I just went outside in the dark to rescue Petra’s sheets off the clothesline. I couldn’t see much of anything (it’s dark by about 5:30 these days) but I could hear lots of evocative noises. The yells of children at soccer practice on the local playing field, cars in the distance, a plane overheard, and closest of all, a Morepork. It’s living in one of the huge macrocarpa trees in the council land behind our house and I hear it often at dusk. A Morepork is a native owl. The early European settlers thought its cry sounded like more pork, more pork, hence the name. The bird’s Maori name is ruru, another representation of the sound it makes. It’s a very distinctive and eerie call, one that I haven’t heard since I lived in a village in the bush as a child. I love it that I can hear it now right outside my door in suburban Wellington.
Of course, suburban Wellington is not exactly a concrete jungle. Due to the tricky topography, Wellington’s suburbs are clusters of houses clinging to hillsides with steep valleys and higher hills all around. You can see forest and/or farms from pretty much everywhere in Wellington city, and if you can’t, it’s because you’re overlooking the harbour. The fact that you’re always on the edge of town is one of Wellington’s great charms. The city doesn’t overwhelm the landscape it sits in. And this allows the local wildlife to co-exist with the local people.
The advent of Zealandia, a predator-proof wildlife reserve just south of us in the suburb of Karori, has also done wonders for the bird and small animal populations in the whole region. They have a safe place to breed and have spread out into the surrounding communities from the haven of Zealandia.