Flora & Fauna

The Return of the Kākā - Part 1

Thanks To Us

From the Thorndon street where we’re living for some months, kākā can be seen or heard most days. When it rains they swoop through the pines and regrowth bush behind the house, and at night they circle the Botanic Gardens out the front. Their repertoire of calls come down, sometimes fluting and liquid, sometimes prehistoric squeers and squawks.

Foot Trembling Behaviour

In search of the New Zealand robin

It was on an undergraduate ecology field trip in the Nelson Lakes National Park that I first encountered this curious little bird. I found myself assigned to a group of bird-lovers who were convinced we should spend our three days in the field studying the bird’s so called 'foot trembling'. I wasn’t so sure.


The deadly poison of the tutu berries

New Zealanders can be smug about our lack of harmful animals. The bush has no snakes, no wolves or bears, and our only native poisonous spider is a threatened species. But one threat we don’t lack is poisonous plants. There’s a whole smorgasbord of berries, fungi and leaves that will make you crook or even kill you if you make the mistake of eating them.

Whiskers of Honey Dew

Up close with the Beech Scale Insect

I started my tramping career down south, in the Canterbury foothills, Arthur’s Pass, Mount Somers. So many of those tramps always had a similar start, walking for hours through forests of gnarled trees, their trunks tar black with a little whisker of nectar. For a long time I thought this is what the bush was, that all it was that same carbuncled beech. I even began to get a little bored.

An Excellent Substitute

Edible plants from the New Zealand bush

I have often daydreamed about being lost in the bush, having to live off the land like a pioneer explorer or the less offensive, Bear Grylls. As I pass by all the kawakawa, totara, ponga, and countless other plant species I do not know the names of, I wonder about all the potential meals to be had in a time of need. If only I knew what was good eating.