I think that sparrows are the rabbits of the sky.
On the branch so high,
A grey sparrow and her mate
Flutter, joined as one.
Mating house sparrows are everywhere, this summer.
Chattering in twos and threes on the guttering of the house, romping on the grass, sipping tepid water from the bird bath, dusting themselves in small leafy hollows under the feijoa trees, dangling (joined) from slim, twiggy branches, coupling in flight (just about!).
At around 6.30 am, the tui announces the imminent dawn. This wakes up the sparrows, which then start up a loud chirruping and whistling chorus in surround-sound. The only direction the sound doesn’t seem to come from is under the house.
Do we have a sparrow problem? Perhaps, but I can’t be cross with these small grey bundles of feathers, as they are so endearing.
The sparrows are almost as well-trained as our hens. They fly in from all directions when the hens are called for wheat or a cob of corn, and they’ll fly down to the pellet feeder when one of the hens puts her foot on it to open the lid. Sometimes they fly out from the feeder when we’ve opened the lid to check on food levels. And we once found a dead sparrow in the feeder – a young one.
They also help out with keeping control of the caterpillars and grubs. A green caterpillar wriggling in a sparrow’s beak is a common sight – the avian equivalent of a pizza delivery. Fast food, but not fast enough!
House Sparrows were liberated in New Zealand in the 1860s and soon inhabited most localities apart from forests and mountain ranges. Moon, Lynette, Know Your New Zealand… Birds (2006), New Holland Publishers (NZ) Ltd.
The holes in the leaves are made by the caterpillar of the kawakawa looper moth (Cleora scriptaria) and interestingly, the leaves with holes are especially suitable for tea as they have the most concentrated medicinal properties.
The resulting tea was surprisingly enjoyable. I’m not really a herbal tea person, but the flavour was very refreshing and hard to define. The aroma of the hot tea was especially tempting, too.
Project for the future: Make a batch of soap using strong kawakawa tea.