Spring is here. How do I know? Well I’ve had my first sea swim of the season and then yesterday on a rare foray onto a golf course, one of my playing partners was very close to getting hypothermia. These two incidents and of course the insane amount of native and naturalized birds that are swooping around the garden chasing each other. The Tuis are the most dramatic, the Kereru (native pigeon) are much more sedate lurching around like the Teletubbies of yore, comically bending slim branches when two alight simultaneously.

My favourites at the moment are two pairs of Paradise Shelduck, an attractive goose-sized duck, that have set up shop nesting in the dead trees across the valley. To my shame I had to check on google as to whether they were native to the country – and they are. Their real first name is Putangitangi. DOC (Dept of Conservation) helpfully tell me how they sound, the male says “zonk, zonk” the females say “zeek, zeek”. I don’t think they’ve nailed it, have a listen to this recording. Usually they nest on the ground but my new friends are amongst the few that nest in trees. Helpful given the amount of cats around in this neighbourhood. Click here to find out more.

They’re bloody noisy in the morning but I prefer them to next doors poodle who on weekdays barks at what seems to be 4.30 every morning – but to be fair is probably later.

Anyway New Zealand being the country it is, has a Bird of the Year competition where you can vote for your very own favourite. (voting closes tomorrow night, click here to make your vote). The contest sounds like something Donald Trump might own.

This year I voted for the Takahe following a Twitter call out (yes, yes, you get it) by someone I follow. But after my brief googling to check up on the Putangitangi I was horrified to see that it is not even on the voting list. The Takahe is currently on 127 votes, the blue beaked Kokaho is winning easily on nearly 1300. But when the results come in, like Trump, I just won’t accept them, its clearly a rigged vote. My new friends aren’t even on the ballot paper.

Pete Carter is the author of This is Us. Due out in June 2020 it will be published by Exisle and tells the story of more than 200 New Zealanders in words and pictures. The book is really a portrait of the nation and how it is made up. Pete wrote Our Dog Benji a children’s book illustrated by his nephew, published by EK in 2017. He is also the author of two books of poetry. He has had magazine articles published and poetry in anthologies. As a photographer he has had two solo exhibitions and work included in group exhibitions in NZ and overseas and has sold work to and been commissioned by corporate clients.

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