Well the inside of our “bunk house” carriage is finished even if the outside still looks authentically rustic. Our first guests are staying tonight and for the next week.
Having a second bedroom will give us so much more flexibility.
We are on the home straight with our third cabin and second sleeping room. The deck has been added, the inside painted and the floor made over. Now all we have to do is furnish it with bunks and beds. We will be able to sleep another 5 people in this cabin as it will have a queen bed, two bunk beds and a single bed. It will be an added attraction for holidaying groups or families who want to share our patch of paradise. The outside looks weathered and “retro” at the moment, but give us a bit more time and it too will get a spruce up.
We were phoned on Friday evening by a ranger from Department of Conservation asking us to visit the beach and retrieve a dead penguin from Onoke Spit. Apparently someone fishing earlier in the day had sighted the bird and noted that it was wearing an identification tag. We had no trouble locating the Little Blue Penguin and as requested we wrapped it well and stored it in our freezer to await further instructions. Today I received the message from DoC that the bird was tagged on Matiu/Somes Island in the middle of Wellington harbour and the rangers there are very interested that it had washed up on a beach in the Wairarapa. So much so that they intend to make a film about it! Nice to think that this little creature will be famous even if posthumously.
While at the beach this weekend we noticed large groups of White-fronted Terns or Kahawai Bird as they are sometimes called, because of their habit of following shoals of these fish. In one group just resting on the beach there were about 60 birds and many more sighted further out to sea fishing. Obviously the Kahawai are running well as the sea is so calm at present.
There seems to be an abundance of shining cuckoos or pipiwharauroa this year and they like our house – even the inside! We have had three of them checking out our interior decor this summer.
The first one came in quite late at night and was looking a little dazed so Dougal fed it some water and bedded it down in a cosy ice-cream container for the night and put it beside his bed for extra protection. We thought it might have been a juvenile bird that was having trouble with mastering flight, but we were proved to be very wrong when we discovered in the morning that it had laid an egg! This bird was successfully released in some trees later the following day well away from the house. See in our gallery for the picture – she posed beautifully before flying away.
Another 2 birds have also just flown into the house through open doors or windows and luckily have been unharmed. It must be a characteristic of shining cuckoos that they don’t handle houses too well.
We were also privileged to witness a pair of grey warblers feeding their adopted shining cuckoo chick recently. They were having to work very hard as the chick was more than twice as big as they were and very hungry. Look for a photo of this on our gallery as well.
Sadly the Caspian Terns have given up on breeding for this summer and left the Spit.
I believe that the main reason that breeding has not been successful this year is because of the windy and changeable weather we have had this summer. These conditions would make it very difficult for the parent birds to get out and fish for their chicks and mates. Also the strong winds can blow loose sand around and bury the eggs. Last weekend we had a massive southerly swell and the waves were breaking right up into the middle of the Spit – not the best for any nesting birds in exposed sites.
One consolation is that Caspian Terns are long-lived birds and so successful breeding each year is not quite so necessary.
Dougal and I are of course very disappointed, but will continue our vigilant pest control and look forward positively to next breeding season.
We visited the Spit yesterday afternoon and were very sad that the Caspian Terns had once again moved from their nesting site. There were about sixteen birds further east towards the Lake Ferry end of the Spit and we only sited one chick. We are hopeful that some of the other chicks are still alive and maybe being covered by a parent. However the weather has been most unsettled over the last few days with strong southerlies on Friday evening and Saturday morning with huge swells. Then we had very strong northerly winds on Sunday afternoon. These sorts of conditions make it very difficult for the parents to go fishing for their babies. Lets just hope that the weather settles down and the birds can have one more go at rearing some chicks.
On Friday Jan 10 Dougal visited the Caspian Tern colony after checking the traps on Onoke Spit and was pleased to discover that a few chicks have hatched. He reckons that he saw at least 6-10 so hopefully there will be more to follow. The Caspian Terns are sitting on the second site for the season so are a bit behind schedule from last year. We will keep you posted and will also try and get some pictures up on the website.
The strong winds we’ve been having lately have made life for the nesting birds extremely difficult. A couple of days ago we noticed a sparrow’s nest had been blown into one of our birdbaths! We became really concerned when the mother sparrow sat on the edge of the birdbath looking really worried. Dougal braved the storm and rescued the nest which contained a number of live, if a little frightened, small sparrows. He carefully restored it to the nearest tree, not sure if it was exactly back in its original place and we have watched Mum and Dad continue to nurture and feed their young family. We felt good too!
On Friday Dec 20 we took Sarah Bradley on one of our bird tours. She is writer and editor of a popular holiday magazine called NZ Today. She loved the half day she spent with us and said she learned so much about birds.
Watch out for the article early in 2014.
On a visit to the beach on Tuesday morning to check the traps and generally see what’s about Dougal noticed a pair of unfamiliar birds feeding on the edge of Lake Onoke. After checking our trusty field guide he thinks that they were variety of Tattler, but the jury is still out.