My macro setup July 2017

Ok so this is a bit less portable and lacks some flexibility from my previous setup but with more than twice the light and one hand free I love this new configuration. I am spending less time messing around with positioning lights which should allow me to capture more interesting behaviours. The shadows are lovely:Cave weta

Okiwi mussels

This is what Okiwi Estuary (Great Barrier Island) used to contain within the main channel close to the estuary entrance. It was the last naturally occurring soft-sediment mussel reef in the Hauraki Gulf.

Green-lipped mussels – Okiwi estuary. Photos by Dr Darren Parsons

Aggregations ranged from a few individuals to meters in diameter. Mussels were frequently attached to pipis, partially buried in the sandy substrate. There were an estimated 3.2 million adults. Compared to other sites Okiwi mussels had the poorest condition but highest densities of invertebrates – Ian Mcleod’s 2009 thesis on soft-sediment mussel systems in northeastern New Zealand.

Unfortunately they were nearly completely wiped out by a major storm.

Okiwi June 2015. Photo by Richie Robinson

I went for a swim on the outgoing tide (excuse the murky tannin stained water) to investigate 2 years later (April 2017).

Some areas were thick with shell but most of the substrate was sand.

I found one spot that was thick with old mussel shell (and just the one live adult).

Only 50 meters or so upstream I found some small regenerating clumps.

I was really pleased to see juveniles. Note the abundant red (not green) algae. Short video below.

If we left the bed alone, I wonder how many years it might take for it to completely regenerate?

UPDATE January 2018

I was able to visit the site again and was so impressed with it’s growth. The bed is awesome:

  • There are still areas with lots of shell including old mussel shell that have not been colonised by green-lipped mussels.
  • Most mussels were 4-5cm long but there were much smaller juveniles too.
  • The estuary has a lot of cushion stars and sea hares but no eleven armed starfish or octopus which predate mussels. It was quite strange to not see eleven armed starfish there.
  • The network pattern was similar to that of both restored and reefs and the one at Marsden Point with a wide range of density. It is most compact in the center where the mussels will run out of space if they grow.
  • I was told by a local that there were adults at the mouth of the estuary, they maybe crucial seed stock for the bed.
  • Although I saw eagle rays in the estuary I did not see them in the bed. There was no evidence of rays or snapper feeding in the bed but it looked like rays had been digging elsewhere.
These clumps feather the edge of the bed.
It was low tide and the tide was coming in.
There were gaps in most of the bed.
The network pattern.
The clumps came up very easily, you can see they are attached to old shell including mussel shell left over from the old bed.
Numerous sea hares (Aplysia keraudreni).
There were not many fish (yet), but the triple fin were lovely.
These two Bigbelly seahorses (Hippocampus abdominalis) were a real bonus!. It’s been so long since I saw a seahorse alive.

Weeds on Motukorea

After the fire on Browns Island, lots of noxious weeds took hold. Although it looked like the crater was going to be dominated by bracken the weeds are winning. Black nightshade is dominant and there are thousands of woolly nightshades coming up, some as large as 1 meter wide already. Inkweed, apple of sodom and boneseed are also sitting up above the kikuyu.

Click for high res 360° image of the crater

Wooly Nightshade

I casually pulled up about 100 mullien but did not make a noticeable impact. Most disturbing was this animal dropping I found on a large mullien leaf.

Pray mantis identification

New Zealand has two praying mantises, the invasive South African praying mantis and the native New Zealand praying mantis. The easiest way to tell the two species apart is the shape of the head. The thorax (bit that connects their heads to their abdomens) is much wider on a New Zealand mantis so by comparison the South Africans look like hammerheads.

Forestry and water quality

When I first heard about erosion in the Hunua Ranges causing havoc for Auckland’s water supply I wondered if it was because of recent deforestation. Drone footage shot by Watercare confirmed that theory for me (see stills below from this video). It seems strange media are not talking about it. To me it looks like just another case of our water being compromised for private profit.

A little bird told me Watercare own the land and were in the midst of replanting it with natives – it would be good to know the full details. I will email them.

(2,089-72 = 2017) So sometime in 2017 they decided to start harvesting. But the wood in the pictures looks at least months old. My guess is the harvesting that caused the contamination was done in 2016 for private profit. Hard to tell from the information received. Awaiting a report with interest.

Pros vs Cons app

I am scoping a project I would like to build as a web app. To get an idea of how much work was involved in creating one I made a quick test app and published it here on the Apple App Store. Given my skill set the design work was a small part of the job (12%), CSS & JS was three times more (38%) and the rest of my time was spent on new stuff to do with getting the app to run on an iPhone (60%). I can probably halve that on my next project but it was a lot harder than I expected.

It’s a fun app, you can make lists like this 😀