Every autumn and winter we put out food for the native birds that come down from the bush up in the hills above our house. Most native birds are nectar or insect feeders, and so we feed them sugar water from a big feeder hung in the small trees at the back of the house- mainly high enough from Tilly the cat!
In the middle of winter the birds can drink up to 2 litres of sugar water a day. We also put old bread out for the non-native seed feeders like the sparrows and the blackbirds and thrushes and sometimes starlings. However everyone seems to like the apples that we peel and then spear on sharpened branches from the old sweetheart rose that grows wildly over the back verandah roof!
Sometimes when a horde of waxeyes descend on fruit and water the arguments can be fierce! Blackbirds hold sway over most of the other birds, but sometimes an older bellbird, and always the rare tui, will outrank a blackbird! Very occasionally we might see a brilliantly coloured Australian parakeet that live in a small group up in the high trees in the hills, who comes desperate for food in mid-winter.
Up until a few years ago we would see a constant parade of mallard and grey ducks who would first land on our laundry roof and then lower themselves with a loud flutter of wings and quacking, to the back garden area to voraciously consume the bread there, and waggle their tails in triumph and greed. Sadly for no reason known to us , the ducks no longer frequent our little paradise or bring their little ducklings marching up the front hall if we left the front door open!
Because we have so many native birds in the back garden they also excrete the seeds from the native fruit they have eaten in the bush, and little native seedlings sprout up below the feeders and in shady patches in the back yard.
It seemed a shame to waste these precious gifts, so I began uprooting them from their homes between the bricks or in the gravel, and putting them safely in pots. The pot entourage grew! The plastic pots came from the potted plants we bought cheap at fairs and plant nursery bargain counters, and the potting mix came from the beautiful fine loam created by well rotted walnut leaves. And so the nursery was born!
The birds in their travels throughout the bush in the hills above our home , bring us kanono seed, makamako, a few kowhai, tree fuschia and many lemonwood, with a few more exotic species from time to time.
The vision is to spread more native plants, uniquely adapted to our Dunedin weather and soil , throughout the city: to create corridors of food for the native birds that fly between the ever-dwindling patches of native bush around our city, and to provide homes in the soil for the myriad of insects and other native species that used to inhabit this part of the world before the Europeans brought their environmental destruction and European plants.