Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Southern black-backed gull

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Southern Black-Backed Gull with Stargazer 5949

On February 20th along the Wellington foreshore we noticed that a bird (which turned out to be an immature southern black-backed gull, Larus dominicanus) had found a fish (which turned out to be a spotted stargazer, Genyagnus monopterygius). At first glance the fish seemed dead, but as the gull kept pecking and pulling at it, the fish occasionally wriggled and proved that it was still alive, even if its stargazing nights were clearly over. To say that surviving in a state of nature isn’t always fun is an understatement.

Thanks to Dr. Colin Miskelly, Curator for Terrestrial Vertebrates at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, for confirming that the bird is an immature southern black-backed gull and for identifying the spotted stargazer. Dr. Miskelly hosts a blog dealing with New Zealand’s animals, and by coincidence a recent post showed southern black-backed gull egg and chick.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 15, 2015 at 5:32 AM

New Zealand: Needle-leaf grass tree

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Needle-Leaf Grass Tree with Caterpillar 5855

During my visit to Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington on February 20th, I stopped to photograph the unusual shrub called the needle-leaf grass tree, Dracophyllum filifolium. The genus name means ‘dragon leaf’ and the species name means ‘thread leaf.’ Threads and needles I get, but a dragon?

If you’d like a closer look at the little larva I found on this specimen, you can click on the following alternate view to enlarge it.

Caterpillar on Needle-Leaf Grass Tree 5860

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2015 at 5:05 AM

New Zealand: Lady Knox Geyser

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Lady Knox Geyser 7032

Here’s a view of the Lady Knox Geyser after it was induced to go off on the morning of February 24th at Wai-O-Tapu in the geothermal region near Rotorua.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 6 and 7 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 13, 2015 at 5:04 AM

New Zealand: Geothermal mineral deposit

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Geothermal Mineral Deposits 7206

Last week you saw some boiling mud at Wai-O-Tapu in the geothermal zone near Rotorua. From the same place on February 24th, here’s a mineral deposit whose textures and colors wouldn’t let me pass by without photographing them. The forms at the left are a miniature version of the Pancake Rocks that appeared here a month ago.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 12, 2015 at 5:27 AM

New Zealand: Fierce lancewood

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Fierce Lancewood Trees 5552

At Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington on February 20th I saw specimens of fierce lancewood, Pseudopanax ferox (as in ferocious). According to a sign there: “When the lancewood reaches a certain height, it changes shape and turns into a small branching tree. The leaves change too and become shorter, softer and lose their fierce hooks.” Here’s that later stage, which I certainly wouldn’t have suspected to be the same kind of tree:

Mature Fierce Lancewood Tree 5564

For more information, you can visit plantlust.com, which describes fierce lancewood in a way that I can’t top: “One of those cool dinosaur plants found down Kiwi way that catches the eye and triggers the lust gene in plant geeks and adventurous gardeners.”

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2015 at 5:15 AM

New Zealand: Rough and roughly pyramidal

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Coastal Rockscape 6157

While exploring the shore along Moa Point Rd. near Wellington’s airport on February 20th, I stopped to photograph this rough and roughly pyramidal rock on Fitzroy Bay. Getting to a good vantage point was a little rough as well.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 10, 2015 at 5:29 AM

New Zealand: When isn’t a “lizard” a lizard?

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Tuatara 6409

A “lizard” isn’t a lizard when it’s a tuatara (a Māori term meaning ‘peaks on the back’). According to the relevant Wikipedia article: “Tuatara are reptiles endemic to New Zealand… which, although resembling most lizards, are part of a distinct lineage, the order Rhynchocephalia. The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of their order, which flourished around 200 million years ago.”

What distinguishes tuatara from reptiles? “Their dentition, in which two rows of teeth in the upper jaw overlap one row on the lower jaw, is unique among living species. They are further unusual in having a pronounced photoreceptive eye, the ‘third eye’, which is thought to be involved in setting circadian and seasonal cycles. They are able to hear, although no external ear is present, and have a number of unique features in their skeleton, some of them apparently evolutionarily retained from fish.”

While the members of Sphenodon punctatus don’t normally adorn themselves with colored beads—that’s in the domain of Homo sapiens and especially Femina sapiens—the one in today’s photograph is so identified as part of the breeding and study program being carried out at the Zealandia Sanctuary in Wellington, which I visited on February 21st.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 9, 2015 at 5:10 AM

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