08 December 2005

Bird. Life.

The sparrows are copulating on the gate again. They’ve been at it a lot lately; momentary cloacal conjunctions punctuating the daily grind of collecting dry grass, poplar fluff, shed feathers, and dog hairs for the nest. It’s a tough life being a sparrow—even the matings are so quick it’s inconceivable (if that’s the right word) that they can enjoy it. Must be more like a duty: “Dang, there she is again, better get on with it,” or, “Bugger, it’s him again, guess I should assume the position.” Two seconds later, a bit of feather ruffling and it’s back to the dog hairs.

Meanwhile, the sun’s just 20 minutes above the horizon. Corridors of light slip through gaps in the terrace-edge vegetation to slide across the evening paddock; shadows creep out from under the mahoe, the lacebark, the dense tangle of native passionflower1, the kennels. The blackbird’s still working hard out there, foraging for worms, pursued by his fully fledged brood. They should be quite capable of finding their own tucker, but instead they’re just a few hops behind him: “Feed me!! Feed me!!” The poor old guy’s looking utterly frazzled, scrawny-necked and almost bald; looks as if he’s on chemo but he’s still going hard out. It’s that irresistible imperative: reproduce!—even if it kills you.

Through binoculars I watch a kereru2 drink from the stock trough then rise with powerful wing strokes, sweep around and alight next to a slightly smaller, slimmer bird. He—I assume he’s a him, and I’m probably right—shuffles along the branch until he’s almost touching the other bird. He dips his beak to his chest, pulls his head back, and fluffs every feather on his body and shivers. It looks as if those berries he ate have exploded inside him, but I suspect what’s on his mind is something quite different from indigestion.

She edges away and drops to a lower branch, out of sight. The sun’s about to drop out of sight too; it’s left the paddock, but while there’s a little light left the blackbird family still fossicks among the wiry, seeding grasses. The breeze is cold, so I go inside, thinking about birds and families; imperatives and responsibilities. I’m glad I’m not like that harrassed blackbird. I’m not yet ready to be bald.

1 Passiflora tetrandra; kohia.

2 You should know this bird by now. Here’s the latest photo; and one from Kapiti Island. All right, for good measure, another from Kapiti.

Photo 1: This is NZ's endemic tui, Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae. The background tree is the introduced black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia.
Photo 2: Kohia flower (see footnote 1). It's just over 1 cm diameter.
Photo 3: We had another thunderstorm a couple of days ago. The rain obscured most details, creating a beautiful aerial perspective on the far side of the valley. [Disclosure for the pixel pedants and grain gurus—I've added the noise].

Photos and words copyright 2005 Pete McGregor


Tracy Hamon said...

Stunning photos! They leave me gasping. They are lovely to see as right now the landscape in Saskatchewan, Canada is snow, dirt, and ice. A melting and freezing greyness. Thanks.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks Tracy :^) It's hard to imagine snow and ice, but we've got plenty of dirt... Today's warm and humid; good fungus-growing weather. Lots of long, lush, flowering grass; birds nesting & rearing youngsters. There's a fawn in the deer paddock, and the pups are still puppyish (growing rapidly, though). But in 6 months' time I'll probably be coming back to these photos to remind myself what it feels like to be warm. Although I might be in India or Africa by then... ;^) Migrating; following the season.

Nuthatch said...

Since coming across your blog, I've grown to admire it greatly. I've nominated you for best Australian/New Zealand blog at the Bloggies. Good luck!

pohanginapete said...

Thanks nuthatch; I'm honoured and encouraged. Two things strike me as curious: first, that there seem to be so few NZ bloggers writing about similar things (maybe most of us are out there enjoying it rather than writing about it); and second, that my own blog seems better known overseas than here. Speaking of getting out and enjoying... I'm off now for a walk in the hills with some friends :^). Thanks for the link, too!