The Laughing Owl - extinct
Airini Woodhouse of
Blue Cliffs found a dead owl on the roadside below
the head shepherd's cottage on 5 July 1914. She took it home and her father knew
it was something special and had it sent to Christchurch. It turned out to be
the last one ever found.
photo The South Canterbury Museum has a specimen mounted as well as three
laughing owl eggs collected from the Albury area in the 1890s and Edward Sealy's
Southerndown estate in Sept. 1897. Southerndown is now part of Timaru, lying
Highfield, north of Wai-iti Rd, the present day Park lane area. photo Also bones
from their nests.
Evening Post, 22 May 1909, Page 13
THE LAUGHING OWL. Mr. Cuthbert Parr, of Cargill-street, Dunedin, complains that, in a recent article on "Owls," a great deal is said about the "morepork," but very little about the "laughing owl," which is the Maoris "whekau," and the scientists' Sceloglaux albifacles. To meet the deficiency, he has kindly supplied some information, obtained from observations made by his brother and himself. The laughing owl is not as plentiful as the morepork. The latter is found in all parts of New Zealand; the former only in the South Island, and even then apparently, it is not seen very frequently. It is much larger than the morepork. Its plumage is brown, spotted or streaked with a tawny yellow, and the facial disk is usually white. It lives mostly in crevices in the rocks, is strictly nocturnal, does not display special liking to the bush, and, according to recent reports, is becoming very rare. Its common name has been given on account of its peculiar cry but it is just on this point that Mr. Parr disagrees with statements in the "Animals of New Zealand" and other publications that have dealt with the whekau, as it may be called without fear of being dragged into a controversy in regard to appropriate nomenclature. He says that it does not laugh, that it makes no sound which can be compared in any way with a laugh, and that its popular name is a misnomer and should be discarded. He has met it a Peasant Point, about a mile below the Opihi Gorge, in South Canterbury where it may still be seen, although it is not as plentiful as it was in former times. On dark winter nights he has heard unearthly shrieks in the air, but his experience of the whekau will not allow him to believe that it is guilty of making- the hideous noise. He attributes the shrieks to a bird which he calls the "laughing jackass," and which, evidently, is one of the petrels.
Mr. W. W. Smith, curator of the Public Gardens at New Plymouth, who, when he resided on the Albury estate, in South Canterbury, kept a pair of these owls in captivity for several years. He says that the "laughing owl" is identical with the ''native laughing jackass," and that its call, when it is on the wing, "unquestionably resembles hearty laughter." The cry is uttered only on the wing, and Mr. Smith's birds, which bred in captivity, never used it ; but wild owls from the limestone rocks frequently flew over the captives enclosure, uttering the laughter-like cry. He was heard nearly always on very dark and drizzling nights, or on nights immediately preceding rain. "It was then exceedingly interesting to hear several laughing or hailing in concert," Mr. Smith says in his letter.
Clippings from Papers Past
On the beach
Otago Witness, 23 September 1865, Page 11
The Timaru Herald says On Tuesday morning last, a man named Hicks found a large sperm whale, measuring about forty feet in length, stranded on the beach about two hundred yards south of the life boat shed. The monster was in a mutilated condition, and appeared to have been dead some time.
North Otago Times, 17 May 1866, Page 3
As Mr Kirkland, of Timaru, was walking down the beach on Sunday afternoon, he found washed up a very curious fish, and brought it to the Club Hotel, when on being put into saltwater it gradually revived, and is now as lively as a " cricket." This little thing is about seven inches long, and its head is bigger than all the rest of its body put together, has a very large mouth and eyes, no scales on, but four or five pricks on its back something like horns.
North Otago Times, 12 July 1866, Page 3
As the masons were employed in obtaining stone off the beach last week, for the building of the new culvert near Grey Russell's store, one of them observed a large fish near the rocks.
Daily Southern Cross,
3 October 1866, Page 4
The other day we were shown a very fine specimen of the avocet, which was shot at the Washdyke Lagoon by Mr. D'Oyly. We believe that the avocet in New Zealand is the rare avis of the colony; and as some of our readers may not have seen one of these birds, we give a short description below, from a good authority. "The bird," says the writer, "whose great singularity is in the form of its bill, is aquatic, the shores of the ocean and the banks of the estuaries being its favourite haunts. On the shores of the Caspian and the salt lakes of Tartary they are abundant; they are widely distributed through the temperate climates of Europe, and on the south-eastern coast of England they are occasionally found. The avocet is about eighteen inches in length, very erect, and has legs unusually long for its size. The bill, which is three inches and a half in length, turns up like a hook, in an opposite direction to that of the hawk or parrot, and is flat, thin, sharp, and flexible. The plumage is black and white, tail consisting of twelve white feathers : the legs are of a fine blue colour, naked, and well calculated for wading ; the feet are pal mated, but not so much adapted for wading as supporting the bird upon the mud. It feeds on worm?, &c., which it scoops out of the mud with its bill."
