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Immense, gigantic, mysterious, strange, remarkable, rare and extinct in South Canterbury, N.Z.

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, Highfield, north of Wai-iti Rd, the present day Park Lane area. photo Also bones from their nests. bones photo mounted dead

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.

Timaru Herald, 9 April 1907, Page 4
A number of mutton birds were circling over the waters of the roadstead yesterday. In the forenoon a dense flock was seen at times; in the afternoon their numbers seemed to have considerably lessened.

New Zealand Herald, 29 July 1916, Page 5 Nature Notes
A few weeks ago Mr. C. Lewis, of Makaretu, Hawke's Bay, drew attention to several statements by Sir Julius Von Haast that he saw eagles in the mountainous country of Canterbury. Mr. Lewis asked if these or similar birds had been reported by other observers, In reply he has received a very interesting letter from Mr. Graham G. Hayter, of Athlone, Albury, South Canterbury, who reports having seen an unknown bird in those parts. Mr. Hayter letter is as follows :—"I see that you are making inquiries as to the eagles reported by Sir Julius Von Haast. It is only a fortnight since I told my untie, Mr. F. Huddleston, of Nelson, about a similar bird, and he knows of and has seen, one. Last year, when I was out on my hill country, waiting for sheep to draw out of a snowy gully. I noticed a bird flying to the spur I was on. I saw at once that it was much larger than any hawk I had seen. I kept still and waited for it to settle. It did this about a quarter of a mile above me on the spur. It seemed so large that I decided to walk up the spur and get a closer view of it. When I was within a couple of chains I saw that it had a very large bright eye also a huge hooked bill. In colour it seemed to be something like a sparrow-hawk, but its plumage was darker and more of one colour. Its body was nearly as long as that of an average turkey hen, and it had a large spread of wing. It seemed to be exhausted, and not anxious to resume its flight on my approach. I have told several people about the bird, including my uncle."

German owls -Winchester Domain 2016

Press, 17 May 1920, Page 8 RAIL, NOT QUAIL.
To the editor or "The Press." Sir, I find the bird I reported to hare been seen by Mr E. G. Barker on Ben McLeod Station, is not the New Zealand quail, but either Ballus Philipiensis or Dieffenbacliii. On being shown Buller's book of birds he immediately pointed out the plate representing these as the bird he had seen. A peculiarity of the observation is that at the time, he was mustering high up on the Mt. Peel range, a situation one would hardly expect to find the rail occupying. It was very tame and inquisitive, and if it had not been for the dogs he would have had no trouble in capturing it. Either bird is, I suppose, about equally rare.— Yours, etc., W. E. BARKER.


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
Timaru Herald, 22 April 1868, Page 2
An immense Sun Fish was found washed up on the Washdyke Beach a few days ago, which was 5 feet and a half in length, and weighed about 5 cwt. When it was found to be perfect, had just washed up said Mr Durand.

New Zealand Herald, 12 November 1869, Page 3
Timaru Herald, 27 October 1869, Page 2
An extraordinary tale, says the Timaru, Herald (Canterbury) of October 27th, reached us from the South yesterday. A man working on the road between the Pareora and Otaio, says that on Friday afternoon last, a vessel dismasted and seemingly a complete wreck, was close in shore at that part of the coast. No living creature was visible on her decks, which were visible as she rolled. After a short time a nor'west breeze sprang up, which carried the wreck out to sea. The man who gave our informant the report is known, and we do not think that the above is a canard.

Timaru Herald, 7 March 1876, Page 3
A shark 8ft 2in in length was caught alongside the ketch Glimpse yesterday morning and brought ashore. On being opened his capacious stomach was found to contain nothing but a huge junk of porpoise and several small fish. This is only one of several sharks that have been caught in the roadstead during the past - month or weeks; and bathers had better use due caution for the future whilst enjoying their dips.

