Tag Archives: geckos

Tikorangi Notes: Friday 3 February, 2012

Our pregnant gecko, Glenys, is back in view

Our pregnant gecko, Glenys, is back in view

Latest posts: Friday 3 February, 2012

1) The battle with the water weeds in Abbie’s column this week.

2) One for the dendrologists in Plant Collector this week – Pinus montezumae. It takes a bit to convince most New Zealanders that any pine tree is capable of being special but garden visitors do single our specimen of P.montezumae as being a tree out of the ordinary realm of the common pine.

3) Grow it yourself – silver beet. Some people are even alleged to enjoy eating this iron-rich but utility vegetable.

4) Welcome back Glenys, our highly prized but rather shy resident gecko. We are terribly excited by the evidence that we have a population of gecko in our garden, though that excitement does not appear to have been widely shared by others! But in this country, the small skinks are a common sight whereas our native gecko is nocturnal, elusive and rarely seen.

5) Check out the lily photo album I am building on our Facebook garden page. If you feel inclined to “like” the whole Facebook page, it would be most gratifying. Our popularity on Facebook lags behind the visitor numbers to our websites, and even the subscribers. This may of course just indicate that gardeners are less inclined to use social networks.

The auratum lily season is late this year, but no less spectacular for its delay

The auratum lily season is late this year, but no less spectacular for its delay

Tikorangi Notes: Friday 3 February, 2012

Oh summer, where art thou? Even the auratum lilies seem to be waiting for some real summer heat before opening fully in all their glory. This may go down in history as one of the coolest summers in recent history. On the bright side, the garden is very lush and green and working conditions are not unpleasantly hot. In fact, for Lloyd and I cleaning out the ponds and stream in our park, working conditions have been very pleasant. I just like a little searing heat to justify the fact we have a swimming pool. It has had precious little use so far this year.

Mark is very excited to see the blandfordia coming into flower. I have tried to photograph it but even by our standards, it is still looking a little too modest to boast about. It may look more notable when additional buds open. The reason for our excitement is that it was planted in the rockery by Felix Jury and as Felix died in 1997, it means it has been there for quite a long time and not doing very much. In fact, in all those years, it has only flowered twice before. Its third flowering is cause to celebrate.

Our Lloyd makes a prettier sight than I do when it comes to weeding the pond

Our Lloyd makes a prettier sight than I do when it comes to weeding the pond

Advertisements

Welcome back to our resident gecko, Glenys

Gecko, probably Hoplodactylus pacificus.

Gecko, probably Hoplodactylus pacificus.

We are very pleased to see our resident gecko back sunning herself in the same spot as last year on the gnarly old pine tree trunk. As this is apparently the behaviour of a pregnant female, it means we have more than one gecko in residence. If she was successful in bearing her babies from last year and they survived all the predators which includes adult geckos, it may mean we have several. Given that spotting one gecko is a rare occurrence (last year’s event caused considerable excitement amongst local herpetologists), we are never going to know, but we are hopeful that Glenys’s behaviour may become an annual event. The sunbathing is apparently part of the incubation process of the young.

It takes an eagle eye to spot a sunbathing gecko. We may well have others in less prominent spots and we may have had them here all the time and just never spotted one before. It is likely that Glenys is a fine specimen of Hoplodactylus pacificus.

Earlier stories from last year:
1) Gecko update
2) The first story (and best photo) about our gecko, as well as the flocking kereru and monarch butterflies which were delighting us at the time – Wildlife in the Garden, New Zealand style.

Wildlife in the garden – New Zealand style

Spot the gecko - a rare sight in New Zealand

Spot the gecko - a rare sight in New Zealand

As we sat outside having our morning coffee last Sunday, Mark commented that he had counted five native wood pigeons in the gum tree. Now there is nothing unusual about one or two kereru around here but five is close to a crowd for these birds who do not make a practice of hanging out together. As we watched, another two or three flew in to join them, followed by more, and then some. And but wait there were still more. We ended up with fifteen of these large and cumbersome but beautiful birds in our gum tree. A convention, we decided. They must be having a convention of local kereru. These are not birds renowned for having great brains and clearly their concentration spans are of short duration because they soon decided that it was time to break for morning tea. They flew over, more or less as a flock, to sample the offerings on the karaka tree. A quick snack and it was time for a field trip to a nearby pine tree from where they gradually dispersed. It made for a memorable coffee break.

