A tale of two tūī
Thwump! Thwump! That, my friends, is the oily sound of birds smashing into a windscreen. They fell like stones.
Ospring, drunk with possibility! A hopeful month, wavy with shoots and catkin crazy. The soil is warming, tiny insects dance together in puffs. The flowerbeds put their best ruffles forward, and everything cranes towards the sun.
Spring, you’re a gosh-darned show-off. Pull up your socks and stop horsing around!
I can give you the exact moment I went off spring.
I was cresting the hilltop in Crofton Downs, fresh from a successful visit to Countdown (a good price on Lebanese cucumbers) and had just taken my foot off the accelerator. I pride myself on my parsimony with fuel, if you must know. Why step on the gas when gravity can do the job?
The car was poised to skim downhill when thwump! Thwump!
That, my friends, is the oily sound of not one but two t smashing into a windscreen, leaving not one but two sudden, smudgy marks.
Good grief! Seconds earlier I’d registered them in my field of vision, as chaotic as pen scribbles, doodling around the sky. One was barrelling after the other and on their approach, they swooped low. Too low. When both doodles smashed into the glass they became inkblots, of the sort a psychiatrist might hold up before asking: “And what do you think these resemble?”
“Two widely beloved native birds,” I might reply. “Instantly killed by me.”
If it hadn’t been so shocking, I would have laughed. It’s not delicate but you should know there’s something darkly comical about a t hard up against a window, eyeballing you through the glass. I’ve got your numberplate, the first one seemed to be telling me, before it slid out of sight.
As I was still at speed, the birds fell like stones to the footpath. I had traffic behind me and couldn’t immediately stop but I caught a glimpse of them, uselessly flapping their wings, adding to the horror.
“Oh no, oh no, they’re dying,” I told my shopping bags. I indicated and pulled over – suddenly an inconvenience to everyone, as well as being a serial killer. I didn’t exactly know what to do, except that
I had to go back there, unpeel them from the tarmac and show them to someone sympathetic. Luckily for me, someone fitting that description was toiling uphill at the time.
She was a beautifully-turned-out Boomer on what appeared to be her morning power-walk. I rolled down the window and heard my voice, higher and thinner than usual, piping: “Excuse me? I just hit two t back there. It was awful, they came out of nowhere. I need to turn around and get them.”
I didn’t exactly know what I wanted, except reassurance, I guess. That I wasn’t a bad person; that I’d been driving sensibly. I wanted to signal to the general public, represented by her, that I wasn’t the type to hit and run. Weakly I said: “Do you know of any vets around here?”
She did, as a matter of fact. She gave precise directions but I couldn’t take them in, so carried on the appearance of listening. What I was really doing was buying myself time to calm down. Then she very kindly pressed on uphill to investigate while I did a messy U-turn, with an unpleasant pulsing sensation in my neck.
When I got back to the crash scene, she was waiting for me but the t weren’t.
“Oh, they’re fine,” she said, and pointed upward to a tree. “They were a bit dazed, but they flew up there.”
I caught a glimpse of them, uselessly flapping their wings. “Oh no, oh no, they’re dying,” I told my shopping bags.
This was astonishing. Then she said: “Silly things. It’s spring; they’re mating of course.”
Frankly, if someone had led me to smash into the emotional equivalent of a moving car, I’d be disinclined to continue the relationship – especially if they were a perfunctory lover, as male t are.
I should have waved my Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand and shouted up into the leaves: “He’s not worth it. According to this, he ‘executes quickly.’ Forget him, come down and I’ll check you for internal bleeding.”
Who can stop daft pairs going mad for sex at this time of year? It’s as narcotic as the k whai flower. I was like that but now I’m an ageing sort of bird, fat in my own nest, my fledglings losing their fuzz and getting leggy. The seasons pull us along.
Later, I had birds on the brain. I helped George break an egg into the biscuit batter. First, he cracked it with a spoon. “Now open it gently,” I told him, “using your thumb tips.” Instead he crushed it whole, letting the yolk dribble down from his fist.
Fair enough, I thought, wordlessly picking out pieces of shell. Neatly or not, gently or not, it was always going to end up a cookie.
Messy, impulsive, riotous spring!