New Zealand

Flowers and Wildlife

8 – 27 January 2005


Bob Gibbons

Arron Conn

Wynston Cooper

Trip Diary

Monday 10th January

Arrived at the hotel in Auckland at about 7 in the morning. Although none of us felt especially lively, our guide Wynston, convinced us that it would be best to have a good full day so as to immediately get onto NZ time. It turned out he was entirely right, and we all appreciated an excellent first day in the field. After breakfast and a shower, we set off north-westwards from Auckland to Muriwai beach, where there is a superb Australian Gannet colony on offshore stacks and on the mainland cliffs, with easy views from several viewpoints. We spent much of the gloriously sunny morning here, also getting to grips with some of the commoner plants such as New Zealand cabbage, and a few butterflies such as common copper. There were good numbers of Black-backed Gulls, Red-billed Gulls and White-fronted Terns to add to the variety.

After a cafe lunch, we drove into the nearby Waitatere hills to take a walk in some superb unspoilt native forest vegetation. We had our first taste of podocarps, the unusual conifers that dominated NZ forests once, and saw some superb Kauri trees, related to monkey puzzles. There were masses of gorgeous Pohutukawa trees covered in bright red flowers, related to Eucalyptus, and quite one of the most stunning trees around in every respect. We immediately began to see good numbers of native birds such as the noisy Tuis and Fantails. After an early supper, we were all glad to get to bed.

Tuesday 11th January

We set off early on a beautifully sunny morning to drive northwards to Gulf Harbour, on the Hauraki Gulf, to meet the large catamaran heading for Tiri Tiri Matangi Island. While waiting we watched terns and gulls, and shortly after we'd set off towards the island, we passed through a huge floating flock of Fluttering Shearwaters. As we neared the island, I passed on the word from Wynston to watch out for otters on the offshore reefs; I only found out two days later that he'd actually said 'dotterel', though in fact we saw neither! The island is a sanctuary for New Zealand's rarer native birds, which are steadily being reintroduced here as the habitat is restored to native scrub and woodland. It's only islands that can be readily controlled to keep out all the introduced predators and pests, such as rats, stoats and possums, which so devastate the mainland populations of birds, plants and invertebrates.

The island did not disappoint us, and we had excellent views of most of the resident species, including Kokako (which obliged us by coming within 2 or 3 feet), NZ Robins, Stitchbirds, Tui, Little Blue Penguins (young only), Brown Teal, Spotless Crake, Pukeko (i.e. purple gallinule) and the extraordinary Takahe, a probable three-way hybrid between turkey, gallinule and puffin! The weather stayed excellent all day, and we enjoyed a picnic lunch at the lighthouse (where we met a couple who live about 400 yards from me in Wimborne!), followed by a walk back to the harbour through scrub and forest.

Wednesday 12th January

A transfer day, moving southwards from Auckland to Taupo, travelling through wide fertile valleys with hills in the distance, until we rached the volcanic and geothermal areas around Rotorua. We had a walk along the lake at Rotorua, looking mainly at the different cormorants and gulls that occur in large numbers, but also enjoying plants such as manuka and large colonies of tiger beetles with their extraordinary hole-dwelling voracious larvae. We arrived at the fascinating Waimangu geothermal area for lunch, and ate in a delightful cafe with good views across the valley and hills, with pleasantly tame Tuis feeding on the New Zealand flax. After lunch, we walked down the geothermal valley in warm sunshine, passing huge Fuchsia trees, various tree ferns and many other interesting woody species, before arriving at a huge steaming lake billed as the largest hot spring in the world! There was a Sacred Kingfisher nearby, though not much other birdlife. Further on was one of the bluest lakes imaginable, thanks to the suspended silica. The hot soil of this area supports plants that can't grow elsewhere in New Zealand, including some endemics, such as the strange fern-relative Psilotum nudum, and a clubmoss that also occurs in the volcanic areas of tropical Costa Rica! Finally, we stopped at the Waiotapu mud pool, an extraordinary place, where we also saw blue damselfly and common blue butterflies, arriving at the pleasant lakeside resort of Taupo by evening.

Thursday 13th January

Although it started cold and windy, looking suspiciously unsettled, it turned out to be another gorgeous day. We started early, to make our way to the Pureora forest area, where there are still large unlogged areas of ancient forest, though we also passed through vast areas of pine plantations and recent clearances. Our first walk took us into breathtaking ancient forest, dominated by the huge trunks of Rimu and Totara (both podocarps), with such interesting plants as chicken and hen fern and umbrella moss below. We heard the strangely eerie 'rusty-organpipe' call of the Kokako, as well as native parrots, California Quail (who, reasonably enough, call 'Chicago' as if from the song) and much else. On the next walk, nearby, we saw our first orchids, albeit not very spectacular ones, as well as sundews and a number of other attractive herbaceous flowers. A third walk passed through some particularly fine totara stands. The lunch-stop in a pleasant grassy glade gave us our first taste of Wynston and Aaron's excellent picnics, and we had good views of Australasian Harriers amongst other things.

After lunch we walked nearby through more lovely old forest along a river, though our planned circular route was slightly curtailed as the bridge had been recently washed away! Finally, we called in at the fascinating ‘craters of the moon valley’, where a series of actively-steaming geothermal areas sit amongst a low moorland vegetation that has to survive being frequently burnt or inundated with boiling mud. Hardly surprisingly, it wasn't very species-rich, though it made a pleasant and interesting walk.

Friday 14th January

We left Taupo to travel southwards along the lake shore (the largest in New Zealand), stopping for views of the snow-clad Tongariro volcanoes (our destination) and to search for the rare and inconspicuous Fernbird in lakeside marshland. We were successful and found four or so birds, though good views were hard to get. The process provoked interesting discussions as to why such apparently-productive marshland in a warm area should be so species-poor compared to a similar situation in, say, south Spain. We decided it was probably due to a combination of recent declines due to rats and other predators, coupled with the relatively poor species-base that is a feature of such an isolated island as New Zealand.