Our native wood pigeon or kereru in the Ficus antiarus

Our native wood pigeon or kereru in the Ficus antiarus

As far as we know, our kereru stick around the area all year. Give them enough to eat and there is not a lot of point in them moving on. If you do a search for plants to grow for kereru, most sites list native plants including puriri and miro and only give exotic or introduced plants as an afterthought. But, like most of our native birds, kereru are untroubled by political correctness and they browse widely. They are gloriously untroubled by whether the food is nasty privet berries or nikau seeds. All that matters is that they are herbivores so they eat berries, seeds, fruit, flowers and leaves. In late autumn they come in close to eat the apple leaves just before leaf drop at a time when the sugars are concentrated. They are very partial to guavas and, apparently, to plums. Mark has watched them eating the kawakawa (pepper tree) berries, they raid the karaka tree, the flowering cherries, kowhai blossom and a host of other food sources. Being large birds which tend to crash land rather than being light of wing and foot, they feed from trees and shrubs which can hold their weight. You don’t see these birds on the ground, so they are not going to feed from annuals or perennials.

The delight for Mark this week was to find his first ever live gecko in the garden. In fact he has only ever seen one dead one before and that was in his glasshouse. In the lizard family, New Zealand only has skinks and geckos – the former are relatively common but the latter are rarely sighted. This particular gecko was presumably trying to warm itself on the trunk of a very old pine tree. Now that we have our eye in for this extraordinarily well camouflaged creature, we have found it out sunbathing in the same spot each day since so it is presumably resident. It now has to get accustomed to Mark bringing every visitor to stare at this rare sight and to make admiring noises even if they can’t tell it apart from the pine bark.

We did a bit of a Google search on NZ geckos which appear to be devilishly difficult to research and photograph, complicated by the fact we have a large number of different species. Ours was indubitably a brown one and on the larger side, something similar to Hoplodactylus duvaucelii. But it is just as likely to have been one of the other 38 or so different types already recorded.

We are by no means alone in our dedication to assisting the procreation of monarch butterflies

We are by no means alone in our dedication to assisting the procreation of monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies we have in abundance here. Judging by the search terms which bring people to our websites at this time of the year, others are equally enthralled by these ephemeral beauties. I keep seeing questions typed in to Google like: how many monarch caterpillars can a swan plant support (depends entirely on the size of your swan plant…) and how long does a caterpillar take to grow (about three weeks). Can a caterpillar chrysalis on something other than a swan plant was another much searched question. The answer to that is yes, definitely, and it pays to encourage them to do so by poking in some bushy twigs by the plant. Having them chrysalis on the swan plant itself can be a real problem if their very hungry younger siblings munch right down the bare stems and the defenceless chrysalis then falls off. At this time of the year, earlier generations have often hammered the swan plants for food and newer caterpillars are running short. You can finish growing caterpillars on sliced pumpkin but it is not a complete food so it is unsuitable for getting very little ones through their weeks of growing.

Swan plants grow readily from fresh seed and if you are even halfway serious about wanting monarchs in abundance next summer, sowing a row in your vegetable garden in very early spring is a good means of getting the plants to a well established grade for later season egg-laying butterflies. Swan plants are generally biennial (so last two years) but they don’t like heavy frosts. This year’s plants can recover to support the first of next season’s caterpillars with the early spring sowing as a back up for later generations in the season. However, you do have to keep the young plants netted to stop them being stripped while very small. Letting some annual flowers seed down in spots of the vegetable garden can also provide food for the butterflies.

Food for the butterflies - a rather garish cosmos

Food for the butterflies - a rather garish cosmos

They need single flowers with visible stamens such as cosmos, marigolds, zinnias, daisies and poppies. A visitor stood in one of Mark’s vegetable gardens recently and suggested that it was not so much a veg patch as a mixed cottage garden.

The final word on the monarchs this season comes from one of our neighbours with whom we have had a running joke over time about stealing our monarch butterflies. Send them home, we have said. All the monarchs in this area are ours. Added Mark recently: please stop taking pot shots at our wandering monarchs. Ah, said neighbour riposted, those are the very rare and highly prized lacewing or whistling monarchs – the sound of the wind blowing through the holes in their wings. What more could we say?