The Wing-Friends and Other Books

In Blogger's slideshows images are greatly reduced, so lose much of their impact. And captions added to them in Picasa Albums vanish, so the images shown above are: the Milky Way, the Orion Nebula, Earth, Earth with New Zealand circled, New Zealand, Auckland & the Hauraki Gulf, Waiheke Island, some native NZ forest, a Fantail and chicks, various doves, etc.

(If you want to see the first ten images in their original size, they are in a posting made on the 24th of November 2011.)

My book The Wing-Friends is an imaginative tale of a small brave boy, a magical adventure, a magnificent Pegasus and the wonderful Kingdom of the Pegasi. It has been given very good reviews, and virtually every reader on Goodreads has so far awarded it five stars. It is available here. Some of my other writings are available as e-books, such as The Lower Deck, which is an over-the-top take on Waiheke happenings--sort of.

Monday, 21 November 2011


I live and work in a magnificent native forest on Waiheke Island in New Zealand's Hauraki Gulf--trees up to 25 metres high, a lush understorey, and birdlife galore. Tuis sing all day, and on moonlit nights. Moreporks (our native owl) call through the night. Native wood-pigeons woosh through the trees. Grey warblers and Kingfishers flit hither and thither. Fantails flit everywhere, even coming very close in their perpetual hunt for insects on the wing. Sometimes there is a kaka, and this summer a Shining Cuckoo has been sounding its distinctive song (they migrate down to New Zealand from the Solomon Islands etc).

For many years I have had blackbirds eating from my hand outside my office, in particular one female and her chicks. She became so friendly that I dubbed her Mrs Friendly. Blackbirds are cheesaholics. They cannot resist little cubes of Colby cheese (about 3mm square). So I was able to tame Mrs Friendly by feeding her in the same place, sitting very still, then one day I put the cheese on my hand and after a few timid attempts she took it.

But earlier this year I was invaded by doves from somewhere--like the ones in the picture: white, beautiful birds. They came to roost high in the trees on this place, not far from the front door. It was not long before they noticed what the blackbirds were doing, and started copying them. Poor Mrs Friendly! The little feathers on the crown of her head rose in fear when she was trying to eat from my hand and doves came along. Soon, to my great regret, she departed. I have not seen her for months, and her former mate has a new mate. Blackbirds are said to mate for life so perhaps she has died.

But more and more doves came, and three chicks were born recently, so now there are twelve. They all became tamer and tamer, until days like today has been have become the usual. I opened my front door at seven o'clock this morning to be greeted by all twelve. As soon as I came out some flew to my hands to try to be first to what I was holding, and when I bent down to reveal two hands full of cheese cubes there were instantly a dozen heads all battling to get their share.

Every time I opened the door during the day, doves flew at me, landing on my hands and arms, wanting something to eat, or just to perch. They are so relaxed there that they sometimes settle down for a long rest, or stand on one leg as birds do when they are relaxing, or come as a pair and groom each other after they have eaten. I have had them land on my shoulder a few times, even my head once.

They also come right inside. Eight came in today, the first time that many have. I have had up to five before, but eight is a record. One in particular, which only came out of the egg a few weeks ago, likes to rush in, even when the door is only slightly ajar, because he knows that he will get food much more easily that way than having to battle with the crowd outside. He has very distinctive feathering on his feet--far more feathers, and longer ones, than any of the others, so I call him BigFeet. Some doves have no feathers on their feet, like the one in the picture, others have a few or many. BigFeet is unique in my small flock. That name was particularly appropriate when he was younger and therefore smaller, because he looked all feet. He is still the smallest, but he can stand up for himself.

He has become very tame, and bold. It is hard to get him outside once he has come in. He hunts for food hither and thither, and waits for me to drop some more, then he pecks it up more cleanly than any vacuum-cleaner.

They all have their ways of communicating what they want. The most obvious is to fly to my hand and look for food there.

One bird has a very gentle way of telling me what she wants. She was the first to fly to my hand, so I first called her Friendly Female, then when another female copied her she became Friendly Female 1, then just F1, so the second became F2. F1 is particularly fond of cheese. One day she flew up to my hand, and when she saw that there was ground grain there (the ground part of Hubbard's Fruitful Breakfast), not cheese, she gave a very disappointed coo and flew back to the ground. So I went inside and fetched some cheese cubes. As soon as she saw me come out she flew back to my hand, gobbled them all up, then gave a very satisfied coo, like a sigh of pleasure. The sounds she made were exactly the same as we would make in the same circumstances.

The first male to fly to my hand, to whom I have given the bland sobriquet of M1 (to save calling him Friendly Male 1), has, literally, a very pointed way of telling me what he wants. When he finds no food in my hand, or has eaten everything there, he pecks at my fingers till I go and get some, or shake him off. He has recently acquired a mate amongst the twelve, so now they often feed now together out of the same hand then flit across to the other one if there is food there too. Then they settle down to groom each other. But M1's pecking can get a bit much at times, which is why I often shake him off, but that does not deter him. He just flies back ten seconds later.

A particularly beautiful female has found that when she flies to a certain place, at about chest height, above the others and close to me, I will go and fetch some food and feed just her. She is so lovely that no one could resist her. Some of the others have become rather dirty where their tails and wingtips have touched the ground, or where their neck- and shoulder-feathers have become stained with forest-grime, and they will remain like that till they moult, but the beautiful one has managed to stay snowy white from head to tail. She also has grey circlets (the flesh round the eyes of birds are called the circlets), so her eyes are even lovelier than doves usually have, and her feet are finer than some. She is a very lovely creature, especially when perched on my hand only centimetres from my face.

I have noticed something very wonderful about doves. If you are in the right light, and close, you can see that their neck- and shoulder-feathers have a faint rainbow irridescence. How fitting! Because in the Bible doves are a symbol, even the embodiment, of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:10-11, Luke 3:22, John 1:32), and the Bible also says that the radiance round God's throne is a rainbow--'a rainbow bright as an emerald' is how it is described in Revelation chapter 3. So a faint rainbow radiance on a dove is a faint copy on Earth of the glory of God.

They also have a sweet smell. It is a gentle fragrance, not a strong smell, but very definitely sweet. That is also very appropriate.

It is very special to have been invaded by doves. They are such beautiful birds, both when seen close and when flying against the magnificent green of the forest, particularly when the sun is pouring down. They have very beautiful eyes and gentle faces. In the Bible people with beautiful eyes, particularly women, are praised as having the eyes of a dove. To have them flying at me whenever I go out, or walking up my 80-metre forest path to greet me when I return from going out makes a very beautiful place even more special.