Posts Tagged ‘birds’

We were very fond of the chooks we had in Auckland.  Starting with Brown Shavers liberated from a fowl factory, we moved on to Chinese Silkies (both black and gold), and even an English game bird.

Brown Shavers

All the hens were confined to an area of the back garden, from which they occasionally made daring escapes.  They kept us supplied with eggs, and provided pleasant companionship.  One hen would happily ride around on Stephen’s shoulder.

By the time we were preparing to leave Auckland we had just one chook left, and I sent a message out among our friends to see if someone would offer this geriatric chook a retirement home.  Marion from Coromandel generously offered sanctuary on her small farm and we duly drove down to install Henny Penny in her new abode.

As we sat and sipped tea and chatted I admired the flock of quail which wandered across the driveway, and was taken aback to be told they were considered an annoying pest.  Marion said she often shot them, and indeed had a freezer full of the little corpses if we’d like some.  We hastily declined this offer, preferring to enjoy the sight of live quail.

After we’d settled in Christchurch we received a postcard from Henny Penny to say that she was happy in retirement and had even been enjoying some attention from the resident rooster.  She made no mention of any quail companions.

I’m fond of birds of any feather
and wish them harmony together


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Never was a bird

Using wert in an online Wordscraper game reminded me of the saying Bird thou never wert, probably the only memory I have of that word.  I’d forgotten what came before and had to look it up to be reminded of Shelley’s To a Skylark which begins Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!  Bird thou never wert.  The latter line has become a peculiar way of saying You never wereWert is itself a peculiar word these days, and does not appear in my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary except as an archaic form of the present subjunctive of be.  It’s amazing how many of these ancient words linger in the subconscious until they’re needed for a word game.  I’m lucky it was considered acceptable in Wordscraper.

All this got me thinking about birds.  Jonathan Franzen says they’re amazing.

Did you know that the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was originally started to fight against the trade in feathers to adorn Victorian women’s hats?  In the late 19th century thousands of birds were killed and marketed for their feathers, a practice decried as Murderous Millinery.  In 1921, the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act was passed, forbidding plumage from being imported to Britain.

As I sit under the walnut tree on a warm summer day a blackbird chirps incessantly above me, but I can’t see her.  Maybe she never wert.

‘What is the singing that I heard?
Perhaps it never wert a bird.’

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I was delighted to see these swans on the river close to my home.  A mother and toddler were feeding them bread, and I didn’t have the heart to tell them it’s not a good idea.

There were black swans in Aotearoa at the time of the first human settlement, but they had disappeared by the time Pakeha started to settle.   They were reintroduced from Melbourne as a game bird in the 1860s, and they regularly fly here from Australia.  In the 19th century 40 black swans were imported to control watercress on the Avon Otakaro River, but they all flew off to settle elsewhere.

I saw one last year near the Margaret Mahy playground, but haven’t seen them in the Avon Loop in recent years, so it was good to see this pair today.

“It’s good to see this graceful bird
upon our river, undisturbed.”

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I often see Canada Geese on the river, but over the years I’ve never seen a Canada Gosling, and I wonder why.  Do you know?

N Z Birds Online tells me this species “Nests as solitary pairs but often in close proximity to other members of the flock. Monogamous, with female completing all of the incubation over about 27 days, and the gander actively defending a small territory around the nest. The nest is a down-lined ground depression often hidden amongst rushes or short protective vegetation. Clutch size generally 5 white eggs. Laying is mainly in September–October but can also extend considerably later in the North Island, and second nestings have occasionally been recorded in December–February. Both parents actively guard the young during their 8-9 weeks of growth until capable of flight. The family may remain together for several months and join with other pairs and families into an extended flock. When pairs nest in close proximity, amalgamation of broods and shared parental duties are common.”

Have any of my readers seen a Canada Gosling?

“I wonder where the goslings hide
somewhere along the riverside.”

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Just Ducked In

Two ducks were strolling down the side path when Stephen opened the bathroom window this morning.  I grabbed my camera and found them checking out the back garden.

They communicated the fact that they expected breakfast and, lacking suitable grain, we fed them bread hoping their stomachs were mature enough for this not to harm them.   Ms Duck had a quick dip in the pool, and after another inspection of the garden they flew away.   It’s nearly seven years since we last had a duck visitation, and more would be welcome (provided they have good toilet manners).

“I consider it good luck
to have a visit from a duck.”


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Wide Wings

The black swan was at the Margaret Mahy playground again today.  This time it was on the grass, and as I watched it spread its wings.

This made me think of the Tai Chi move ‘White Crane Spreads its Wings’.

“Perhaps the black swan knows the form
or maybe just likes to perform.”


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A lone paradise shellduck was sitting on a tree by the river this morning.  Where is her mate, I wonder?  They mate for life, so I hope he’s not far away.

“A lone duck sitting on a tree
she looked as lonely as can be.”


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