Monday, July 13, 2015

Mystery Babies

I was out at the farm last week to help with shearing. While getting the sheep down from out the back of the farm, I saw what looked a bit like a miniture hippo lying in the grass. Not far away, was a second one.

the mystery creature

My first thought was that a ewe must have aborted. It is the right time of year, the ewes are pregnant with the first of the lambs due in about a month. Twins are common and abortions do occur occasionally. So it was possible. I've seen one once before - a bald rat-like creature lying dead in the grass. But something wasn't quite right with that theory... This was the boys' paddock! And these guys had little well formed paws (an aborted lamb would have little hooves, not paws).

Intrigued, I came back later to look at them more closely. I soon discovered a total of five of these little creatures. Far too many for a sheep, so that was definitely ruled out. But what were they?

We wondered, perhaps they were rabbits or  maybe premature kittens?

A look inside the mouth revealed little rodent teeth...

To me, the ears seemed rather rounded for a rabbit, but the evidence was increasingly looking like that was what they were. I was just about to return home, but I decided to wander around the nearby area to see if there were anymore. When out of the reeds dashed a hare, and bounded away up and over the hill. I took a closer look where the hare had come out from, and found something of a nest under a reed bush.

Hares nest above ground, they don't burrow like rabbits. So this made some sense, and led me to believe the babies I found were hares. From some subsequent research, it appears the babies were born full term. It is possible they had been born alive, but soon froze to death on the cold frosty morning. But a mystery still remains. Why were they born out in the open, instead of in the nest?

Such beautiful little babies

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Patterns in Nature: Winter Frost

I enjoyed a frosty morning at the farm recently... and took a few photos exploring the beauty in the frost and ice at different scales. Enjoy!

Frost covered paddocks

Leaf edged with frost

Foxglove leaf covered in frost

Ice crystals on grass 

Ice crystals on old grass stalks

Ice on a shady pond

A receeding water level leaving old ice high and dry, with fresh ice on current water level

Patterns in the ice

Patterns in the ice

Ice crystals along the edge of a larger ice crystal 

Isn't nature beautiful?! Definitely worth getting out of bed and braving the cold morning air for :)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Coral in the Forest

I went for a walk today up Fringed Hill - one of the hills in behind Nelson. The weather was cloudy and cold, and we didn't get the best view... but we didn't get wet either and it was nice to get out in the bush for a little bit.

Looking down on Nelson

We did however see lots of fungi along the track from Third House up to the peak of Fringed Hill. These were a couple of the more interesting looking ones...

They are coral fungi. There are many different species found around the world, and over 100 found in New Zealand.  Many species of coral fungi are branched, but these ones are unbranched. They are likely from the genus Clavaria, although they also look similar to some Ramariopsis species - the two genera can only be distinguished microscopically. Clavaria species are unbranched (with the exception of one species) and may grow in clusters (like the orange one above) or singly (more like the yellow ones above, although they are still somewhat clustered). They are also noted for their often bright colours, which depending on the species, range from white through yellow, orange/salmon, dark gray and violet. They certainly are beautiful! 

Check out the neat things other people have shared this week for Reconnect with Nature

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A royal visitor

I was just going to put the rabbit back in hutch before going out. The rabbit's name is Hot Chocolate (or Chocky for short), and he is allowed to enjoy the freedom of running around our backyard when we are home - which he loves and gets into all sorts of mischief - but he goes back in his hutch when we're out. He is my flatmate's daughter's rabbit, but when they are away, such as they were last weekend, I get the privilege of rabbit-sitting. He is a pretty fun wee guy so of course I don't mind!

Hot Chocolate getting sad he wasn't invited to the photoshoot with my visitor...

Walking across the lawn, I saw a monarch butterfly in the grass. It was crawling, but seemed unable to fly. It was a cold cloudy morning, and I figured maybe it was just a bit cold. If there had been a patch of sun, I'd have put him in the sun for a little bit. So instead I took him inside. He wouldn't sit still, crawling everywhere. I made him up some sugar water, but he just kept trying to walk through it, and as he liked to carry his wings open, drag them through it too, which wasn't helpful. I had to go, so I just left him in my room and hoped he would be ok and that my resident praying mantis wasn't about to get an easy feed.

When I returned home in the afternoon, I was pleased to find him still in one piece, hanging out on my bed. I tried giving him some sugar water again, and this time he figured out what to do - in went his long tounge. Five minutes later he was flying around my room like a pro! He obviously just needed a little energy to get going. So I opened my door and said goodbye as he flew out into the garden.

My little royal visitor made my day, and I am glad I was able to help him on his way :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fungus or Insect?