We arrived at Whakapapa by lunchtime, and had a good look at the National Park Visitor Centre, before setting off on an excellent and varied walk around the slopes of the volcanoes, to Silica Rapids. This was quite different to anything else we had come across, with dense southern beech forest, and extensive areas of moorland, with many more plants in flower. We found 2 species of greenhood orchids, together with at least 2 other species of orchids, plus native violets, several beautiful Celmisia daisies, Hebes, Parahebes, sundews, and many other flowers. We found several fine clumps of red mistletoe, always on trees that had shiny metal collars around the trunk, and it turned out that these were to prevent the introduced possums from devastating the mistletoes. While in the forests, some of us also saw the pretty little Rifleman, rather like a tree-creeper, and a New Zealand Falcon, whilst out on the moorland there were pipits and Skylarks. There were superb views of the high volcanoes almost throughout the walk, and it was a pleasure just to be out walking at this altitude, just over 4000 ft, apart from all else that we saw.

Saturday 15th January

This was a leisure day in the sense that regulations required our leaders to have a non-driving day, giving us the opportunity to do our own things from the hotel, which was perfectly placed for walk in all directions, and yet again it was sunny all day. The bulk of the group elected to go with Wynston and Bob on a 4 hour walk through forest and moorland to some spectacular falls, though Patricia and Anthony went on a longer walk to some high lakes, while Dave took off early with his cameras. The main group walk was very attractive, similar to the previous day in its habitats, though we added Tomtits to the list, and saw some lovely new blue orchids, the broad-leaved Thelymitra, as well as some new alpines. Seeing a dwarf Podocarp in fruit - so different to those of normal conifers, - was of great interest to the botanists, and they are surprisingly attractive.

We had a delightful picnic by the river below the falls, then meandered back to the hotel looking at the rich lichen flora, masses of bellflowers and anything else of interest. A smaller group accompanied Wynston on another walk in the afternoon, and a good many postcards were written.

Sunday 16th January

Yet another glorious day dawned, for our main transfer day, driving southwards out of the volcanic mountains, down to the coast at Wellington, then across to South Island and onwards into the mountains. We stopped for a morning break at Foxton where there is an attractive sandy estuary, with good numbers of waders such as Banded Dotterel, Bar-tailed Godwits, Pied Oystercatcher, Royal Spoonbill, NZ Paradise Shelduck, and various others, with some attractive tree mallows and the striking red pohutukawa trees by the water's edge. We boarded the ferry at Wellington, an attractive city built around a series of hilly bays, and often compared with San Francisco. Apparently its layout was all planned in London on the assumption that it was flat, and it was still built to the same plan even when they discovered that it wasn't! It also lies over a complex fault zone where earthquakes are frequent, though usually not large.

The ferry set off in calm warm sunshine, but by the time we reached the more oceanic straits, it was extremely windy, and a patchy sea mist gradually appeared. Later in the trip, masses of Fairy Prions (which sounded like furry prayons in Wynston’s New Zealand accent!) joined us, followed by several species of shearwater as we approached South Island. The way in to Picton is staggeringly beautiful, passing through a narrow unspoilt hilly channel, then up Queen Charlotte Sound, with superb views all the way.

After arriving at Picton, and eventually finding Aaron, we drove on south-westwards into the hills, arriving at St. Arnaud on the edge of the Nelson Lakes National Park in warm evening sunshine.

Monday 17th January

We set out from St. Arnaud in glorious sunshine, again, heading northwards to the Arthur Range, a wild and beautiful area not far from the west coast. The car park at the end of the track lies on a ridge amidst superb beech forest, with fine views down the valleys. From here we set out to walk to a refuge just at the tree line about 4 kms away, which involved climbing steadily through ancient mixed beech forest (involving 3 different species of southern beech) awash with more lichens and mosses than I've seen anywhere else. The mountains of New Zealand are said to have the cleanest air in the world, and this was certainly reflected in the abundance, luxuriance and fertility of the lichens here. Besides this, we soon started finding a good range of woodland flowers such as native wood sorrel, 3 species of orchids, special Hebe species and many others, as well as superb old Dracophyllums amongst the 'elfin' beech forest on the high ridges. There were good birds too, and we had excellent views of Riflemen, Tom-tits and Fantails, while a few were lucky enough to see Kea at close range. The rear group with Aaron were shown the curious Peripatus, once thought to be the ancient link between arthropods and worms, though now considered to be a primitive (and colourful) form of woodlouse.

Above the refuge were some fine areas of open grassland and limestone outcrops, with masses of alpine flowers such as big pink willowherbs, numerous New Zealand Daisies, large buttercups and others, though sadly rain began to set in and we gradually retreated. We covered the return journey much more quickly than the ascent and saw little new, though it was fascinating to see how the lichens and other epiphytes had doubled in size and turned much greener with the advent of the rain!

Tuesday 18th January

Today dawned cold and windy, and most people were putting on several extra layers, especially as we were heading for a mountain top where it was likely to be colder still. However, by the time we reached Blenheim for a brief stop, it was considerably warmer, and the mountain top - at over 4000ft - was surprisingly pleasant. We had driven up a rough track into the heart of the Black Birch range in order to see a fascinating high altitude vegetation type dominated by the ancient tussocks known as vegetable sheep! It's an excellent name, as the largest and oldest tussocks, which may be many hundreds of years old, are remarkably sheep-like from a distance. There are actually several species involved, all from the composite family, and it's clearly a response to the particular range of conditions experienced in these dry mountains with cold winters. We saw at least 4 of the species, all in flower, as well as a number of other attractive alpines, and it was a fascinating experience.