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, 2 April 1877, Page 7
We have on several occasions mentioned strange finds which have been made on the Timaru beach, waifs and strays from the sea, or relics of ships which have met with disasters. Such things may be expected to be found in greater or less abundance on any coast frequented by trading vessels, and, interesting as they are, they do not give rise to any great amount of curiosity. We have recently, however, been informed of a piece of "treasure trove " so odd that it fairly puzzles us. It was found, we believe, on the beach near the Timaru Shipping and Landing Company's place of business, and consists of the charge sheet of a Magistrate's Court, for part of the month of February in the year 1845. The document is headed by the Royal Arms and the words " Fingal — Convict Department ;" and shows that three convicts named, respectively Henry Smith, George Floxton, and Thomas Davis were charged on the 12th day of February, 1845, with disobeying an order of an overseer. Fingal, we believe, in a place in the Western part of Tasmania, where under the old regime there was a convict establishment; and this paper is the official return of the magisterial duties performed there during the period, stated. The severity of the penalty inflicted in this case vividly recalls the terrible history of the necessarily cruel Government of those bad old days. The offence with which the prisoners were charged was that they refused to go to attend a cart when ordered to do go, and the first of them, Henry Smith, was sentenced to ten days' solitary confinement, the other two being remanded until the evidence of a Mr Tidier could be obtained. The signature to the charge-sheet is that of "Wm. Franks, Visiting Magistrate, and it is duly initialed and endorsed by the Clerk, of the Court or some other official. The paper, though thirty-two years old, is as fresh and clean, as if it had only come yesterday from the stationery-store, and has evidently undergone no ill-treatment since it was first made use of in that penal establishment so many years ago. How it ever came to, leave the archives of Fingal, or at all events of the Tasmanian Government, is a mystery but still more inexplicable is it, that it should have found its way uninjured, untorn, and almost without folds, to the Timaru beach in 1877. It has not been in the water, for the writing is not blurred out, though part of it is in red ink which runs very easily; and it has not been carried about much in anybody's pocket, for the edges are neither worn nor soiled. It has all the appearance of a crisp, new, official document, and is quite as neat and sightly as papers of the same kind which appear in the Courts here from day to day. That the paper has been taken great care of, seems to be beyond a doubt ; and that fact seems to indicate that somebody has had special reasons for preserving it.

Timaru Herald, 29 March 1877, Page 3 Thursday, March 20, 1877. A stray document.
NOTES. The explanation of the apparent mystery connected with the finding on the Timaru beach of a Tasmanian official document over thirty years old, turns out after all to be simple enough. It seems that on the abolition of the system of transportation, and the subsequent breaking up of the convict establishments, the Government of Tasmania sold an immense mass of records at a nominal price for waste paper. They took care, however, to dispose of them outside of the colony, so that their contents should not be made use of for malicious or other improper purposes, and we believe the whole of them became the property of a merchant in Victoria. From him a great portion of them subsequently passed into the hands of a manufacturer of jams on a large scale, who has used them ever since for packing the tins of his wares m their cases. This jam-maker, as it happens, has several customers at Timaru and there can be little doubt that the Fingal charge-sheet which we described a day or two since, found its way hither in a consignment of preserves. We are informed that many similar documents have from time to time turned up here under the same circumstances, and in some instances have been kept as curiosities. The only really mysterious part of the whole business, therefore, is the action of the Tasmanian Government at the outset, in selling the official records. If their desire was that the narratives of crime and suffering -which they contained, should be obliterated, they certainly went a very roundabout way to affect that object. The shortest and safest plan, surely, would have been to reduce the papers to ashes. It is hardly to be supposed that the money to be obtained by the sale of the waste paper was any object with the authorities, for even if they had twenty tons to dispose of which is improbable the price could not well have amounted to £100. As, moreover, a great many of the Tasmanian convicts, or their posterity, settled in Victoria and the neighboring colonies, these documents might, after all, be employed effectively by malevolent people. It would not be very pleasant to a wealthy and respected member of the Australian aristocracy to be reminded on official evidence, that his grandfather was formerly flogged at Fingal, or his grandmother was put in irons at Macquarie Island.

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.

