Kākāpō – the power of positive

This is one of those good news stories whose simplicity belies the enormous amount of work done by many people over decades. As human beings, we make a mess of our home – but we are also capable of doing great things when we fully accept stewardship of the environment in which we live. I hope that when my children’s children are long gone, the eerie boom of the kākāpō will still echo across the hills of my home.

Ecology Ngātahi

Posted by Jacqueline Beggs@JacquelineBeggs

The distinctive musty odour of kākāpō wafts through the forest as tangata whenua (literally, people of the land) softly chant to welcome back this parrot to Hauturu – Little Barrier Island. The bird tentatively pokes her head out of her travelling cage and then scuttles a short distance into the dense undergrowth, pausing to check her new surroundings. My eyes brim, unexpectedly moved by the connection of this bird to local Māori, and a very special island. It is inspiring to be part of another step forward to securing the future of kākāpō.

Kākāpō are a large, flightless nocturnal parrot, found only in New Zealand.  They have their own facebook page and crowd-funding campaign which contributes to the recovery of this species. Kākāpō are a large, flightless nocturnal parrot, found only in New Zealand. They have their own facebook page and crowd-funding campaign which contributes to the recovery of this species. Photo: Jacqueline Beggs

By 1995, only 51, mostly adult male kākāpō survived. Previous decades had documented a continual decline in numbers, despite…

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Spring at last, or so the blackbird says

flowering cherry

Over the last few weeks there have been several days when I’ve thought to myself, sun – check; not raining – check; flowers appearing – check; oh, it must finally be spring. Snowdrops have come and gone, daffodils have appeared all over the place and cheered us up with their yellow radiance. There have even been some periods of actual warmth.

But every time I start to think that spring has won the battle against winter, the clouds descend, the temperature drops and we get another blast of it. Two days ago I spent the day off sick from work: curled up on my armchair, clutching a mug of hot lemon drink and a box of paper hankies, wrapped up in a big blanket and shivering. It seemed that every time I glanced out the window, it was snowing again, or sleeting, or snailing, or fleeting – or some other variation on winter precipitation.

Today is different. Okay, it rained a lot during the night, and now it’s grey and cool and drizzly, but there’s a promise of mildness in the air, a new freshness. And when I walked up the hill from the post office this morning everywhere I turned my ears I could hear birdsong.

In my garden it’s not only the usual suspects – chaffinches, tits and blackbirds. When I put my head out the back door I saw that the hedge was crammed full of the little local flock of sparrows, which I’ve hardly seen over the winter. Jenny Wren is back on the fencepost, and there’s a new robin patrolling the lawn (replacing the one my naughty cats ate in February).

Up the hill at the back, an entire army of blackbirds is pulling out the dead, long grass to line their nests, and tits are swooping back and forth in every direction. Even the hooded crows up in the old tree sound a little less mournful now that there’s light in the sky and a sense of warmth behind the clouds.

Out on the roadside there seems to be a nest in every tree, and the battle for territory and mates is hotting up. Bluebell spikes are pushing through (down south I expect they’re already beginning to flower, but here in Bonnie Scotland they are true May denizens) and pussy willows and hazel catkins waft their yellow pollen over everything. Yes, it’s definitely spring. The anti-histamines in my medicine cabinet confirm it, whatever the weather.

And down on the Main Street there’s not a parking space to be had; the cafes are full of damp tourists knocking back Death by Chocolate and giant pieces of gateau, and every house painter on the island is hard at work on one façade or another. We may yet be blessed with another flurry or two of snow, or a run of hard-frost mornings, but the tide has turned. Spring rises, on moontide or storm surge or sun-drenched sea mist, or maybe on a week of sunshine to mark Eastertide. No matter – it comes, regardless, as the blackbirds know. There’s no stopping it now.