April 2017 – Giant moss

A giant grows at Aongatete. It’s not a tree or a fern or a flower – it’s a moss. It is the Giant moss, the tallest moss in the world. Mosses are usually short, like green carpet under the trees, but the Giant moss looks like a miniature forest of pine seedlings. Up to 50cm tall, a forest of Giant moss grows along the banks of the track near the Aongatete swimming hole. The Giant moss only grows in New Zealand and its scientific name is Dawsonia superba, Dawsonia aft...
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December 2016 – Spiders

If you go into the forest at night and shine a torch around the tree trunks, you will see tiny pinpricks of light. It is the reflection of spider eyes. These spiders are not the ones that live in our houses – they are nearly all newcomers, accidentally introduced from other countries. The spiders in the forest all belong there, some of the 2500 odd species native to New Zealand. At night, spiders are out hunting. In the trees the orbweb spiders sit in the centre of their symmetrical web. O...
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November 2016 – Breakfast with the Birds

The overnight event at Aongatete Lodge was billed as ‘Breakfast with the Birds’. It could equally have been described as ‘Spying on the Spiders’ or ‘Walking with the Weta’! The rain had stopped and, fuelled by a sumptuous dinner, the 60 participants went out in the dark to walk in the forest. We were guided by spider expert Bryce McQuillan, an excellent choice as there were spiders everywhere, lurking in sheet webs, tangle webs, orbwebs and tunnels, or just hunting on the forest floor. And it...
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October 2016 – the birds are back

Spring is here. The shining cuckoos are calling in the forest. They have spent the winter in the Solomon Islands and flown thousands of kilometres to breed here in our summer. The riroriro or grey warblers are singing too. The female cuckoo will follow their song to find a riroriro nest to lay her egg. But all is not lost for riroriro for after they have fostered the cuckoo chick they will nest again and raise their own chicks. Kotare the kingfisher is repeating his harsh squark-squark-s...
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Interactive Nature Trail Opens to Public

A walk in the Kamais is about to become even more enjoyable with the opening of a Nature Trail at Aongatete Forest. Thirty beautiful interactive panels make up the trail, including panels on forest ecology, tree, insect and bird identification, geology, and pest control. A separate trail covers plants associated with rongoa, or traditional Maori medicine. The Nature Trail is a joint project between the Aongatete Outdoor Education Centre and the Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust. The b...
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February 2016 – Killing for Survival

In New Zealand conservation is all about killing. It’s tragic but it’s true. The animals we kill we call ‘pests’. Before people came, bats were the only mammals that had made their own way to these islands. New Zealand was a land of birds, lizards and invertebrates including giant weta and metre-long earthworms which were eaten by enormous worm-eating snails. All other warm-blooded furry animals in native forests are foreigners – rats, stoats, ferrets, feral cats, hedgehogs, deer, goats and p...
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