A Country Life
Step outside our back door and meet the kiwi.
A block for the kiwi
Nick and I live in Purangi, 60km east of New Plymouth, on 50ha (123 acres). It’s almost half-pines, almost half-bush, with two small grazing areas for our three Wiltshire lawn mowing stock units (the Motley Crew).
Our one room, a converted schoolhouse, is halfway up a hill. The phone lines and power poles are 3km away and the road is too winding for them to venture up to us so we live with two lovely, efficient solar panels. These supply enough power for the fridge and freezer, washing machine, vacuum, charging of our devices, evening TV, and - if there is a sunny forecast - a hair straightener when I’m having a ‘town’ day.
Miraculously, there is speedy broadband from a laptop-t-stick-car-battery-inverteraerial arrangement from our blinged-out builder’s shed (Sunset Lodge) further up the hill, beaming 3G into our living room.
Our immediate neighbour is the East Taranaki Environment Trust (read more at www.etet.org.nz). It has run predator control programmes over the surrounding 13,000ha for the last 10 years, and the result has been a steady increase in birdlife, including kiwi.
We now regularly hear a young bachelor male kiwi calling after dark from across the valley, up to 20 screeching squawks, increasing in pitch until he sounds frantic. It is thought that he hasn’t incubated any eggs yet, with previous monitoring assuming the females think he’s maybe still too young and scrawny.
One kiwi can have around 4ha (10 acres) of territory. Now and then, the pair living across the road will venture into the young kiwi’s periphery and can be heard near our spring. She sounds like a loud, guttural Daisy Duck with emphysema, but with a similar increasing pitch and up to 20 calls at a time.
The locals have often seen another large female kiwi tootling down the road near our boundary. We have found her huge footprints (9cm long), deep, cone-shaped probe holes, and tell-tale, speckled, ammonia-smellingll poos.
Nick met her one cold winter’s night as he was walking down the track with his headlamp on, back to the warm pot bellyheated house. Suddenly, there she was, a large female kiwi, stopped in the middle of the track.
She seemed unconcerned so he chatted to her for a while and she looked at him. A male called out in the distance and she cocked her head to listen. She wasn’t in a hurry to move so Nick had to clamber over the bank to get around her. She probably didn’t consider him a threat as her usual path seems to go past our house and it’s possible she might know our voices, unbeknownst to us.
This was the first time in eight years of living here that Nick had seen a kiwi in the wild, and he was understandably thrilled.
A few nights later a female kiwi called out, much closer to the house than we had ever heard before. I decided that it must have been the same one Nick had seen. She had sussed him out that night and decided that he looked like a suitable, good-sized male to incubate her eggs. I named her Jolene.
“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Joleeeeene! I’m begging of you, please don’t take my man.”
Fortunately, I can’t really imagine Nick in an earthy burrow for 80 days so she’s not really a threat, but the name remains.