seabird colonies. Te Papa bird expert Colin Miskelly recently took leave to join a Department of Conservation team focussed on black robin and Chatham petrel recovery programmes on the island. Much of the Chatham petrel work was undertaken at night, providing an opportunity to observe related species… Read more »

The littlest snipe

  • An adult Chatham Island snipe presenting a food item to its snippet, Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • A newly-hatched Chatham Island snippet, Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • Chatham Island snipe nest, Rangatira Island, March 2018. Two eggs is the typical clutch size. Photo: Colin Miskelly
  • A Chatham Island snipe foraging with its bill deep in the soil, Rangatira Island, March 2018. Photo: Colin Miskelly

Te Papa bird expert Colin Miskelly first visited Rangatira Island Nature Reserve in the Chatham Islands as an undergraduate student studying snipe in 1983. He recently returned to the island as a volunteer for the Department of Conservation, and was delighted to renew acquaintance with one of his favourite birds. The first Chatham Island snipe… Read more »

What happens when you ask ornithologists to do botany

  • Myosotis capitata from Adams Island. WELT SP106541. Photo by Nicki Atkinson.
  • Myosotis rakiura from Curio Bay, South Island, New Zealand. WELT SP105593. Photo by Heidi Meudt @ Te Papa. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/1591954
  • Watercolour painting of Myosotis capitata by Nancy Adams. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/835481
  • Myosotis capitata on Ewing Island. WELT SP106542. Photo by Colin Miskelly @ Te Papa.

Bird experts Colin Miskelly and Alan Tennyson recently returned from a research trip to the subantarctic Auckland Islands. Although their main aim was to study birds, Botany Researcher Heidi Meudt sent them on a separate mission – to collect a rare flower. An elusive forget-me-not Myosotis capitata is a species of forget-me-not that is known only from Campbell Island… Read more »

Furtive fauna of the Auckland Islands

  • White-headed petrel chick, Disappointment Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • An endemic Auckland Island weta (Dendroplectron aucklandense) on Ewing Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • A pair of weevil Oclandius laeviusculus weevils mating on an Anisotome latifolia flower head at night on Disappointment Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • A lesser fulmar prion fledgling prepares for its first flight at night on Disappointment Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa

Sea lions, albatrosses, and penguins usually grab the attention of visitors to the remote Auckland Islands south of New Zealand. But when Te Papa curators Colin Miskelly and Alan Tennyson explored the islands recently, they were focussed on species that are easily overlooked, and particularly those that come out after dark… The night shift The… Read more »

Three species of forget-me-nots new to science have just been formally described by Te Papa Botany Researcher Heidi Meudt and colleagues. Heidi introduces us to their names, what they look like, and describes what makes them unique. In the latest volume of Australian Systematic Botany, Heidi Meudt (Te Papa) and Jessie Prebble (Manaaki Whenua –Landcare Research) have published… Read more »

A sniper in the subantarctic

  • The Campbell Island snipe was discovered in 1997 and named (as Coenocorypha aucklandica perseverance) in 2010. Photo by Mary-Anne Lea, NZ Birds Online
  • Auckland Island snipe nest with 2 eggs, Disappointment Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Sea lion researchers assisting with snipe capture on Enderby Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Auckland Island snipe chick, Ewing Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa

Te Papa bird expert Colin Miskelly has recently returned from the subantarctic Auckland Islands, far south of Stewart Island. Here, he tells us about his ongoing research on a little-known bird that he’s been fixated with for the past 35 years. Subantarctic sniping The term sniper is derived from snipe hunting. The common snipe in… Read more »

Albatrosses and petrels of the Auckland Islands

  • A light-mantled sooty albatross chick at a site vulnerable to pigs and cats on the main Auckland Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • White-capped mollymawks on Disappointment Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • The Auckland Islands, showing sites included in the Te Papa seabird survey. Image derived from eBird records submitted by the team
  • An Antarctic prion on Ewing Island. Photo by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa

The remote Auckland Islands 370 km south of Stewart Island are tiny specks of land in the middle of a vast ocean. This makes them important breeding grounds for many species of seabirds and seals that forage in surrounding seas. Bird experts Colin Miskelly and Alan Tennyson visited the islands in late January, and here… Read more »