Tuesday, 20 September 2011

First cuckoo of the spring

The first cuckoo (pipiwharauroa) I have head this spring was singing near the picnic area on the 18th September. Since then, and despite a southerly wind, several birds have been calling around the estate. I wish they had brought the warmth with them from their winter quarters in the Solomons and other islands in the Bismark Archipelago. Time for the grey warblers, the cuckoo's main host, to keep their heads down!
Bird activity has picked up noticeably in the past fortnight with kingfisher (kotare) calling and tui staking out territories.
Pigeon (kereru) are very much in evidence. They have been displaying around the house. They drop down from a perch, swoop up vertically and stall before diving down with their wings held out stiffly. These display flights often coincide with egg-laying and there is a fantastic crop of pigeonwood berries this year which should result in a good breeding season for the kereru. They time their breeding to coincide with fruit availability and in a good year may lay as many as three clutches, each with a single egg. Kereru feed their newly hatched chicks with cropmilk - a secretion from the crop wall. Pigeons and doves are the only birds that produce food for their chicks apart from Emperor Penguins (like 'Happy Feet') and flamingoes. To measure breeding success we need to watch for young birds from now on. These are smaller than adults and have conspicuously short tails - a test for observation skills!
Unfortunately, a good fruiting season will mean more rats and consequently more stoats, so pest control will be crucial this year. It is shaping up to be a fascinating summer in the forest.

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