In a room at the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre, the walls are covered in history.
There are photos documenting the various birds Robert and Robyn Webb have rescued during their 30-plus years of operation; there are paintings and drawings of the famous birds who lived there – like Snoopy the one-legged kiwi who died in 2007, and Woof Woof the talking tui who died in 2011; and there are letters from the early 2000s thanking the Webbs.
It's obvious the Whangārei couple have made an impression on people over the years.
Reporter Mikaela Collins and photographer Tania Whyte spent an afternoon at the Maunu centre to find out more about the place and the people behind it.
As you arrive at the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre you're greeted by doves, pigeons and the sound of birds singing.
But you wouldn't expect anything different.
Robert Webb is seated at a picnic table, chatting to a bloke.
He's a natural when it comes to talking to all the different people who drop in. His wife Robyn – who says Robert is definitely more comfortable with big groups than she is – will tell you that.
"Come around the back, I've got a couple of visitors here. I'm going to pull out the kiwi," Robert says as the Advocate arrives.
The visitors are Martin Janik and Vendula Lecbychova from the Czech Republic. They're finishing their New Zealand trip in Northland.
The pair are looking at the birds in the outdoor aviaries when Robert appears and leads them down to Sparky's enclosure.
"He's got his own little two-bedroom apartment," Robert tells them, "and if he doesn't want to live in there, he's got his log cabin."
Sparky is the centre's one-legged kiwi who lost his other leg in a gin trap out in the wild. He's lived there since 2002 and follows in the foot step of Snoopy, the one-legged kiwi who lived at the Webbs' home until he died in 2007.
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As Robert holds Sparky and allows the visitors to pat him, their excitement shows in their wide eyes and broad smiles.
He then places Sparky on the ground and allows Martin and Vendula to feed him.
"They don't allow this anywhere else but here," Robert says.
Robert's love for birds stretches back to when he was a child.
"I never had budgies or canaries or that, I just always liked the wild birds. I had a fascination with the wild birds, there was something about them," he says, sitting at the same picnic table he was at earlier.
He would take birds home – like sparrows – and play with them.
And he continued doing that.
Even when he was a truck driver for the likes of Winstone's, he was a part-time bird rescuer.
"I'd be going through to Auckland and I'd see an injured bird on the road – like a harrier hawk – so I'd pick it up and bring it home.
"Driving around Auckland with a harrier hawk sitting on the passenger seat, you'd be hoping like hell he wouldn't start flying around the cab," he laughs.
He would bring the birds home and the next day he'd pop into the local vet in Kamo who would provide medication and give Robert advice on how to care for them.
That happened more and more and in the end he and Robyn decided they should "really do something more" to help the birds.
The Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre
"Birds were here long before man was here."
If you've met Robert, you might have heard him say that.
It's the reason he believes so strongly in helping the feathered creatures; the reason why the Whangārei Bird Recovery Centre was founded more than 30 years ago.
Before the centre opened at its current location in Maunu, it was based at the Webb family home in Tikipunga and funded out of their own pockets.
"We had quite a multitude of birds there, of course. At any one time at home we'd have 30-odd birds, very similar to here actually. We had cages under the house that I made.''
Robert disappears inside and comes out with two photo albums – a smaller album filled with photos taken when the rescue operation was based at home, and a larger one with pictures documenting the building of the centre at its current site.
"I had lots of birds at home. I had a North Island kākā who could talk, Rowdy. We had Snoopy, my first kiwi who used to live at our home.
"That was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made because having him at home, it meant you couldn't go away on holiday and leave him with someone because he'd get too upset,'' he says.
Eventually Robert and Robyn decided they needed a place for the birds away from where they lived.
They knew they could do more, and they were losing their privacy.
"What would happen is 5pm would come around and we'd sit down to have tea and people would be bringing birds in and we couldn't get a meal. People would still bring birds in at 10pm at night. So we thought we really needed somewhere to work out of."
The couple have been married for 51 years.
Robert says Robyn always liked birds too, but probably not to the same degree as he did.
He reckons it was an "addiction" of his which Robyn had to go along with.
Not long after he says that, Robyn walks out.
"Yeah I did. I got sucked into it," she laughs.
While Robert is the one who faces the public, goes into schools, and fronts big groups, Robyn works behind the scenes.
But don't be mistaken, she loves birds.
"I really love it when we get injured birds in and we can send them home again. Set them free, send them home. It's such an achievement," she proudly says.
"I hate to think of birds being left lying on the side of the road, in the middle of the road, or somewhere injured when they could be picked up and brought in to us. Even if it's just a little bird, I have nightmares."
Life as a bird rescuer
The line to the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre diverts to the Webbs' home phone.
It means being a volunteer bird rescuer is a 24/7 kind of job.
"We probably still get two or three of those overnight callouts every week.
"Early one morning I had to go down to Mill Rd, there was a big traffic jam because there was a wandering albatross sitting in the middle of the road there. That was about 10 years ago now."
Robert says birds arrive at the centre from all around Northland. Fastway Couriers has supported the centre by collecting birds from vet clinics in the Far North and transporting them to Whangārei.
"They've been doing that for years out of their own expense.''
The number of birds at the clinic at any one time varies throughout the year. At this time of the year there's about 25, but from October to February – during chick season – they get up to 20 per day.
And then there's the jolly season.
For kūkupa that's from about April to June – guava and other berries are plentiful, the greedy birds stuff their faces, and the warm weather means the berries ferment and turn into alcohol.
"You know you're going to get the local drunks in," Robert laughs.
His work does not go unrecognised. In 2011 he received an Honorary Associate award from NorthTec, and about 12 years earlier he received a Queen's Service Medal for Public Service.
"That QSM showed that what we're doing is something worthwhile. The only disappointment for me was why didn't Robyn get it as well? So many women miss out on getting something where the husband achieves something."
Robert wraps up his tour of the centre in a room where the walls are plastered with photos, art work from school children, and thank you letters.
By now the Czech Republic visitors are overwhelmed. They've had the opportunity to touch and feed a kiwi and hold a kiwi egg, pat a kingfisher, and hold a kūkupa.
"This is more than we had imagined," Martin says with a wide smile.
The impact the centre has on people was made clear when Robert was searching for sponsors after Northpower - which had been the centre's major sponsor for the past 12 years - withdrew its $14,000 annual funding earlier this year.
A Givealittle page was set up by Northland internet and phone provider Uber Group Ltd and within eight weeks $14,784 had been donated by 274 people.
"That was fabulous," Robert says.
"It means a lot. Because it proves to us the public appreciate it."
But despite the QSM, the Honorary Associate award, and all the thanks he gets, Robert's favourite part of the job is simple - when they see a bird fly away.
''That's when you feel like you've achieved something. You're letting it go back in the wild. It's going back to where it should be.''
"And they don't even say thanks to you."