I love walking around our little slice of Auckland. There is a lovely balance between familiar and unexpected which makes each walk both a comfort and a discovery.
Auckland’s latitude is about 37 degrees which makes it comparable with San Francisco in the northern hemisphere. You get the ocean but not the fogs. Nice!
The temperature is extremely pleasant. We take a light jacket along which we wear or tie around our waists depending on: whether the sun has peeked between the clouds, what angle the wind is blowing, and (most importantly) how steep is the hill we are climbing. There are lots of hills, which means you get many sudden and unexpected views of Auckland waterways as you stroll.
Another favourite of mine is the flowers and plants. Again, we have a balance of familiar and unexpected. It is spring time here and there are many old favourites: camellias, forget-me-nots, cherry blossoms, and buttercups, to name a few. Roses and geraniums must be able to over-winter here because there are more rather shopworn blossoms than you would expect for early spring. But then, scattered about are stunning surprises: lovely white calla lilies, oranges, even bird-of-paradise. I am forever stopping to dig out my camera to record yet another flower. The locals must think I’m bonkers!
But perhaps the most exciting thing about walking in Auckland is the birds. Oh yes, there are lots of house sparrows and starlings. It seems no matter where I go in this world, house sparrows and starlings have arrived before me. For us there is also a never ending display of new birds: colourful Eastern Rosellas, musical blackbirds, lively hedge sparrows, Dominican gulls, energetic fantails, and more. (Can you tell I bought a bird book?)
My current favourite bird is the tui. This subtly coloured dark bird has two very distinctly fluffy feathers puffing out of its neck which twirl like a cheerleader’s pom-poms when the bird gets really into his sounding off. The amazing thing is that each bird is unique, not in its looks but its call. Tuis are mimics, learning from their environment and from each other. In one of my earlier posts I mentioned a bird that sounded like a squeaky gate. It turns out that was a tui. Actually, to be more precise, a whole flock of tuis. We discovered that on one walk when we came upon a blossoming tree brimming with squeaky gates! And yet, the next batch of tuis flying about a different bay had no trace of squeaky gates in their repertoire. During our forest walk we came upon a tui that I swear was channelling Julia Child. Remember her flutey voice?
Each tui seems to develop its own song which is a string of different tones. There is one outside our bedroom window that starts with song sparrow-like trills, breaks into a two toned doorbell, followed by a rude “Aaak!” that sounds just like the “You got it WRONG” buzzer on a game show. And he starts his calls very early.
I say tuis are my current favourite but if I have to keep listening to that particular bird at 3:30 in the morning, I may change my mind.