North Otago Times, 28 April 1868, Page 2
An immense Sun Fish was found washed up on the Washdyke Beach a few days ago, which was 5 feet in length, and weighed about 5 cwt.
Wanganui Herald, 8 June 1876, Page 2
A seal nearly six feet long, and one of the ordinary grey species, was recently captured at Timaru.
Thames Star, 7 February 1877, Page 2
Part of a cabin of a ship, with the word "Officers" painted on it, was washed up on the beach here.
Timaru Herald, 30 April 1877, Page 3
A gentleman on Saturday left at our office a strange-looking creature which he had picked up on the sea bench near the Otaio railway station on the previous day. It was a very snakey appearance, being about four and a-half feet long, and about the thickness of one's little finger. At first sight it looks like, a piece of seaweed with the outer covering stripped off it, as it is perfectly white but on closer examination scales are to be seen here and there, and a fin near the tail: There is no head now with the trunk, but it is family to be noticed where it was attached. We have shown it to several persons well acquainted with sea snakes, and the general opinion is that it is a specimen of that tribe. It is anything but pleasant object either to look at or handle, being disagreeably moist and clammy.
Timaru Herald, 31 May 1877, Page 3
A Strange Fish. — Captain Traill reports that after the recent earthquake wave had receded in Halfmoon Bay, a large fish of a species hitherto unknown even by the oldest inhabitant on the island, was left high and dry on the beach. Traill describes it at being 17ft. long, with a head and blow holes much like a whale. It has also the flukes of a whale, measuring 4ft. 6in. from tip to tip. The most extraordinary feature, however, is a long bill, formed like the bill of a bird, measuring 5ft. long and 5in at the butt, and tapering off to almost nothing at the extreme end. The fish has no teeth, and only one fin besides the flukes. The blubber has been tried out, and thirty-eight gallons of beautiful clear oil secured. Traill intends keeping the skeleton as a curiosity.
Wanganui Chronicle, 11 July 1878, Page 3
Timaru. July 9. The remains of a large cuttle fish has been picked up in Carolina Bay, with one arm four feet long.
Two men were engaged in sinking near Ormsby's new mill, and having got 60 feet deep they suddenly struck water which spouted up 30 feet. One man was rescued quickly, but the other, owing to delay, was very nearly drowned. He was much exhausted when he reached the top.
Timaru Herald, 1 November 1881, Page 2
A Washing to Bathers.— Two sharks, between four and five feet long, were caught off the Breakwater yesterday afternoon between four and five o'clock. Those who enjoy the luxury of a sea bath, will do well to remember this when bathing.
Otago Witness 16 January 1896, Page 35
The Timaru Herald say a large ray was caught by a young man when fishing off the north mole on Friday evening. The man had some trouble in landing it, as he was only fishing with a light line which he was using for catching herrings. The ray measured 5ft 4in long by 4ft wide, and was 9in through the thickest part of the body. The fish was viewed by a good many people, most of whom expressed astonishment at its large size.
Timaru Herald, 8 June 1896, Page 2
During the last few days a number haku, or king-fish, have been caught on the beach about Timaru, one of the latest specimens weighing about 16 1b being caught yesterday morning opposite the Bedford Mill. The fish are driven on to exposed beaches, but for what reason is not clearly known. In this colony, it is not often that the king-fish are seen farther south than Cook Strait. The flesh is very rich and well-flavoured, but like all fishes of this class, must be eaten quite fresh. They are generally of two distinct sizes, the smaller about 61b in weight and 20in long, and the larger about 4ft in length, and weighing up to 40 1b.
Otago Witness 20 May 1897, Page 38 A DERELICT BOAT.
Timaru, May 11.— A large boat, about 27ft, colour bluish grey, name Wainau Nahiri, was washed ashore few days ago six miles south of Timaru. Though the boat had not been long in the water it was much damaged.
Invercargill, May 15.— The large boat picked up recently on the Timaru beach has been identified as belonging to Riverton, where she broke adrift. The boat won the whaleboat race at the last Riverton regatta.
Star 9 June 1897, Page 1
Strange Fish. — A fine specimen of the ribbon fish, 16ft long and weighing about 2½cwt, was found by Mr T. Dillon on the beach two miles south of Timaru, on Saturday. It was taken to town, and a few pounds were collected for the Record and Reign fund by exhibiting it at 6d a head. For some time it was called a big frost fish, until someone who had seen its like in the Dunedin Museum gave the proper name for it. Yesterday a specimen of a cuttle fish, said to be new to Timaru, was picked up on the sands of Caroline Bay. Short, flabby-bodied cuttles with eight long arms tire not uncommon about the reefs, but this one had a firm body with eight short arms and two long ones.
Timaru Herald, 1 September 1897, Page 2
A week or two ago we had a local about a strange fish which had been picked up on the north beach by Mr John Reilly, of Timaru. Mr Reilly sent the fish to the Museum, Christchurch, and has received the following letter from the Curator, Mr F. W. Hutton :— " The fish has arrived safely and in good condition. It is called Brama Rait. I have had several specimens sent to the Museum. It is a tropical fish that occasionally works its way down as far south as this."
