Saturday, September 16, 2006

Chasing Birds...

Today was spent chasing birds in the Sanctuary. Specifically, today was spent chasing this bird. I've been trying to work out whether he has an established territory or not. Today he turned up at two different nestboxes and one feeder. I'm sure he's just toying with me. At the moment I don't think he's set up home. Instead I think he's dashing around playing bachelor, checking out all the other males' pads, trying to work out whether he can break in and steal their girlfriends.

Hihi males are known for their slightly less than desirable sexual behaviour, which includes opportunistic bird rape (face to face). However they can also be very accepting of blended families. Thanks to the aforementioned bird rape issue, one male may end up raising chicks of mixed parentage. His female may lay up to five eggs in a clutch, fertilised by more than one bird. Hihi males will also take over the raising of another male's chicks, as happened last year when one of my males died.

Other than trying to work out where Mr No Home is hanging out, today I had a long list of other feeders and nestboxes to monitor. Thankfully the weather was actually springlike, and unlike last week at no point was I at risk of dying from the cold. As a result I monitored for around five hours.

Early on in the day I was watching a nestbox where it was known nesting activity was taking place, but not by whom. Suddenly a Hihi male landed around a metre away from me. He sat next to me for around 10 minutes, preening and eyeballing me, before flying off. He remained in the area for the whole time I was there, flying around, checking out one of the nestboxes, and dropping to the forest floor occasionally to eat, before returning again to perch nearby and keep an eye on me. Unfortunately there was no sign of a female, and the next puzzle for the day became "where are all the females"?

As if the close contact at the last nestbox wasn't enough, the male at the next nestbox wanted to get even more up close and personal. As I sat watching he siddled up a branch at my head level. He stopped a few inches from my face, looked intently at me, paused, took a deep breath, opened his beak, and before I could take evasive action, let out a piercing teesaavee call at the top of his lungs. That's okay, I didn't actually want to be able to hear anyway. Looking smug, he backed off and continued calling as he flew around the area, just to make sure everyone knew he was at home.

Towards the end of the day, when I'd decided all the females must have been off at a Hihi hen party somewhere, one quiet female turned up at a feeder, and then an adjacent nestbox. She hopped around on the ground, chortling quietly to herself, but did not appear to be in the right mood for nestbuilding. After a while she disappeared back off into the bush, and that was my dose of female Hihi spotting finished with.

All up a great day, although it didn't really do my poor knee any favours. I'm looking forward to a good sleep in tomorrow, followed by a cooked breakfast, and I might try to get out to an art exhibition or two. Or perhaps I'll sneak in a yoga class. A whole day to myself - what a novelty!

As I was walking around the lake today I became more and more determined to come back again after the half and slot in a bit of trail running. I think I could lead the jog squad girls on a fun run. How about it Sarah? Down the Te Mahanga track, up the gentle Swamp Track incline, onto Round the Lake (walking the stupid steep bit up from the bridge), down via the gentle Beech Track, and back to the entrance via the road. I wonder how long THAT would take...

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