Timaru Herald, 26 November 1881, Page 2 The reported wreck south of Timaru
Constable Thoreau yesterday morning proceeded by the early south train at far as Normanby, and from thence walked along the beach as far as St Andrews, a distance of nine miles. His report on the wreckage strewn along the beach, and which Inspector Ponder has kindly placed at our disposal, is as follows "About two miles south of Normanby he picked up a piece of a ship's bulwark, 4ft 10in long, l0in wide, and 2in thick, painted a pea green, kauri. Half a mile further on picked up a piece of scantling, morticed, 4ft long, sin wide, and 3in thick, painted -white, kauri; one piece, 7ft long, 5in wide, and 3in thick, morticed and grooved, bolt and nut through the centre, painted white, kauri two or three stanchions one piece, 7ft long, sin wide by 2in think, morticed, kauri or white pine piece of bulwark, 4ft 10in long, l0in wide, and 2in thick, painted pea green apiece of white pine scantling, 4ft long, 5in wide, and 3in deep, painted white a piece of scantling, 5ft long, 5in wide, 3in thick, morticed at one end, painted white a piece of mast, 6½ft long, 11" in in diameter part of a keel, 22ft long and 5ft broad at the stern part, bolted with iron bolts 5ft long, and one copper bolt. The constable proceeded to Mr Williams' house, at Pareora, and found the under-mentioned articles, which he requested him to keep safe. One table, 5ft long, 4ft wide, and 2in thick, morticed at both ends, of kauri, and two letters, ST, carved in it ,one staunchion, 4ft long, 10 in wide, 2in thick, white pine, painted white one piece of board 6ft long, 1ft wide, and l in thick, painted pea green, with piece of moulding 4ft 6in long, 2 brass hinges 3in, and one small wooden cleet for sheet. The constable farther states that there may be more wreckage south of St. Andrews, but having walked the above-mentioned distance, he only could proceed as far as St. Andrews and return with the Express. Both the green and white paint seemed fresh, as there were no scratches on it, neither were there any signs of the timber having been in the water any time, as it was free from barnacles or sea parasites of any kind. From further enquiries made we are led to believe that the vessel is one of from 50 to 70 tons, and of New Zealand build.

Timaru Herald, 5 February 1885, Page 2
Whale Oil. Captain Edwin Raddon, of Kingsdown, has kindly furnished us with an excellent sample of oil taken from a whale recently stranded near his farm.

Timaru Herald, 12 November 1887, Page 2
Professor Hutton informs the Press that, judging by the description of the Timaru whale published in that journal, it is one of the bottle-nosed whales called Mesoplodon. Professor Hutton should see it and make himself sure.

Press, 13 June 1888, Page 4
A Whale Ashore. A whale about 25ft in length and 16ft girth, was stranded on Sunday last on the Ocean Beach, near the residence of the Hon. William Rolleston. The fish, which is of the kind known as black fish, has become the property of Mr R. Taylor, of the Geraldine Hotel, who intends to try it down for oil. Mr Taylor brought a portion of the blubber to Geraldine, and obtained a sample of very good oil.

Timaru Herald, 19 February 1889, Page 2
The seagulls about the roadstead had a glorious picnic yesterday. By some moans Sunday night's tide stranded is Caroline Bay thousands of young elephant fish, from three or four inches up to a foot in length. They are cast up on the sandy beach in the corner, and lying singly and in half dozens among the boulders under the railway cliff. In pools touching the clay bank the fish are seen with their heads jammed between the sand and the bank as if they had been burrowing after something, or trying to get away from something after them. Others are still rolling about under shallow water in the angle of the bay, dead. They may have been driven shorewards by some other fish, and got choked or injured in the sandy water on the beach. Many of them bear wounds as if they had run against each others strong and sharp fin spines.

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, 1 April 1896, Page 2
The spring tides of the present full moon have altered the surface of the sands of Caroline Bay considerably, smoothing then into a long slope from the rocks to the water. The tide, however, does not reach the rocks all the way along. A rule to which there have been very few exceptions observed is that the ocean currents here flow from south to north. At present one of the exceptions exists, for a quantity of drift sticks out of the Washdyke beach are being washed up in Caroline Bay.

Star 30 May 1896, Page 6
Frost fish are beginning to come ashore at Timaru. One or two have been picked up on Caroline Bay sands, and the Herald says that a Kingsdown settler was lucky enough to find two fine ones waiting for him to carry them home.

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.

Photo above taken 26th April 2014 by OW.

The two photos below taken by JH mid May 2014. Looks like a small steam engine. 


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 in 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.

Timaru Herald,  4 March 1902, Page 2
During the last couple of days a good deal of seaweed has been washed ashore at Caroline Bay.

The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW) Saturday 11 October 1902 p3
A lifebuoy, with 'Timaru' painted on it, has been found at Castle Point, New Zealand. It is feared that the Timaru, long overdue at Lyttelton.

Timaru Herald, 25 August 1904, Page 2
The beach, for miles south of Timaru and probably all the way to Oamaru or further—bears broad whitey-brown bands of dead- ascidians, or stalked sea-squirts. These curious vegetable-animals, must grow in enormous profusion somewhere in the south, to have furnished such a quantity of victims to recent storms. Those washed up here have evidently grown in bunches on a bottom of quartz gravel, as many of the bunches have brought along pebbles embedded among their root fibres.

