From fast-swimming sharks and ancient critters to sun-loving lizards and blooming pohutukawa, New Zealand is a nature lover's paradise. We look at 10 species - some adored, some abhorred - that Kiwis might encounter in the wild this summer.
1. New Zealand dotterel
Once widespread and common, the endangered New Zealand dotterel now only numbers some 1700 birds - making them more at risk than some species of kiwi.
These fragile birds are vulnerable to impacts of coastal development on habitat, introduced predators and disturbance during breeding seasons.
In the North Island, they're found in suitable habitat from Taranaki northwards on the west coast, and from North Cape southwards along the east coast of Northland, Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula and Bay of Plenty, and as far south as Mahia Peninsula.
A population of about 250 birds also survives on Stewart Island and nests on mountain tops.
They nest in open sites, typically low-lying sand or gravel banks and sandbars close to beaches and lagoons.
Nests just above high tide mark are easily lost to strong storms and very high spring tides.
But dotterels also often nest close to residential or developed areas - and their breeding habitats are at risk to development and subsequent erosion.
On the beach, nests are easily destroyed by careless feet, dogs and off-road vehicles.
When adults are disturbed while incubating and leave the nest, the eggs are at risk of overheating.
When young chicks are disturbed, they can die from exhaustion as they cannot eat in time, or get to their feeding grounds at the water's edge.
Uncontrolled dogs running through nesting areas can crush eggs, disturb nesting adults, and kill chicks.
Many beaches have dog restrictions and owners should be aware of these. In late summer, the birds leave their breeding sites and congregate in post-breeding flocks at favoured estuaries.
These flocks are socially important; birds which have lost partners during the breeding season can find new ones, and young birds pair for the first time.
2. Pohutukawa and rata
New Zealand's Christmas tree is famous for its flowers that blaze red at this time of year.
Pohutukawa and rata belong to Metrosideros, a genus is represented by two pohutukawa - one here and another in the Kermadecs - along with six species of rata vine, a related shrub, and three tree rata.
On the mainland, you'll find pohutukawa mostly in the upper half of the North Island - north of New Plymouth and Gisborne - although it grows from one end of the country to the other.
It's easily distinguished from rata by the hairs on the underside of the leaves.
Pohutukawa and rata hold a prominent place in Maori mythology.
Legends tell of the young Maori warrior, Tawhaki and his attempt to find help in heaven to avenge his father's death.
He subsequently fell to earth and the crimson flowers are said to represent his blood.
Possibly the most famous pohutukawa in Maori legend is a small, wind-beaten tree clinging to the cliff face near Cape Reinga.
The 800-year-old tree is reputed to guard the entrance to a sacred cave through which disembodied spirits pass on their way to the next world.
Rata was often respected for its immense size, which provided, among other things, shelter for weary travellers.
Pohutukawa and rata are threatened by possums, weeds and grasses, people damaging them, and now, the fungal disease myrtle rust.
3. Red and black billed gull
They annoy us as they swoop about our beachside fish n chips, yet red-billed gulls have just been re-classified as "nationally vulnerable".
There are now fewer than 100,000 of the species in this country, and their numbers could plummet further, by as much as three quarters, over the next three decades.
Researchers have put the decline down to factors such as predators and human disturbance, while climate change, too, could be playing a role.
The birds feed on a range of small fish, eggs, rubbish, grubs, bugs - and the odd chip or squid ring we can spare them.
They're known to breed in the last three months of the year in large colonies on sand spits, headlands and rock inlets.
The situation for the black-billed gull is even worse.
It has the unfortunate status of being the most threatened gull species in the world.
Stronghold populations have rapidly declined by as much as 80 per cent, resulting in its threat status being upgraded from Nationally Endangered to Nationally Critical in 2013.
Black-billed gulls are less likely to be found in towns and cities than other gulls, and are not commonly seen scavenging for food.
They have long, thin black beaks that are easily distinguished from the shorter and stouter bright red beak of the red-billed gull - although juvenile red-billed gulls have dark beaks that turn red as they age.