Timaru Herald Friday 28 July 1899 Mr Day - fishmonger, Timaru at Ship's corner. Large fish from the harbour.
Timaru Herald Monday 31 July 1899
Strange fish 80lbs Ship's corner. 3ft 6in long, 2ft 4in deep from back to belly, 9 in thick, resembles a gigantic flat fish. It is beautifully coloured, the body is smooth, covered with very small scales, light reddish brown, with whitish spots, and a beautiful pearly lustre. Has a short tail with narrow lobes 17 inches from tip to tip, a pair of ventral fins, one on the back and one on each side (all long and narrow), and a narrow fringe runs round and hinder half of the body from dorsal to ventral fins, and all these fins are of a bright vermillion colour. The mouth is like that of a moki, and without teeth. This is a character of the sunfish. Its eyes are striking, so large and fine are they. The eye socket is 3 inches across and the pupil of the eye over one inch. The gills are large and shapely. It was seen floating at the surface.
Star 1 August 1899, Page 4
The " Timaru Herald " says that a remarkable fish was caught by two of the crew of the dredge on Friday afternoon, just outside the breakwater. The fish was seen floating with its back out of the water, and, having a very tempting appearance, a boathook was jabbed into it and its capture effected. The fish weighs— at various estimates — from 80 to 1001b. It was brought ashore and displayed in Mr Day's shop at the Ship corner, where it attracted the attention of all passers-by. None of the fishermen ever saw such a fish before. " Sunfish" was the only suggestion., but this was scouted, and the only description the " Herald " has of a sun-fish does not fit the specimen. It is 3ft 6in long, 2ft 4in deep from back to belly, and 9in thick, so that as it lies on it side it resembles a gigantic flatfish. It is beautifully coloured. The body is smoothly covered with very small scales, and is of a light reddish brown, -with whitish spots, and the whole body had a beautiful pearly lustre. It has a short tail with narrow lobes I7in from tip to tip ; a pair of ventral fins, one on the back and one on each side (all these long and narrow) ; a narrow fringe runs round the hinder hall of the body from dorsal to ventral fins; and all these fins are of a bright vermillion colour. The mouth is of the same colour but duller. The mouth is like that of a moki, and without teeth, a hard bony ridge occupying the place of teeth. This is a characteristic of the sun-fish. It. eyes are striking features, so large and fine are they. The eye socket is 3 in across and the pupil of the eye over one inch. The gills are large and shapely.
Press, 9 November 1901, Page 7
The postmaster at Timaru has just been advised that a boat belonging to the Antioco Accame, lately wrecked near Kartigi Point, was found on the beach at Temuka, and secured by Mr Franks, the ranger.
Otago Witness 18 December 1901, Page 54
The Timaru Herald of the 7th inst. says : — Mr George Currie, fisherman, brought to the office yesterday a strange fish for assistance in identification. We are sorry that we cannot help him directly. We have a book on New Zealand fishes, but the specimen is not fitted by any description therein given. Perhaps our readers may be able to recognise it, if we attempt description of it. The fish is 22in long, 4in deep at the anal aperture, which is 8in from tip of snout. The tail is long, and tapers gradually to a point, especially from a depth of 2¾in at 12in from the snout. The head is very peculiar. The mouth is small, and when closed the lips are 2in from the tip of the snout, underneath, of course, and the snout appears to be a looting instrument, for it is dense and hard above and below, and the mouth can be drawn so that the fish could root along the surface of a rock without injuring its lips. The fins are very small. The back fin extends over only l½in; it has 11 rays, the longest 2¾in. The pectoral and ventral fins are narrow, and 2½ and 2in long respectively. The ventral fin extends from the anal aperture to tip of tail, with soft rays, and tapers with the tail, so there is no fin at the end of the tail. The scales are peculiar; large (about ½in wide), the edge corrugated, and each ridge set with minute spikes sloping backwards, barely visible to the eye, but giving the fish a very rough feel when stroked against the-grain. The colour is silvery gray, with a purple and scaleless patch in front of the anus; lips white, but palate and gullet purple. The lips are set with very fine teeth, and a couple of small loose plates, with blunt teeth are found at the back of the palate. The peculiar snout, the long tapering tail, and the rough covering make this fish an interesting curiosity.
Taranaki Herald, 30 October 1902, Page 4
Mr F.L. Barker, of Ohapi, Orari, writes to the Timaru Herald on Friday last he took an eel out of the Ohapi creek which weighed 35lb, was 4ft 10in long, and 20in girth. The monster was landed with the aid of a garden fork. Strange to say, Mr A. Clinch Friday also landed a monster eel. He speared it in Arowhenua creek, Temuka and when landed it weighed 25 ½ lb and was, 4ft 6in. long. These big eels are very destructive to young trout, and anglers occasionally see them in the various rivers. Occasionally an eel is gaffed or hooked, and lively times fallow before it is landed.