There were few birds up here, and not many insects, though we did have excellent close views of the bush giant dragonfly on the way down.

In the afternoon, we stopped further down the coast, not far north of Kaikoura, to look at a small colony of New Zealand Fur Seals on a beautiful bit of coast. It was populated mainly by males and youngsters from this season's breeding sitting on rocks surrounded by superb beds of bull kelp, with White-faced Heron, Spotted Shag, and Variable Oystercatchers feeding round about.

Wednesday 19th January

Kaikoura is an attractive small town nestling below mountains on a superb piece of coast, with a lively atmosphere and many interesting shops and restaurants. The reason it's thriving, and the reason we came here, is the fact that a deep water trench comes right close to the coast here, with a prodigious upwelling of nutrient-rich cold water just close to the town. This, in turn, means that large numbers of pelagic seabirds, in addition to many cetaceans, feed close in shore here. By feeding the birds with fish offal, a small number of boats can provide trips with quite outstanding bird-watching, almost certainly the easiest way to see southern hemisphere pelagic birds in quantity. We had a magical 2 _ hour trip, in excellent weather, spending much of the time surrounded by hundreds of birds made up of 5 species of albatross (including Wandering, Royal, and the beautiful Salvin's), as well as the delightful Cape Pigeons (a petrel), several shearwater species, and the rather vulture-like Giant Petrel. It was a quite extraordinary experience, and an excellent photographic opportunity especially for birds in flight as they wheeled effortlessly in.

After a little shopping, 6 of the party went on a whale-watching trip and had excellent views of Sperm Whales, though it didn't have quite the magic or intimacy of the seabird encounter. Others walked the local headland, shopped, or just relaxed.

Thursday 20th January

This was essentially a transfer day, moving from the north-east coast at Kaikoura southwards into the alps on Lake Ohau, with some interesting stops along the way. There was a definite change in the weather, with strong north-westerly winds all day. We had attractive views of the rocky coast south of Kaikoura for the first 10 miles or so, with good numbers of gulls, shags, Variable Oystercatchers and a few White-fronted Herons amongst the reefs. We stopped for a short break at a pleasant lake reserve just inland, where there were hundreds of NZ Paradise Shelduck and a few other waterfowl, though curiously all the recently-planted trees around the lake were non-native species. We had a picnic by the river Waimakariri where it emerges from a gorge, with good views, though it was too windy to see much in the way of birds or insects.

After a brief ice cream stop in Geraldine, we climbed steadily into McKenzie country, with wide open views of glaciated mountain country, and masses of multi-coloured lupins lining the roadsides. Many of these high country rivers have been dammed for hydro-electric power, which completely alters their natural flow patterns and ecology, causing considerable problems for the Black Stilt which used to nest throughout these high valleys. It declined almost to the point of extinction before the problem was fully appreciated, and now there is a concerted captive breeding programme and attempts to re-create suitable habitat. As it's endemic to New Zealand, it's almost certainly the word's rarest wader, and we were fortunate to see one feeding alongside a river channel, with a more aggressive Pied Stilt nearby, and Black-fronted Terns overhead.

We stopped for the obligatory views of Mt. Cook across the lake, then pressed on into the Lake Ohau valley, itself highly photogenic and dominated by the Neumann range, still snow-covered in mid summer.

Friday 21st January

Today dawned cool, cloudy and windy, but we set off anyway for Mt. Cook and the Hooker valley. When we arrived, it was still very windy and none too warm, but at least the sky looked to be brightening up. This was primarily a botanical walk, up the Hooker valley towards some of the glaciers, though we quickly saw rifleman and tom tit in the first clump of trees. The most striking plants were the spaniards, spiky members of the umbel family which are a feature of the NZ mountains, and can grow up to 4m tall. Although these were the most obvious plants, the most beautiful were probably the huge-flowered daisy Celmisia semicordata which was abundant in some areas, and we also saw the last few Mt. Cook lilies (actually a very large-flowered white buttercup). Other species of interest here included South Island Edelweiss, some attractive Parahebes, several dwarf podocarps with cones, endemic violet, Pratias and many more species, though admittedly most of them fulfilled the generalisation that New Zealand alpine flowers are white!

Higher up, the wind was so intense that it was virtually impossible to walk, and extremely unpleasant crossing the swaying suspension bridges across the raging river, so we turned back and ate our picnic in a sheltered hollow as the sun came out and it began to warm up. Several butterflies soon appeared, including tussock ringlet and some nice blues and coppers, and we began to look for geckoes, though without success. Sadly the resident falcons were not in evidence, though we did see several native pigeons and other birds of interest. We visited the visitor centre, with the usual disappointing selection of wildlife books, followed by an unscheduled stop in Twizel to get a slow puncture fixed, which turned out to be a long business as the wheel nuts were impossible to remove, returning to the hotel later than planned.

Saturday 22nd January

We left Lake Ohau after breakfast to head southwards into the mountains of Otago. One of the most notable features of the whole journey was the vast quantities of flowers along the way, all introduced species but impressive for the way they could often colour whole landscapes; the main species were viper's bugloss, perforate St. John's wort, biting stonecrop and 2 species of mullein from the UK, and Californian poppies and lupins from North America, with smaller quantities of monkey musk and Californian stinkweed. We crossed the rather barren Lindis Pass, just under 1000m altitude, then on through Alexandria to the Old Man Range just south of the town. The bus made surprisingly light work of the rough track into the high mountains, and we had lunch on a windswept hillside at over 5000 ft amongst schist tors and snow patches.

The flowers here were all extremely reduced, forming tussocks or small tight plants, and with searching it was possible to find a good range of species from gentians and mountain buttercups to dwarf spaniards and lovely rounded tussocks of Donatia, with virtually all the species being New Zealand endemics. The vast areas of tussock grasslands waving in the breeze were particularly impressive, especially with the rugged tors and snow-fields in the distance. From here, we returned part of the way we had just come, branching off to the resort town of Wanaka on its attractive glacial lake for our night's stay.

