Tag Archives: Nature

Look another gull!

Of New Zealand’s 252 native bird species only 91 are land birds. (These numbers include recently extinct species.) The rest are wetland, shore or seabirds.

Of the 91 species of land birds in New Zealand 85 are endemic.

This low land bird representation is unusual as 90% of the world’s birds are land birds.

Red-billed gull (Larus novaehollandiae)

(#42 of 100)

Let my brew fool you.

In Fiordland, runoff from the unusually high rainfall creates a permanent tannin stained fresh water layer ranging in depth between 5cm and 10m on top of the salt water.

This dark fresh water layer prevents light from penetrating the ocean and as a consequence many marine species which are usually restricted to deep water (depth larger than 100 meters) flourish in shallow water (depths of less than 50 meters).

This allows recreational divers to observe species that normally live beyond their recreational dive depth range.

Tannin stained fresh water floats on top of the heavier, warmer salt water below, Fiordland, New Zealand.

(#23 of 100)

I sleep with one eye open.

Dolphins, much like human swimmers have to consciously think about breathing as breathing can only occur at or above the surface.

Unlike human swimmers, dolphins remain in the water indefinitely and have to sleep in it. To manage both surface breathing and resting they “sleep” one half of their brain and close one eye at a time.

It is common for dolphins to rest in pairs, keeping an eye on their partner (inner eyes open).

Dusky Dolphins, Kaikoura, New Zealand

(#18 of 100)

Stillsuit anyone?

The Addo Elephant Park’s  flightless dung beetle (Circellium bacchus) has no wings, but uses the sealed wing case as a CO2 store to exhale less frequently and thus minimize moisture loss during breathing.

This allows the beetle to survive the arid conditions prevalent in that part of the Eastern Cape.

And yes, in Addo dung beetles have right of way.

Give way to dung beetles, Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Stillsuit is a moisture saving suit from the book Dune (by Frank Herbert).

(#16 of 100)


One mighty set of teeth.

Did you know, during their lifetime, elephants have six successive sets of molars? A new set develops in the back of the jaw and moves forward to replace an older set that has worn away grinding down the vegetation they eat.

A single tooth can weigh as much as 5 kilograms.

African elephant (Loxodonta africana) foraging in the Addo Elephant National Park.

(#13 of 100)

Citizens, Residents and Overstayers

Due to New Zealand’s isolation from other large land masses, its natural ecosystems develop in rather unique ways.

It is well known that the only native land mammals are a few bat species, but less well known is that New Zealand has no native
eusocial bees or wasps, and very few native ants or termites.

Humans have accidentally introduced 4 social wasp species and about 30 ant species.

Honeybees and four species of bumblebees were deliberately introduced to pollinate crops.

Bumble Bee (Bombus terrestris) on Lavender, Lower Hutt, New Zealand


(#12 of 100)

Seven meters of rain a year!

Fiordland, New Zealand’s largest national park, in the south west corner of the south island is one of the highest rainfall areas in the world.

As much as 8,000 mm (average of around 7,000 mm) of rain will fall in a year and rain will fall on more than 200 days of the year.


Rainwater runoff cascading into the ocean below, Doubtful Sound, New Zealand.

Department of conservation (DOC) info on Fiordland.

(#2 of 100)

Did you know – owls have three eyelids?

Yes, they have three eyelids (per eye).

They have a normal upper lid that closes downwards when the owl blinks, a lower lid that closes upwards when the owl is asleep and a third translucent eyelid that closes diagonally across the eye to moisten and protect it while maintaining vision.

This third eyelid is called a nictitating membrane and can be seen in the left hand side eye of this Spotted Eagle Owl.

Spotted Eagle Owl (Bubo africanus) with nictitating membrane (left hand side eye) in mid blink.

This photo was taken at Eagle Encounters at the Spier wine farm outside Stellenbosh, Western Cape, South Africa.

A comprehensive owl website;  the Owl Pages.

(#1 of 100)