[The longfin eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii) (tuna heke) is New Zealand's only endemic freshwater eel. It is classified as a threatened species in gradual decline by the Conservation Department. Like most eel species longfins breed only once at the end of their lives. Migration involves maturing into fertile adults in freshwater then migrating to the sea to breed and die. Mature eels migrate downstream during high flows and out to sea to breeding grounds in the Pacific Ocean near Tonga. The migration begins in April when males head off first, followed soon after by females. Larval eels then drift on ocean currents and wash ashore back in New Zealand, where they make their way up rivers as elvers before reaching maturity and breeding often decades later. This long slow life cycle makes it very vulnerable. Females can live more than 100 years and growing up to two metres in length and 25kg in weight. Longfin eels have an omnivorous diet. When young, they largely eat insect larvae, but when bigger they also feed on small fish. In 2012 four commercial eel fishers operate in South Canterbury with a total allowable catch of 35,100 kilograms. Reported catch weights fluctuate with a 12,406kg catch in 2010-11 and 7163kg in 2009-10. The law requires anything heavier than 4kg to be returned. Many are heavier. Eels are commercially fished in the Opihi and Orari rivers. In 2007 Te Runanga o Arowhenua applied to the Ministry of Fisheries for part of the Opihi and Orari rivers to become a mataitai a traditional fishing ground for the local iwi (tribe) or hapu (sub-tribe). A mataitai covering waterways from Smithfield, east of the State Highway One to the Orton Rangitata Mouth Road would exclude commercial eelers. It is still under discussion. A mataitai would ban commercial fishing in the reserve, but recreational fishers would be able to continue, although a bag limit could be needed. Forty years ago Kevin Russell-Reihana would catch about 30 eels in a short stretch of the river for Te Runanga o Arowhenua. Today, he would be lucky to catch two or three. Large areas of their habitat have been altered or destroyed, vast numbers were killed as pests, many have been caught and eaten, and more have died trying to get past hydro dams and other barriers. The other kind of eel in New Zealand was the shortfin, which tended to live nearer the coast in muddy streams. There are 75 commercial eel fishers in New Zealand, and three processing plants. Export earnings are around $10 million a year. Large scale commercial eeling began in the 1960s, with the annual eel catch - longfins and shortfins - peaking at over 2000 tonnes in 1972. Eels had been brought into the fisheries quota management system starting in 2000, and the commercial catch of longfin eels had declined steeply in the past two decades, although it had risen in the past three years. In the North Island 81 tonnes of longfin were caught in 2011/12, while in the South Island the figure was 156 tonnes. In the South Island, the quota for longfins is combined with the less vulnerable shortfin eel - at 421 tonnes for commercial, 107 tonnes for customary and 11 tonnes for recreational. Timaru Herald. April 2013. Report from Dr. Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, February 2013. ]
Otago Witness, 11 October 1905, Page 12
The Timaru Herald states that a find of ambergris, estimated to be worth £400, was made on the beach near Milford on Saturday, by Mr M'Ilroy, a man who, in his younger days, served on board the whaling ship Diamond, which discovered a piece of ambergris worth £7000.
Ambergris - an opaque, ash-colored secretion of the sperm whale intestine, usually found floating on the ocean or cast ashore: used in perfumery. A waxy grayish substance formed in the intestines of sperm whales and found floating at sea or washed ashore. It is added to perfumes to slow down the rate of evaporation.
Nelson Evening Mail 17 December 1906, Page 1
Fishing from the sea beach at St. Andrews recently, some Timaru fishermen, caught three exceptionally large, skate. The largest one was 6ft 10 in long and 5ft 4 in broad, and was computed to weigh about 1501b. The two others caught were 6ft and 5ft long respectively.
Bay Of Plenty Times, 24 July 1907, Page 2
Timaru, This day. A black whale, measuring between 40 and to 50 feet in length, was washed up oh the beach a few miles north of Timaru.
Ashburton Guardian, 24 July 1907, Page 2
The whale washed up on the Ninety-mile beach, near Timaru, yesterday, is said to contain, blubber to the value of about £100. The finders, two Seadown farmers, have engaged an old whaler to cut it up and get the "assets" into marketable form.
Press, 30 July 1907, Page 6
The whale which was washed up on the Ninety Mile beach opposite Seadown last week has attracted many hundreds of sight-seers, albeit the great sea monster does not form a very attractive spectacle, denuded as lie is of all his skin and a great part of his blubber. Some men, camped close to the carcase, have been engaged for some days past in "trying" the whale, and a fair quantity of good-quality oil has been obtained. Before the carcase was cut its weight was estimated at six tons. It is understood that the skeleton is to be taken to Wellington and lodge in the museum there.