Sunday 23rd January

We left Wanaka in glorious sunshine with barely any wind, and climbed gradually into the Crown mountains. There were lupins and Californian poppies en route, and from the top of the pass at about 1000m (3300ft) there were fine views of the Remarkables (a mountain range) and some mid-altitude tussock grassland. As often seems to be the case in the agricultural areas, virtually all of the birds, as well as all the more conspicuous flowers, were of foreign origin, mainly European. A little later, we stopped beside Lake Wakatipu, a large enough lake to have its own tides apparently, and curiously reminiscent of Wastwater or other Lake District lakes. Birds were abundant here, mainly Redpolls and Goldfinches, but there were also Bellbirds in the bushes, with a slightly different song to ones we had heard elsewhere.

We arrived in Invercargill by lunchtime, and went straight to the Museum, which had an excellent combination of cafe for lunch, live Tuataras in good surroundings, a botanic garden, a bookshop and an aviary which included a number of NZ birds such as Kea, Kaka and Weka. After a pleasant couple of hours here, we caught an 8-seater plane for the short but fascinating flight to Stewart Island, flying over dunes and saltmarshes on the mainland, then over some lovely forest with tree ferns on the island, before touching down on the short airstrip. A late afternoon walk around Oban turned up Little Blue Penguin racing through the kelp beds into the harbour, and Linda was lucky enough to see, and photograph, Fjordland Crested Penguin in the next bay. Other birds included Tui, Tom-tit, Pied and Great Shags, Variable Oystercatcher and the usual assortment of gulls. The sea was strikingly clear, and it was easy to look down into incredibly diverse brown seaweed beds with starfishes, brittle star, sea tulips and a multitude of fishes. Oban is a lovely little place, peaceful and unspoilt, and surrounded by beautiful forest and coast.

After supper we went on the great kiwi hunt. Apparently the last three weeks had been cloudy with a lot of rain, and several Kiwi trips had been cancelled; but we continued our run of good weather, and the 45 minute boat trip to a remote bay was almost millpond-calm, with a fine sunset over the hills of Stewart Island. After an introductory talk from Philip, the sole official Kiwi guide, (and also local Maori headman) we set off across a peninsula to a lovely sandy beach where Kiwi are known to feed regularly on sand-hoppers. Although they feed throughout the bush, they are much easier to see and approach when on the beach. Our luck was definitely in, and we had 4 sightings of at least 3 different birds, both male and female. One bird just kept coming towards us across the beach, only veering away at about 10 yards. As we also had our only calling Morepork owls, calling Mottled Petrels, Stewart Island Shags, a possible Short-tailed Bat, Blue Penguins alongside the boat, and fabulous views, it could be counted as a highly successful evening!

Monday 24th January

After an early breakfast, we drove to a nearby small port to catch our boat to Ulva Island. This turned out to be a superb heavily-forested, predator-free (and therefore bird-rich) island, with a rich flora. We quickly had good views of Wekas, which stalked us around the island, and later attempted to steal peoples' picnic lunches (successfully in the case of Linda, by means of co-ordinated diversionary tactics, one bird distracting the victim while another stole the sandwich!). We also had excellent views of Yellowhead, Brown Creepers, South Island Saddlebacks, Kakas, parakeets, Riflemen, Tuis, Fantails, and well-nigh perfect views of a young NZ Robin who adopted us while we were looking at and photographing a superb Earinia orchid; it was almost trodden on twice, it was so tame.

We found clumps of the rare lantern berry (a primitive relative of the lilies, now split off into a different family), several orchids, beautiful red-flowering trees of southern rata, and luxuriant masses of ferns, lichens and bryophytes, amongst much else. Our boat was due at lunchtime to connect directly with the flight to Invercargill, but no-one really wanted to leave either Ulva or Stewart Island, they are both such beautiful, unspoilt, species-rich places. Due to bus problems, we had to spend a couple of hours in Invercargill, but luckily Aaron and Wynston were able to arrange it so that we could spend the time at the museum again, with better views of the Tuatara, and another visit to the aviary and botanic gardens.

After our replacement bus arrived, we pressed on for Te Anau and the hotel, stopping briefly in the town. The hotel at Te Anau downs is located in a beautiful setting on Lake Te Anau, with woods and scrub all around, miles from anywhere. After supper, several of us went for a walk along the edge of the woods and down to Lake Mistletoe, primarily to see if Bob's bat detector could pick up either of the two native bats. We found none, but had an excellent walk with several birds and wonderful views of the full moon rising over the mountains.

Tuesday 25th January

Our last full day, sadly, but it dawned beautifully cloudless for our early start towards Milford Sound. We left early to get ahead of the big rush of day-trip buses that plies its way up this road, all stopping at the same viewpoints and toilets along the route. Along the way, we stopped at Mirror Lake with, not surprisingly, some fine reflections of mountains and some good beech forest, followed by a brief stop at Knob flats, with lovely wide views of Fiordland mountains across the grassy river plain. Another viewpoint provided superb views up the Hollyford valley, and into the surrounding beech and rata forest, though there were no keas to be seen, unfortunately.

Our main destination for the morning was the Gertrude valley, a high glaciated valley leading to a cirque. We parked near the road, and immediately entered a much wilder area, quickly losing sound and sight of the traffic. Birds were few and far between, but this was primarily a botanical walk, and we were quickly rewarded with gentians, various Celmisia daisies, Hebe bushes in full flower, some lovely alpine ragwort, alpine avens and many other high altitude species. Higher up, we found a couple of clumps of 'Mount Cook lily' still in flower (most were over), and a couple of species of Spaniards (members of the umbel family) looking very stately. During lunch, Bob and Gill climbed on up to the first snowfield (which was further away than it looked!) and were rewarded with fine displays of the 'lily' (actually a very large white buttercup) and lovely carpets of one of the New Zealand foxgloves.

