We kept walking and the sound of cicadas steadily increased. As we sat down on a conveniently placed bench to get a breather I noticed a few cicada exoskeletons clinging to the bark of a nearby manuka tree. As we looked about we noticed there were quite a few of them; at least three on every plant. We kept walking and came to a patch in the bush where a thick shaft of sunlight penetrated. Many insects were flying about, lit up dazzlingly by the sun. It took me a few seconds to notice the bigger ones were cicadas as they flew out in arcs to catch smaller bugs.
Another minute up the trail and the sound of cicadas was ear-splitting. A rhythmic buzz and hum interspersed with the whack of wings slapping together. We entered a pine grove and I felt a crunch under foot. I looked down to see a thick layer of pine needles, and then closer, an exoskeleton under my foot. But then, those weren’t all pine needles. Piles upon piles of exoskeletons covered the middle of the trail. Thousands of cicadas that now sang up a roaring chorus around us. Looking at the shafts of sunlight on the ground you could see the shadows of the insects as they flew back and forth. The occasional song of a Bellbird would ease in between the buzz but could barely be heard.
Farther ahead on the trail the cicadas were almost non-existent as the bush opened into steep pasture around us. Yellowhammers called and sang their buzzy ascending song. Sheep grazed farther off and the occasional sound of a dog barking broke through the open heat of the afternoon. Farther up still the first nice breezes began to reach us and looking back we could see the harbor and the tiny town of Akaroa far below. The white wakes of sailboats broke the turquoise waters offshore from the jetty. Looking uphill, the rocky peaks of the mountains attracted the passing clouds.
We reached the small Heritage Park and decided to hang out there for a bit and then head back down. I found a cicada doing its noisy thing right out in the open and snagged a few quick videos of it. I also managed some pictures of a few New Zealand Red Admiral butterflies. They look superficially similar to the North American ones but are in fact quite a bit more extravagant in their details.
Akaroa, South Island, New Zealand | February | Canon 7D | Canon 50mm |
A little later I thought I heard a Tui, which are supposedly somewhat ‘extinct’ on the Banks Peninsula, not mentioning the fact that they are absent from most of Canterbury. You have to be careful when you think you hear a Tui though because Bellbirds can apparently imitate them quite well. However, after a few minutes of waiting I got a few satisfying glimpses of two Tuis chasing each other back and forth through the trees. This implies territoriality and perhaps implies breeding, so I’ll have to look up exactly how ‘extinct’ they are on the peninsula. Most of the Canterbury region has been extensively farmed making the Banks Peninsula somewhat of an island of birdlife. Pipipi seem to have a completely separate population here so it wouldn’t surprise me if Tuis do also.