Fourth Meeting: 21st August, 1895.
Mr. T. Kirk, F.L.S., President, in the chair.
Papers.—1. “On the Unusual Abundance of Certain Species of Plume-months during 1894–95” (with specimens), by G. V. Hudson, F.G.S. (Transactions, p. 379.)
Sir James Hector would like to know about what time of the year these moths occur, and are they injurious to plants? Is it the caterpillar of this moth that perforates the leaves of the Piper excelsum ?
[ unclear: ] Sir W. Buller said that the Piper excelsum is attacked in private, gardens as well as in the bush, the plants in his garden having their leaves completely riddled.
The President thought that the abundance or absence of these insects was owing to the scarcity of the plants they feed on, and also to temperature; but no definite conclusion has yet been arrived at on the subject.
Mr. Hudson, in reply, said that he was not yet sufficiently acquainted with the life-history of these moths to say positively if they injured plants. He knew they fed on Piper excelsum, but did not think they injured the plant. The occured from November to February. Perhaps it was the absence of their special enemies that caused these moths to be so abundant during the seasons mentioned.
2. “Notes on New Zealand Ornithology in the Marlborough District,” by Walling Handley; communicated by Sir Walter Buller. (Transactions, p. 360.)
The President said that a record of this kind was very valuable. Unfortunately, some of our native birds were fast disappearing from many districts where they were once numerous. He was glad to hear that the pigeon was still plentiful in Marlborough, as there were very few localities in which it was to be found in any quantity.
3. “Further Notes on the Ornithology of New Zealand,” with an exhibition of specimens, by Sir Walter Buller, K.C.M.G., F.R.S. (Transactions, p. 326.
4. “On the Occurrence of the Nankeen Kestrel of Australia (Cerchneis cenchroides) in New Zealand,” by Sir Walter Buller, K.C.M.G., F.R.S. (Transactions, p. 359.)
Mr. Travers said his son had examined Stephen Island, and had come to the conclusion that there were not more than about a dozen of the small wrens on the island. He would not have sent all those he obtained-seven in number-to England had he at first known they were so scarce. He believed that now the birds were absolutely extinct on the island. The whitehead he understood was common on the wooded hills at the back of Paraparaumu. The various islands should be visited, and collections made for our museums; and he agreed that steps should be taken to protect our birds. The rail at the Chatham Islands is fast being destroyed. He considered that the naturalists themselves do a great deal of mischief in getting rid of the rare birds.
Mr. Hudson thought that science was much indebted to Sir W. Buller for the extremely interesting and able paper just read. In 1893 he himself had written a short paper pointing out the immediate necessity for making extensive collections of New Zealand plants and animals, so many species of which would no doubt shortly become extinct.
Mr. Harding said that we should certainly endeavour to protect our rare species of birds. He would suggest that the Maoris be asked to supply notes of the life-history of those creatures that are soon likely to pass away. A native chief lately described how native birds are captured, and gave very good drawings, and the Maoris were well able to supply valuable information about the native birds. He might mention, in passing, that Mr. Colenso was quite recently searching for some mineral specimens at his house in Napier and came on a box of botanical specimens collected fifty years ago, and until now quite forgotten. Among them are three native ferns never met with since by himself or other observers. No doubt we shall hear about them soon from Mr. Colenso.
The President said he heartily indorsed Sir Walfcer Buller's protest against the trinomial nomenclature which, was now becoming fashionable amongst zoologists. He considered it to be useless for any good purpose, while it must inevitably cause confusion. He was glad to think that it was not likely to be adopted in New Zealand.
Sir W. Buller, in reply, said lie was glad to find that one occupying the position of our President, and actively engaged in scientific work, was so strong an advocate of the binomial system of nomenclature. As to Mr. Travers's remarks about the supposed extinction of the island-wren, be thought that the cat that had done so much for science, in having : brought in uninjured all the known specimens of this interesting bird, verily deserved an apotheosis; although, in his opinion, it would have been better to have kept eats out of the, island altogether. It was satisfactory, however, to learn that Mr. H. Travers's seven specimens had all been secured by Mr. W. Rothschild, because he would make good use of them in the interest of science, and because the Tring Museum was already famous for its New Zealand rarities. For all that, he still urged the permanent importance of compiling a type-collection of rare birds for the Colonial Museum before their final extinction had rendered it impossible. Of almost equal importance with this was the completion of their history; and he quite agreed with Mr. Harding that it would be well to encourage intelligent Maoris to record their observations. He had seen the paper by Tamati Ranapiri on the ancient modes of snaring wild birds, which had been contributed to the Polynesian Society. It was most interesting from every point of view; and the pen-and-ink sketches by the writer with which it was illustrated were very creditable productions. So called savages were known to be good observers of nature, and it would be quite a step in the right direction to invite contributions of this kind for our Transactions.
The President exhibited specimens of the true edelweiss (Leoniopodium alpinum, Cass.), from the Alps; also of the so-called New Zealand edelweiss (Helichrysysum leontopodium, Hook. f.), from Hikurangi, East Cape district; and Helichrysum grandiceps, Hook. f., from Mount Rolleston, in the South Island. He stated that the former was the Gnaphalium colensoi, Hook. f., of the “Handbook of the New Zealand Flora,” and drew attention to the fact that Helichrysum pauciflorum-a new species described in the last volume of the Transactions-differed from H. grandiceps only in the absence of the large woolly bracts and in certain minor characters.