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#10 Nature Watch

10 Points

Become a famous nature documentary photographer in your backyard and catalogue the wild things living there!

Read the instructions


See also

Be a citizen scientist and upload your photos to iNaturalist NZ

What to do

Your mission is:

Take wild photos of NZ's wild wildlife. Go on then, get snapping!!


Since people first arrived in Aotearoa (way before the internet) close observation has been key to figuring out the sweet-as secrets of our environment. Your mission today is to go out into your backyard, open your wild eyes and discover one or all of the following:

- a native plant,

- a native insect,

- and a native animal or bird,

- and then ...



No not that sort of shooting (that's illegal and not at all Wild Eyes!). Shoot them with your camera. Aotearoa has some of the weirdest wild things around, from demon grasshoppers (weta) to dudes like this down-under dodo (takahē – seen here).

If you’re lucky you can capture them in a photo, learn about them and and find out how to look after them, especially those taonga (treasures) that are endangered, like the takahē. 


3. PRO TIPS #1

Be creative with your angles: crouch down, zoom in, or stand on your tip-toes. Use your spy skills: being quiet can lead to surprising discoveries! 

Take a selfie and/or put yourself in the photo!   


4. PRO TIPS #2

Sometimes a background can be distracting: frame your subject so it stands out (e.g. against a clear sky or solid colours). If you have a digital camera you can take heaps of photos and learn what works by experimenting.

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You’ve taken a photo of it – but what is it?!?

Check out these guides to help you suss your subject: birdsplantsinsects and animals. Then UPLOAD your discoveries to the Wild Eyes website to earn points towards the next level, and help make the eyes on your Wild Eyes avatar go fully wacky wonderfully wild!  

estella drawing


Another option is to draw the objects of your nature-watching (then photograph the drawings and upload to Wild Eyes!).

This is a picture of a kōrora (blue penguin) meeting a kiwi. This possibly didn't happen in a backyard (which is probably why there's no photo!). The kiwi is high-fiving with its beak because its wings aren't big enough to high-five ... or fly!   



To go next level, suss out a Nature Watch photography competition with your friends or classmates, then set up an exhibition! It can be in your classroom or on your fridge door – both count!

This photo won best photo of a kaka parrot landing on a person's head while on Kapiti Island in the U12 division of the 2017 Connor family Photo Competition.*Only members of the Connor family were allowed to enter. 

What's happening?



– Tuatara: not quite alien but just a bit dinosaur

We know that New Zealand is pretty unique. It's not just because of hokey-pokey ice cream and our choice accents and out-of-this-world sports teams! New Zealand has been isolated since the time of the dinosaurs, which gazillions of (ok: around 65 million) years ago, and because of the oceans between us and everywhere else, life here evolved (that means: changed to fit into the world around it) very differently.

How different? Ask Dr Diamond: 


"New Zealand is the closest we can come to studying evolution on another planet."

- American scientist, Dr Jared Diamond reckons our wild things are out of this world


One big difference between New Zealand and everywhere else on the entire planet was that we evolved with very few mammals on the islands – only seals, sea lions, and two species of bats.

All the rest of the creatures were birds, lizards and insects, many of which you couldn’t find anywhere else in the world – like our local dinosaur tuatara, our demon grasshopper weta and our furry landlubber bird with nostrils in its beak: the kiwi! An animal so wonderfully weird, we named ourselves after it.

kiwi release rata geyser

– The way kooky (but way cool) kiwi


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– Least favourite food of moa

Some scientists think many of our trees evolved to defend themselves from being eaten by moa. Check out the lancewood in the pic: would you wanna eat that? When it’s little, its leaves are spiky, but when it grows past moa-height the leaves get wide and soft (so they can photosynthesize – use the sun – more for the tree to grow bigger). Now there are no moa left, but the lancewood isn’t taking any chances, just in case.

See if you can get a photo of some of that evolutionary awesomeness! 


Scientists learn about species by closely observing them. Sometimes they do this by checking out behavior in the field, sometimes by examining stuff with a microscope, and sometimes by studying photos. This is where YOU come in! Upload your photos to Nature Watch NZ and have real-life scientists comment on it. (If you manage to get a photo of a moa, you’ll become a science celebrity! Worth a try…) 


– Yo there's a moa behind you!



