The Tuesday after the weekend rainstorm that drenched Dunedin, bringing flooding and land slips, dawned sunny and clear. As Dad and I discussed where to go, he revealed a cunning plan. The deluge that had sent Otago’s human inhabitants running for cover would have had an even more apocalyptic effect on the local insects, and we could take advantage of this to expand his beetle collection.
We set off through Green Island and then down the coast, over the bird-filled estuary at Brighton and past the cemetery, where I saluted my grandparents and great-aunt and uncles.
Then we continued on to the Taieri River, swollen and brown. First, upon my urging, we crossed over and visited the scene of our coastal exploration of Boxing Day 2015, because I wanted to see if I could repeat my success in finding some mussels for dinner.
I teetered out on to the nearby rocks and eventually managed to locate some sizable shellfish right at the farthest extremities. With the tide on the turn I quickly gathered as many as I could before the increasingly large waves drove me back to safety.
Having succeeded in our first mission we backtracked over the Taieri River before pulling up in the second pull-off to its north. The beach was littered with assorted debris that had been washed down the Taieri in its torrential fury.
The pounding waves were still tinted brown from the churned up river wash.
But our interest lay not in the waves but in the debris at the high tide line. While Dad commenced lifting the scattered driftwood, I poked around and found something special!
Showing off my prize, known scientifically as Maurea tigris and in Maori as rehoreho or matangongore, I gifted it to Dad for his shell collection. He reciprocated by handing me a jar so that I could assist in his search for the numerous beetles that had been washed down the flooded river to wind up confused and dizzy on this shore. Lifting the nearest log, I discovered that Dad’s insect-locating savviness was on point, as the little black insects scattered in every direction. I dutifully did my best to nab them all before they managed to scurry off into some unseen crevice.
Soon I had a grand collection of assorted beetles, including (according to Dad) the carabids Zolus and Clivina. I chose to take his word for it.
So focused was I on my mission that I neglected to notice that the driftwood also carried some non-beetle passengers – that is, until one well-camouflaged critter reared up at me as I leaned in close during my search for beetles.
It appears that what I had unwittingly discovered was Dolomedes minor, the nursery web spider, whose talents also include being able to walk on water. Perhaps this was one of the thousands of baby spiders I’d discovered last year on my journey down the Millenium Track?
The one I’d found appeared to be a male, being somewhat small and svelte, but I soon discovered a bigger butcher female.
I figured by this time it was wise to retreat. Dad too was satisfied with his beetly haul, and we wanted to return before the weather turned nasty again. That turned out to be a good idea, because upon my return to South Dunedin I was greeted by a gorgeous rainbow heralding the next stormy front.
Ten minutes later I was hiding once again from the icy rain. Though our break did not last long, we were both satisfied with our treasures, mine in the form of memories, Dad’s in the form of beetles to sort.
Now to await the next clear sky, upon which I shall cautiously venture out once again, to find what adventures I may.