As I walk through the auburn leaves dropping, face chilled by the autumn breeze, I think of the upcoming winter months as a gardener. The cool dark mornings, frosted ground, iced fingers and dormant trees, but yet a feeling of anticipation overwhelms me. The feeling you get when looking forward to an old friend or relatives’ arrival. The feeling of a warm presence before, yes that’s right, I did say warm! I am looking forward to the even closer encounters with the ever-present New Zealand native birds that flourish at Larnach Castle on the Otago Peninsula.
Now the plants are winding down for the winter, so is the nectar fodder for our liquid feeding friends. A large sugar feeder is placed in the kowhai for all to enjoy over these cold months. Bellbird, tui and wax-eye alike all gather to have a sweet treat. Visitors in disbelief of the sheer number of birds, often hear them before they are seen. “Is that a tape or CD” is a comment often said.
The many native plantings at the Castle including kowhai, kaka beak, rimu, totara, miro, kahikatea and rata create a thriving environment for the native birds as these types of trees have been on the Otago Peninsula for millenia.
The swoop of the woodpigeons giant wings is enough to make anyone duck, only to realise they’re in a nearby kowhai or tree-lucerne straining the spindly branched with their weight, happily munching away.
A day never goes by without a feathered tale to tell. While buckling over with pain after giving myself a stick in the ribs by running into a tree stump (don’t ask!), I noticed what at first glimpse looked like a fantail. I used what breath I had left to mumble to my work mate Sam (who had come running to my yell of pain), “Look at that beautiful fantail.”
“But where’s its tail?” he replied. After gathering myself off the forest floor, we realised it was a tomtit!! Its presence seems to instantly take the pain away. Lucky us, a rare sight to be seen!
No matter what section of the Castle Gardens you are in, an encounter of the feathered natives is almost inevitable. They seem to welcome you in and guide you as you go. Whether it is their beautiful song, swooshing of wings or just their peaceful presence, they really do capture the sound of the land around the Otago Peninsula.
So as for the garden tours being self-guided, I beg to differ!
Giovanna Penno – Apprentice Gardener - Larnach Castle