Category Archives: garden

Ghosts in my garden


Five or six years ago I cut down a grapefruit tree in my garden. This was a little sad because blackbirds often nested in it but we didn’t eat the fruit and it was in the way. The blackbirds seem to love citrus trees and now nest in my lemon and tangelo. Anyway, the bare ground underneath grassed over and you can’t see that the tree was ever there. The story isn’t lost though: every so often a small patch of fungi appear on the lawn. I like to think of them as my grapefruit tree ghost, reminding me that grapefruit tree roots are still down there.


Thrush and blackbird dawn chorus


On July 12th I wrote of the song thrush beginning its dawn chorus at five to seven each morning. Slowly over the intervening six weeks that time has been pushed back, slowly at first but with gathering pace. After a couple of weeks it jumped to 6.45, then 6.35 and 6.25, seemingly in 10 minute steps. Then more quickly to where it is now at 6.10 am. Last weekend I noticed for the first time that the blackbird has joined in, dominating with its stronger, more resonant song. Blackbirds should have been singing earlier in August but this is the first I’ve heard. Now that the two are singing together it is easy to hear the difference between them.

Out of interest, sunrise on July 12 was at 7.32 am, 37 minutes after the thrush began singing. Now sunrise is at 6.46 am which is 36 minutes after the thrush and blackbird. I can’t fault the thrush on its consistency.

First day of spring

It’s the first day of spring. This fantail, and a couple of silvereyes before it, celebrated with a good splish in the birdbath.

This reminds me, yesterday afternoon we were watching about 10 dolphins having a good time at Manly beach. There were more people there watching than there are on some days in mid-summer. It’s like living on the Serengeti around here!!

Shakespear Park walk


Thanks to all of you who came to Forest and Bird’s – Discover the Wetlands walk at Shakespear Park yesterday. Though it was bracing in the wind we were unbelievably lucky to have the sun at least. I hope you get the chance to pick a nice day to do the walk again and find yourself a spotless crake. Take your binoculars as there is usually a lot more life about than we saw yesterday.

I noticed this morning that the dawn chorus was early. Over the last few weeks it has moved from 6.55 to 6.45 but this morning the first tuis and thrushes called at 6.33. A short while later a morepork called before going off to bed. I do love that day/night crossover, particularly in the evening when the tui is making its last straggling calls as the morepork begins a night of hunting.

Dawn Chorus


At five-to-seven in the morning the thrush starts to sing. He’ll be doing it from April to Christmas but as we get into spring he’ll get a bit more company. The dawn chorus is really just him at the moment, with just the odd note from a tui or a myna soon after 7. This month, though, the blackbird will join in and  tuis will start to get very vocal and very early as spring comes around. In the meantime 7 is a very civilised time to start and in case you don’t catch it first time the thrush repeats everything which helps to tell their song from the blackbird’s. In The Fieldguide to the Birds of NZ, the song is described “chitty-choo chitty-choo, oo-eee oo-eee….”, each phrase repeated. But never dull.

Frosty mornings




Living by the sea in Auckland we don’t get many frosts but this morning had a beauty. Very delicate crystals on the car roof and the birdbath frozen over.


I was struck though by how useful a frost can be for planning your garden layout. After I’d walked to the compost bin and back I noticed the path I’d left in the grass. How useful to see where people walk if you want to put in a path. Get the family to walk around your new garden and see where the footprints congregate – democratic landscaping.




Pigeon “Ghosts” on windows

Kereru ghost on window

A pigeon, probably one of the kereru I was writing about recently, hit the window of my house. The only way I know this is by the “ghost” it left on the glass and, as I didn’t find a body, it must have flown off ok. Unfortunately hits like this aren’t uncommon. The white ghost is feather dust or “powder down” which is a type of feather down used by some groups of birds to keep their feathers in good condition. When the bird makes impact, down imprints itself on the glass in great detail. I’ve only seen this with pigeons but parrots and owls apparently also carry this feature. I should clean it off now but maybe having dirty windows will help other birds avoid the same fate. That’s my excuse anyway.