Friday, December 16, 2011

Birds of a Feather

Since I've been living in the Northland/Kelburn area of Wellington over the past three years or so, it's been my privilege to see native bird life return and flourish. The Karori Sanctuary (now renamed "Zealandia") is nearby, and, as the birds have established themselves there and reproduced, they've naturally decided to extend their habitat to wherever they please.

When I first moved here I used to get quite excited about seeing the occasional tui. Despite being very vocal, they could be slightly shy. Now they practically own the place, chirping regally on bushes and power lines alike.

When trekking along the Karori ridgeline a couple of years ago with some friends, we spotted a kereru, or native pigeon, as we descended through some bush above Khandallah. It was the first time I had seen one in the wild: my knowledge of it mainly derived from the Department of Conservation "Kereru in Crisis" poster that graced my bedroom wall (Unless steps are taken to halt its decline, this magnificent bird will disappear from most forests on the mainland...).

Now, there are a couple of kereru that have found a niche about half way up Garden Rd, occasionally flapping their plump bodies between clumps of vegetation. The other day, one alighted on a branch of a bush barely two metres to my left as I was walking up the road. I quickly froze and was able to stand quietly watch it pecking away at some berries for several minutes. 

Best of all, there are now at least two kaka that have colonised the area around the Thorndon cemetery. The kaka is a native parrot, a little smaller and slimmer than the kea, which lives in the lowlands and at medium altitudes. The only time I had seen kaka previously was on a trip to Kapiti Island, and I never thought that I would find them in my own neighbourhood. The kaka seems to be an incorrigible extrovert and a show off. On Kapiti Island there was one that happily landed on and climbed all over the visiting tourists. While the ones inhabiting the cemtery aren't that tame, they are happy to make themselves visible. They seem to particularly like the big old pine and macrocapa trees, sitting in the highest branches and squawking or trilling before setting off on another strafing run across the cricket fields.

The presence of this native bird life is a source of joy for reasons I can't quite articulate. Part of is that they are just more interesting and beautiful than the blackbirds and sparrows. But part of it is also something more complicated to do with renaissance and reclamation.

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