A Coun­try Life

Step out­side our back door and meet the kiwi.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Growing - Words Joanna Greig

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.

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