Every year in New Zealand a bird of the year is announced – it used to be fairly random but now it seems factions are formed & people lobby for their favourite native bird, before votes are cast…
This year the Kereru or wood pigeon won, so I thought I’d post my favourite recording of Kereru and how I came to record it…
Back at the end of 1998 I headed down South to see my parents for Christmas, without any other plans in mind but I caught up with my friends Ian and Eddie in Christchurch and I convinced them a road trip for New Year would be a good idea… So approx December 29th I picked them up & we drove across the alps and down to Haast, at the bottom of the West Coast where we stayed for a couple of nights & celebrated New Year.
Funnily enough back then the only person with a camera was Eddie who had a Super 8 camera with him… But I had my trusty Tascam DAP1 portable DAT machine, an MKH416 shotgun mic plus a second 416 I had borrowed from John Neill at the Film Unit. I did a bit of recording, capturing some beautiful distant single waves at Neils Beach (which went on to be used lots in the Gaylene Preston film Perfect Strangers)
By about January 2nd we had travelled north up the coast, eventually reaching Karamea.. It was a sunny day so I was keen to go recording but my drinking buddies wanted to go to the pub in Karamea so I dropped them off there and went for a drive, ‘looking’ for interesting sounds… which meant driving around with the windows down, listening out for birds etc…
I remember driving along a gravel back road and hearing some Tuis singing, so I pulled over, grabbed my DAT machine & mics and quietly got out of the car… I hit record and started to verbally identify what the recording was, but I only got to say the very first part of “This will be… ” when suddenly a group or flock of kereru took off from the tree I was parked directly in front of! It was one of those moments I will never forget, all I could do was freeze – it was so unexpected! Here was I thinking I would be recording Tui birdsong for the next half hour, and I was instantly gifted this beautiful sound:
There is a saying attributed to Albert Szent-Gyorgyi Quotes: “A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.” Similarly a great recording often only occurs due to an accident or an unpredictable sonic situation meeting a prepared recordist!
This experience taught me to always be in record!!
Nerdlinger note: if I Get Info on the original SD2 file, it says creation date is 12 January 1999 which would have been when I digitised the recording… that is one aspect of old tech I don’t miss i.e. the real time transfer of recordings to hard disk!
It is one aspect of why I love living where I do, on the edge of a bush reserve in Plimmerton – effectively I am one human living amongst a community of birds. There are maybe five or six Kereru who live in the immediate area, and for example when I first moved in here I planted three kowhai trees as I had read Tui and other birds love the nectar from the yellow flowers. Sure enough, three years later the small trees are flowering and attract birds… Apart from their bird song, it is also fascinating to watch the different flight styles of species of birds, eg I was working in the garden the other day and four Kereru flew through from up the hill and it felt like I was watching a military parade with a flyby of four mustangs!
Here is some slow mo (shot at 120fps) footage of two Kereru hanging out on the power cables that come up to my house… The only time I curse at the Kereru is when I am leaving the house, lost in thought and not really paying attention to my surroundings.. And just as I walk down the path to the car, a Kereru who has been quietly munching away on a bush or shrub will suddenly launch in panic at my sudden appearance… which will in turn give me one hell of a fright, every freaking time!!