February 2018 – Forest ringlet butterfly

Forest ringlet, Dodonidia helmsii, Mokihinui by Melissa Hutchison
As the song goes; ‘If you go into the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise,’ and that is just what happened recently to two volunteers checking Timms Trap lines in Aongatete forest. In a sunny glade, Barbara and Jenny saw a Forest ringlet, or Helms butterfly. It had alighted on the leaf of a grassy plant but, as they fumbled excitedly for a camera, it flitted away. The grassy plant was a sedge called Gahnia which is the food plant for the butterflies’ caterpillars. Sure enough, when th...

May 2017 – Tracking tunnels and discovering geckos

You have to be lucky to see a native gecko in the forest. The little lizards are rare because rats, cats, dogs, stoats, pigs and possums eat them. So it was a red letter day four years ago when a volunteer putting out rat bait came face to face with a gecko. It was a brown and grey forest gecko, an endemic species, which means it is native only to NZ. Then two years ago on a guided walk led by the Aongatete Trust an observant participant saw a green gecko, just as another walker trod on i...

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...