Gathan Beaga

Riroriro

This afternoon I saw my first Grey Warbler (Riroriro). There are quite a few around where we live, and I often hear them as I walk to work. They are not always easy to see, by all accounts, as they are quite small – even smaller than the Waxeye (Tauhou). Apparently they are the favourite host of the Shining Cuckoo – my friend Phil (who is much more of a bird expert than me) was asking me if I had heard many Grey Warblers or Cuckoos, as it seems their numbers are diminishing. The arrival of the cuckoos each year from the Pacific seems to be some sort of local signifier of spring – much as my father on his hill country farm in the south of the South Island looks for the arrival of a quite different species of bird… but that’s a story for another day here.

Today was a strange sort of a day – starting cool and grey, then rain poured in from the north for most of the late morning and early afternoon. After it stopped we went to the Supermarket for our usual Sunday afternoon shop. We were coming down our steps toward home, laden down with groceries (114 steps with a full tramping pack). The sun had finally come out while we were doing the shopping, and now it was bright yellow and intense, warm too in the way that the late afternoon in springtime can be. There was birdsong everywhere, the blackbirds in particular seeming to be pleased to see the rain off. In a tree ahead of us somewhere I could hear a Grey Warbler; the sun was shining through the leaves and I thought I might actually see it.

I did. Small, fast, grey… and fairly non-descript really. It stopped and sang a few notes, then flitted away into a tree above and behind me. I called out to Becky and Bella, but they missed it.

I think I must be turning into a twitcher. Why else would I get so excited about seeing such a dully plumed little bird?