I have been fortunate in the past three or more years to hear the beautiful song of the Korimako, New Zealand Bellbird. Eventually I spotted one in the garden but it was a fleeting view as this fast moving bird was there and gone.
Two very tall Bottle Brush trees in neighbouring gardens provide food for our nectar feeding birds, especially the Tui and Bellbird.
My attempts to photograph a Bellbird have been futile so far. But today our lovely visiting Bellbird ( or perhaps more than one) has been in and around the garden and singing temptingly close by.
With cold winter light offering little assistance I ventured out with my camera to try and locate Korimako feeding in the tree across the road. The zoom on my camera is very good and I was able to gain one photo.
I crossed the road carefully and stood a way off from the tree believing that the bird would be fearful and take flight. However food was a stronger pull and with plenty of foliage to hide safely in I was able to move closer and closer without causing the bird to fly away.
My luck held and I came home with some pleasing photographs and the great sense of achievement gained from ticking a “wanted bird” off the list.
I have included a link to a sound clip of the clear, bell like song of this very special New Zealand native bird.
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.
Male Grey Warbler or Riroriro Feb 26th 2014
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.
Well perhaps not the water cooler but the sugar water feeder. Since the flaxes have finished flowering the Tuis have been emptying the sugar water feeder up to 6 times per day. It seems that we are serving three course meals with drinks to a great many local birds.
Aggressive behaviour has been more apparent with some startling displays of aerobatics and territory dominance. But I have also watched two Tuis happily sharing the feeder, young being shown where to drink, juveniles/teenagers stocking up on fast food and older birds replenishing their tired and thinner bodies after the rigours of the breeding cycle.
Many of the birds are not at all fazed by our presence in the garden and there are times when we can approach them quite closely.
More regularly Tui are sitting on the fence by the feeder and evenings are good times to spot two birds such as these two in enthusiastic conversation.
It all began with an often heard song that heralds the arrival of one large bird. Then another Tui flew on to the fence and both were puffed up and looking rather unkempt.
There continued much singing, both at each other simultaneously,
but also one to the other. Do not be fooled by their closed beaks for Tuis have two voice boxes and often produce lovely notes without much visible beak movement. At other times there are beak movements and no apparent sounds to our human ears. We are assured that Tuis sing notes that are beyond our hearing.
A little shunning was witnessed despite a beautiful tune being offered.
A little more chat back and forth
And then one turned its back and was gone.
As I type this at 8.30pm in the evening as the golden sunset glows in the western sky
there is a continuous but quiet parade of supper eaters visiting our watering hole before they head somewhere to roost for the night. We suspect that moulting is underway for many of the Tuis as their plumage looks untidy and less vibrant.
In my post yesterday I mentioned that as a delightful counterpoint to listening for rumbling earth tremors, and creaking and groaning house timbers or ominous rattling, I had discovered the bird song in the garden to be that of a Thrush or Song Thrush as they can be known.
I have been on to this simply outstanding website and gathered up some bits of information about our very tuneful friend. He has the capacity to sing without pause for several hours I am discovering this morning.
The Thrush is an introduced bird to New Zealand and is found through-out the country. It is a pretty bird with speckles on a proud cream breast. They love to sing from a high branch or on a tree top, although they are often seen on the ground foraging for food.
Here is “my” one- high up on the flowering cherry tree
And then, when not enjoying my proximity, he flew to a neighbour’s Silver Birch tree….can you spot him as a distant blur in the centre of the photo?
These seem to be his current favourite vantage points from which to tell all that this is his territory. Information indicates that at this time of the year as breeding is about to get under way (August through to February) the male thrush sings to inform of his territorial ownership.
The song is distinctive and attractive with many notes repeated several times before another phrase is sung and repeated. NZ Birds online website here has several recordings worth listening to. I was amazed to find that the first two were from 1845 and the early 1900’s in Christchurch and are part of the Natural History Unit Sound Archive.www.archivebirdsnz.com
In spring and summer I am often alerted to a Thrush on the ground by the sound of loud cracking on the concrete path. Thrushes love snails (and slugs) and will work very hard to crack open the shell so they can eat the contents….
