And No Birds Sing

The sedge is beginning to wither, there hasn’t been a puddle for months.  The fishpond, a sunken iron bath, required a top up every two days.  Sedge and Japanase anemones are flowering, both grow close to a concrete path, shallow waterpipe which may keep them cooler.   Wellington’s drought started early, carried on relentlessly.  Some welcome rain at the weekend, nothing like the drenching on the windward side of Mt Victoria.

TuiWhere is my bird life?  Something reminded me of lying in a paddock in childhood  listening to larks.  This memory bought back a small pond Dad had dug out and designated as a swimming pool.  It was not a success in that role, the water was full of clay.  Frogs loved it, the drains and troughs.  I found their nighttime noise quite soothing. 

I’ve lived in the same house in Wellington for nearly fifty years.  Way back, there was a lark in nearby ‘wasteland’ which I so named to counter Joyce’s urban one.   Sadly it has been ‘developed’:  large houses, few trees.  There is a medium sized play area but not many children come from that street.  No trees to loll under on the flat.  Bush remains on the steeper hillsides. 

After a silent period children have returned to our nearby street, I missed their happy playing.  They use the play area.  I confess I did not miss the unhappy playing of children whose family broke up following unemployment summarily inflicted on them by 1980s Rogernomics.  Our two empty sections run down into bush and are more beautiful each year, the flowering and fruit trees and natives now  well sheltered.  Up top it is heaven to sit under the silver birch on a hot day.  It sheds early, comes into leaf late and is no barrier to winter wamth.  Exposure to wind has made its trunk resemble that of an Ent.   Trees can’t be sacred in urban environments.  I’m outraged when Councils say some monster must stay although it’s shading, gutter filling, drain blocking, branch dropping on neighbours and the unhappy owner.   Or when they  prevent owners thinning bush so they and children can walk through or play in it.    I’m ambivalent about the 500 year old kauri on private land in Auckland.  Yes, it will be sad to lose it.  The current owners didn’t plant it.  We’ve planted at least seven kauris.  They are distinctive in the sapling stage and hold their shape well once on their way.   Unless some loaded greenie buys the lot they will probably go.  Recently I was firmly given a rimu and totara.  We already have some, I made it clear I couldn’t accommodate them.  They’ve taken off and I’m the miscreant who will soon do for them.  Neighbours need sun.    

Spring storms destroyed bird nests two years running.  A blackbird I called Peter (but assumed was more than one blackbird) once sang hugely most of the day from the  from the top of the big kauri.   A neice phoned from Turkey, was it him she could hear singing?  Indeed it was.  He has gone now and apart from a bit of chattering there is an eerie silence.  Tuis visit but are unusually quiet.   I miss the raucous gurgler who woke me at daybreak. 

There are not many cats now.   Fat monarch caterpillars vanished in a period of high wind, four butterflies have emerged from shelter close to the ground.  A small frog has reappeared.  Two big ones haven’t.  No sign of skinks.   A fat skink and frog faced off year after year on a sundrenched piece of wood.  Hedgehogs no longer brawl noisily at midnight outside the bedroom window.    

On the upside there hasn’t been a fire on the peninsula opposite for years.  Bush is regenerating.  Hereabouts opossums have vanished, wasps are rare.  Putting aside plane noise there is a velvet silence most nights.  Rats and mice remain.  BUT WHY NO BIRDSONG?  Climate change, big storms, drier summers, less nectar, fewer insects and trees?   Is it compounded by bigger houses, manicured lawns, boxed vegetable gardens, herbicide, insecticide use?         

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