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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 10 (January 2, 1939)

A Tapu Isle Of Birds

page 44

A Tapu Isle Of Birds

(Continued from page 21.)

bino parent of this feathered piebald—the Spanish “pinto” would sound better—was still alive, and very fine and healthy. He saw it, as was the usual way, on a shiny night of full moon.

Life with Hauturu's birds was full of such almost faerie touches. There were strange and lovely intimacies with nature. The wood-pigeon, the kukupa, so lost its shyness that it joined the other berry-eaters on the trees around the house. “One can almost catch them with the hand,” said Nelson. He went out to the garden barefooted one night. A kiwi came up to him and rested its long beak on his foot. Nelson half-expected it to give him a jab with that sharp beak, but Mr. Apteryx was merely satisfying his curiosity in the course of his worm-digging.

The Fairy Tiora.

The stitchbird and the saddleback, birds which have quite vanished from the mainland, have a congenial home on Hauturu. They are only seen in the heart of the bush. The saddleback (tieke) was introduced from that even more secluded isle, the Hen, or Taranga. A Nelson diary item: “On one of the ridges I saw a very pretty stitchbird (tiora), a male. He was the most handsome of his kind I have ever seen.” Another time: “I saw a pair of beautiful stitchbirds on one of the ridges.” Again: “In one of the gullies, and near it in rough country, I saw fifteen stitchbirds, in pairs and small parties. They were all very tame, and sat preening their feathers quite close to me.”


In this magic-belted isle of bird-song, every creature of the forest strives to chant “Creation's music.” Even the doleful owl must add his call to the universal chorus of joy and gladness. One evening, while the sun was still shining, and the bellbird and tui and other birds were singing cheerily in the trees near the house, the custodian was amazed to hear a morepork joining in the general song. Old Ruru sat sombrely on a branch by himself, the Ishmael of the bush, but he could not resist the urge to utter his “kou-kou, kia toa” as the Maoris have it.

A tuatara lizard was found living in a rocky retreat near the west landing. It was christened “Jim.” The old fellow used to come out when he was called to be fed, and submitted to being picked up and stroked. One would imagine this spiny creature about the least promising subject for petting, but on enchanted Hauturu all living things seem responsive to the magic call of aroha.

* * *

Men come and go, generations pass, but always let us hope the dawn music of bellbird and tui will ring on Hauturu:

Mighty songs that miss decay;
What are they?
Crowds and cities pass away
Like a day.
Books are out and books are read;
What are they?
Years will lay them with the dead—
Sigh, sigh;
Trifles unto nothing wed,
They die.”

But the Maori birds will chant “Song's Eternity” after we have gone. The writer of those lines, that most exquisite of nature-singers, John Clare, the Northamptonshire peasant, who found such joy in the bluecap's “tootle, tootle, tootle-tee,” might have been uplifted to even sweeter flights had he heard a dawn-time concert of tui and korimako in the forest-fringe, where the birds “sing Creation's music on” in rhythm with the sea on surf-washed Hauturu.