Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Canary Meets Famous Ave

There is a new check mark on this canary's life list! ...Now, in my last post I mentioned that me and my lovely friend Kirsten have long been planning to visit some of New Zealand's most prominent, native birds. Well, a few weeks ago, Kirsten, Kevin, and I had the honor of meeting none other than Sirocco Kakapo. We originally wanted to dress Tilly up as a kakapo but you had to be at least three years old to attend the tour so Rhys had some great Dad and Tilly time. Not only is Sirocco indubitably Aotearoa's most noteworthy celebrity bird, he has also been named the "Spokesbird for Conservation" by the Prime Minister.

Sirocco spends most of his days down south on Maud Island but he certainly laps up the praise and prestige he receives from his many adoring fans. So, he is known to occasionally pull himself away from life on his little island to do a New Zealand tour. Meanwhile, Kir and I spend most of our days in Auckland getting hassled by our friends for loving a celebrity bird. soon as word reached our ears that Sirocco would be coming up to the Waikato, not only the farthest north he's been recently but also a mere 2(ish) hours away from Auckland, we went into a planning frenzy. Our hopes were nearly dashed when the Sirocco tours sold out before we had a chance to book tickets, however Sirocco extended his tour and we jumped on our second chance to meet him.

The day finally arrived for Kev, Kir, and I to sally forth to meet Sirocco. So we donned our homemade Sirocco tribute t-shirts and made the 2.5 hour journey down to Maungatautari Ecological Island. The t-shirts made us very popular with the volunteers at Maungatautari and it felt like we got special attention from them because of it. After a short slide show which included funny little tales about Sirocco and his love of people, the three of us boarded the van for a winding moonlight ride to meet him. We may or may not have been snickering to ourselves about someone in the tour who pronounced his name "Sir-row-co."

(Real Sirocco plumage)

In starstruck glee, we power walked up to Sirocco's enclosure and then had to wait for the rest of the group to catch up. And then, it happened; we saw Sirocco! Unlike other bird exhibits where you are cautioned to be silent, Sirocco loves people so you are encouraged to talk and get his attention. The greatest highlight of the night came when Sirocco strutted over, looked straight at us, and mustered a mighty "Skraaark!!!"

The photos may seen dark and grainy but we were actually lucky to get such good ones as flash photography was not permitted.

What's that, you'd like to hear some interesting fasts about Kakapo? Well for starters, like many of New Zealand's native birds, Kakapo are flightless. Something unique about kakapo is their call; when male kakapo want to capture the attention of kakapo ladies, they dig a bowl in the ground and "boom" which is actually a very drum-like sound that can be heard up to two miles away. When they boom, they puff out into a fluffy ball. Another interesting fact is that kakapo can and do live up to 100 years. Probably the most interesting fact about kakapo is that there are currently only 125 left in the world which makes meeting Sirocco such a rare privilege.

All that considered, rebuilding the kakapo species is a work in progress but hope is not lost as was believed about 20 some years ago when researchers thought there were no more female kakapo left in the world. Also, with their lifespan, kakapo aren't especially in a hurry to do anything and don't mate every year. For any Lord of the Rings fans out there, are you thinking of Ents like I am?

Almost as amazing as meeting Sirocco was waking up Monday morning to find that we got a personal mention on Sirocco's facebook page. The three of us were very pleased and look forward to our next adventure!