Thursday 14 June 2012: Got the Tui
OK, I know it's not a bird shot to be particularly proud of, such as the brilliantly crisp, birding book-quality shots produced regularly by blippers such as gladders, alasdairb, Ingrid99 and berelaxed to name just a very few, but I was quite pleased with this for the following reason: I've been trying to blip a Tui for weeks and it's jolly difficult in my garden, although they are plentiful at present.
Today, as I was locking up the garden shed, camera in hand and about to get into the car, this one suddenly alighted in a nearby rata tree and started whistling and clicking away. So all I had to do was take the lens cap off, raise the camera and shoot and for once, the Tui was not almost completely hidden behind foliage. These birds are native passerines, found only in New Zealand and quite iconic in this country. They have a liking for the fruit and nectar of flowering native trees, which provide quite a lot of natural camouflage which makes photographing them difficult in this garden at least, as it does not boast a flax plant, of which Tuis are fond and from which they often hang, quite acrobatically, while eating the flowers. That's the 'classic' Tui shot that I would love to get.
Tuis (also known as Parson Birds because of the white throat tufts, almost like small pompoms) can be semi-nomadic outside the breeding season and often choose winter feeding grounds that can be up to 20km distant from their breeding territory. During this time they form loose feeding communities but are still fiercely territorial about their 'patch' within gardens and parks. Clearly this is the case with our garden and those of our neighbours, as the birds are not here in the summer. One morning about a month ago I heard their unmistakable song outside and now they seem to be everywhere, obviously enjoying the fruits of the winter-flowering Kowhai and Puriri trees and busily seeing off any would-be rivals.
They fly about from tree to tree with distinctive, whirring wing-beats, which feels almost as though they are dive-bombing me. All day long they whistle, click and chirp. They have a huge range of calls; are very good mimics and can do excellent imitations of car alarms and, in particular, the sound that car-remotes trigger when locking/unlocking cars! My mother noticed when she came to visit us in Auckland after Christina was born that the birds sound quite different here compared with those in Britain - 'Quite exotic,' as she put it. You can hear the call of the Tui here, if you are interested. We also have Tieke (saddlebacks), Korimako (bellbirds) and Piwakawaka (fantails) in the garden as well as the Kingfisher I mentioned last week and some European imports including thrushes and blackbirds.
My new challenge is to get a really good shot of a Tui, perhaps on a flax bush....