That feeling of autumn freshness in the morning air has arrived. The cicadas have been singing loudly through February but have you wondered where the birds are? Remember that frantic bird activity and dawn chorus from August through to January?
Late summer is a resting time for birds as they moult their old feathers. Even the frantically energetic tui quietens down. Gone are the days of tuis waking in song at 4.30 in the morning and still calling at night after the morepork (ruru) is up and about.
Likewise the thrush stopped its dawn song around Christmas, and the blackbird followed suit in January. These birds can look a bit rough during the autumn moult as they lose feathers.
Walking through Waterfall Gully at Shakespear Park you are likely to find kereru feathers on the ground as their moult takes place. Many of these feathers have that lovely hint of iridescent sheen, but there are the soft pure white breast feathers too.
Late summer is also a notable time for possums, that top predator of kereru nests. Around this time young possums become independent of their mothers and move through the landscape looking for a home.
The peninsula’s coastal reserves provide a great deal of connectivity to our birds but also to possums – pohutukawa leaves are a favoured food and the clifftop vegetation growing around them provides good cover. It’s no surprise that trappers at Arran Point caught 33 possums in just four traps last year. If you’re having possum troubles, Pest Free Hibiscus Coast has a possum trap “library”, so contact them and borrow, or buy, a trap so you can become involved in increasing your local birdlife.
As late summer freshens into late autumn, bird activity will pick up and the dawn chorus will again be something to wake up early for. The tui will slowly wind up, the thrush will begin singing again in April, repeating everything twice, then around July the blackbird will join them, and the cycle begins again.
Autumn and winter are good seasons to put out sugar water, as there are fewer flowers about for nectar feeders. Ease back in spring when the kowhai starts flowering. Photo, Richard Chambers