We returned to the bus and pressed on towards Milford Sound in increasingly magnificent mountain scenery. A walk to a spectacular chasm through lovely ancient beechwoods was rewarded, for some of the group, by views of Kea flying overhead, though Bob's endless quest for the beautiful little kidney fern (a type of filmy fern) remained unsuccessful. At Milford, everyone opted for the optional cruise up the fjord, which provided a spectacular end to the tour. The weather was perfect and the scenery superb, with high obviously-glaciated mountains all around, and fantastic waterfalls. The main wildlife interest was provided by a group of young male NZ Fur Seals, but it was the scenery that dominated. We stopped in several places on the way back to try to find any tame Keas, but without success, though it was a lovely drive.

Wednesday 26th January

Going home day (for some). Anthony and Patricia stayed on in Te Anau to walk the Milford Track, while the rest of us set off for Dunedin airport. A stop at Te Anau Information Centre and Wildlife Park gave us views of Kea, Kaka, Jewelled Gecko, Morepork owl, and Takahe, though of course all were in captivity, and we saw our first Cirl Bunting of the trip. From there onwards, we pressed on to catch the internal flights at Dunedin, and ultimately home, though Ann, Linda, Scrap and Sue, and Neil and Margaret were either staying on in NZ or going elsewhere.

All in all, a superb trip, with good weather virtually throughout.

Bob Gibbons

Wimborne, February 2005


NB These lists exclude birds as they were covered on the daily checklists, and are summarised below as a general list. As there were so many species, almost all new to everyone, I have separated them out into daily lists to try to make them easier to relate to locations and photographs.

$ = introduced non-native species.

I’ve used some English or Maori names where they exist.

Monday 10th Jan. From Auckland to Gannet colony in morning at Muriwai beach; afternoon in Cascade range Kauri forest.

Mangroves in harbour Avicennia marina

Pohutukawa - the red-flowered christmas tree Metrosideros excelsa (why don't we grow this in Britain?)

Norfolk Island pine Araucaria excelsa (= A. heterophylla) - related to the monkey puzzles of S. America, and the Gondwana connection was discussed.

Nikau palms Rhopalostylis sapida

New Zealand cabbage palms Cordyline australis

NZ flax Phormium tenax

Pratia angulata

$ Various introduced species such as Lotus pedunculatus, L. ornithopodioides, and various clovers

Totara, Podocarpus totara - one of the big podocarps

Rimu, Dacrydium cupressinum

White pine Dacrycarpus dacrydioides

Kauri Agathis australis (a true conifer, related to monkey puzzle trees; massive!)

Laurelia nova-zelandiae

Elatostema rugosa
, the pretty woodland herb with reddish leaves

Silver fern Cyathea dealbata, and other tree ferns incl. black tree fern Sphaeopteris medullaris

Coriaria arborea (poisonous, with black strings of berries)

Filmy ferns Hymenophyllum spp.

The little 6-petalled white flower which we thought was a Libertia was actually almost certainly Dianella nigra, or a close relative.


Common copper Lycaena salustius

Passionvine hopper Scolypopa australis

  • and probably much else besides, but we were all a bit shell-shocked after 48 hours awake!

Tuesday 11th Jan. To Tiri Tiri Matangi. Mainly birds.

Kowhai Sophora microphylla. The national flower - a large bush, only seen in fruit.

Five-finger Pseudopanax arboreus

$ Spotted medick Medicago arabica

$ Bindweed Calystegia sepium

Puriri Vitex lucens

Wineberry Aristotelia serrata

Meryta sinclairii - plant with big leaves.

Wednesday 12th. Off southwards to Rotorua etc. Walk in hot springs area etc.

White pines (actually a podocarp) Dacrycarpus dacrydioides

Rimu Dacrydium cupressinum

Totara Podocarpus totara

Tawa Beilschmeidia tawa

Lemonwood Pittosporum eugenioides

Five finger Pseudopanax arborea

Clematis, prob. C. forsteri

Coprosma robusta

Manuka Leptospermum damascenum - common shrub with white fls

Kanuka Kunzia ericoides - similar, with smaller fls.

$ Water fern in ponds Azolla filiculoides

Tree fuchsia Fuchsia excorticata

Coriaria arborea

Mingimingi Cyathodes juniperina

Psilotum nudum - special clubmoss relative with unusual taxonomy

Clubmoss Lycopodium cernuum

Cyathea medullaris

Hebe salicifolia

H. elliptica

Toetoe Cortaderia fulvida

$ Tree lupin Lupinus arboreus

+ usual NZ flax, NZ Cabbage palm, tree ferns.

Tiger beetles, Neocicindela sp

Thursday 13th. Visits to various parts of the Pureora forest area.

Hen and chicken fern Asplenium bulbiferum (with the babies on the fronds)

Crown fern Blechnum discolor

B. novae-zelandica

B. pennamarina

Tree ferns Cyathea dealbata

Dicksonia fibrosa

D. squarrosa

Hounds tongue ferm Phymatosorus diversifolius

Bracken Pteridium esculentum (different species to ours, but related)

White pine, Rimu, and totara again, and also other podocarps:

tanekaha (celery pine) Phyllocladus trichomanioides

miro Prumnopitys ferruginea

matai P. taxifolia

A cabbage tree Cordyline banksii

Tawa. Beilschmeidia tawa

Broadleaf Griselinia littoralis, and G. lucida

Mahoe Melicytus ramiflorus

Lemonwood Pittosporum eugenioides

Manuka and five-finger

Lancewood Pseudopanax crassifolius

Pepper tree Pseudowintera axillaris, and P. colorata, with red leaves

Pate or 7-finger Schefflera digitata

Coprosma grandifolia, and C. lucida

Karamu, C. robusta

Hebe salicifolia

Climbing rata Metrosideros diffusa

Myrsine australis

Parsonsia capsullaris

Supplejack Rippogonum scandens

$ Wall lettuce Mycelis muralis

Onion orchid Microtis unifolia

Sundew Drosera spatulata

Mazus radicans
– the little pale whitish-blue creeping toadflax-type plant

A piri-piri bur Acaena sp.

