After further observation since Friday I could see that the two Tui fledglings were spending a lot of time in the Mahoe tree in our garden. I had seen the parent/s return to feed their young and when the gales subsided there were times when I could hear the now familiar squeaking calls.
No matter how much I tried the little point and shoot camera, with its limited zoom lens, was not going to capture these two young birds at such a special time in their lives.
I have no idea how long the “twins” will remain dependent on the parent birds so I figured a call to action was needed today.
The weather is foul with driving drizzle swirling on the back of a very gusty southerly wind. The fledglings are wise and shelter within the Mahoe, sometimes together and sometimes a branch or two away from each other.
My son has a swish Canon camera with a stronger zoom lens and he was happy to pop over late this afternoon and brave the elements in an effort to take some photos for me. The light was awful due to the low cloud and drizzle and to make matters worse the sun was breaking through at the perfect angle to spoil shots. The incessant, gusting wind of up to 50kms at times meant trees thrashing about and the little birds being blown about very vigorously at times. And the birds were particularly active.
But here are some of the results.
The parent bird returned at one point and the fledglings flew into a birch tree calling demandingly. Here they are hoping the parent will return to them with food while the storm buffets them with some ferocity.
We decided to return inside and allow the family to regroup without our attentions.
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.
With Tui visiting the feeder very regularly now we were surprised to find that even with a group of us on the patio nearby over the weekend they still flew in to refresh themselves.
Our visitors enjoyed watching them and like us were surprised at how daring the birds were.
So on the basis of that I set up my chair on the edge of the patio and armed with camera sat and waited. My patience was rewarded.
So here is one of our frequent flyers, up close and personal.
After my post here about offering a very good bird resort for Tuis with full facilities on offer, I discover that my hospitality has been extending further.
The local sparrows who visit the garden in large numbers, some of whom are nesting in under the roof corrugations have been enjoying the” greens” I have growing in three tubs as well as the bread crumbs and titbits I toss out for them.
Pictured above: Male Sparrow (An introduced bird to New Zealand)
I had noticed sparrows pecking at the old silverbeet plants during the winter months and it would appear that they are even more partial to fresh new silverbeet and lettuce plants. The new plants have been pecked down rather dramatically.
Mother sparrows have obviously taught their children well about eating what is good for them before any treats are on offer.
There is no sign of slugs or snails and the size of some of the discarded plucked pieces would indicate something with more strength than a katydid has chomped on the leaves. If only the sparrows would eat the bounty of weeds, puha and dandelions that I have such an abundance of right now.
I have placed netting over the tubs in the hope that the poor plants will revive and provide us with fresh, organic greens.
They are thronging to the neighbour’s kowhai trees which are dripping with flowers full of nectar.
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”
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.
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.
A few weeks ago I purchased this feeder for our garden.
The bottle contains sugar water which supplements food for the nectar feeding birds. It is my hope that the Tuis will visit the feeder during the months when their natural foods are scarcer.
Tui on flax
We also lost our largest Kowhai tree in the June storm. It was a “maybe it can be saved” to a definite “no it cannot be saved” decision.
While we have transplanted a teenage kowhai tree from the back of the section in to its place, it is unlikely to flower this season.
So the sugar water feeder was another offering to the Tuis in lieu of the tree they have enjoyed in the past few seasons.
My plans have gone somewhat awry with spring bursting into fullness here weeks early. The Tuis are currently spoilt for choice as every local kowhai tree is laden with the golden nectar-bearing flowers they adore eating.
On a positive note the tiny wax-eyes have thoroughly enjoyed the feeder. ( The sugar water is coloured with a minute drop of red food colouring to attract the birds.)
source: New Zealand pictures.com
We do, however, provide another facility for the Tuis and many other birds, in a rather more unintentional way.
When the spouting or guttering that channels rainwater off the house roof was installed, mistakes were made. The length was slightly short and the fall to the down-pipe was too shallow. This results in rainwater pooling at the higher end of the spouting. This provides the best bird bath in the world if daily numbers of birds using it is anything to go by. The Tuis being the largest of the bathing birds make a huge din and splash the water vigorously on to the concrete and parked car two storeys below.
So I may not be feeding the Tuis well at the moment but I am helping to keep them clean.
In a rather optimistic move this afternoon I put on my jacket and hood and went out to get some photos of the fallen trees near my home. The wind was still blustery and the wind chill factor meant outdoors it was below freezing so my trip outside was very short lived.
This Silver Dollar Gum crashed to the ground across the road from our home around 8pm as the storm really took hold and somehow we heard the sound of chainsaws over the raucous din of the roaring wind. An emergency crew had been called as this large tree had fallen across the road blocking each lane.
Sometime around 1am when I had finally fallen asleep more chain saw men turned up and cut up more of this tree perhaps after the gale had moved some of the bulk out on to the road again.
This Taupata was trimmed by the City Council last year because it is on Reserve land. They had left it a rather vulnerable shape and that plus its age and the terrific winds saw it split off at the base. The remaining branch looks potentially rotten so this tree may well disappear completely. The Council might plant another native in its place on the Reserve.
This is the really sad victim of the storm. It is the large Protea tree that I posted about here.
It has been a Tui meal table for months now. I can sit and watch this tree and the activities of the Tuis.
But the rain that has fallen all week has saturated the ground and that plus the top heavy shape of this tree and the violent wind has caused it to break off at ground level. I doubt that it can be recovered from here.
I note in this photo that I have captured a Tui in the tree and they are still visiting it to enjoy the nectar but it is a vastly different tree now and so sad to see.
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.
The flowers begin as cones.
Once open they are very fluffy looking inside
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.
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.
At dinner preparation time I watched the Tuis come and go feeding off the multiple flowers. I snuck out the front door very quietly and with the zoom on the camera at the ready I snapped this big bird sitting on a Melia branch singing “Come out, come out wherever you are!”
To my left a head popped up and snap here is the Tui being sought. “I’m in here but I’ve more eating to do over here,” came the reply.
There seems to be the larger Tui and the second slightly smaller one who are regulars to my Tui feeding spot. Are they are breeding pair, are they parent and child….sadly I can’t tell you but I am loving having them pop in so often during the day.
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.