Posts categorized as Science

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 recent blog about white-tailed spiders by spider expert Phil Sirvid prompted a flood of questions from our readers. Phil answers some of these and attempts to alleviate your fears. Dirty mouths Question: I was under the impression that although their bite wasn’t particularly venomous, they are what is called a ‘dirty mouthed’ spider….much like the Australian Blue Tongued Lizzard,… 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 »

The ‘eww’ factor: Gruesome finds in seabird feeding study

Photograph by Susan Waugh

Elements of biology entail a certain ‘eww’ factor – and studying the diet of seabirds certainly fits that description. In research into the foraging habits of Buller’s albatross, a threatened endemic species from southern New Zealand, published in the journal Plos one in 2017, scientist Dr Susan Waugh and colleagues discovered more than they bargained for, when examining… Read more »

Wildlife highlights of Disappointment Island

  • Captive Auckland Island rail. Photograph by Rod Morris. Department of Conservation
  • Auckland Island snipe. Photograph by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Gibson’s albatross pair displaying, Disappointment Island (main Auckland Island in background). Photograph by Colin Miskelly. Te Papa
  • Colin Miskelly with a lesser fulmar prion chick extracted from a muddy burrow, Disappointment Island. Photograph by Kevin Parker. Parker Conservation

Bird expert Colin Miskelly recently joined an albatross research team on the rarely visited Disappointment Island in the subantarctic Auckland Islands. But he was on a separate mission to research the more secretive species on this misnamed gem of an island. An inappropriate name There are few places on the planet with more inappropriate names than… Read more »

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 »