The bird table has evolved because of the need to know - quickly - where the binoculars and the bird reference books are.
Just this morning, for instance, there was a small group of wading birds fossicking ahead of a turning tide, that looked a bit like oystercatchers but they seemed to be mostly black instead of the black and white 'pied' oystercatcher that we know and love. And if the truth be known, they were just a little portlier than your average oystercatcher, and they were certainly way too chunky to be the rarely seen black stilt.
Thanks to the field guides, we were able to satisfy ourselves that these were probably the "variable oystercatcher" in its "black phase".
These delightful creatures have several different outfits, just to keep the newby bird watchers on our toes!
There was shop talk as well as merriment. And I was delighted to notice that Madame Butterfly herself had a butterfly stamp on her hand. During her visit to Dunedin Rachael managed to take in a visit to the Butterfly Garden at the Otago Museum.
And so back to work for all of us - and blogging - and wondering whether blogging is work or not!
But it's an honour to have taken some time out to be in such fine company.
I've been calling this 'the Goose Room'. It's very quiet, peaceful, except for the song of the land birds and the cries of the shore birds and the sqwawk of the sea birds, and except for when a train thunders by just at the bottom of the garden, and there is no way I am ever going to complain about THAT kind of noise.
This is a very good spot for creative thinking, and just for dreaming.
Here it is, the lounge room from heaven. The rocking chair at last has a really worthy spot to rest, a place of all-weather contemplation of the moody seashore.
There has at last for me, been a successful separation of Life from Work. (Or as much as is possible, anyway.) I live at the bay, and I work in the city. I have a lifestyle once more.
I've been getting used to living on an estuary again, and settling in to the rhythms of natural life. So far I have not connected a landline, there is no TV, no satellite dish, and no internet. There is not even a clock! The longer I delay connecting up to all these, the more I treasure the time away from the hustling and hassling world.
The first thing I wonder when I wake in the morning, is not "What is the time?"; it is "What is the tide?" - and I only have to lift my head to look to see whether the bay is full of water, looking for all the world like a lake - or if it's supermarket shopping time for the bustling bird life that waits, crossing their elegant stilt legs and tapping their toes, for the water to drain away and let them at their dinner.
When I first lived there, I was completely disconnected from the ocean pulse and had no idea what to expect when I first looked out at the day - so it was always a glorious lottery, and whatever I saw was a surprise. It's always beautiful, and it's always different.
But I'm beginning to breathe with the tide and know where I am in relation to it, and now my guesses are getting quite good. Ah, I think, it will be just after the turn now, not much more time for the spoonbills to rake through their side plate before the incoming water breaches the sandbars and inundates the temporary shallow dam that they and the herons find so alluring.
The paradoxical cat has entered birdland. I am now living on a tidal lagoon and I am surrounded by native and introduced trees, and the air is thick with the calls of birds and the whirring of their wings.
Being a word person big time and newly a bird person, I ransacked my ample shelves for the tomes on birds, and found half a dozen books on "NZ Birds". They were useful but wanting. Who would know that facts about birds change?
Every day the bird soap opera changes, depending on the tide, the weather, the time of year. But also over the years new species turn up, or old species disappear. My reference books hadn't kept up with a few of the new developments in my area.
So out I went and bought three delectable ornithological texts - two NZ field guides (one with photos and one with drawings) and the Steve Braunias essay How To Watch a Bird.
As I have said before, I am a fan of the writing of Steve Braunias, and I had been looking forward to reading his bird book (which is another title in the excellent 'Ginger' series of how-to books published by Awa Press).
I'm also a fan of the Ginger series, and I'm gobbling up the Braunias bird book with as much gusto as a spoonbill gobbles up some tasty estuarine delicacy. There's a good review of How to watch a Birdhere making the obvious point that the view through the Braunias 'bins' (bird fraternity jargon for binoculars) is at turns tender and quirky, and altogether reads as a touchingly genuine love story.
I'm learning stuff too (eg that it's 'bins' I have been glued to for days) - and not just the eccentric things.
And here are just some of the birds I have been watching:
Royal spoonbill, fat black tui with starched white bib, flirty fantails at the shady dining room window at the back of the house, the ever so elegant oystercatchers, mollymawk, hawks, finches, rosellas, a kingfisher on the power line above my deck, black swans and all manner of ducks, bellbirds, magpies, geese, finches, sparrows and blackbirds, gulls, pied stilts, ooh and the caspian tern with their swept back glossy Elvis hairdo. And the magnificent black shags sunning their wings.
And one of the most welcome swallows was the first sip of a glass of chilled fine wine on the balcony at evening.
Alas, being late autumn, this year I have missed the godwits and various other migratory species that have already taken off "towards another summer". I am on tenterhooks until spring. And I'm so glad that for some reason a pair of newbie spoonbills have elected to stay behind. I hope they'll be OK.
According to the famous mathematical thought experiment, Schroedinger's cat is neither dead nor alive. So it's a cool concept if you don't like being locked into binaries. Not so good if you don't like being locked into a lethal booby-trapped box. And from the cat's point of view, there is no ambiguity at all.