If you're very very very lucky you'll get a superstar subject like Sirocco the kākāpō. Check this awesome clip out to see what happened when BBC zoologist Mark Carwardine tried to photograph the world's biggest parrot and the world's biggest parrot mistook Mark's head for his girlfriend! There's only 100 or so kākāpō left in the world, but your backyard has it's own superstars: just open your wild eyes!


Sometimes getting a great photo is a matter of luck and being in the right place at the right time. If you happen to come across a rare kōkako showing you its bum, hopefully you've got a camera pointed at it! (If it happens to be an extinct South Island kōkako you'll definitely win first prize).

Check out more funny photos in the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.


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– Rear view of a rare kōkako



– Award-winning photographer: you!

All around the world, there are people who are super-keen to see photos of our wicked wildlife. Getting a great shot can take time, patience, and practice but if you give it a go and get lucky, there are organisations like KCC and National Geographic who run photo competitions with young photographer categories.

So make like a mako shark and get snapping!


You can spot some super adaptations of NZ animal's in your backyard. Flax flowers are perfectly designed to fit the beak of honey-eating birds like tūi and korimako (bellbird)! And tūi have brush-tipped tongues that have evolved so they can lick the last bits of nectar from flowers, sort of like how we use straws to suck the last slurp of a milkshake! Next time you see a flax flower in spring, sneak a sip – it tastes like super-powered honey! 


– The longest drink in town!



Catching some sun ...

Score bonus points if you manage to grab a photo of a pīwakawaka (fantail) – these guys are always on the move and hard to pin down in a photo!

Did you know they reckon that the side-to-side dance steps in the haka are inspired by the fantail? Well now you do, tell your friends about the Parris Goebel of the manu (bird) world!


To get some good snaps, you'll need your wild eyes wide open. You don't always need to think big; small can be just as interesting. With a bit of luck you'll come across some wild backyard events, like this NZ preying mantis laying eggs into its carton (opps, case!). (And for a two-in-one bonus it's also on a native kowhai tree...)


– I'll have a dozen fresh eggs please ...

What other members have done:

#10 Nature Watch

i can see a tree

i can see a tree

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to make it simple use a space that you there is what you are looking for
#10 Nature Watch

nature watch

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By -=wild_eggs=-

nature watch

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Me and my friends bluwatel spent our time searching the forest for a native tree. We found a really cool tree native to New Zealand.
#10 Nature Watch

The tree

The tree

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#10 Nature Watch

Gorgeous gecko!

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By Thevicepresident

Gorgeous gecko!

We met this mokomoko in Aro Valley. It is a Wellington forest gecko ... i bet you it would win 'Get Lost' in the forest, but not on my jacket!!
#10 Nature Watch

Weta visitor

Weta visitor

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We saw a weta on ar dowahe
#10 Nature Watch

#gowildkcc - finding native things!

#gowildkcc - finding native things!

I spotted lots of native stuff while I was out exploring new places recently!
#10 Nature Watch

Native things! #gowildkcc

Native things! #gowildkcc

I had fun finding native things while visiting my grandad!
#10 Nature Watch

Kowhai from garden

Kowhai from garden

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Super dog
This is kowhai from my backyard so the best place to start would be your backyard
#10 Nature Watch

I love bees!

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By Watermelongirl

I love bees!

I love helping my Grandad take care of his bees. There are many species of native bees and Grandad's bees are native. He teaches me how important they are and how to protect them against mites.
#10 Nature Watch

#gowildkcc takahe and tui

#gowildkcc takahe and tui

These two cheeky takahe and tui photos were taken at Zealandia
#10 Nature Watch

Native things! #gowildkcc

Native things! #gowildkcc

I had lots of fun taking these photos of some native animals :D. The first one is of a NZ Pied Shag out on the water. The second is of a Tui up in a tree.The last is of a beautiful Red Admiral. :)
#10 Nature Watch

Up close with a native cicada #gowildkcc

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By thebuglover

Up close with a native cicada #gowildkcc

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I found this cicada dead in my dads office at home. It was hard to get close without It going out of focus. I sharpened the colors and cropped when I edited it. The shadow is perfectly formed.