The Mokohinau Islands are a remote group of islands at the outer edge of the Hauraki Gulf, off the north east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. Like many of New Zealand’s other small islands, the Mokohinaus are very important refuges for many native species that have been decimated by introduced mammalian predators over most of New Zealand. Surprisingly little research has been done on these islands or the sea birds of the wider Hauraki Gulf, but this is now starting to change. Late last year I volunteered some time to help researchers working on white-faced storm-petrels on Burgess Island, and I’ve now started uploading some of my photos from that trip.
The sea birds are one of the attractions of the Mokohinau Islands, but I also love reptiles so I put quite a bit of effort and spare time into photographing the native skinks and geckos that abound on the island. On the mainland of New Zealand, cats, rats and hedgehogs have wreaked havoc on native lizard populations. A visit to an island sanctuary like Burgess is a remarkable contrast. One of the most remarkable sights was pohutukawa (Metrosiderous excelsa) trees in flower and almost dripping with Mokohinau geckos at night. You might think this would be easy photographic pickings, but they are actually very alert and will quickly crawl or jump away at the slightest disturbance, so great care and patience is required. I got many great shots and find it hard to pick a favourite. The photo below is in some ways less spectacular than many of the others—the pohutukawa flowers are near their end and have lost most of their striking scarlet anthers—but I just love the pose. It shows the amazing adhesive feet of a gecko in action, and determination to lap up every possible drop of sweet nectar. It makes me smile every time.
Mokohinau geckos have not yet been formally described, and it was only fairly recently that they were recognised as a species, distinct from the very similar Pacific gecko. For now they go by the tag name Dactylocnemis sp. ‘Mokohinau gecko’.
A Mokohinau gecko feeding determinedly from pohutukawa flowers. Taken with a Canon 1D Mark IV, EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, 1/250 s at f10, ISO 200, MT24EX macro flash and a second flash held off camera.
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