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.

Timaru Herald, 22 November 1905, Page 4
A young man named A. Burns, while fishing for cod or conger from the north mole close-to the ballast wharf last night, after dark, hooked a big shark, and playing it with some skill managed to tire it without getting his line broken. Others came to his assistance, and hooking three other lines into the shark's body, as opportunity offered, they hauled it up on the ballast wharf. It proved to be a shovel nosed shark, an ugly specimen to be found so near the bathing ground. It measured within an inch of 9- feet long, and was 4 feet in greatest girth. When opened, a skate 15 inches long and several small fish were found in its stomach and also Burns' sinker, a lot of railway spikes weighing about 3 lbs, which he had dropped into the creature's open mouth. The carcase was carried to Seyb's fish-shop, Stafford street north, where it may be seen today—a caution to swimming bathers not to venture too far out. A shark of that size is not likely to visit the shallow waters where the paddlers play.


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.

Whale at Seadown, 1907
 A humpback whale was washed up on Pareora Beach 15 May 2014

Otago Witness 4 September 1907, Page 27
A large skate, measuring nearly 4ft across, was washed up on Caroline Bay, Timaru, on Friday.

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.

Timaru Herald, 10 January 1910, Page 5
A fine specimen of a porpoise, measuring over six feet in length and nearly three -feet in circumference round the middle, was washed ashore on Caroline Bay on Saturday morning, and yesterday proved an object of some interest to strollers along the sands. The carcase should be removed as quickly as possible.

Timaru Herald, 2 August 1910, Page 4
A living whale, twenty feet in length, was washed ashore opposite the anglers huts at the mouth of the Rakaia river on Sunday. Two boys cut their initials in the blubber, thus establishing prime facie evidence of ownership. Yesterday morning, however, the whale had disappeared. It it expected that it will be washed ashore again somewhere on the Ninety-Mile beach.

Colonist, 1 August 1911, Page 4 Blenheim, July 31
On Friday afternoon Mr. G. Kenny, of Tory Channel, picked up on the beach a bottle containing the following message addressed to a Timaru resident, G. T. Johnston:
"Boat capsized three miles from Timaru."
The discovery was reported to the harbourmaster at Timaru who replied: "Circumstances correct. Preserve message."


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.

Press, 26 September 1911, Page 6
The whale washed up on the Makikihi beach measured 71 feet in length.

Wanganui Chronicle 5 July 1912, Page 7 A MYSTERY OF THE SEA. Timaru, July 3
Fishermen to-day picked up, 35 miles east-south-east of Timaru, and brought to port, a large, clean, open boat with no name. The boat was painted red outside. There was nothing in the boat except about 20 fathom of 2½-inch rope.

North Otago Times, 8 July 1912, Page 2
The red boat that was found the other day in the open ocean by a Timaru fishing launch to the Oamaru Harbor Board, It is supposed that boys playing on the wharf had cast the boat adrift, and it had gone to sea. The boat was forty years old, and was one of those referred to in a recent report as hanging on to safety by a few pieces of timber that bad been recently put in to give it greater strengths The person who found the boat wanted £5 for his capture, but the boat was not worth bringing back, and it has been decided to leave it in possession of the fisherman, who will probably be able to dispose of it to a coal and firewood merchant for a trifle.

Timaru Herald, 22 January 1913, Page 6
A resident of Timaru, who was an extensive garden in which ho takes considerable pride, mentioned yesterday that the lady birds had been very useful this season in clearing the garden of blight. The, chrysanthemums, ho noticed, covered with blight and he had intended to spray them, but last week the lady bird put in an appearance and cleared the plants of every sign of blight. The same gentleman mentioned that on a recent morning he noticed thousands of these useful little insects washed up at Caroline Bay dead no did not know the cause of this but it was on a hot nor'-westerly day and he could only suppose that they had been blown out to sea by the wind and drowned.

Timaru Herald, 19 May 1919, Page 6
A fish about 11 feet long was washed up on Caroline Bay sands yesterday morning. It was alive when washed, up but died later. A discussion took place, apparently without a decision being arrived at, whether it was an unusually big porpoise or a small whale. A big wound in its back may have been the cause of its stranding.


