Our lacklustre summer has turned to autumn as the month of March began. In fact, this week, it has been more like winter.
It “spooned” through the shallow water, sweeping with its bill left and right with some speed and skill and I watched a fish or two being caught and swallowed.
The bird was not happy with my presence once it heard my foot fall on the dry, crackly leaves and grass. Its flight away was magnificent to watch. Its broad white wings were strong and moved it through the air with apparent ease and grace, up and away to the greater safety of the Pauatahanui Inlet.
It has been apparent for a few days now that the adult Tuis no longer want to feed their young. The fledglings can be very insistent about wanting their parents to feed them. However the squeaking calls are fewer and generally less persistent.
But on two occasions this week there have been some very strident exchanges between parent and child. Mostly these exchanges have happened in the tulip magnolia tree and have been impossible to capture by camera but we have certainly heard great flapping, screeching, squawking and lots of branches and leaves crashing about.
Last evening a very dramatic exchange happened between fledgling and father on the fence and I managed some photos.
It began near the feeder, which was empty, and the father bird flew in as the fledgling was looking sadly at the empty dish. The father’s arrival caused the fledgling to fly on to the fence. At this point the fledgling is on the right in the photo.
And squeaking all the time it approached the father bird along the fence.
Feathers almost flew at this point and you can see the fledgling on the left at full spread, imploring Dad to feed it. Dad was having none of that and was equally loud and aggressive back at his offspring.
Action was high.
Then, just as suddenly as it began, the male adult flew off and the fledgling retreated to the magnolia.
I then refilled the feeder and heard the fledgling come down through the branches as it returned to seek some nourishment.
I now recognise the mother and father birds but I am still unsure how many fledglings have been in and out of the tulip magnolia and feeding at the sugar water feeder. Four appeared in the garden during the days between the 6-8th February and I think there have been two different ones at the feeder in the past 10 days but like all teenagers they like to appear the same so I cannot be sure.
Certainly the parents have finished with their brood and now I am watching for the development of the characteristic white wattle feathers at the throats of the young. These are the feathers that earned Tui the name of “Parson bird” by the early European settlers to New Zealand.
Recently we spent some time up on the Kapiti Coast. The weather was perfect and once the heat began to ebb from the day we went to explore the walk along the Waikanae river that is accessed from the Otaihanga Domain.
When we had young children and when my mother lived near this spot we spent many happy times there.
The Domain is a very large flat grassy area which is perfect for ball games and for children running and playing. It is circled by many leafy trees such Weeping Willows which provide shade and opportunities to climb. It also has the benefit of being a more sheltered spot from our trade mark winds. Many people picnic there. And I see from the link to Otaihanga Domain that there is now a very impressive children’s playground.
The river forms the boundary on one side of the Domain and allows for paddling and dabbling and swimming if there is enough water in the river.
Across a suspension bridge is a path to the left which leads to the beach or other branches which can lead to places we have yet to explore.
My eye was drawn to the light on the water as we crossed over the bridge.
And then as we moved down the river pathway.
A Pukeko family were drawn to the water to dabble casting their own effects on the water and the light playing on it.
I felt freed from the many pressing challenges that have been part of my daily life for a long time as I watched the light and its interplay with the water. It is impossible to know what the exact dynamics were but that added to the mystery which attracts. And if it was the water playing with the light or the light playing with the water it did not matter in the least as the flow of both was so soothing and relaxing.
This quote from artist James Turrell, that popped into my email inbox minutes before I began to write this post, has added an even more interesting dynamic for me to reflect on deeply.
I mean, light is a substance that is, in fact a thing, but we don’t attribute thing-ness to it. We use light to illuminate other things, something we read, sculpture, painting. And it gladly does this. But the most interesting thing to find is that light is aware that we are looking at it, so that it behaves differently when we are watching it and when we’re not, which imbues it with consciousness. – James Turrell
We have lived in this area for over 25 years and naturally many changes have happened in that time. When we first lived here this hill to the northwest of our home was named “Pine tree Hill” by the children because that described it perfectly.
Eventually the pine trees were felled and the logs that were commercially viable were taken away. The bare sides of the hill were hard to look at. But very quickly mass planting of natives began and they are all well-established along with many flowering cherry trees and other plants that have resulted from birds dropping seeds. The hill provides cover and food for many of the regenerating native bird populations.
Last year our city council spent some money on making a look out area on the most northern part of this hill. Earlier this week these photos were taken from this wonderful vantage point on what is now known as the Spinnaker Lookout.
This is the view back to my “neck of the woods”
The photo below shows the large area of trees, native and exotic that cover a hillside near my home and which is a great home for our birds and wildlife as well as wonderful places for children to play in the natural world.
This view is the Lookout at the end of my street and which is currently under the gaze of the city council to perhaps “improve” it in some way. We will give careful thought to our submission as this area is windswept and natural with growing areas of natives and home to visits by the Shining Cuckoo, tui flocks and families and no doubt many other birds. It is a great area for children to play on in a free and natural manner using their imaginations.
I look out onto these hills from the kitchen window above the sink. The hills are extremely dry at the moment thanks to all the winds we have had this summer and the lower rainfall in the past few weeks. I like the micro-view I have of these hills as I watch the light and shadows change, the weather changes and the movement of cattle from time to time. This photo is much more of a big picture view.
Back to the east is the Pauatahanui Inlet with the small settlement of Pauatahahui at the head of the Inlet.
A shift to the west shows the Inlet, then the entrance to the Porirua Harbour and in the distance the Tasman Sea. Somewhere over the horizon is Australia.
Finally a more western view shows the South Island as blue hills off in the distance.
Large trees block any view due south into another section of my suburb.
This photograph shows the village of Whitby and some areas of earthworks as development moves apace again.
At the vantage point high on Spinnaker Hill there are two large signs offering visitors links to various places of interest with a historical reference or two, some ecology information and links to other walking tracks as well as the interesting symbol that smart phones can read and then provide more information.
There is a large seat to rest on after the rigorous climb to this point and the plantings around this and the signs on the vantage point have been selected to survive conditions in this very windy spot. You can tell which way the predominant wind blows from this tough, drought resistance grass.
With the breeding season behind them now the birds are becoming more visible and their songs more audible. Yesterday I could hear the beautiful song of the Riroriro or Grey Warbler and as I sat looking at the Tall Trees section of the garden I could see a tiny bird flitting amongst the branches.
A closer look confirmed that it was the Grey Warbler, surrogate parent of the Shining Cuckoo ( in the photo below. Note the difference in size between the tiny warbler pictured further down the post and this Cuckoo.)
Grey Warblers only eat insects so it was hunting time for small insects to be found in the trees. I went out into the garden with the camera in the hope of getting a clearer photo than this attempt last year in March.
I was fortunate to find the little warbler on the aged kowhai tree on the reserve. The remarkable feature I saw and heard was this male bird singing its heart out, all while grazing for food. It is stunning to watch such a little beak cleverly move along leaves and branches while also creating beautiful music.
It was a but a brief moment or two before the wee bird flew across the road to a large bottle brush tree for more fine pickings and to serenade the neighbours.