Steam whistles are unmistakable for anything else.
I heard it howling as it crossed the bridge at Moera and saw the plume of steam and smoke as she raced around the curve from Ava to Woburn towards the stop at Waterloo. I had intended to be down there to catch the steam train crossing the bridge. I must investigate these things called mornings one day. Mary suggested a trip to Zealandia, and since the day was looking good I readily agreed. My usual first stop was down by the lower lake where the shags were tending their chicks in the nests on the Eastern side. It’s a fairly casual sort of nurture, with the chicks squawking piteously until the absentee parent eventually shows up and the feeding begins.
Yesterday Zealandia was brilliant. There was enough warmth in the air for the entire avian chorus to be in full-throated song. Warblers, bell birds, tuis and kakas, saddlebacks, stitchbirds and kakariki all sang merrily. Considering that the saddleback was on the verge of extinction, what a delight it was to see five or six of them competing with each other for the most joyful song. Truth to tell, the song of the saddleback will win no musical competitions. To my ear, it is a shrill manic giggle which you can hear at this link from nzbirdsonline.org.nz.
My favourite call is that of the grey warbler, but though its cascading notes are everywhere, I have had little success catching it with the lens. Another favourite is the clear perfect chime of the bellbird. I am not sure what was happening with this one, whether it simply having a bad hair day, or as a friend suggested, putting on some sort of mating display. The astounding and wonderful thing about Zealandia is that these birds are free and wild. No wires, no cages. Lots of scientific study occurs and the environment in which the birds can prosper is set up. A magical place.
At the end of the afternoon, I had an appointment with a friend that involved “a wee dram”. However, I had checked the timetable of that steam locomotive’s excursion so before going there, I positioned myself near the Petone flyover in the hope of catching it is it burst out from under the bridge for the run along the harbour’s edge to Wellington. I know that this cloud of smoke and steam is at odds with the values of Zealandia, but I am glad that the good people at Steam Incorporated are doing their bit for conservation of another kind. J1271 and her sisters are things of beauty too.
That’s all for today.