Just before Christmas, I was rearranging the my pot plant garden outside my door as the fig tree had grown so that it was shading some of the pots. While doing this, I uncovered a very fine looking snail beneath my strawberry pot. I was confronted with a problem – I didn't want Mr. Snail eating my strawberries (and/or other plants) but I couldn't stomach killing him. Solution: Keep him as a pet instead :) I will post more about him later... But tonight's post comes from something I found when picking a leaf from my plant for Mr. Snail to eat.

It was almost dark, so I didn't really look too closely at the leaves before I picked one, it was just one that was handy. As I came inside, into the light, I noticed something near the base of the leaf, that at the time I thought was a fungus of some sort. I decided seeing as my snail's new home is a little bit confined that I didn't want to put that in there for him with the rest of the leaf, as he doesn't have the option of running away if it ends up being noxious. So I broke that part of the leaf off, before giving him the rest of the leaf. I left the piece of leaf with the 'fungus' on my desk, because I intended to come back and look at it a little closer later – it looked quite unusual. I started work last week and have been quite busy, so I forgot about it for a few days. Then one day, I noticed the 'fungus' had moved! It was no longer on the leaf, which was by now a bit dried out and shriveled. Instead I saw it on a nearby box. It was then I discovered it was not a fungus at all, but a bug.

Turning it over I discovered it had little legs...

A google search soon revealed it was a cottony cushion scale insect (Icerya purchasi). The white 'cotton cushion' it makes is its egg sac, but this one's egg sac was only just beginning to be made. The egg sac can end up being bigger than the insect.

Like other scale insects, it feeds on sap. This made sense, as when I first found it, it was on the mid vien of the leaf. As the leaf shriveled up, it wouldn't have been receiving sap anymore and evidently it went off exploring in search of a new food source.

I was also intrested to find out that it was first described from specimens collected from New Zealand, despite it being a non-native pest species. It comes from Australia instead. It apparently will feed on a wide range of plant species, but is particularly partial to Pittosporum and Citrus species.

So that was my interesting find this week for Reconnect With Nature :) 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Yellow Daisies

I have been doing a horticulture course one evening a week. One of our recent assignments was to make a herbarium. For the assessment we were required to collect specimens from 10 different exotic species used in amenity horticulture, including trees, shrubs and climbers. I wasn't the smartest (in terms of doing the assessment) as I just went out and found ten specimens that I had no idea what most of them were, and then I was confronted with the challenge of finding out! Which was good, because I learned a lot, but was not so good for my assessment as I struggled to positively identify all ten specimens. Oh well! During my research, trying to identify my specimens, google kindly directed me to a neat wee blog Living a Good North Coast Life. The author has this brilliant idea where each week she finds something interesting out in nature, photographs it and shares about it on her blog, and then encourages her readers to go out and do the same. And to share links to their post on hers, so that everyone can all check out each others finds :) I really like this idea, and I need some motivation to get things going here again, so I'm keen to take part.

So here is something I thought was neat, that I discovered on Sunday. I had to go back later to take photos as I didn't have my camera with me at the time.

If you're walking down Rock's Road, heading towards the port, just past the beach, you round a corner where there is a little bit of a garden between the road and the footpath. If you are driving, you probably only see the pohutukawa trees, as the road is a little higher than the footpath and the garden. There are a few benches for people to sit on, some young pohutukawa trees and a lot of yellow daisies.

 At this time of year, the yellow daisy flowers are pretty much past it although there are still a few out. 

But a lot of them have gone to seed now. I've never paid much attention to the seeds before, but I was sitting on one of the benches, and I noticed this flower head next to me which had gone to seed. It was full of little red 'flowers'. 

Some plants have seeds with little parachutes to help carry them on the wind (think dandelions). These seeds were like that, but each seed had a little red, flower shaped parachute. 

Very pretty.

If you want to check out what interesting things others have shared this week, you can go to Reconnect with Nature to find out :) 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Back Again... Passionvine Hopper Nymph

I know I haven't posted for a while, but I keep seeing things lately that I want to share with you all, so I am back again :)

I found this interesting looking wee fellow a few days ago.

What impressed me most, and made me pay attention and look closer, was the fact he (or she) had a lovely big fan of white 'fluff' on his rear end. Held up for all the world to see, like a peacock of the insect world. Most unusual.

He decided to hang around my room for a couple of days, during which time he moulted, and sadly his big tail of fluff got smaller during the moulting process.

It took me a while to figure out what this strange wee fellow was. Based on the shape of his body and his very good hopping ability - he hops like a giant flea! and the fact I found an adult one crawling the bean plant outside my door this morning, I think this wee fellow is a juvenile Passionvine Hopper.

The adults have wings, which he will gain when he goes through his final moult. The adults also lack the 'fluff' this wee guy had, but if it gets smaller which each subsequent moult, then this makes sense.