Pratia angulata

Toetoe Cortaderia fulva ( a big grass)

Hook grass Uncinia uncinata

$ Yellow bartsia Parentucellia viscosa

Umbrella moss Hypnodendron kerrii


Striped click beetle Metablax cruciger

Three-lined hoverfly Helophilus trilineatus

A stag beetle

Manuka beetle

Friday 14th Jan and Saturday 15th; combined species list for Whakapapa area. 1 = 14th; 2 = 15th

1 2
Umbrella fern Sticherus cunninghamii **
Tangle fern Gleichenia dicarpa var. alpina **
Bog pine Halocarpus bidwillii **
Kaikawaka (NZ cedar) Libocedrus bidwillii *
Mountain toatoa Phyllocladus asplenifolius **
Matai Prumnopitys taxifolia *
Snow totara Podocarpus nivalis *
Griselinia littoralis *
Manuka Leptospermum scoparium **
Mountain beech Nothofagus solandri var. cliffortioides **
Five finger Pseudopanax arboreus **
Mountain five-finger P. colensoi *
Raurekau Coprosma grandifolia *
C. foetidissima *
C. pseudocuneata **
Mountain tutu Coriaria pteridioides *
Inaka Dracophyllum longifolium **
Monoao D. subulatum **
D. recurvum **
Gaultheria colensoi **
Hebe stricta *
H. venustula **
Pimelea buxifolia (looks like a little Hebe) **
Tree daisy Olearia arborescens **
A pondweed Potamogeton suboblongus *
Orchids: Microtus unifolia *
Greenhood Pterostylis patens (large one) **
P. montana (smaller one) **
Thelymitra decora (blue) *
T. longifolia (white) **
Celmisia incana **
C. spectabilis **
C. gracilenta *
Puatea Gnaphalium keriense **
Sundew Drosera spathulata **
Everlasting daisy Helichrysum bellidioides **
Parahebe hookeriana
+ possibly another Parahebe
Forstera bidwillii *
Silver Raoulia Raoulia albosericea *
Violet Viola filicaulis **
Maori bluebell Wahlenbergia pygmaea **
Mountain carrot Anisotome aromatica **
Libertia pulchella *
Cordyline indivisa *
Red tussock Chionochloa rubra **
Red Mistletoe Peraxilla tetrapetala

and maybe P. colensoi

Sunday 16th Jan. Transfer day from Whakapapa to St. Arnaud on S. Island. Few flowers.

$ Tree mallow Lavatera arborea at estuary

Pohutukawa Metrosideros excelsa

Monday 17th Jan. Arthur's mountains area, from St. Arnaud. Lovely walk up from car park at end of track, through woodland to hut; rain later.

3 species of beech:

White beech Nothofagus menziesii

Red beech N. fusca

Alpine beech N. solandra var. cliffortioides

Large grass tree Dracophyllum traversii

Coriaria arborea


Thelymitra longifolia

Chiloglottis cornuta
(tiny, on track)

Adenochilus gracilis (on path just above car park)

Large yellow buttercup Ranunculus insignis

A sundew Drosera stenopetala

Colobanthus canaliculatus

Oxalis lactea

Big dangerous nettle Urtica ferox


Epilobium nerterioides in forest

two other pink species on ridge, uncertain identification.

Myosotis sp.

Golden spaniard Aciphylla aurea

Lagenifera cuneata (miniature daisy, in forest)

Native foxgloves Ourisia macrophylla, and O. caespitosa

Hebe vernicosa

Bulbinella hookeri
- attractive yellow foxtail lily

Solanum laciniatum - large blue flowers

$ A creeping St. John's wort Hypericum japonicum


Common blue Zizinia otis

Tuesday 18th Jan. Leaving St. Arnaud, driving to Kakoura via Black Birch range. Main botanising done at 1362m (c. 4500ft) around the former Black Birch Observatory.

Vegetable sheep: Haastia pulvinaris (the largest, with yellowish-green hummocks)

Raoulia grandiflora (low growing tight cushion with small white flowers)

Celmisia sessiliflora (looser cushion with larger daisy flowers)

Raoulia mamillaris (very tight cushions with tiny flowers)

Big yellow buttercup Ranunculus insignis

Maori bluebell Wahlenbergia pygmaea

Kellera (Drapetisca) dieffenbachii - like a tiny white Hebe

Montia australasica (the pretty little 5-petalled pinkish flower)

Brachyglottis bellidioides (small yellow alpine ragwort)

Lower down, around the dragonfly stop, there was:

Orchid Microtus unifolia

$ Deptford pink Dianthus armeria

$ Viper's bugloss Echium vulgare (everywhere in the mountains)

$ Broomrape Orobanche minor parasitic on red clover etc.

Dragonfly: Mountain giant Uropetala chiltonii

Common copper skink Oligosoma inconspicuua

Weds. 19th Jan. Just albatrosses and whales all day!

Thursday 20th. Transfer day southwards from Kaikoura, with lunch stop at gorge. Very windy.

