Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Treasures to be Found at Butterfly Creek

Butterfly Creek is one of the most popular and well known walks in Wellington, but despite that I still meet people who have never been. It's perfect for a weekend picnic with the kids or grandkids, or a quiet 'pick-me-up' walk mid-week.
Picnic area at Butterfly Creek - cool on a hot day
First thing you need to know - and tell your children to avoid disappointment - the creek is not full of butterflies! In fact, we rarely see any butterflies there. I've been told that the creek used to look like a butterfly from a particular viewpoint but haven't been able to confirm that. But we do see all sorts of other plant and animal treasures.

Native clematis vine (spring)
The walk over the hill can start from several different streets in Eastbourne.  See this link for information from the Greater Wellington Regional Council. Starting from Kowhai Street is the quickest, but it's also possible to access the track from Mackenzie Street, Muritai Park and the Bush Barn. This means you could create a circuit, including a short bus ride or a walk along the beach.

Looking back towards Eastbourne
On the path up to the ridge, stop and look for orchids, in winter and spring, you might find different species of greenhood orchids.
Greenhood orchid
Many of the trees are New Zealand beech trees, some of which are very tall. The trunks of the beech trees are sometimes home to little moa orchids. Spotting these takes keen eyes.
Little moa orchids on beech trunk
Note the spreading roots that hold the orchid on the tree
and the small pinkish flowers below (spring)
 Searching for the little things, such as dragonflies and orchids is fun. If you keep your eyes open you'll almost certainly see holes made by the puriri moth. See Puriri Moths and Caterpillars for more on what to look for.

If you take the Mackenzie or Muritai Tracks, once over the ridge you'll come across some magnificent trees laden with epiphytes. Epiphytes are plants that live on trees, like the little moa orchid above, although most grow to be much larger.
Looking into the epiphyte laden forest
Many epiphytes are really big, trees living on trees, others look like clumps or nests. Take a break here from the little things, and look up into the trees. How many different kinds of epiphytes can you see? 
Epiphytes in this picture include clumps or 'nests', white flowering winika orchids, and hanging ferns
The Epiphyte Network have an online downloadable basic guide to epiphytes along with a survey that you can take part in. If you have older kids with you take some binoculars and have a go at this.

The plants that form nests are sometimes found on the ground too.
Here's a tank lily, kahakaha,  growing on the ground (summer)
Called bush flax (although it's not a real flax) or kakaha,
just coming into flower (summer)
Expect to hear and see birds, although they may not stay long enough for children to identify them. Birds that you may see or hear include: grey warbler/riro riro, tūī, bellbird/korimako, kererū, kākāriki, shining cuckoo/pīpīwharauroa, long-tailed cuckoo/koekoeā, whitehead/pōpokatea, silvereye/tauhou, fantail/pīwakawaka.

To download a simple Nature Hunt, see Nature Hunt List.
For young children, my book "In the Bush" includes information on epiphytes, puriri moths, greenhood orchids and lots more.

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