It is midnight when Gillian and Darryl Torckler start off on their journey through the Kiwi bush to record what they can find at four hourly intervals. Although the rays of the moon are filtered out by the canopy of tall trees and barely reach the ground Darryl, a skilled photographer, is able to photograph nocturnal insects like cockroaches and tree weta. A few hours later the couple are amazingly fortunate to catch sight of a green puriri moth emerging into the air for the first time after years of living as a caterpillar inside a tree and to spot a cicada shedding its shell.
At 8 am the avian alarm clock resounds through the bush, the dawn chorus has begun. Kokako, fantail, weka, kokako and pukeko make an appearance as well as a green gecko. That afternoon they spot a tui, its head covered in nectar, and honeybees, dragonflies and copper butterflies fill the air with their happy busy buzzing noise. In the early evening, a kereru is sighted feeding on berries up high in a puriri tree. Noisy kakariki chatter amongst themselves, and a kea keeps watch over its territory.
Later that evening the sun sets and darkness returns. A hungry ruru swoops down silently and grabs a huhu beetle with its talons. Kiwi are out and about using the nostrils at the end of their beaks to sniff out insects and a millipede scavenges on the forest floor. The journey is ending but when dawn breaks the cycle will start all over again.
Gillian has turned these 24 hours (which in reality were based on many visits into the bush over a long time) into an exciting tale. Alternating with her story are double spread pages filled with photographs taken by Darryl and fact boxes about the habits and habitat of the animals. It came as a surprise to discover that bush cockroaches, who many think of as rather revolting, are an important part of the bush ecology as they eat and break down organic matter that ultimately becomes the compost that plants grow in. And it was reassuring to read that there is no need to be scared of weta as they rarely bite people, although they do stink!
I think that this book is a wonderful resource for families who enjoy walking in the bush. It is packed with interesting information and will introduce them to creatures who they may not even have known existed as many of them scurry or fly away when they hear footsteps. The Tocklers suggest you should be patient, stand still and wait for a while and then they may well reappear.
Reviewer: Lyn Potter
Bateman Books, RRP $19.99.