Sirocco the rock star Kākāpō

My kids both loved the book Deadly Feathers by Des Hunt, I actually really enjoyed it too, made me want to go to Stewart Island. We loved reading about the kākāpō and Sirocco the Rock Star Kākāpō.

The other thing we all love is a nature programme so I thought I would check out New Zealand Geographic TV. There is a huge selection from old classics like the Wild South series in the 80s to international series like Living World. I found a programme called To Save the Kākāpō that was filmed in 1997 when there were only about 50 kākāpō left and follows the very rare breeding season of the kākāpō. To Save the Kākāpō is filmed the year Sirocco hatched so is actually quite fascinating the lengths the volunteers went to help the kākāpō chicks.

The kākāpō only breeds when the rimu trees fruit, which is once every 2 to 4 years. This summer is expected to be another breeding season, even a bumper one, so hopefully they can increase the population from the current 154.

More about kākāpō

Garden bird survey: 30 June – 8 July 2018

Fantail

There are birds in my garden. Lots of them. I’m not an overly keen gardener, so birds, bees and insects love our place. Wax-eyes love the flowers and silver beet that have gone to seed. Other birds like scratching up the mossy lawn looking for worms. I love the sound of birdsong. Especially the bird that flies to the top of my neighbour’s garden and sings. I didn’t know that birds are an important indicator of the health of our environment.

You can participate in this citizen science project. There are lots of activities and resources to help you identify birds. For creative kids, there is colouring in, masks to make and quizzes to do.

You may be wondering why we count garden birds, especially introduced species. We learn about the health of our towns and cities. Scientists can’t do this on their own. They need you. We need a good picture of the birds in our country. The more people counting birds, the more we learn about our bird population. Doing the survey is fairly easy. Print out the tally sheet and choose a day that suits you. Find a comfortable spot to sit (either inside or outside). Look and listen for one hour. For each type of bird, record the highest number seen at one time. Use Landcare’s online form to enter your count.

Fantastic! You have just helped scientists understand our bird population.

To help you with identifying birds and encouraging birds to visit your garden, here is my list of recommended books.

Cover of Attracting birds and other wildlife to your garden in New ZealandCover of The field guide to the Birds of New ZealandCover of Birds of New ZealandCover of A photographic guide to birds of New ZealandCover of All about New Zealand birdsCover of A mini guide to the identification of New Zealand's land birdsCover of Which New Zealand bird?

New Zealand Garden bird survey: 30 June – 8 July 2018

List created by Valerie_L

View Full List

Cool stuff from the Selectors – Nature

9781472152244As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Birds and books by Alex Preston
Having kept notebooks over many, many years, Preston has collected the words of dozens of writers. Each chapter is arranged around a bird, each bird illustrated by Neil Gower. The Guardian gives this book a rave review:

Memoir, or rather memory, gilds the narrative. The most moving chapter describes Preston’s father, bedbound with lymphoma, as he watches a family of collared doves on the rooftop opposite his window. He is woken by a fledgling dove on the windowsill inside the bedroom and tries to rescue the bird. Describing himself in the third person, Preston’s father writes: “Placid and accepting, she allows his right hand to embrace her body… while he emanates all he can in telepathic sedation. It, or something like it, must be working, for her wings remain static and spread, her breast neither heaving nor fluttering … How warm to the touch. He wants to stretch the moment to eternity.” This, perhaps, is the essence of the book, this longing for communion, for connection with things other than ourselves.

CoverBritain’s Wild Flowers: A Treasury of traditions, superstitions, remedies and literature by Rosamond Richardson
Keeping with the literary/nature bent, Richardson traces the history of wild flowers and celebrates the important role they have played in literature as well as their uses in food, medicine and their place in history and myth.  A very beautiful book that is ideal to dip into.

9781473651975Basic Mathematics: An Introduction by Alan Graham
I reserved this book on a whim…I am not known for my mathematical ability and thought that it was about time I tackled what could almost be called a phobia. I must confess to scanning this book and promptly returned it, obviously I will need some more indepth counselling before I can tackle my “issues”. However, in the brief time that this book held my attention I did think it was very user-friendly, tackled basic concepts, and would be especially useful if you were struggling with keeping up with your school age children’s maths.

9780714873527Honar: The Arkhami Collection of Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art
A very disappointing cover hides a luscious book documenting the Afkhami collection of Iranian art. The art in the collection is incredibly varied and at times surprising. Each artist has their own essay, plus there are well written and interesting chapters devoted to the collection itself and to Iranian art history.

9781783963508What’s Your Bias? The Surprising science of why we vote the way we do by Lee De-Wit
We may think that we make rational decisions when it comes to voting but apparently we are just as much affected by our personality traits and unconscious biases as we are by what the news media and political debates are telling us. Perhaps you want to know more about why you think Jacinda is just the ticket or what it is about Bill that makes him irresistible? Apparently you will get to know more about yourself and the bigger political picture!

