Their encounter had all the makings of the grand finale of a blockbuster romance, but it took me a while to figure that out.
Scene: It was a clear day and I sat on the deck sipping a cuppa. The sea was a mirror near the shore, while a busy breeze sent waves bustling along the middle of the Otamatea River.
Camera one: Wide angle, but directed at a distant approaching speck with a wake fanning behind it. Perhaps it's the fin of a fish swimming downriver in the calm inky water by the shore. It's about 300m away and getting closer. For some time it's too distant to identify.
Camera two: Focuses on a duck which launches itself from the beach below our house and heads towards the nearing speck which also becomes a duck. Their V-shaped wakes fan wider as they get closer until the impossibly charming and romantic inevitable ending reveals itself.
The birds meet and, after a small flurry of flapping and circling, set off towards me. Awwww. It's the cutest thing.
Our place is HQ for courting birds. Two oystercatchers spend hours on the beach standing, rather oddly, on just one leg. If they move, they hop. Their behaviour is so peculiar the farmer was half convinced they'd each lost a leg.
Then the cats and I were drawn into an upstairs bedroom by squawking and flapping. A bird had fallen down the chimney and was caught in a sealed fireplace which I doubt had been used for the best part of a century.
After I'd locked out the cats, I opened the French doors, peeled back the fireplace cover, stood aside, shut my eyes and ducked for cover as a bird flapped to freedom. A blackbird. It circled many times before it grasped the exit location.
And that's when I noticed a second bird standing on the carpet by the French doors. Oh, two birds had been trapped. It appeared that bird two had worked things out so fast I hadn't even seen it. It waited, perhaps even tapping its foot with impatience, while its partner who wasn't the smartest bird in the nest got a grip on what to do next.
When the silly circling bird flew to freedom its Mensa candidate mate followed, calm as.
Fast forward a month and, arriving home, I unlock the hall door and am met by a flapping blackbird. I've freaked it out and it arrows down the shot-gun hall where it hits the glass door at the other end. Thunk!
I race to its rescue just beating the cat. It's concussed but not dead.
Outside, I put it under a metal cage in the carport so it can recover. Then the farmer shows up so I show him the bird which is now looking good to go. And sure enough, off it flies.
Meanwhile, the farmer's grabbed a second blackbird in the living room. He sets it free as well.
The same pair of blackbirds? I'd bet on yes. Once you start noticing birds, you realise they have set habitats and return to the same place each year.
Although it would be good if the plover nesting on a small gravel pile in the middle of a local carpark could find a new location next year. Then the road cones guarding her new family could be used elsewhere.
An endearing family of white-faced herons nests in a macrocarpa behind the house. We've also had plenty of kukupa (keruru) and tui visiting of late.
Luckily, birds get a pretty clear run here because the cats are totally fixated by an out-of-control rabbit population.
They bring them inside alive and dead. Given the chance, they release live ones and toy endlessly with them. Yes, they're pests, but I return unharmed rabbits to what I hope is their home base.
If they're dead, the cats demolish all but the tail, guts and perhaps a paw or two. They even eat the heads, ears and all.
A favourite place for toying with rabbits and the occasional mouse is the bathroom with all its pleasing nooks. Although, things weren't pleasing Pele so much when the farmer found our little cat locked in the shower while a mouse scampered around the room.