Hoheria angustifolia (white shrub) in flower at lunch

$ Field madder Sherardia arvensis

$ Mulleins Verbascum thapsus and moth mullein V. blattaria

$ 'Blue tansy' Phacelia tanacetifolia

$ Monkey musk Mimulus guttatus

$ Alstroemerias

$ Wild chicory Cichorium intybum

South Island broom Carmichaelia arborea

Hebe salicifolia

$ Perforate St. John's wort Hypericum perforatum

$ Hare's foot clover Trifolium arvense

Red deer and wapiti (elk)

Friday 21st. Walk in Hooker valley, from about 760 to 830 metres (c. 2500ft.) Extremely windy.

Dwarf alpine podocarp Podocarpus nivalis (like a cross between yew and juniper, with red fruit)

Leucopogon fraseri - creeping plant with orange berries

Muehlenbeckia axillaris - tiny creeping plant with green fls and white fruit

Alpine celery pine Phyllocladus aspleniifolius ssp. alpina (podocarp)

South Island edelweiss Leucogenes grandiceps

Mt. cook lily, gone over; Ranunculus lyalii

Celmisia semicordata - the common very big white daisy

Coriaria plumosa

Parahebe decora

Gaultheria depressa
, and G. crassa

Violet Viola cunninghamii

Stellaria gracilenta

Tall gentian Gentiana corymbifera

Geranium microphyllum

Golden spaniard Aciphylla aurea - abundant and large

Wild Irishman Discaria toumatou - the tangled divaricately branched bushes

($ Should also be mad englishman here, Homo britannicus, about 6ft high with red head capped with white!)

South Island broom Carmichaelia arborea

Acaena sp

An avens Geum sp, over

Dracophyllum longifolium

Helichrysum bellidioides

NZ bluebell Wahlenbergia albomarginata (different species to the Tongariro ones)

Pratia angulata - pretty little creeping toadflax-like plant

Griselinia littoralis - large shiny-leaved shrub


Tussock ringlet Argyrophenga antipodum

Little blue Zizina oxleyi


Black mountain ringlet Percnodaimon merula

Saturday 22nd. Transfer southwards via Lindis Pass to Wanaka

$ Lots of viper's bugloss and moth mullein along roadsides and in fields.

Old man Range at up to 5000 ft. (1500m)

$ Californian stinkweed Navarettia squarrosa (bluish clover-like plant around gateways)

Various nice cushion plants, incl: Raoulia australis (slightly yellowish-green, lower down); R. subulata in amongst other tussocks, and lots of hummocks of Donatia novae-zelandiae with white flowers.

A dwarf spaniard Aciphylla kirkii

Woolyhead (not in flower) Craspedia lanata

White gentian Gentiana divisa

Kelleria dieffenbachii
(like a tiny dwarf white Hebe, though actually in Daphne family)

Anistome aromatica – a dwarf umbellifer

Celmisia spp.

Neopaxia (= Montia) australasica
– the small pink mat-forming flower

Small yellow buttercup Ranunculus enysii in several forms

Greyish lichen looking like a collection of strands – prob. Thamnolia vermicularis

Dwarf alpine forget-me-not Myosotis pulvinaris, not in flower

Native cranesbill Geranium sessiliflorum

+ $ Perforate St. John’s wort, Californian poppy, Biting stonecrop, lupins, monkey musk and other Euro or US aliens along roadsides.

Sunday 23rd Jan, travel southwards to Invercargill, stopping at museum, then flying to Stewart Island.

Usual roadside introduced flowers.

Tuatara Sphenodon punctatus at museum; unique reptile, distinctly separate from all other lizards by serrated jaw instead of teeth, pineal gland still with optic nerve, etc. Endemic to NZ, now very restricted.

Monday 24th Jan. Morning excursion to Ulva island, then flight to Invercargill, re-visit museum, then on to Te Anau.


Weinmannia sylvicola (shrub by jetty)

Lantern berry Luzuriaga parviflora – pretty herb with white bell-shaped fls

Ferns, mainly Blechnum spp, and filmy ferns Hymenophyllum spp.

Coprosma lucida

A greenhood orchid – the species on Stewart Island are still being classified; it was probably Pterostylis montana

Onion orchid Microtis unifolia

A Corybas orchid, gone over

Lovely white orchid on branch Winika cunninghamii (was Dendrobium)

Lanceleaf Pseudopanax crassifolius

Southern rata Metrosideros umbellata – the lovely red-flowered shrub/tree, such as at the viewpoint

Stilbocarpa lyalii; endangered herb, in ivy family.

Gunnera hamiltonii – tiny relative of the huge garden plants (Gunnera manicata), one of rarest NZ plants. Labelled, on dunes.

A spurge Euphorbia glauca – also labelled, on dunes

Umbrella moss Mniodendron dendroides (there are several different ‘umbrella mosses’)

Tsemipteris elongata – unusual relative of club-mosses

Hebe elliptica – nice white shrubby Hebe along coast (also seen by jetty on kiwi expedition)


Whistling frogs Litoria ewingii calling at night and early morning

Tuesday 25th Jan. Travelled along Milford Road, stopping at mirror lake, Gertrude valley etc.

Beech forests, mainly Nothofagus menziesii, and N. fusca.

Southern Rata Metrosideros umbellata

In Gertrude valley

Nice alpine ragwort Dolichoglottis (Senecio) lyalii

White avens Geum parviflorum

Cranesbill Geranium microphyllum

Gentiana montana, and a few G. corymbifera

Bulbinella hookeri – the nice yellow ‘foxtail lily’ going over

Mount Cook lily or giant buttercup Ranunculus lyalii

Hebe subalpina

Spaniards, Aciphyllum aureum and probably other species

Creeping Ourisia, Ourisia caespitosa

Anistome haastii


Young male NZ fur seals in fjord. Arctocephalus forsteri.

Sandflies Austrosimulium spp !

Wednesday 26th. Departure day.