Peacock at New Brighton Zoo: Picturing Canterbury

Peacock at New Brighton Zoo. Kete Christchurch. PH13-246. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

Peacock at New Brighton Zoo. January 1965. The North Brighton Zoo started as an aquarium, possibly as early as the 1880s and became a mini zoo, run by Bill Grey, in the late 1940s. It closed in 1996.

Date: 1965.

Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Do you have any photographs of the former New Brighton Zoo? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Black Swans on the Estuary, October 2011: Picturing Canterbury

Black swans on the Estuary October 2011 .
Swans and other birds on the South Brighton Estuary. Photo taken 12 October 2011 by Donna Robertson. File Ref: Black_swans_on_the_Estuary__12_October_2011_325.jpg , Kete Christchurch, CC BY-NC-SA 3.00

In August 1864 the City Council’s Committee on Swans decided to import black swans to help control watercress in the Avon/Otakaro River. However the swans preferred a different habitat and soon left for other areas.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

New Zealand Garden Bird Survey: in a garden near you

Cover of Where to watch birds in CanterburyAre you a Twitcher? Can you tell the difference between a sparrow and a starling? If so, the annual garden bird survey is for you. New Zealand has a number of rare native bird species that are declining in number, but  the population of our more common native and introduced birds is not certain.

It is hoped that The New Zealand Garden Bird Survey will act as an early-warning system if currently common native species start declining.

Cover of The field guide to the birds of New ZealandWe have several native species visiting our gardens, including fantail, tui, bellbird, silvereye, grey warbler, and kereru (native pigeon). We also have many introduced species in the garden too. Measuring the population trends our birds is an enormous task, and your help is needed.

The next survey will be held between 25 June and 3 July 2016. During this time, spend one hour noting the feathered friends that visit your garden. You will need to visit the Landcare Research website to download a survey form. If you are like me, and are not to sure what those birds are, either download a poster from Landcare, or borrow one of our bird identification guides.

I usually let flowers run to seed, so I get silvereyes visiting my garden while the fantails tease my geriatric cat. I like the idea of a bird-friendly garden. Do you have birds visit your garden? If you do, you can join in the survey.

Cover of Attracting birds and other wildlife to your garden in New Zealand Cover of The hand guide to the birds of New Zealand Cover of New Zealand birds an identification guide Cover of A mini guide to the identification of New Zealand's land birds

Cool stuff from the selectors: Design, birds and the never ending fascination of the Kennedys

CoverRaptor: A Journey Through Birds

Marketed as a “stunning debut”, Raptor is a hymn to these magnificent birds and James Macdonald Lockhart explores all fifteen breeding birds of prey in the British Isles- from the hen harrier swimming over the land in the dregs of a May gale on Orkney, to the ghostly sparrowhawk displaying in the fields around his home in Warwickshire. Our Science selector says it probably won’t take off like “H is for hawk” but that it does look really interesting.

Why Fonts matter 9780753557235by Sarah Hyndman

It was a surprise to me,  as I have previously shown no interest in why fonts matter at all!

Why do some types feel playful, or expensive  or even make words look happy or sad?  But best of all what does your favourite font reveal about your personality and can this be used in the dating game?

The Kennedys9780547250250 still manage to fascinate, and having done the men of the family to death, publishing is now starting to focus on the women.

Rosemary Kennedy was the eldest sister and was born with learning disabilities – a secret fiercely guarded by her family.  After a frontal lobotomy authorised by her father Joe Kennedy,  Rose was left permanently disabled and hidden from the world and her family.

9780007548125Kathleen in comparison was similar in temperament to her brother Jack — charming, energetic and socially adept. Her bright personality attracted attention in London when she arrived with her father, the American ambassador. She defied her mother, marrying a Protestant Englishman, something Rose Kennedy never forgave her for.

The birdwatcher’s guide to love

Cover of A Guide to the Birds of East AfricaIt took a couple of months for my husband to reveal his hobbies to me when first we met. He slapped Amateur Radio on the table pretty early on (I think he knew I would never really understand what it was all about. He was right.) He then drip fed his love of Opera – still I hung in there. But I think even he knew that Birdwatching might be a shove too far, so we were well into the relationship before I finally went on a birding outing. But it is only recently that I’ve noticed bird watching fiction books flying off the shelves.

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson was our Book Group read of the month just recently. It sounds as if it will be a field guide and almost looks like one, but in fact it is a charming story about winning the love of a woman in a bird watching competition. It is like Alexander McCall Smith but set in Kenya. The main character – Mr Malek – is an Indian gentleman with a comb-over. It is his absolute integrity that takes us for a wander through a quite sanitized Kenya. It’s all rather darling.

