Amanita muscaria at Dunedin Northern Cemetery

Regardless of the season, there is always something interesting to see at Dunedin Northern Cemetery. This remarkable graveyard, one of the city’s oldest, has become a wonderful park in nearly 150 years of existence. Its luxuriant, diverse vegetation, its abandoned graves and, first and foremost, its tranquility have created a rich environment for many New Zealand and introduced birds to thrive. Over twenty bird species can Continue reading

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Fifth instar Monarch larvae

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are famous for the epic annual fall migration they undertake to Mexico and Southern California. What is little known is that their range extends beyond North America to the Pacific, as far south as New Zealand. North American and New Zealand monarchs are the same species, so biologists believe that Continue reading

Aramoana: Dunedin’s pathway into the ocean

Aramoana map

Aramoana, Dunedin (click on map to enlarge)

One of the many perks of living in Dunedin, in the South Island of New Zealand, is its proximity to nature. The city sprawls over more than 3,000 sq km of eroded volcanic remnants from an extinct shield volcano that last erupted 10-million years ago. This hilly landscape is organized around a large tidal inlet dominated by Mount Cargill (700 m) to the north and the beautifully indented Otago Peninsula to the south. Thanks to this fabulous setting, it only takes a short drive to surround yourself with breathtaking natural scenery and a very unique wildlife.

Situated 25 km north of Dunedin, Aramoana is one of these places where one can escape the urban life for an afternoon. This small settlement of 264 dwellers is the mouth of the Otago Harbor Continue reading

Quiberon: a former French island turned presque-isle

Presqu'ile de Quiberon

A NASA screenshot of the Presqu’ile de Quiberon

Situated in the Morbihan region of Brittany, the Presqu’île de Quiberon is a small French peninsula that used to be an island. Long ago, strong winds and currents formed a flat sandy isthmus that reattached the 9 km² territory to the mainland. Dubbed Isthme de Penthièvre, the narrow arm is no wider than 22 m in parts, just enough for cars and trains to circulate. Vulnerable to storms, it has been enlarged and reinforced by man-made dikes on several occasions since the 19th century.

Nowadays, Quiberon is a restful, invigorating and somewhat picturesque sea resort that welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Yet, tourism has not always been the dominant sector. From the second half of the 19th century fishing, especially sardine fishing, and canning concurrently developed as core industries leading to the peninsula’s Continue reading

Chicks that can’t fly

Each spring the bird realm is enriched by new avian lives. Watching hatchlings grow into nestlings grow into fledglings is fascinating. Spectacular changes rush the newborns into adulthood, and before they can realize it, they are on their own. The young we sight are those who were lucky and strong enough to survive the harsh stages of their early existence. The toll of those who perish at the hand of natural or man-made evils goes mostly unnoticed.

During my short time observing breeding great and blue tits (a few nests in the springs of 2014-2015) I noticed a recurrent evil: some young’s unability to fly despite seemingly healthy, functional wings. It is absolutely normal for fledglings of many bird species to leave the nest before they can fly, a skill they acquire within days. However, when this unability persists, in stark contrast with the development of the rest of the brood, it becomes a disability and jeopardizes the chick’s survival.

Most great and blue tits I saw fledge could fly immediately or within a few hours from leaving the nest. Encountering individuals lacking this essential character 5, 7, even 10 days later therefore called my attention and I thought it worthwhile recording.


(1) LIVELY & HUNGRY / Bayreuth, Germany – June 2015

I was busy when the blue tit nestlings raised in a natural tree cavity next to my building fledged. From my window, I heard them Continue reading