Entertainment In Your Garden

Early last year, a cyclone swept through our property.

There's little in the way of foliage on it now. Just a tragic display of jagged twigs. I’ve considered chopping the whole thing down, but, instead, I have found it somewhat useful to use the remaining branches to place fruit.

Oranges are favoured by the tui and the waxeyes. However, during these sweltering summer days, I’ve noticed that the oranges attract an awful lot of fruit flies. I was tempted to cease putting oranges out, but then something wonderful happened… The fantails arrived.

The fantails are thriving on our property this year. They are very determined parents. The male looks after the fledglings, while the female starts building the next nest. Apparently, fantails have been known to rear five broods in a season, totalling 15 fledglings. Recently, I counted eight, all flying around together.

Fantails are most active at dawn and dusk. This is when there are a lot of midges and other small insects around. The fantails seem rather delighted with the swarms of fruit flies around the oranges. They flit around maniacally making a lot of noise. One or two fantails will sing very loudly as they orbit around the oranges. It’s a distinctive song. A high-pitched chattering 'tweeta-tweeta-tweeta' in a regular rhythm.

The term for a bird hunting insects while in flight is ‘hawking’. The fantail often sing while chasing those tiny insects around. It’s as though they are broadcasting the food source. The fantail song attracts other birds to the feast. They are often joined by the grey warblers and the waxeyes.

It seems to me that they are much like a marketplace hawker... 'fruit flies-fruit flies' 'come-and-get-your-fruit flies'. (HEIDI PADAIN )