Grey River Argus, 2 June 1908, Page 3
A rather remarkable kind of shark was caught on Sunday afternoon in the sea about 14 miles south-east of Timaru by Messrs Oddie and M'Cormack, who were fishing for groper with an oily launch. The shark made a great fight and the two men had to spend a couple of hours over it before getting it into the boat, and it was squirming for a long time after that. The capture appeared to be worth the trouble, and it was quite a novelty to them, being as much like a porpoise as a shark. Its form and colour generally resemble those of a porpoise, and, more remarkable still, its tail is fluked horizontally instead of vertically, and the flukes are nearly of equal length. The Timaru Herald says that any fisherman glancing at it from a little distance would declare it to be a porpoise. Large eyes, gill slits, and shagreen skin, however, "give it away" as a shark upon close examination. The tail is perhaps the most remarkable thing about the fish, for it is twisted from the perpendicular to the horizontal position. The flukes are nearly of the same length instead of on being very much longer that the other and they measure about 15 inches from tip to tip.
Dominion, 23 September 1911, Page 3 WHALE WASHED UP.
Timaru, September 22. A whale, said to be over 60ft. in length, was washed ashore near Makikihi. It is supposed to have been dead for two or three days. The finders propose to sell it.
NZ dolphins There were about 30,000 hector's and maui dolphins around
New Zealand in the 1970s, but those numbers have reduced to around 7000 hector's
in four sub-populations around the South Island, and between 55 and 80 maui off
the North Island's west coast in 2012.
Lizards - identifying them can be very tricky!
The lizards often found in South Canterbury could be common geckos if they were wide-bodied with soft, loose skin, and active at night; or common skink (Oligosoma polychroma) with blotchy and wavy stripes or McCann's skinks (O. maccanni) if they were narrow, active in the daytime, with smooth shinier skin with a dark brown dorsal stripe extending to its tail and a white chin. In South Canterbury the geckos and skinks are all brownish except for jewelled geckos which is found in three small populations were located elsewhere in lowland South Canterbury away from limestone areas! The species with the widest distribution and the highest number of sightings was the Southern Alps gecko (Hoplodactylus ‘Southern Alps’). Common geckos (Hoplodactylus maculatus) are also in South Canterbury. On sunny days looks for these retiles basking in the sun on rock piles. Not all common skinks are as striped as this one - in fact in South Canterbury they are more 'chequered' - identifying them can be very tricky! photos geckos
skin smooth and shiny with tiny fish like scales with eyelids.
The skink is in gradual decline. It is illegal to take skinks and geckos from the wild to
hold in captivity.
They grow about 75mm long excluding the tail.
They breed annually, producing two to six young in each litter during
January and February.
They love to bask in the sun and were often spotted sunning themselves
on the warm shingle beaches.
Geckos have velvety, loose skin and no eyelids, instead of blinking, a gecko cleans its eyes with it's tongue.
The green or jewelled gecko. It was the only known form of green gecko living in the southern half of the South Island. Since 1981 all lizards in NZ are protected by the Wildlife Act so can only be acquired from an existing breeder as it is illegal to capture, collect or deliberately disturb a lizard from its native habitat without a permit issued by DOC. They may only be kept in captivity or collected for scientific, educational or advocacy purposes and the permit must be renewed every three years. A cage inspection is part of the issuing and renewal process. Records of births, deaths and exchanges must also be kept. According to DOC and Wildlife enforcement Officers in 2012, maximum penalties under the Wildlife Act for taking protected wildlife are currently a fine of $100,000 or six months in prison. The stress involved in the gecko’s capture, placed their health at great risk.
Gone before you know it. They are faster in the summer months. A Benmore Peninsula Track skink, Nov. 2012.
Pit Road Lizard Reserve, Cooper Creek, Geraldine - a former gravel pit, home to a range of native dry land plants, weed control ongoing to remove broom.
SC lizards to be surveyed
Timaru Herald 20/09/2007
Mr Hermann Frank, an itinerant teacher with the Van Asch Deaf Education Centre in South Canterbury, has received a NZ Science Mathematics and Technology teacher fellowship from the Royal Society of New Zealand for 2008. He will spend the year studying lizards in limestone areas of South Canterbury and looking at possible conservation measures. The aim of the scholarships is to give teachers a year to "intellectually refresh" themselves, returning to the classroom rejuvenated and better able to enthuse their students about careers in science, maths and technology. His work is likely to become the benchmark for the state of the lizard population in the area, as no similar study has ever been done. Mr Frank had been interested in birds, bats and dragonflies until he left Germany 15 years ago. In more recent times it has been the local lizards that have caught his attention, so he proposed the more in-depth study of what lives in the crevices of the local limestone. The South Canterbury Museum will act as Mr Frank's host organisation for the year. It's a first for the museum, but fits well with its educational roles, museum director Philip Howe said of the arrangement. Mr Frank's research will be added to the museum's natural history information and will be useful when staging future exhibitions and possibly form the basis for a new publication. Mr Frank is also looking to assist with the museum's Learning Outside The Classroom projects, as well as sharing his work with local schools. During the year Mr Frank expects to have quite a lot of contact with scientific organisations and he is hoping to use that knowledge to assist some of his students who are considering science-based careers. Just what the lizard locator will find during the year remains to be seen. He doesn't expect to find any previously undiscovered lizards, but then, with so little being known about what's living in the limestone, anything is possible.