So now I need to look for the chorister’s mate and check the trees in our Tall Tree area of the garden to see if I can spot a nest being built in days to come. I think I found a Thrushes’ nest down in that spot last autumn.
Every so often we find a blue-green egg with speckles on it, cracked and empty after a Thrush fledgling has hatched and the egg remains have been tossed out on to the ground.
Do go and visit the website to enjoy the clear and informative photos, sound recordings and data there.
And I will continue to listen to the performance that has been going on for 5 hours now bar a short intermission when the Thrush hopped past my glass sliding door and I swear he winked at me
My luck was in today later in the afternoon. I had had my camera “at the ready” in attempt to capture a photo of our friendly fantail. He, however, had different ideas and flirted with me as he flitted and darted amongst the leaves of the Golden Elm tree. But he disappeared chirruping cheekily across to another garden and away.
My attention was caught a few minutes later when the delightfully melodious song of the Grey Warbler or Riroriro filled the garden close by me. Out on the climbing rose were a pair of these tiny native birds. I have heard them increasingly in the garden in the past two years which has been exciting.
At around 11cm in length, greyish coloured and able to dart and flick away rapidly in flight, they are really tricky to spot and even harder to take a photo of.
I crept out onto the deck with the camera already set to maximum zoom and watched with disappointment as the pair flew into the leafy Smoke Bush. I stood as still as I could and suddenly this little bird popped out onto a barer branch.
Do go to this link for more detail about this marvellous wee bird and click on the sound recording of its impressive song. Impressive in its utter beauty but also in the large sound such a tiny bird produces.
I posted here about the Shining Cuckoo which infiltrates the nest of a Grey Warbler and is raised by these diminutive birds often after kicking the young warblers out of their nest. Another post here about the Shining Cuckoo.
I hope to be posting a photo of the fantail any day soon but for today I am content.
The past week has had some dispiriting aspects to it but the cheering news from me is about the native birds.
Each morning this week, Korimako (such a beautiful name) the native Bellbird has been in and around my garden with its glorious clear, sweet bell-like song. A neighbour has a large Bottle brush tree which is currently covered in red flowers containing nectar. Bellbirds are like Tuis and love nectar. Their beak is shaped to drink the nectar from the neck of the flowers. So the Bellbird has discovered an abundant site to enjoy breakfast and thrill me with its song.
Also during the week I have heard the Grey Warblers again. They have been quiet of late, presumably raising their young or those of the Shining Cuckoo. Last night I spotted a pair of Fantail flitting chirpily around the garden. Their return indicates that autumn is here and they will be around until spring when they move elsewhere.
I’ve heard Tui song from time to time but I am expecting them back in numbers soon if my blog records continue to predict this event.
When I was growing up the sight and sounds of our native birds was generally something reserved for museums and exhibitions where we could view stuffed birds and listen to audio of their song.
To hear and see an increasing range of native birds in my garden is such a joy and so uplifting in the face of indifferent news.
And the final part of last night’s sunset is worth sharing too:-)
Today has been a hot, sunny day. The sort of February day we expect. Sadly such days have been few and far between since Christmas time 2011.
At lunch time I heard the prettiest song and as I looked out into our back garden I saw a grey- fawn coloured bird darting amongst the leaves of the golden elm tree.
It was bigger than a sparrow but smaller than a blackbird and it sang with such clear, bell-like sounds interspersed with more ordinary chirrups.
It was gone before I could look for the camera and I doubt that I would have managed to capture it without a zoom lens and more technique than I have.
I checked my NZ birds book and was delighted to find that I had seen a New Zealand Bellbird, or Korimako, its Maori name. It was Mrs Bellbird. I had heard her song a couple of times in the previous weeks but I could not see the singer.
I am so thrilled that I have finally seen a Bellbird in the wild and even more thrilled that the bird was in my garden. I hope Mrs Bellbird returns soon and brings Mr Bellbird with her.