Timaru Herald 11/07/2014
The Department of Conservation has confirmed the mammal washed up on Caroline Bay last Friday was a spectacled porpoise but the cause of death is yet to be determined.  DOC biodiversity ranger said the carcass was sent to an expert at Otago University. There have been only half a dozen spectacled porpoises washed up on New Zealand beaches.

17 July 2014 and 12 August 2014. A lone leopard seal was sunning itself on Caroline Bay.
Oct. 2015. Elephant seal pup dies on Caroline Bay
Skate Hooked Nov. 2015.
Southern conger eel Jan. 2016.
Whales in Caroline Bay Feb. 2016

7 June 2017 About 100 seagrass balls, the size of a softball, were found on the beach at Caroline Bay. Probably from a land grass species like marram grass and washed into the sea by erosion and tumbled into balls. There had been strong seas the night before and a very low tide.

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.
Squid ashore
Gray's beaked whale which beached itself on Boxing Day 2016 and died. The whale was removed to a buried site in Redruth. It was an adult male, and had worn down teeth, so it had appeared to be old and probably died from natural causes. About 19ft long.

Tidal Waves 

Wanganui Herald, 30 August 1883, Page 2
Timaru. August 29. A tidal wave has been experienced here several times during the past twenty-four hours. A most marked disturbance of the water this morning.

Timaru Herald, 30 August 1883, Page 3
During the past twenty-four hours a tidal wave of more volume and force has been felt at various places on the East Coast of New Zealand. At Timaru its effects were most marked about half-past seven o'clock yesterday morning, and about two o'clock m the afternoon. At the former hour the water was nearly three feet lower than at ordinary low water spring tides, there being only a foot or two in the channel in front of the Landing Service The sea was more or less disturbed during the forenoon, and at two o'clock the ebb and flow of the wave was very marked, the rush of water round the end of the Breakwater being so violent as to almost resemble a rip.

1960 alert

The 2010 Chilean tsunami was the most significant tsunami to hit Canterbury for 50 years but nothing dramatic. In Timaru surges were noticeable along Caroline Bay in the late afternoon. At its peak the water reached up to the plantings at the foot of the dunes.


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.]

 In January 2014 when the Tekapo canal was de-watered and some large migratory eels had been caught. Ngai Tahu have requested that these eels be placed in the Waitaki River downstream from the Waitaki Dam. The way in which native species are dealt with depends on what they are ... small natives and non-migrating eels are being placed in local waterways.  The work was in preparation for the job of repairing and re-lining a 2km section of the canal known as the Maryburn Fill. The repair work will cost Genesis about $125 million.


Rare Mudfish more info. image

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

Skinks have 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, math 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 has 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.

Reference: Frank, H.; 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.
Gardening  Artificial cover  Grasshopper  2014 rescue

Lyttelton Times 10 November 1875 Page 1
The following contribution were received by the Canterbury Museum during the quarter ending September, 1876: Captain Clogstoun, Four Peak Station.— Specimen of Hiaulia Grayi (striped lizard).

Kopa Maori

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. 


Evening Post, 22 February 1878, Page 2 Timaru. 22nd February.
A large quantity of immense moa bones has been discovered by a man digging in a swamp, in the south part of Timaru, 2ft. below the surface. One bone, from the ankle joint to the thigh, is 4ft. in length. The ankle joint, one bone, is 18in. in circumference. All the bones are charred by fire. They appear to be of great age.