They are a similar size to red-billed gulls, but have paler wings and a thinner black border on the wingtips.
Breeding sites are mainly the large braided riverbeds of the South Island, with scattered colonies on the North Island coast and at Lake Rotorua.
In winter black-billed gulls are more coastal, so are often seen in estuaries, coastlines, harbours, and coastal parks.
4. Hector's and Maui's dolphins
Maui's dolphins - among the world's smallest - have become a symbol of biodiversity loss in New Zealand and a cause for environment groups.
While thousands of Hector's dolphins are found in our inshore waters, it's estimated just 63 of the Maui's dolphin sub-species over the age of one year of age remain, making them among our most critically endangered species.
Traditionally, Maori people watched their movements to predict the weather.
Today, Maui's dolphins are found on the west coast of the North Island, although it's believed that they were much more abundant and widespread around the North Island in the past.
Hector's dolphins - classified as "nationally vulnerable" - are found around the coast of the South Island but distribution is patchy.
Populations are concentrated between Haast and Farewell Spit in the west, around Banks Peninsula in the east, and Te Waewae Bay and Porpoise Bay/Te whanaga aihe in the south.
Like other dolphins, Maui's and Hector's use echo-location to find their food.
They send out high frequency "clicks" that bounce off surrounding objects and fish, giving the dolphins a detailed picture of their surroundings.
This sonar is not used all the time - which may be one of the reasons why the dolphins get caught in nets.
Like all marine mammals they need to come to the surface regularly to breathe, and if they become tangled in set nets, they will hold their breath until they suffocate.
Because these dolphins occur close inshore, often in bays and harbours, they're also at risk of being injured by boats.
Newborn dolphins are particularly vulnerable as they swim relatively slowly, close to the surface.
Some have been killed by boat propellers, when unwary boaties have run them over.
Other potential threats to their survival include trawling, marine pollution, disease and impacts of tourism and aquaculture.
Pukeko are the street survivors of New Zealand's wild.
The native species of purple swamp hen are thought to have landed here around 1000 years ago from Australia and are today often seen along marshy roadsides and low-lying open country.
The bird's range has actually increased with agricultural development.
Unlike many other native birds, the pukeko has adapted well to new habitats, such as grassed paddocks, croplands and even city parks, a necessity brought about by
However, the "puke" is essentially a bird of swampy ground, lagoons, reeds, rushes and swamps.
They're abundant and widespread and no threat to their long term existence is apparent, meaning they can be shot for sport during the shooting season.
In the past, they've even been culled to protect threatened species - yet they remain well loved by Kiwis, winning Forest and Bird's Bird of the Year competition in 2011.
Pukeko can be aggressive and territorial, are known to scoff down invertebrates, eggs, frogs, small fish, chicks and mammals in a mostly plant-based diet, and are good waders, swimmers and runners, despite being laboured and reluctant flyers.
The birds also look much like their cousins in the rail family, the threatened takahe, which led to four takahe being mistakenly shot and killed during a recent pukeko cull on Auckland's Motutapu Island.
6. Common skink
We all love to lounge in the summer sun - but nowhere near as much as the common skink.
Abundant in coastal locations, the cold-blooded lizards seek out sun and prefer sunny habitats, making themselves less vulnerable to predators by exposing only small parts of their bodies at one time.
They love sunny rock piles and tumbles that offer plenty of crevices, which are not only great for basking in safe spots, but retain heat to keep them warm during cold spells.
Otherwise, common skinks prefer grasslands, scrublands and vinelands rather than forests, and are especially fond of dry, open areas with lots of places to bask and lots of cover to hide under.
Unlike in mammals, they absorb heat from the environment rather than generate it internally.
Many lizards bask in the sun to get warm, and if they aren't warm enough they have difficulty moving.
The body temperature that a lizard can achieve has a profound effect on important life-traits - low temperatures can lengthen pregnancy, and can even result in the unborn baby's death.
Typically dark or black, they can be picked apart from similar brown skinks by their straw coloured iris.
They snack on invertebrates, namely beetles, spiders, and the caterpillars of moths and butterflies, and aren't considered threatened.
