One of the beauties of living on the Hibiscus Coast is that a walk on the beach might turn into a dolphin-watching trip, or while cycling Ōrewa Estuary you may see godwits that have just flown 12,000km from Alaska non-stop.
Still, I was very surprised one day to find a kaka (pictured) in my garden. I was more surprised the next day when it came back and started feeding on my large kakabeak, an endangered native shrub that produces large red clusters of flowers.
The kaka is a large bird with a powerful beak used to prise open branches in search of grubs. I thought this bird would demolish my kakabeak but instead it gently visited every flower and drank the nectar from it. No flower was damaged. And the next day it came back and did the same again.
Following this “pollination by kaka” my plant set a huge amount of seed. Now, two years later, seedlings of the original plant are flowering in my garden and again I’m seeing kaka flying around the peninsula on their seasonal visit.
Another bird that appears at this time of year is the shining cuckoo (pipiwharauroa). These small birds migrate into the south western Pacific for the winter, returning here each spring to breed. Their call of repeated ascending notes followed by two or three descending notes is a sure sign summer is on the way.
Unfortunately for grey warblers (riroriro) the cuckoo is a parasitic nester, replacing the warbler eggs with a single egg of their own. The tiny warbler ends up raising the much bigger cuckoo chick.
A much more rare visitor to the Hibiscus Coast, the larger long-tailed cuckoo (koekoea) is a nest parasite of the small native whitehead. Whiteheads are found at Shakespear Park since they were introduced there in 2015. So in future, whiteheads may attract koekoea to the area on a regular basis.
While there is no chance that the migrating cuckoos will ever become year-round residents on the Coast, it is possible that kaka will settle here, becoming a constant background to our lives and not the seasonal visitors they are now. Time will tell.