Tag Archives: nectar

New Zealand Christmas candles…..or not?

This season has seen a profusion of flowering amongst our native trees and plants. The cabbage trees were luxuriant, the kowhais dripped their gold, the Pohutukawas are prolific and the various flaxes are producing bounteous nectar and pollen.

One variety of flax that is found in several gardens near my home has glowed with “ Christmassy” reds and oranges. The flowers remind me of traditional Christmas candles that appeared on Christmas cards when I was a child and a Northern Hemisphere Christmas was the predominant visual theme. I always wondered how candles could be lit and be safe on a tree indoors….
It is no wonder that the Tuis, who adore and feast on flax flower nectar are appearing at the sugar water feeder with pollen coating their heads when you look at this macro photo of a flax flower. The shape of each part of the flower is the perfect curve for the nectar feeding birds beaks.

Flax plant

Flax plant


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It is heavy with pollen and only one of a myriad of such flowers on each stalk.
Christmas candles…… perhaps not but a Christmas feast for the birds.

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This time last year…..

I have been watching the Bottle Brush bushes closely in the past week in the hope that I would see the colourful red brushes emerging. There is nothing yet but I can see plenty of the knobbly cases that the flowers burst from. This is another dish on the Tui and Wax eyes’ menu and provides a colourful show in the garden.
Tui on flax

Wax eye

Wax eye


There have been signs of abundant new growth on the three bushes but the cold spring and lack of sunshine has probably delayed the flowers appearance.
This time last year the” table” was well covered with Tui nectar of the bottle brush kind. See this post.

This year I am watching this space, and awaiting developments, as they say…..

Dainty dessert?

The air is full of Tuis here at the moment.

Tui on flax

Tui on flax

They are thronging to the neighbour’s kowhai trees which are dripping with flowers full of nectar.
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Tui feeding upside down in a kowhai tree

Tui feeding upside down in a kowhai tree


As I posted here they are enjoying a bath in our spouting before or after feasting on the kowhai nectar.

They like to preen and dry their feathers in the Griselinia trees in our garden before flying away.

Griselinia littoralis "variegata"

Griselinia littoralis “variegata”

However this week I have noticed a lot of activity within the trees with Tuis hopping about the branches and appearing to nibble at some part of the tree.
Here is what they are enjoying.
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Griselinia flowers

Griselinia flowers


These are the flowers of the Griselinia and are another favourite food for Tuis. I’m guessing these dainty delicacies are dessert after the main course of kowhai nectar. The tree is covered in these tiny flowers.

As my blogger friend Gallivanta commented on Monday’s post we really are offering a bird resort here in the garden. There’s pleasant satisfaction in that.

Tui Tucker

commons.wikimedia.org

commons.wikimedia.org

Part of the successful resurgence in the Tui population can be attributed to their preparedness to eat food that is not part of the native smorgasbord on offer.
At the moment a neighbour’s spreading Protea tree (Proteas are South African natives but which can grow very well in New Zealand) is a fine dining table for the Tuis.
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The flowers begin as cones.
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Once open they are very fluffy looking inside
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And each part of the flower has a slightly fluffy quality to it.
I have been watching the Tuis feed in this tree and it appears that they pop their curved beak in between the sides of these flowers rather than supping from the open top.
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Somewhere beneath the fluffy interior must be sweet nectar. The pickings must be very good as they dine there everyday, visiting many times in the day and they sing and whistle endlessly giving thanks for their splendid meals.

Another nectar feeder visits the bottle brush bushes

The bottle brush bushes outside the kitchen window continue to bloom and attract the hungry Tuis.

They are very bossy birds and often chase any other birds out of the bush. However over the past few sunny days I have noticed the small Silvereyes (also known as Waxeyes) are visiting to feast on the nectar.

The Silvereyes dart about snatching a meal when they can and fleeing when a Tui lands to eat in the bush.

Once again the camera has come through for me and captured two photos of these welcome visitors enjoying some nectar.

A walk to the Lookout

We had a perfect spring day here yesterday. It was sunny, warm and calm. We feel we deserve some really nice weather after weeks of grey, cloudy, very windy conditions.

After dinner last night we strolled up to the end of the street. We live on a cul-de-sac and at the top of the street there is a large grassy, tree lined reserve, signposted as The Lookout.

When it was first established the views would have been quite spectacular. But the Radiata pine trees, the gum trees, the Pohutukawas and other natives have grown towards the sky and good views are only glimpsed. Nevertheless it is a great spot in which to relax and enjoy nature.

The flaxes are flowering abundantly, offering our nectar loving birds more treats. The pollen is visible on these tubular flowers and we often see Tui with pollen on their heads and necks after they have feasted.

This magnificent Cabbage tree is flowering abundantly. Some say that means the summer will be a hot one. We have lived here long enough to know not to get too excited about such predictions…..but we do hope all the same.

Fellow blogger Ruth told me that the flowers of the Cabbage tree have a beautiful perfume and this tree was certainly filling the still air with the most delicate aroma. Our native wood pigeons love the flowers and seeds of this tree. This tree would be quite a venue for a wood pigeon gathering to eat their fill.

The light was beginning to fade as we left the Cabbage tree.

And the sun set as we neared home.

A Tui Tale

The Kowhai trees have finished flowering and so the Tuis need to find other food to sustain them. Tuis have proved to be versatile and adaptable birds which enjoy nectar from introduced trees and plants as well as native trees and flaxes.

Just outside my kitchen window is a “dwarf” Bottle brush shrub (Callistemon Viminalis Little John).

It is well over 1.7 metres tall so not really a dwarf. It is bursting, slowly, into bloom at the moment and I am now treated to the following Tui antics if I am working at the bench.

The tall, wide spreading Melia tree stands above the Bottle brush and provides superb perches for Tui to rest on, sing from and to launch off into the nectary goodness of the bottle brush below.

There is no wing flapping, just a simple drop off this branch into the slender branched bush.

The drop reminds me of children “bomb” diving off the side of a swimming pool.

As the Tui lands the bush shakes and shivers and continues to do this while the bird moves about finding its next feed.

The shaking and shivering often alerts me to the fact that somewhere in the bush a Tui is feeding. Every so often a head pops up or as happened yesterday the flowers, highest and closest, to the house prove irresistible.

Getting to take a photo of any or all of these antics is tricky. The front door opening close by sends the Tui fleeing and standing near the bush waiting for a photo opportunity has not resulted in any activity. Tuis are wily birds.

Taking photos through a window usually results in the spots and marks on the window being captured and the desired object blurred. However yesterday magic happened and I captured our frequent visitor (or are there many visitors?) through the window.

Don’t you love the shawl of feathers across the back of its neck and the glorious feather colours?

It is fascinating to stand and watch the bird come to feed out of this bush. If only the sun would shine and warm us all, the bush might then cover itself in its tasty and fire engine red “bottle brushes”. The other piece of good news is that there are two more of these bushes growing alongside the big one….more Tui Tales to come from those as they mature.