Cover of H is for HawkH is for Hawk, on the other hand, although about birds – well, hawks in particular, is a true story about the author (Helen Macdonald) and her need to train a wild hawk to assuage the pain she felt on the death of her beloved father. It is not sweet and cute; it is hard and true and very revealing. It is on the extremities of bird watching; I can’t see Helen ever joining a Sunday walking birding group for a bit of twitching.

Other recent reads with birds as a theme include Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield where crows and the superstitions around them play an important role in the structure and ominousness of this novel set in Victorian times. The Birdwatcher by William McInnes is a poignant read about twitchers and secrets and changing your life. And Snapper by Brian Kimberling is a romp of a read with a beautiful cover: “Snapper is a book about birdwatching, a woman who won’t stay true, and a pick-up truck that won’t start”. Finally, before you get too cosy, you must read the brilliant, chilling novella by Daphne du Maurier The Birds – later made into a horror film by Alfred Hitchcock.

Cover of SnapperTurned out I would grow to love birding: the pre-dawn start with the sounds and smells of the bush at Ndumo Game Reserve slowly coming to life. I loved the coffee pit stop, the walking, the camaraderie. On my first major outing, everyone wanted to find one particular bird: a Pel’s Fishing Owl. What chance did I have? I knew nothing about birds and had yet to be gifted my own binoculars. Hours into the walk, I felt the call of nature and snuck furtively away from the group into bushy scrubland and managed – inadvertently, to flush out the Pel’s Fishing Owl – which flew in a graceful arc over the Pongola River for all to see.

I recommend birding men as potential partners. They are observant, patient, good listeners who love nature, plus they know when to shut up. And when you flush out the bird of the day (for all the wrong reasons), they remain proud of you – and buy you your own binoculars!

There’s a kākāpō at a library near you!

You can imagine the joy at Central Manchester when a kākāpō  emerged from the returns bin.

Photo of kakapo replica
Central Manchester’s kākāpō

Not the real McCoy, you understand, but a beautifully sewn replica – one of several kākāpō that have been hidden around Christchurch as part of  Sayraphim Lothian’s Guerrilla Kindness for Christchurch project.

Described as “a Persian cat with feathers“, the kākāpō is one of the world’s most endangered birds. There are only 124 birds left in the wild and now there are 124 of Sayraphim’s little creations dotted around Christchurch for us to find. Sayraphim says she is: “utilising the Kakapo’s journey to recovery as a metaphor for Christchurch’s journey to rebuild“.

I don’t know about you, but I am just blown away by this. By the creativity, the heart, the conscience, the vision.

Our Manchester Library kākāpō goes by the name of Little ToiTiIti. If you spot him in the library, just remember: even though he is the largest parrot in the world, he is very shy, very solitary, actually quite smelly and may make a loud shaaaaarking noise and flap his wings if you approach.

Love this project – Go Guerrilla Kindness!

P.S. Check out photos of some of Sayraphim’s kākāpō being made at Central Library Peterborough.

Bellbirds in the winter garden

"Wonders of the winter landscape" Book coverWinter garden are beautiful with the stark contrast of twig and berry. I am enjoying the bellbirds, fantails and wax eyes visiting my garden seeking out winter flowering shrubs. 

As the cloud level comes down and the weather cools, native birds arrive to take their luck in domestic gardens. If you’re lucky enough to have a neighbour with large trees or you have nectar rich flowering shrubs in your garden you may have had a visit. The liquid sound of bellbirds singing in Christchurch gardens is on the increase. Have you had any visit your garden? 

Investigate these books on: 

  • Attracting birds to your garden.
  • Winter gardening
  • Plants in winter
  • If you haven’t had any bellbirds visit you could take advantage of the wet ground and plant a tree or shrub with the family. Take a visit to your nearest garden centre and get the children to select their own to plant, break out the gumboots and spades and spend the weekend planting. It’s a great way to get everyone outside enjoying the garden and connecting with nature. The kids will remember the time they planted their tree or shrub and you can compare how much they’ve both grown in years to come. 

    Explore our Library Website: 

  • Sustainable living
  • Loving winter
  • Gardening
  • Autumn Gardening
  • Winter Gardening from Richard Poole 

    Mrs Beswick planting a Coronation oak in the Christchurch Domain [22 June 1911]Got a pocket sized garden? Then take advantage of Council planting programmes and connect with your local community. It is surprising how many hands make light work big planting schemes, you’ll see the rewards of your labors quicker than you think. A few years is all it has taken to make a change from paddock to park at the Halswell Quarry. 

    Christchurch has a proud tradition of public planting days we first celebrated Arbor Day on 4 August 1892. Augustus Florance waxed lyrical and advised on how Arbor Day might be even more successfully observed in the future. 

    Christchurch City Council Links: 

  • Arbor Day
  • Year of Biodiversity
  • Volunteer events including clean-ups and tree plantings.
  • Popular Parks
  • I remember my children as they got their hands dirty and planted shrubs having enormous fun and enjoying a sausage to celebrate their achievement afterward. Have you ever attended a planting day?