Sunday, 30 January 2011

Chrysalis update...

I've been keeping an eye on the Monarch chrysalis on our fig plant - it has been hanging there, green and gold all week, blowing in the wind, dripping in the rain rain as well as basking in the few sunny days we have had.

Then, this morning, it had changed colour:

The wings of the Monarch were clearly visible through the 'skin' of the chrysalis.

So - I kept on popping out all day to keep an eye on it, then, in the last hour, this happened:

You would never think that something so large could fit into something so small!

I left it drying its wings, and when I came back out to pick mint for dinner, it had moved round the tree.

It was tentatively testing out its wings, as well as trying to find the best position on the leaf.

Unfortunately, it had a lot to learn about the Wellington winds (something that a caterpillar can safely ignore!), and as it was trying to swing itself up on top of the fig leaf, it fell off and started crawling round my olive plant.

As I know that there is at least one spider round there, I decided that I wasn't going to be the ethical naturalist and just stand by, so I put my arm down and let it climb on.

(apologies for the blurriness of this one - I am very right handed, and even taking a photo with my left hand was difficult!)

It crawled around for a bit, but seemed to show no inclination to take off, and the little barbs on the end of its feet were actually rather sharp, so I let it back onto the fig tree. Even though I put it on the top, it decided very quickly that it wanted to go back underneath (probably more sheltered and less visible to birds)

One curious thing that I noticed - this butterfly had only four legs! I'm not sure whether the final pair was folded behind the wings (I didn't see them when it was exploring my arm) or whether something went wrong when it came out of the chrysalis or even when it was pupating.

I hope it does survive - it is such a pretty butterfly!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Picture Post

I know - it's been two weeks - sorry!

From being very quiet a couple of weeks ago, the social life has now bounced back after the summer break, and everything is busy again!

We took a trip last weekend to Stonehenge Aotearoa with the Sci-Fi group.

This isn't just a replica of the Salisbury Plain Stonehenge, but is of itself a working henge, aligned to its position in the Southern Hemisphere.

There is a beautiful central tile to align yourself with everything:

From there, you can look through the hole in the central obelisk, which is aligned to the South Pole:

Next to the Obelisk is the Analemma - the white tiles mark the north-south meridian, and at 12.18pm (or 1.18 in the summer) the shadow falls on the yellow line which gives the day and the current zodiacal sign.

Just outside the main circle is the Moon Stone (which marks the maximum extent of the shadow that the obelisk casts in a full moon) and behind it is the Seven Sisters, which mark (when standing on the marked spot next to it) the point where the Pleiades rise - also known as Matariki, they mark the beginning of Maori New Year in June.

Outside the circle are six heel stones - when standing in the centre of the circle, they are in line with the horizon, and they mark the rising and setting of the sun during the equinox and solstices.

The countryside around the henge was beautiful - there were only a couple of farmhouses in sight. I can't wait to go back at night (at some point, I'll try to see if any of the astronomical societies who use it are having open evenings) - the amount of stars visible when there is so little light pollution must be stunning.

Then, on the Sunday, I went out with a colleague and her husband around the Waiuniomata Water Reserve. This is normally closed to visitors, due to the need to avoid contaminants in the water supply, but for eight days a year, you can take guided tours of the reserve. The forest was stunning - rimu and rata trees towering overhead (there were others, but my memory isn't good enough to remember what they were called!)

We learnt of the history of the reserve as well about the trees and plants - the huge amount of work that went into providing drinkable water for the Wellington region.

To dig this 3.2km tunnel, which links the Orongorongo Valley to the Wainuiomata Valley (and their respective water supplies), huge efforts were made - they had to transport the materials 45 km around the valley to the mouth of the Orongorongo river, and then a further 22km up the river bed. There were two teams, one working on the Wainuiomata side, and the other on the Orongorongo side, meeting in the middle; the skills of the engineers were such that they met exactly - not bad for something finished in 1924!

We had the Ongaonga, or New Zealand Stinging Nettle pointed out to us:

If you fall into this, then it's not just a case of a mildly painful rash - the Ongaonga is very poisonous, and has killed at least one person. One of the volunteer rangers, the one who pointed the nettle out to us, said that he had been on a tramp (NZ hike...) with his group, when one of them had fallen into the nettle. Despite wearing trousers and overtrousers (it was raining), he was badly stung and had to be helped home where he was ill for a week. Not a plant you want to tangle with!

On our way back to the car park, we spotted a beautiful dragonfly on the ground - it was huge!

Speaking of insects, my fig tree has got a guest...

I'm going to be keeping a close eye on that for the next few weeks - I'm looking forward to seeing what emerges!

(EDIT - a quick Google search tells me that it is the chrysalis of a Monarch butterfly...)

Monday, 10 January 2011

Not much happening...

The summer sun is shining (sorry to those in the Northern Hemisphere!), the cicadas are singing (though not as noisy as last year - I think we must have been in a mass hatching year - the difference is really dramatic) and the garden is green.

On the right are (front to back) Mrs & Mr Kiwi, the Luffa (in the middle of the picture - it has to be out of the way of any other plant, otherwise that questing vine will find something to twine against - it is very Triffid like in its quest - it would be interesting to see it on a BBC type time lapse photo, as I know it moves rapidly; I moved it twice off the lawn on Saturday, and it had moved back about 90 degrees between morning and mid afternoon, and then mid afternoon to evening. It was windy, but not *that* windy!), the Fig (by the watering can), then behind the Fig are the Lemon, Feijoa and Olive (is it a photography crime to have a tree growing out of a tree's head?). On the left is the army of chillis (in front) and tomatoes (behind - though they have now been moved into the greenhouse for their own safety - something is nomming up the tomatoes faster than I can eat them - the current score is Pest 3 - Jo 2...)

We had a garden visitor at the weekend - this large stick insect was on Mrs Kiwi:

Apart from that, it really has been quiet. Back to work - as though the holidays had never happened. None of the clubs and societies are back yet, so there has been a lot of DVD watching, a bit of craft work (I'm waiting for a final bit to arrive from Trademe before I can show you...) and a lot of relaxing. Very welcome!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Ngā mihi o te Tau Hou ki a koutou katoa

Happy New Year to you all.

May 2011 be full of peace, love and joy, with enough time for some fun along the way.

I've enjoyed a relaxing week off of work, and even managed to get up to the Hayward's Scenic Reserve again for a two hour walk - I found a track that I hadn't spotted before, and ended up sitting for five minutes listening to the sound of the cicadas and a Tui singing its heart out. There are worse ways of spending a New Year's Eve.