New Zealand Trip

KRM Branch, 18 March 2024

Our member, Daniel Heald, was the speaker for our March meeting. Daniel’s presentation covered fauna, flora, and natural aspects that he (along with Desiree) encountered on a short stay in the Canberra, Cooma, and Tumbarumba areas over Christmas, followed by a more extended trip exploring New Zealand in late December and early January. He took over 20,000 photos covering around 1,000 species and had to cut the list significantly for the meeting presentation.

In New Zealand, they visited both the North and South Islands and saw some very interesting landforms, geographical features, and ecosystems. These included the Craters of the Moon at Lake Taupo, where he saw Staghorn Clubmoss, Forked Veilmort, and Manuka Beetles, among many other species. To the south of Lake Taupo, they ventured to the Rangipo volcanic desert area near the Mount Ruapehu Volcano, where he spotted the Common New Zealand Tiger Beetle and the North Island Boulder Copper butterfly. At New Plymouth, Daniel would see the only native mammal of the trip, a Long-eared Fur Seal – he noted that New Zealand has many feral mammals, including a few that originated from Australia. At Mt Egmont near Taranaki, they visited the Goblin Forest, where they found huge lichens, including Speckleberry Lichen, mosses, and ferns.

At Wellington, Daniel found Snakeskin Chitons (shellfish with a pattern resembling the scale pattern of a snake’s skin), Hairy Seaweed Crabs and Black-backed Gulls. On the South Island, their first stop was the St Arnaud Beech Forest (Nothofagus sp.), where Daniel found the Black Beech Scale Insect (and the associated sooty mould) plus a German wasp that has been introduced and is very bad for the local ecosystems.

Their tour of the South Island then took them to Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki, an area of unusually layered rock formations and blowholes. In this region, they found areas of Nikau Palms and Flax, where the Flax Window-maker Moth was also sighted. They crossed over to the East Coast via Arthur’s Pass, crossing the impressive Otira Viaduct.

In Arthur’s Pass National Park, they found an endemic New Zealand orchid, the Marble Greenhood (Pterostylis oliveri). Also found in this area was the Mountain Giant Dragonfly, the largest dragonfly in New Zealand and a rare Plutellid Moth, Protosynaema eratopis. In Otago, they visited the Cromwell Chafer Beetle Nature Reserve, the only reserve in the world designated for protecting an invertebrate. Already rare, the beetle is further under threat due to predation by the Redback Spider. Daniel spotted the South Island Takahe, South Island Robin, and the Northern Royal Albatross at Dunedin, which were fine ways to end the trip.

The audience thanked Daniel for his presentation, which showed many areas of New Zealand that are not commonly featured in travel brochures.

Colin Prickett