Council on lookout for lizard reserve 29/01/2011
It's not easy being a lizard these days. But a proposed lizard reserve near Geraldine could make life just that much better for the reptiles. The increase in dairying and reduction in traditional "dryland" farming across the district has led to a significant decrease in suitable lizard habitat, but the Timaru District Council is looking at one to help tilt the balance more in the lizards' favour. It is considering developing a redundant gravel pit near Geraldine as a lizard sanctuary. The Geraldine Community Board will be asked to support the project at its meeting on Wednesday. Both council parks liaison officer Gary Foster and lizard researcher Hermann Frank will be there to discuss the project. Over-sowing land with ryegrass and clover-dominated pasture, increased application of fertiliser and irrigation and removal of stone stockpiles in paddocks have all reduced the amount of habitat available to the indigenous lizard population. About half the 23 hectare site being considered for the reserve has been extensively worked as a gravel pit. Around 70 per cent of the site remains dry year-round. There are already some dryland native plants at the site, and those, along with the stone piles left from the gravel extraction provide a suitable lizard habitat. Lizards already live there but exactly which species is still to be established, as the ones Mr Foster found yesterday, shot away too quickly for Mr Frank to get a good look at them. He plans to carry out a survey of the area. He is confident it would be suitable for three of the four lizard species indigenous to South Canterbury. One to two hectares of the reserve that was not part of the pit or planted in forestry could be leased for activities including firewood processing or storage, and the income used to undertake improvements to the site. Simply by locking the gate and not permitting the area to be used for any activity that would be detrimental to the lizards, an extremely useful refuge could be provided for them. Mr Foster's report to the community board said even spending $1000 on additional planting would provide a measurable improvement and tidying up the buildings already on site would cost $500 to $1000. Mr Frank has also installed some "lizard houses". The reptile high-rises are made from squares of corrugated roofing material stacked with spacers between. They provide warm, dry areas where the lizards are safe from predators. And why should we worry about lizards? "They are natives," Mr Frank replies, adding their habitat is becoming that much harder to find. While there are no other lizard reserves in Canterbury, three of the Department of Conservation's reserves throughout New Zealand are specifically gazetted for the primary purpose of providing suitable habitat for lizards. - The Timaru Herald
Timaru Herald Thinking skinks and geckos Fleur Cogle 2/06/2009
LIZARD LIVES: After two years studying geckos and skinks, the results of Hermann Frank's research have gone on display at the South Canterbury Museum. If you know where to look, and tread carefully around Otipua Beach, you might see something special: a jewelled gecko. Confirming the endangered lizard lives on our back doorstep has been researcher Hermann Frank's most exciting discovery since he started a survey of South Canterbury's lizards two years ago. Unsurprisingly, the bright green lizard, found only in the South Island, was the hardest species to track down. Since then he has found two more colonies; Mr Frank's research shows jewelled geckos live in limestone areas in Albury, and at Otipua and South beaches. Now Mr Frank, 60, has the opportunity to share this find, and others. Before his research, information about the district's lizard population was sketchy, but after more than a year exploring limestone outcrops, dry river beds, and other places lizards like, Mr Frank has revealed four species of gecko and skink live in the area: the common skink, which is the lizard you are most likely to find in your garden, McCann's skink, the Southern Alps gecko and the jewelled gecko. Conducting his field research in daylight and darkness, Mr Frank spent hours locating, counting, measuring and weighing the lizards. Armed with scales, binoculars, a notebook, thermos and lunch, he concentrated most of his research around limestone rocks, where the animals' habits were less likely to have been encroached on by human activity. It turns out our lizards have some peculiar behaviours. Cold-blooded, most species of gecko and skink are active at daytime, and like to spend some of the day basking in the sun, but the Southern Alps gecko is nocturnal, which created an extra challenge. As well as counting basking lizards during the day, the researcher produced 300 homemade lizard nests, which he laid in limestone areas. After four weeks he would check the nests, and again three weeks later. "You go and lift up rocks because that's where they like to hide out, or you look inside cracks. "Either you see a gecko staring at you quite uncomfortably, or you find signs that it has been inhabited by a gecko." Mr Frank decided to conduct the survey after he realised little research had been done on the lizard population in the district. Granted a New Zealand Science Mathematics and Technology teacher fellowship from the Royal Society of New Zealand to conduct the study, Mr Frank was able to take last year off from the Van Asch Deaf Education Centre, where he is a teacher. The data he gathered will be housed at the museum, which acted as his host for the year. Cold-blooded Locals runs from today to August 9.
Lizards to get 23ha-haven at Geraldine gravel pit
Matthew Littlewood 16/03/2011
South Canterbury's lizards may soon have a new haven. Timaru's district
councillors yesterday approved a recommendation to establish a lizard sanctuary
in a gravel pit near Geraldine. The proposal is the brainchild of council parks
liaison officer Gary Foster and lizard researcher Hermann Frank. Last month,
they presented the proposal to the Geraldine Community Board, which gave it the
thumbs-up. Although the councillors supported the proposal unanimously, Cr Terry
Kennedy asked whether the sanctuary would be big enough. "Are we sure we can
contain these lizards? What happens when they breed? It is no good having these
lizards if they are going to be a risk," he said.
