Saturday Night Safari at Brook Sanctuary

Last night we went for a night adventure up the Brook Sanctuary , rugged up warm and armed with lots of torches we headed off into the dark to see what we could find. We were told New Zealand's largest native spider was found up the Brook Sanctuary, and hoped that maybe we might find one. Archie our self-proclaimed 'Scientist about spiders' was at the ready when we encountered our first creature of the night..

Canon 5DMiii, 50mm 1.4
I took my tripod, but ended up ditching it as it kept frightening the wild life and took too long to set up. I instead used a high ISO 6400, shallow aperture to let in lots of light - f/2.8, and the slowest shutter speed I could hand hold 1/60.

Spelungula Cavenicola - Nelson Cave Spider

When looking at our first tiny spider of the night, my eyes roved to the side and hit this one. Now I must say that the photograph really does nothing to demonstrate the size. With its legs I guessed it to be about 10cms. After looking at our copy of Andrew Crowes 'Which New Zealand Spider'  we were amazed we had found it, the spider we were looking for, the Nelson Cave Spider.

"With a leg span of up to 15cms it is New Zealands largest native spider. It is so rare that it remained undiscovered until 1957 and is now a protected species. They eat cave wetas." Crowes, A.  Which New Zealand Spider. 

One thing that really amazed me was the speed of this spider, while photographing it something scared it, and quicker than the speed of light it was gone. It was so fast I didn't even see it run, one second it was there, the next it was gone. It made me a bit uneasy to think about how fast they run, I also wondered if they bite. I do have to say though, the way the spiders fled it, it made me realise how scared they are of us.  

Another creature we were hoping to see was a Weta, we saw an empty  'Weta Hotel' a special wooden box made by Sanctuary workers to observe and house Weta's. As we kept exploring we did find a Weta but it was deep inside a bamboo stick. I could not capture it on my camera, but we shone our torches inside and were able to see its back legs. 

I was unsure we would see glow worms as I thought they were something that is only found in caves. But it turns out they like the black fungus which grows on tree trunks and they love to hang inside banks with there little fishing line strings. 

I was amazed that we seemed to kneel down in just the right spot of the track and find about a dozen little shining blue lights!

Nikki is pointing to the little strings produced by the glow worms in side this bank. When all torches were switched off we saw pretty little blue lights. 

It was so still and very quiet I was surprised we did not hear any night birds or insects it was silent and very dark. 

 

Little mushrooms growing along a small tree branch really stood out with the torch light


It really is a different world outside after dark. I really enjoyed myself last night and will make sure we adventure out after dark again. With it being winter it is dark by 5:30pm so no need for it to be a late night. 

Species unknown. 'Little Green Spider"


Archie was very clever spotting this wee tiny green spider. We tried to identify it in our book but there were only two green spiders we could find in it, and neither really looked 100% like this one. Maybe it is a new one! 

 

We marked the spot were we had seen the Nelson Cave Spider after it ran away, hoping it be out again when we came back past, and sure enough it was. I, sitting in the same spot.  I took some more photographs, and hadfun playing with its large shadow - shining the torch to cast ominous spider shapes. 

 

Mr A Taylor - Spider Scientist 

Team Night Safari members A & E Taylor. 

Half Moon. 

What a fantastic exploration!