Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Family Trait

It's a family trait to be delighted watching animals. When my mother lived in Christchurch she loved going to Orana Park, especially watching the lions being fed. I was telling her on the phone this morning about last night's TV programme Wild Caribbean. There was a sloth dog-paddling slowly across a mangrove lagoon - an incogruous sight.

Later in the programme they showed an uninhabited island where boobies and frigate birds nested side by side. Imagine the pong. And the din. The footage showed frigate birds ganging up to force a booby to disgorge its catch of fish for them to eat. A lazy way of hunting. I felt sorry for the boobies having to run that gauntlet to feed their chicks.

After a conference in Brisbane once Anne and I had a holiday on Heron Island at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. I lay in a hammock absorbed in reading Robin Hyde’s Dragon Rampart, her account of her experiences in the Sino/Japanese War. Such mayhem seemed unreal in that tranquil spot.

I snorkelled and we went out in a glass-bottomed boat out past the reef. I was thrilled to see live turtles swimming. Back at the resort the laundry had a notice asking people to put out the lights. They confused newly hatched turtles which were looking for the phosphorescent gleam of the sea.

All the time there a sole frigate bird hovered over the island. In the scrub behind the resort boobies roosted. I chuckled over their clumsy crash-landings – not the usual delicacy with which most birds handle the process.

The second-to-last time I was in the South Island I drove my mother to my brother Bruce’s deer farm near Mt Hutt. Shortly after we arrived he brought in a little grey piglet, only a few days old. Bruce runs a wild pig boar and sow and there were six new piglets. This one eyes had just opened and it’s ears were big, floppy and soft. Smiling like a kid with its first taste of candy-floss, Mum cuddled it as it snuggled in to the warmth of her body.

There was a fantail twittering outside. Sister-in-law Margaret opened the door and bird fluttered in chasing flies and moths. It was like a scene from a movie, a frail old lady nursing a piglet with this bird twirling and whirling overhead. Apparently it came in daily. The door has been left open and eventually having caught all available insects the bird darted outside. I noticed Bruce had positioned himself to block the little pig should it make a dash for the door.

Margaret closed the door the minute the bird has gone. She explained how it followed Bruce as he walked out along the lawsonia hedge. He brushed the vegetation disturbing insects which the bird then snapped up. I emphasised with and understood that action. It’s the sort of thing I do. I mean, I did. It’s arm-chair viewing now.

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