Former Goodies star talks about birds

By Kaysha Brownlie

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Bill Oddie holding a tuatara, enjoys an afternoon with Cape Sanctuary owner Andy Lowe. Photo / Warren Buckland
Bill Oddie holding a tuatara, enjoys an afternoon with Cape Sanctuary owner Andy Lowe. Photo / Warren Buckland

Once an egg-stealing youngster and now a household name, British comedian and birdwatcher Bill Oddie OBE is in the Bay to share his tales.

The 74-year-old arrived in Hawke's Bay yesterday morning, he likened the landscape to Scotland, but was soon introduced to a rugged coast, and native birds and foliage.

Yesterday, he was treated to a personal tour of Cape Sanctuary, the largest privately owned and funded wildlife restoration project of its kind in New Zealand, by none other than owners Andy and Liz Lowe.

Best known for his comedy screen antics as a member of The Goodies alongside Tim Brooke-Taylor and Graeme Garden, Mr Oddie will tonight share tales of ornithology (bird watching) and conservation, in association with the Royal Society of New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and Zealandia.

He is also known for writing several ornithology and conservation books, and has fronted a string of natural-history documentaries.

Mr Oddie has visited New Zealand - the first was about 50 years ago and the second in the 80s.

When asked what piqued his interest in birds, he said growing up in Rochdale, near Manchester, school boys robbed birds' nests of their eggs. From there, it spiralled into a fascination of everything birds.

He said he was rarely without his binoculars, which were strung around his neck, within reach to marvel at the picturesque sea view from Mr Lowe's Ocean Beach residence.

The comedian was also treated to a trek through the sanctuary where takahe and other native species roam safely within predator-free fences. He was shown kiwi and weta, as well as vibrant blue takahe, and, while he had seen four tuatara at different venues already, it was the first time he had held one.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council's land services manager Campbell Leckie, who accompanied him, said having Mr Oddie visit reiterated the importance of restoring species' populations.

He said, in terms of Britain, if bird numbers dwindled in one area, often other areas were not affected, but in New Zealand if species become extinct then "that's it".

Passionate about increasing the flora and fauna in New Zealand, Mr Lowe said 30 per cent of birds had become extinct during the past 200 years and 40 per cent of the 70 per cent which were left were declining or seriously threatened.

"We're honoured to have him [Bill] here ... giving us inspiration and ideas on how we can enhance what we're doing and move forward."

Mr Oddie said it surprised him monitoring predators was a main priority in New Zealand because in Britain it was not. "Cape Sanctuary's role is huge."

- Tonight's show, at 7.30pm Lowe Family Performing Arts Centre at Lindisfarne College, general admission $15. Royal Society of New Zealand members, students and under-18 $10

- Hawkes Bay Today

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