At information centre –

Jewelled gecko in vivarium; Naultinus gemmeus

Marble leaf Carpodetus serratus – white shrub by bus


NB Includes a few that we only heard, such as the cuckoos, morepork owl, and mottled petrel.

KIWIS Apterygidae

Brown Kiwi Apteryx australis

PENGUINS Spheniscidae

Fiordland (Crested) Penguin Eudyptes pachyrhynchus

Little (Blue) Penguin Eudyptula minor

GREBES Podicipedidae

New Zealand Grebe (Dabchick) Poliocephalus rufopectus

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus


Wandering (Gibson's) Albatross Diomedea exulans

Royal Albatross Diomedea epomophora

Salvin’s Albatross Thalassarche salvini

Antipodean Albatross Diomedea antipodensis


Hall's (Northern) Giant Petrel Macronectes halli

Cape (Pintado) Petrel Daption capense

Mottled Petrel Pterodroma inexpectata

Fairy Prion Pachyptila turtur

White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctinalis

Westland (Black) Petrel Procellaria westlandica

Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes

Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus

Short-tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris

Fluttering Shearwater Puffinus gavia

Hutton's Shearwater Puffinus huttoni

Buller’s shearwater P. bulleri


Australasian Gannet Morus serrator

CORMORANTS Phalacracoracidae

Little Black Cormorant (Shag) Phalacrocorax sulcirostris

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Pied Cormorant (Shag) Phalacrocorax varius

Bronze (Stewart Island) Shag Phalacrocorax chalconotus

Spotted Shag Phalacrocorax punctatus

Little Pied Cormorant (Shag) Phalacrocorax melanoleucos


White-faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae

IBISES & SPOONBILLS Threskiornithidae

Royal Spoonbill Platalea regia


Mute Swan Cygnus olor

Black Swan Cygnus atratus

Greylag Goose Anser anser

Canada Goose Branta canadensis

Paradise Shelduck Tadorna variegata

Grey Teal Anas gracilis

Auckland Islands (Brown) Teal Anas aucklandica

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

Pacific Black (Grey) Duck Anas superciliosus

Australian Shoveler Anas rhynchotis

New Zealand Scaup Aythya novaeseelandiae

HAWKS Accipitridae

Swamp (Australasian) Harrier Circus approximans

FALCONS Falconidae

New Zealand Falcon Falco novaeseelandiae

NEW WORLD QUAILS Odontophoridae

California Quail Callipepla californica

TURKEYS Melagrididae

Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo

PHEASANTS & Partridges Phasianidae

Brown Quail Coturnix ypsilophora

(Common) Pheasant Phasianus colchicus

RAILS & COOTS Rallidae

Weka Gallirallus australis

Spotless Crake Porzana tabuensis

Purple Swamphen (Gallinule) Porphyrio porphyrio

Takahe Porphyrio mantelli

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra


(Australian) Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris

Variable Oystercatcher Haematopus unicolor

AVOCETS AND STILTS Recurvirostridae

Black-winged (Pied) Stilt Himantopus himantopus

Black Stilt Himantopus novaezelandiae

PLOVERS Charadriidae

Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus

Double-banded Plover (Banded Dotterel) Charadrius bicinctus

SANDPIPERS Scolopacidae

Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica

Red Knot Calidris canutus

GULLS Laridae

Kelp (Dominican) Gull Larus dominicanus

Silver (Red-billed) Gull Larus novaehollandiae

Black-billed Gull Larus bulleri

TERNS Sternidae

White-fronted Tern Sterna striata

Black-fronted Tern Sterna albostriata

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbidae

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon) Columba livia

New Zealand Pigeon Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae

COCKATOOS Cacatuidae

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita

PARROTS Psittacidae

New Zealand Kaka Nestor meridionalis

Kea Nestor notabilis

Eastern Rosella Platycercus eximius

Red-fronted (-crowned) Parakeet Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae

Yellow-fronted (-crowned) Parakeet Cyanoramphus auriceps


Shining (Bronze-)Cuckoo Chalcites lucidus

Long-tailed Koel (Cuckoo) Eudynamys taitensis


Morepork Ninox novaeseelandiae

Little Owl Athene noctua

HALCYONS Dacelonidae

Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus

NEW ZEALAND WRENS Acanthisittidae

Rifleman Acanthisitta chloris

LARKS Alaudidae

(Eurasian) Sky Lark Alauda arvensis


Welcome Swallow Hirundo neoxena

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Motacillidae

Australasian Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae

ACCENTORS Prunellidae

Hedge Accentor (Dunnock) Prunella modularis


(Common) Blackbird Turdus merula

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos


Fernbird Megalurus punctatus


Gray Gerygone (Warbler) Gerygone igata

Whitehead Mohoua albicilla

Yellowhead Mohoua ochrocephala

NZ Brown Creeper (Pipipi) Mohoua novaeseelandiae


(Grey) Fantail Rhipidura fuliginosa


Tomtit Petroica macrocephala

New Zealand Robin Petroica australis

WHITE-EYES Zosteropidae

Silvereye Zosterops lateralis

HONEYEATERS Meliphagidae

Stitchbird Notiomystis cincta

New Zealand Bellbird Anthornis melanura

Tui Prosthemadera novaeseelandia

KOKAKOS Callaetidae

Kokako Callaeas cinerea

Saddleback Creadion carunculatus


Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen


Rook Corvus frugilegus


Common (European) Starling Sturnus vulgaris

Common (Indian) Myna Acridotheries tristis

NEW WORLD SPARROWS and BUNTINGS Emberizidae - Emberizinae

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

FINCHES Fringillidae

(European) Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

(European) Greenfinch Carduelis chloris

(European) Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea

SPARROWS Passeridae

House Sparrow Passer domesticus

With best wishes – hope you all enjoyed it!

Bob Gibbons

© The Travelling Naturalist 2005