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This Place is Going to the Birds & We Love It!

The morning of our property search in Whangarei, we stood on the 'grassy knoll' in front of what is now the Orchard Cottage and took in the view across the vast bush valley. It was a beautiful spring morning, no wind and quiet... except that is, for the chatter of birds. Now we wake in the mornings to pastel skies and the warble of Magpies, then fall into peaceful sleep at night to the soft hoot of Moreporks. It's obvious the birds run the show here alright and we're loving it!

I'm spending a bit more time at the computer these days, less time buried in plaster dust and paint pots so I often find myself distracted by the by the aerial displays happening outside my window. This week, there was an impressive flock of Wood Pigeon, more than 20 of these birds gathering high in one of our gum trees, making the branches sway with their weight. As I slowly opened the door to snap a photo of them, they scattered, sounding like thunder as their huge wings gathered momentum. Each afternoon, we're inundated with Fantails dancing and swooping, chatting and singing. Their mesmerizing somersaults and sweet curious nature never fails to paint a bit of happy around the place... getting a photo of these guys however is just an exercise in frustration!

Kingfisher are regulars on the fence posts, Silver Eyes love our Cherry Guava and Pheasants will often surprise, flapping up from the long grass on the bank. Gangs of the tropical painted Eastern Rosella swoop between the Totara trees and Flax around the property, and Tui sing proudly with their iridescent blue suit and handsome white neck tie glistening in the sun. Oh what a show it is, I do wish they'd stay still long enough for me, the amateur photographer to snap their portraits. Here's the only successful picture I managed to get over the last few afternoons of fantail mayhem...

But, of all this bird business it's actually some nocturnal action that's been getting me really excited. Our national icon, the plump, fluffy, flightless Kiwi is actually living in our back yard! Ok, well it's not confirmed they're in our backyard per se but they are definitely in the bush valley reserve which is pretty cool.

There are a few areas around this region where Kiwi are thriving and some awesome work happening to encourage growth of these populations, which is one of the cool things we noticed as soon as we started driving around the city fringes here. The Kiwi that may have once lived amongst the bush in front of our property however, were thought to have all but disappeared. That is, until a couple of years ago when some possible signs were noticed...
It was early Autumn that I lay in bed, just before slipping into a slumber when I heard a squawk I hadn't heard before. Repetitive, urgent and a little haunting. Then again, another night, the same call. I got curious and searched Kiwi calls on the internet, I learnt there are a number of birds and animals that can easily be mistaken for Kiwi - who knew Moreporks not only have their owl-like hoot but also a repetitive call like a Kiwi, more brash but definitely similar.

I've learnt a whole bunch about our gorgeous little name-sakes since then. With help from Ngaire a local mum who also happens to be a Landcare Trust employee, I've taken part in the annual Kiwi listening event, which as it turns out, is about the most scientific way to identify where Kiwi are living. I can now tell the difference between a male and female and we have absolutely heard a pair calling to each other when sitting on the veranda of our little cottage.

Just yesterday Ngaire and an approved Kiwi handler, along with 'Tohu' a trained kiwi dog ventured into the bush to see what they could find. Whilst the pair we have heard were elusive on the day, the group did find 5 Kiwi burrows, including some that had recently been used. This is great news and Ngaire will continue her good work to find out more about these two, who have been nickname Reg and Kohu. With any luck they might produce some babies! Here's Tohu, at work in the bush yesterday and one of the Kiwi burrows found in the search:

It's been an amazing feathered journey over the past few months, the discovery of Kiwi in our backyard has been an unexpected bonus. While the weather of late hasn't really been the best for bush walking, I'm excited for when it turns again so we can continue to explore more of the native goodness right here on our door step.