Monday, July 13, 2009


Who doesn't like piwakawaka (aka fantail)? They're so curious, and they seem so sociable, and their ingenious breathtaking aerobatics are so impressive as they swoop and dive and change direction and fake stall just like a cavalier air show pilot.

One of the greatest delights of moving to the house by the bay has been the friendship of the fantails. I know, I know, just because they follow me around the garden in a playful cloud doesn't REALLY mean they like me and they are there for the pleasure of my company! I realise that as I clomp around in my gumboots I'm stirring up the tasty little insects they love to catch on the wing, and that it's going to be worth keeping near me because of that...

But all the same their visits are received like benedictions, and I interpret their presence as a sacred thing, as a sign and as a loving communication from another world.

O little Tiwa Waka,
O kind little wing!
I've seen a woman hunt you,
With haste and muttering.

She said it was unlucky,
She drove you out with cries,
For when a fantail flies within
A son or neighbour dies.

Unlucky! It's an honour,
A bird flying through.
He had the whole sweet countryside,
And yet he came to you.

- Eileen Duggan

This clever little fantail (pictured sheltering under the eaves in a snow storm) regularly patrols the cobwebs on the outside of the house and gobbles up the fresh insects trapped there before the spider comes to claim them.

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