Council parks and recreation manager Bill Steans assured Cr Kennedy the sanctuary would be an appropriate size and habitat for the lizards. "Several native lizards species used to be relatively common around South Canterbury, but changes in land use, particularly in what were previously considered "dryland" areas, resulted in a dwindling of their habitats," he said. It is proposed the most suitable site for the sanctuary would be at the Pit Road West near Coopers Creek. About half the 23-hectare site being considered for the reserve has been extensively worked as a gravel pit. Mr Steans said there were already dryland native plants at the site, and those, along with the stone piles left from the gravel extraction, provide a suitable lizard habitat.
Cr Steve Earnshaw also assured Cr Kennedy the lizards were important native species, while deputy mayor Michael Oliver said it was "quite a significant project", which could align with several other conservation ventures in the area."For some of these lizards, only the remnants of their habitat is left," Cr Oliver said.
Mr Frank, who was pleased to hear the council had approved, said he would conduct a population survey to determine how many, and what types of lizards, lived near the proposed sanctuary site. "While some parts [of the proposed sanctuary] are already quite good for lizards, some areas are not so great. We will need to restore some of their habitat through native planting," he said. Mr Frank said other than the fact they were native, New Zealand's lizard species were special in that they gave birth live, rather than hatching.
The Pit Rd west site gravel pit comprises 21 ha of council owned land and 2 ha of crown reserve land that was used by the council as a gravel reserve until about 1986. The pit is subject to seasonal flooding. Lizards need places to eat, places to hide and places to warm themselves. Native plants are important for establishing a symbiotic relationship between lizards, insects and plants. said Mr Mike Harding, an ecologists.
Wilson, D.J. 2011. Distribution, status and conservation measures for
lizards in limestone areas of South Canterbury, NZ. New Zealand Journal
of Zoology, in press.
Timaru Herald, 2 April 1888, Page 2
Mr Timothy Lyons has shown us a stone axe which was turned up by his plough a week or two ago at Mount Horrible It is Mr Lyons' intention to offer this interesting relic to Mr Jonas for the museum which he has been forming for some years past. The fashioner and owner of the weapon has ages ago been in the happy hunting grounds, most likely.
Timaru Herald, 18 September 1888, Page 2
In a discussion on the date of the extinction of the moa, Mr W. Colenso, a first rate authority on the grounds argued from, said he had checked and critically examined Maori pedigrees, which run back to the time of the Norman conquest, and there is nothing in Maori proverbs or stories to show that they knew anything of the moa. This is in accord with the opinion of the late Dr Von Haast, we believe, and other students of this subject. This makes the old Kopa Maori on Dashing Rocks over seven hundred years old, unless it is supposed that the burned moa bones found there had been picked up and used as fuel.
Timaru Herald, 9 April 1889, Page 2
A townsman taking a stroll to Dashing Rocks on Sunday picked up on the old Maori or Moriori camping ground the shaft of a green sandstone mere, and a large chipped flake of flint. He also found a pebble one side of which was quite vitrified, showing that the ancient huntsmen had fuel enough sometimes at all events to build a rousing fire.
Timaru Herald, 14 January 1890, Page 2
The full of heavy wind-driven spray on the cliff at Dashing Rocks on Friday, exposed a few more "Kopa Maori," with their rubbish of chips of moa bones, and bones of small birds and fish, and shells. The only thing that can be called a curiosity was a lump of cemented ashes, fragments of shells, and bones, about a foot square and four inches thick. This was surrounded by burned stones, as if it had been last used as the bottom of an oven or "kopa." This was not its origin however, for it was composed of quite different material from that in other ovens. It was evidently a piece of an old established hearth the surface being to well burned as to be quite stoney, with a scoriacous look. And it had been cut square, on two sides. Do the Maoris did the Morioris carry such blocks as hearths in their canoes when on a journey. Besides unearthing this curio, the spray actually and unfortunately produced one, in the ruination of half an acre or more of potatoes, which were on the paddock above the cliffs. The salt spray has wilted the tops as completely as the severest frost could have done.
North Otago Times, 18 January 1870, Page 2
The Timaru and Gladstone "Gazette" regrets to learn that the caterpillar, a pest both to the farmer as well as the gardener, has made its appearance, and has been making frightful ravages amongst the crops around Timaru.
Press, 18 December 1877, Page 2
A Strange Sight.— On Thursday evening, says the "Timaru Herald," a strange sight was to be witnessed in the railway cutting this side of the Saltwater Creek. Throughout its whole length it was covered for at least an inch in depth with small yellowish-brown beetles. The only cause which could be arrived at for such a phenomenon was that they had been travelling in a direction which brought them to the edge of the cutting, and that they had fallen down in millions.
