Nature’s nursery

There are babies everywhere at this time of the year. Sparrows are nesting deep in a shrub at the end of our deck, swallows are feeding chicks in the carport and starlings are driving The Man of the House mad in the shed, in the woodshed and everywhere else they can squeeze into. There are waterfalls of bird poo everywhere.

I’ve been watching a kokako nest for a couple of weeks and we’re getting to crunch time. The eggs should have hatched by now so next time I go I’ll have my fingers crossed the nest is still active. I’ve watched this pair before and they haven’t produced chicks so if they abandon the nest again, it’ll mean another batch of infertile eggs. Here’s hoping for better things this season.

The kokako nest is up there in the red circle. I can’t see it, can only see the birds come and go – if they let me. They’ve got really sneaky. Kokako may be secretive and hide their nests in inaccessible places but NZ’s little fantail is much more relaxed.

While out bait filling, The Man of the House found a fantail (piwakawaka) nest behind our car shed, not 3 feet off the ground and right on the track. Thank you little Pi! Not wanting to disturb them too much I checked on them only once a week. What an engineering feat that nest is, built around those thin twigs.

Week 1, the fantail nest held 3 little speckled eggs.

Males and females take turns sitting on the nest. When Mum/Dad left the nest to feed, I rushed in and took photos. The other bird stayed around though and chattered loudly at me to let me know it was unimpressed but once I moved away, Mum/Dad returned and happily sat down again.

Week 2, the nest held 3 bald chicks, all stomach and mouth.

Not a very clear picture, I’m sorry, I should have had my other camera, but you get the idea. Fantails can nest several times a season and the female builds a new nest every time while Dad looks after the newly fledged youngsters.

Week 3, the nest is overflowing with chicks, piled one on top of the other.

What a difference a week makes. Imagine how hard those parents must have worked to get them to this stage so quickly. I wouldn’t like to be the one on the bottom.

Week 4, and the nest is empty. There are fantails aplenty flitting around the site so it looks like the chicks have fledged. Well done Mum and Dad.

Fantails are friendly little birds, they’ll come within feet of you in the bush and seem to have no fear of human interference. In winter, they’re common in town backyards but in the summer they seem to retreat to the shady places. On the nest, they are heavily predated mainly by rats. Despite this, they are still numerous and most kiwis will have come close to at least one.

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