Without stretching the truth even a tiny bit in the interest of storytelling, I believe that the Tui began to work his way into my heart the very first morning that we woke up in our house in Auckland. In that 4:30 a.m. topsy turvy and mixed-up jet-lagged early morning and the 10 or so that followed, I would lie in bed hoping for sleep and wondering -- is that a ... bird??
Never had I heard a bird sing a whole lovely little song, with many different notes and possibly a rest, if I can remember back to my clarinet days. Each time, the same little song. Not a tweet tweet or a caw or a coo, but a whole song. A beautiful gorgeous lovely song that, in my pre-dawn brain haze, sounded like sweet heavenly bells.
As I began walking for miles and miles exploring our new city and trying to wake up, I heard the song everywhere -- in Churchill Park, on the trail behind the houses on Robley Crescent, at Tahuna Torea nature preserve on the way to the sandspit. As much as I heard the song, I could never see the bird that was singing it and I really wanted to. Finally I learned that this magical creature I was seeking was the Tui bird when we ran into our friend Helen at an art gallery and saw some ceramic Tui's on the wall there. I asked her what they were because of the odd bubbly little tuft of white feathers on its neck, talked for a bit about them and then put it all together. About time!
Tui birds were our constant companions as we hiked, climbed, walked, and paddled our way through New Zealand. Their song was the first thing I heard when we woke up every morning and at least two of them hung out high above our home each day, with their crazy assortment of obnoxious (but charming!) sounds. I read that they are very smart and can mimic human speech like a parrot. The beautiful song is only a small portion of the repertoire. The rest includes braying like donkeys, clicking, and cackling. They also make sounds that aren't audible to humans. And they didn't like to be photographed, but Dennis spotted one behind the Lemonade Farm cottage one afternoon and I was able to get some shots at last. With just weeks to spare! Hooray, hooray Dennis!!
As we approached the 22nd of January, I tried very hard to get some good video on the kids' iPods because I knew that I'd not hear another Tui once we boarded the plane to go home. As much as I love them, I have to say they are very stubborn! I swear those birds knew when I came out with the iPod and would either stop singing altogether or just do a few notes here and there. This is the best I could get, but it's really only half of what I heard when I wasn't filming. Cheeky little bastards! You'll all have to get over there one day and hear my beloved Tui birds for yourself. Like everything else, I promise that just this alone is enough reason to make the trip.
Oh right, so the license plate. The registration on my truck expired just before we got home and since Dennis had started calling me Tui, I changed my plates from honoring the Florida Gators to honoring our time in New Zealand. There's a NZ Air Force sticker on the back window too. And the gator stayed. Hope there's no Wild Kingdom episodes in the making back there.
Enjoy the long weekend, everyone. xo to you all, K.