A reader of my blog, who is known to me, rolled his eyes at my inability to differentiate between a House Sparrow and a Dunnock. He also felt that this blog did not reflect well on Michael who has an encyclopedian (or should I say wikipedian) knowledge of birds. Michael is a very gentle man in the true sense of the word and would never roll his eyes at me. He patiently shows me the wonders of nature. But the real point I wanted to make was that we sometimes forget that in this majestic environment that is Tekapo, with its turquoise lake, snow capped mountains and first international night sky reserve, there is beauty in ordinary things. This morning I sat on a seat on top of Cowan's Hill, a mere 10 minute walk from Alpine Cottage with views to write home about. As a matter of fact, let me insert a picture of it at the bottom of the blog. (This picture was taken one month ago (August (midwinter)) with our exchange student from Japan called Misaki.) As I sat on the seat this morning looking at the view, and let me assure you one never tires of it, the only thing I heard was the song of a skylark high above me. The skylark is an introduced and certainly not a rare bird. But that does not mean that its song did not delight me - sorry, double negative - the song very much delighted me. And I wondered "why does the skylark sing?" It truly sounds lovely, but it seems such an effort for the poor little bird and is certainly worthy of a google search...
The google search taught me that the singers in the sky are male larks and they sing to mark their territory. That was a bit of a downer and I certainly had higher hopes for these singers, but there you have it. I made a mental delete and will go back to the seat on Cowans Hill and enjoy the song and the wonder of it. It has inspired many poets:
To a Skylark
By William Wordsworth
Ethereal minstrel! pilgrim of the sky!
Dost thou despise the earth where cares abound?
Or, while the wings aspire, are heart and eye
Both with thy nest upon the dewy ground?
Thy nest which thou canst drop into at will,
Those quivering wings composed, that music still!
Leave to the nightingale her shady wood;
A privacy of glorious light is thine;
Whence thou dost pour upon the world a flood
Of harmony, with instinct more divine;
Type of the wise who soar, but never roam;
True to the kindred points of Heaven and Home!
BIRDS IN LAKE TEKAPO GARDENS
Not long ago, a family from Australia stayed in Alpine Cottage. They were keen birdwatchers and your birder Michael indicated where they could observe the Kaki or Black Stilt, the Wrybill and the Crested Grebe or Puteketeke. Our Australian family had a challenge to find one hundred different birds in one year. Sure the Kaki, the Wrybill and the Puteketeke were new to their list, but they were just as excited by what they observed in Alpine Cottage’s vegetable garden. Not only did they see Blackbirds, Starlings and Thrushes they also saw their first Dunnock. Dunnocks? you may wonder and me as well. Here I was thinking that they were all Sparrows but no. Let me explain it, if you are as ignorant as I was before my Australian family arrived:
When you see a Dunnock, Hedge Sparrow or Prunella modularis you may find them very similar to a House Sparrow. And of course, they do look very similar. But thanks to our Australian guests, I can enlighten you and confirm that there is a difference – huge only in the eye of the beholder but just for during the duration of this blog we are all birdwatchers and entranced by detail:
So now you know. And when you stay at Alpine Cottage, you can see them for yourself and impress your children, your friends or your parents with your ornithologist’s knowledge.
(I used capitals for the birds' names, just because these birds are very important to us)