North Otago Times, 13 September 1892, Page 2 Dr De Lautour delivered a lecture on the Moa.
Discoveries of moa bones had led to the discovery of other extinct New Zealand birds, such as an enormous rail, an eagle-hawk, and a large goose. The first great and important find of moa bones was that at Glenmark, and Sir Julius von Haast supplied the demand of the museums of the world for moa bones ; and in exchange for the surplus bones, Sir Julius yon Kaast obtained some L20,000 worth of curios. Of the 40,000 bones found at Eufield, the specimens before them had been built, and each bone in the casuarinus, the cnasus, and the didyna had to be compared with 3000 or 4000 other bones before these excellent specimens had been accurately fitted together. Mr Stumbles, a Timaru contractor, found some moa bones under the lava, and tint was the oldest geological find of moa bones. The lecturer himself found bones near the coast in Maori ovens ; and exhibited a few broken pieces of moa egg shells, which he had found near the mouth of the Awamoa creek, and indicated that the shells have been subjected to he _d. A race prior to the existence of the Maori, who were moa hunters. These people were called the Moriori, and were infinitely less civilised than the Maori. According to some writers the Moriories destroyed the moa. The Maori had very few traditions which we date back for 350 years, but little reference was made to the moa in these traditions ; while Papi, a Maori, told C. Macdonald that as a lad 16 years of age, he had been present at a moa hunt. Another authority averred that the Maori arrived in New Zealand 1350 years ago, and fell upon the moa and ate them up, and then forgot all about it. With regard to the find at Enfield, he could only attribute the finding of some 3000 or 4000 moas bones in a pit some 20 feet long by six feet wide and four deep, to the theory that the moas had come to that place to die, and if only two or three a-year died there, and if, as was supposed, the moa existed for 5000 years, that would easily account for so many being found at the same place. It was a well-known fact that some birds and other animals had burying places of their own. There has been discovered by Capt. Hutton some 33 different species of moas, varying in height from two to 12 or 13 feet.

North Otago Times, 11 November 1891, Page 4
The bones of a small species of Moa, found two years ago under it lava stream at Timaru, are still older and probably upper miocene.

Otago Witness, 30 August 1900, Page 9
The bones of a human skeleton were found on Tuesday (says the Timaru Post) by the men who are engaged removing clay. The skeleton was intact, and was found in a wellformed grave, about 10ft below the surface. It is supposed that the bones were the remains of a Maori. About three weeks ago, in the same cliff, a human skull was discovered. In both cases the bones were carted away with the clay, which was being removed, to the hole at the back of the goods shed.

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.

New Zealand Herald, 29 November 1887, Page 6
At Orari Gorge, Canterbury, a short time since, a large shag was shot, on the wing, and on examination it was found that it had a young trout in its mouth, extending about half way down the gullet. The fish was seven inches in length.

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.  

Otago Daily Times 15 August 1893, Page 4
It is seated that many sheep are being killed in the Mount Cook district by ergot in the snowgrass, which is prevalent this year.

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.

Press, 7 February 1914, Page 8 Moa Bones and Maori Ovens.
A large moa bone—of the lower leg—was recently ploughed up on Ben McLeod station in the upper Rangitata. The bone, which is well preserved, is one of many that have been found on the station from time to time. When the first runholders went there in the 'sixties, a portion of the run near the homestead was liberally scattered with bones, but most of these were taken away by collectors. Many Maori ovens, with their lining of stones still complete, and some with moa bones scattered nearby, were also found there, and even now new ones are sometimes discovered. A legend still exists that in former times moas used to migrate to the West Coast by way of the Rangitata valley, making a beaten track past the point where Ben McLeod homestead now stands, and that there the Maoris used to lie in wait when hunting the birds. The existence of The many ovens, and of the moa bones, is the only evidence remaining to support the legend.

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"

Hawera & Normanby Star, 15 February 1923, Page 5 SKELETON MYSTERY. MAORI OR EUROPEAN?
Mr. W. W. Smith writes to the Taranaki Herald:—The doubt as to these skeletons being Maori or European could readily be removed by submitting the skulls to a craniologist. The discovery of human skeletons in remote and secluded caves and rock fissures has often occurred, in both islands, since European settlement began. They have also been found occasionally in large old hollow trees in remote parts of the bush. Sixty years ago several were found in rock fissures on the slopes of Mount Peel, and one in a hallow tree-trunk in Peel Forest. They were also found in hollow trees during the clearing of Waimate Bush, in South Canterbury, which was a frequent haunt of the extinct Ngati- Mamoe tribe. From remote times the Maoris have concealed the remains of certain persons of high rank in their tribe in secret places, which, act was only known to the tohunga and rightful heirs of the respective tribes. I have not seen the cave nor the skeletons recently discovered on Mt. Egmont, but have no doubt that they are Maori remains deposited there long ago by relatives secretly, in good old Maori style. The sacred rites of the old-time Maori were performed with unswerving fidelity to the tribe.  

Quaternary fossil fauna of South Canterbury, South Island TH Worthy - ‎1997
South Canterbury study area lies between Fairlie and Timaru or Temuka, ..... W. W. Smith obtained fossil bird bones from clay in sinkholes on Albury Park Station..... open rock shelters, e.g., Sterndale Rd.

Fossils in Fairlie

South CanterburyGenWeb Project