7. Shining cuckoo
Heard more than seen, shining cuckoo are notorious for being "brood parasites" - that being that they leave their eggs for other birds to raise.
In New Zealand, their chosen foster parents are the grey warbler, which nurture the young cuckoos once they hatch.
As such, the shining cuckoo's distribution across most of the country - especially near forest and scrub, and in farmed and urban areas - reflected that of the grey warbler.
The colourful birds - the smaller of two common cuckoo found here - often spend their winter in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, but return to New Zealand around this time of year to breed.
New Zealand Birds Online described its main call as a "loud upwardly-slurred whistle repeated several times", with the sequence usually ending with a downwardly-slurred whistle.
"Repeated downward-slurred calls are generally, perhaps always, due to several birds gathering together, and may be part of courtship behaviour."
The birds, similar in size to a sparrow, weren't threatened on the mainland but remained rare on the Chatham Islands.
They were also among the few birds known to eat monarch butterfly caterpillars, amid a diet of bugs and toxic insects avoided by many other birds.
If you're out and about in the wild this summer, keep your eyes peeled for kawakawa.
The small tree might be best distinguished by its deep green leaves - drawn out at the tip but heart-shaped at the base - or what they taste like when you eat them.
Indeed, the name kakawawa - kawa, or bitter - refers to the taste these leave in your mouth.
"A hot and spicy taste, rather pleasant than otherwise," wrote one early European visitor to New Zealand.
Often grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, kawakawa are also known for their small clusters of berries, which ripen over January and February and are a favourite of tui and kereru.
Traditionally, kawakawa has been an important medicinal plant for Maori, used to treat everything from bladder problems to boils, bruises and toothaches, while its sweet edible yellow berries have been consumed as a diuretic.
One account from 1929 described crushed kawakawa leaves being "rubbed on mother's breasts to hasten weaning" while famed 19th Century naturalist Ernst Dieffenbach once suggested them as "a good substitute for tea".
Culturally, marae hosts wave leaves of kawakawa to welcome guests, while hosts and guests also wear weaths of kawakawa on their heads as a sign of mourning.
9. Mako shark
Able to swim as fast as our open road speed limit, the shortfin mako is the world's fastest shark species.
That's twice as fast as a great white shark can travel - and five times the top speed of the average shark.
They're known to leap out of the water, and are fast and agile when attacking prey or lures, which make them a daunting animal to confront in the wild.
But they're rarely been known to attack humans, and most of us are unlikely to encounter the oceanic creatures close to shore.
The mako - its often-mispronounced name means either shark or a shark tooth in Maori - is further set apart by its long, slender body, pointed snout, and small eyes.
The smooth-edged, pointed and extremely sharp teeth that teeth protrude from its mouth are typically used for chomping on schooling fish and squid.
At full maturity, male mako sharks span about 200cm long and females 300cm to 310cm, with adults weighing up to half a tonne.
The species is listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature list of threatened species, with most of the commercial catch of mako sharks taken by tuna longliners.
These critters of the forest floor essentially haven't changed much in the 500 million years they've been on the planet.
Peripatus, also velvet worms and nicknamed living fossils, are of huge interest to scientists because they're something of a missing link between worms and insects - they're similar to both - but they remain a reclusive and little-understood enigma of evolution and biology.
Ranging in length between 2cm and 8cm, they look somewhat like caterpillars and have 15 to 16 pairs of stumpy legs along the length of their body.
It's thought they live for around five years, and females produce between 10 and 20 offspring each year; in most species, they bear their young live.
Although there are around 200 species of peripatus worldwide, there are up to 30 in New Zealand, and only nine species belonging in two genera have been described to date.
The velvety skin of peripatus has permanently open pores, which means that they can easily dry out, so they're mostly found in shady, cool and damp areas.
You might spy them in forested parts of the country, and also in remnant patches, scrub, gardens, pastures and city parks.
They hide deep within rotting logs and under leaves and debris during the day, venturing out at night to prey on other invertebrates, which they catch with jets of sticky fluid.