Press, 18 December 1877, Page 2
The Colorado Beetle.—The "Waitangi Tribune" publishes the following paragraph under the heading "Alarming Discovery" So much has been said of late regarding the "Colorado "beetle that when Mr McOwen, manager of the Bank of New Zealand, called upon us late last evening, with the unpleasant news that the conge had made its appearance in his garden, we were induced to treat the "discovery" as a joke. By his urgent request, however, we accompanied him to his garden, where the potatoe leaves had been totally destroyed, the peas had suffered considerably, and come of the plants were literally covered with the beetles. In a few minutes he shook off thousands of the ravagers into a large bowl, and scalded them, the vessel being about one-third filled with the insects. Mr M'Owen states that he had purchased some American potatoes from Christchurch, and as the beetles commenced operations on these plants it is presumed that they originated from them. This is a most serious discovery, and it is to be hoped that every care will be taken to check the spread of tie destructive insects.
Star 17 September 1885, Page 3 A MYSTERIOUS OBJECT.
Timaru, Sept. 16. Some shepherds who were recently burning tussocks on the edge of Lake Pukaki, in the Mackenzie Country, state that about dusk in the evening they observed a large black object, which they at first took to be a boat, keel upwards. On approaching it, however, it turned round, and dashed into the water, making a great splash.
Auckland Star, 25 January 1893, Page 5
A SNAKE KILLED IN CANTERBURY. Timaru, this day. A carpet snake 7ft long was killed in Temuka Park on Sunday afternoon. Some showmen were there on Boxing Day who had snakes. One is known to have died there, and another must have got away and nothing been said about it.
Thames Advertiser, 25 January 1894, Page 2
Wheat weevils are invading houses in Theodoca and Arthur streets, Timaru, and are apparently enabling the inhabitants to fully sympathise with the woes of the ancient Egyptians while some of the plagues were in good working order. A representative of the "Herald" examined the locality on Monday, and reports that he saw a large specimens crawling about the exterior of houses and fences, and some crawling along the dusty road. They are easy to see about the fences and on heaps of old timber in Mr Evans' yard, along the fences in various directions, and crawling about the walls of the houses in the neighbourhood. We are informed that the insects are a great nuisance in the houses. They get into the pantries, eat bread, sugar, and jam, plaster themselves on the butter, and make everything unsightly and disgusting to the cleanly housewife. They also get into the beds and bite the proper occupants. They are quite active travellers for their size, and have in this place, as well as on the beach, been traced a long way from the starting point, It is stated moreover, that they are entirely dependent upon their own exertions in their, migrations, as people walking through the grass—up which the insects crawl as we have witnessed—carry some away on their clothing. They are undoubtedly a great nuisance.
Timaru Herald, 24 February 1894, Page 2
The west slope of Mount Horrible is thick with Scotch thistles, and the thistles are swarming with humble bees.
Timaru Herald, 20 December 1894, Page 2
On Anniversary Day, Mr S. Bowman, of Temuka, captured an eel which was a little over 5ft long, and weighed very nearly 401bs. To land it was an arduous task. The eel is the largest that has been caught within the memory of the oldest inhabitant.
Timaru Herald, 14 January 1895, Page 4
Some Maories shearing at Mr J. S. Rutherford's Opawa station have captured and taken home to Temuka a pair of wood hens with a brood of young ones, and they talk of catching a few more before they are all poisoned. They will fence in a paddock for them and try to preserve the race in the district, against the rabbiter with his dog and poisoned oats.
Evening Post, 15 January 1901, Page 2
Mr. T. Wagstaff, of Timaru, after a recent heavy rainfall, found numerous jelly-fish on the asphalted yard on his premises, and other parts of it covered with a gelatinous substance. It is suggested that the creatures were picked up at sea, by a waterspout, which discharged its contents' on to the land.
Auckland Star, 12 May 1923, Page 6
A horticultural phenomenon in the form of a rose growing within a rose was shown recently in Fairlie by Mr E. Macdonald, of Middle Valley. The bloom or blooms, are specimens of the Cecil Brunner rose, (states the Timaru Post) and the first or bigger bloom is a perfectly formed flower, from the centre of which projects a stem of about two inches in length, and on the end of which is a second bud. No fewer than three specimens were found growing on the same bush.
Rangitata River Mysteries
Auckland Star, 17 March 1943, Page 4 SKELETON MYSTERY
Temuka, Tuesday. A mystery is attached to the finding of the skeleton of a child from 10 to 12 years of age on a windswept ridge close to the Rangitata River. Exhaustive inquiries have been made by the police, but so far no information leading to its identification has been obtained. The police have been unable to find any record of a child of this age being missed within the last 25 years.
Auckland Star, 26 April 1904, Page 5
The dead body found on the Rangitata riverbed on Sunday last has been identified as that of Miss Edith Underhill a young woman 23 years of age, daughter of Mr G. Underhill, jeweller, of Timaru. Deceased left her home on the 31st December last, and had not since been heard of. No reason ran be given for her strange disappearance, as she was always happy in her home and devoted to her parents. In her pocket 10/2 was found, also a return railway ticket from Timaru to Rangitata. The body was found two miles from the main stream, where the river only runs in time of flood. There is no evidence as to how the deceased came by her death, and the jury at the inquest, held this morning, returned an open verdict of "Found dead"