I Welcome Them All

When I wake in the morning, it is not only the light that greets me, calling me to get up and moving but also the daily chorus of bird song. As we have planted more trees and undertaken trapping of pests, this chorus of bird song has grown in volume and variety. It now takes a heavy sleeper indeed to doze through it.

Over morning coffee, I watch small groups of Starlings busily foraging on the lawn for grubs and beetles. Doing the job that nature designed them to do so well. They are making a comeback now after the devastation that DDT made to their numbers.

Joining them are the odd Blackbird and Song Thrush, also on the lookout for insect titbits.

As I sit in my chair on the deck, a curious male Chaffinch hops over to investigate. He will stay at a safe distance but give all that is happening a good look over—such a handsome small bird.

The Welcome Swallows are back. A pair investigate the site of previous seasons nests – in our patio rafters! While I love watching the way the Swallows effortlessly twist and turn in their flight as they hunt flying insects, the mess they leave below any rafter nests is not welcome. I am afraid that an eviction notice has had to be issued—no more rafter nests.

Small numbers of the ever-present Sparrows just quietly keep an eye out for the main chance. Preferably some crumbs off the table, or leftover grain that the ducks have missed. Later in the day, the ducks will start demanding attention when it is their turn to be fed.

Down in the paddock, the Guinea Fowl have started up their noisy din, their loud cries echoing up to the house. I wonder what they on about today?

Suddenly there is the distinctive sound of Tui in flight. Early European settlers called these handsome avians, Parson Birds after their black (actually more of a beautiful iridescent blue/black) plumage, highlighted by the white bib situated under their throats.

Three fat Kereru, or wood pigeons, have decided to settle on the slender branches of a Parrotia tree. The branches bend dangerously under their uncaring weight. They are only visiting for a short time as they make their way to feed on the flowers and new growth of Tagasastae and Kowhai trees.

A pair of Piwakawaka, or Fantails, are flitting about, performing quick aerial aerobatics as they pluck unlucky flying insects out of the air. Later they will follow people, hoping the disturbance will startle other insects into flight.

Settling into the big old Silver Birch tree, several Magpies have decided to join the party. Their codoodle doodle calls have been heard on and off since before dawn. Kahu or the Harrier Hawk decides to loft overhead and check out proceedings. The Magpie gang will have none of that, dive-bombing and hassling Kahu, seeing him on his way. Unfortunately, especially at nesting time, humans are also often the target of this extreme territoriality. More than one cyclist or horse rider has felt the impact of a dive-bombing Magpie on the back of their helmet.

Occasionally I hear the harsh kee kee call of Karearea or the Bush Falcon. For a few seconds, the close proximity of this fierce predator drives all the other birds to silence. But not for long. Soon the chatter, chirps, squarks and squeaks resume.

Down in the paddock, several Pukeko or Swamp Hen have taken up residence. They are a new arrival, and while common in many parts of New Zealand, this is the first time we have had them continuously on the property. Pukeko have a mixed reputation. They can be a menace to the chicks of other birds and do love pulling out young plants in vegetable gardens. I have put them on notice that good behaviour is a requirement of staying.

Many of these birds that frequent our land are not native, let alone endemic, to this country. However, like us humans, they have thrived here. They have found niches that work for them in what is now a heavily modified landscape.

As I drink my coffee, I say, “Good Morning”, and welcome them all.

Brian Megaw

the river valley guinea fowl

Guinea Fowl

Tui

Tui

Kereru

Kereru

Fantail

Fantail

Pukeko

Pukeko

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