A tale of two tūī

Th­wump! Th­wump! That, my friends, is the oily sound of birds smash­ing into a wind­screen. They fell like stones.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - LEAH MCFALL -

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!

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