Birds of the Water Wood & Waste
our most perfect winter and early spring weather comes when the wind blows directly off the snow-clad Ruahine Range, the nights are frosty, the days are still, the lake a sheet of glass, the blue sky cloudless. During weather such as this in early August, everywhere on the run may be heard the long, tremulous trill of the Warbler, rather a cricket's cry than a bird's.
Although a plentiful species on the run, even in winter the Warbler's presence about the homestead is infrequent. During spring he is even more rarely to be seen; he has then, like all the native species, retired to breed in deeper solitude than a New Zealand homestead can afford, but though gone, he has not gone far, and his faint song is still distinctly audible from the house.
In some dark manuka thicket his pearshaped nest is built, or deeply set in some dense branched bush. The nest itself is not unlike that of the British Long-tailed Tit, similar in the neat finish and feather lining, but our New Zealander has often a tiny portico above, or little ledge beneath, his entrance hole. The five or six eggs are sometimes almost quite white, sometimes they are freckled like a Wren's, with tiny spots at the thicker end. The Warbler sits close, and often when feeling for eggs or young I have touched the old bird in her nest. The youngsters grow with great rapidity, and for some time after quitting the nest they may be seen all together, page 158 haunting the vicinity of their old home. Watching the parents and brood together thus in a family party, the young able to feed themselves, though still accepting food and all very merry and lively and busy, gives the impression that this last week of companionship must be one of the happiest episodes in the lives of parent birds. The cares and dangers of incubation are past, the labours of feeding and rearing over, whilst there still remains just sufficient responsibility to excite the parental instincts. The young, like children to whom each hour provides new matter of wonder and interest, are content in the exercise of their new developed functions, their facile captures and brief flights.
It is the warmth, perhaps, of the domed nest that tempts these tropical sybarites, or may be their knowledge of the unwearied industry of the little Warblers.
The earliest nest I got this year was partly constructed on August 19th, and was but a few days in advance of many others. No doubt, therefore, second nests would be in process of construction, or even finished, by the date of the arrival of the shining Cuckoo.
This Cuckoo arrives at Tutira during the first week of October. This year he was first noticed only on the 8th, and heard at intervals up till the 27th January.