Saturday, 18 July 2009

Feb: A New Kiwi Bird (but not a Kiwi!)

From Auckland’s Ponsonby Road to the Northern Motorway is a short but intricate journey, especially when night makes street signs hard to see. I think I managed a reasonably direct route and so found myself bowling over Waitemata Harbour and then up the North Shore district. For this the darkness wasn't a problem and I soon got on to the Albany road. Then the lights ran out and navigating to Coatesville became a challenge.

Finding the home of my old Bristol University friend, Tony, was even more so. I had to get out of the car a couple of times to search out house numbers. Just ten miles from downtown Auckland I seemed to be in the bush.

I always get there in the end though and Tony and his exuberant dog greeted me. I had worried about recognising him after thirty-odd years. I needn't have. The fellow facing me could have just stepped out of the JCR at Wills Hall, circa 1975. Life down under had clearly suited him.

I met his wife, Kathy, a northern lass – well, northern from my Winchester perspective – and unloaded what I needed from the car when an unexpected sound broke the air. My New Zealand bird guide describes it as “more-pork, more-pork”.

I don't know. Perhaps I never hear these things the same way as others. Anyway the bird was easy to identify as an owl and on the North Island that means only a morepork. OK, I guess if you're going to hear the call that way, why not use it as the name? It works for chiffchaff; it works for hoopoe; and doubtless many others. It worked for me that night – lifer number 1046.

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