Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Looking for the elusive Greebe.

We were eating our dinner in the hostel dining room when Ron’s kitchen companion came over to chat about the day. He and she met over a stovetop in the hostel kitchen as they both started to put their pot on the same burner; she developed it into a bonding experience. With four choices of burners per stovetop, what were the odds these two would come together? 

Her husband and I were just bystanders watching and waiting to see where this was all going to lead. Maybe they would take it to the next level and share their  refrigerator shelf space, but thankfully, we only had one more night. 

With the enthusiasm of a young girl who had just experience her first glimpse of a penis, she asked if we had found the Greebe. Thinking we had misunderstood her New Zealand accented words, we asked her to repeat herself. After three attempts of her repeating and our looking blankly, she finally spilled (NZ accent) it out for us G-R-E-E-B-E. We told her she did not need to spell in capital letters; we could understand lower case spelling just as well. What we still did not know was what a Greebe was. 

With the same animation as when she first approached us, she explained that a Greebe was a rare NZ bird that can only land on water, not land. It only flies during the day or when the moon is out so that they can do a water landing. There are only limited numbers left, but two have been spotted near the wharf sitting on a nest. Then there was something about their not being sighted for two weeks and more about the water landings, but we should go look at them. Convoluted information, I agree, but it was our last night here, there was nothing else to do, and a walk would help dinner digest and maybe help this story sit better too. 

From a warm to hot day, the weather pulled a fast one. It was cool to cold and the wind had picked up considerably. From the hostel, we had to walk away from town to find the marina. Once there, we were supposed to find the willow tree where the nest has been spotted and the Greebe if home and receiving guests will be located. Directions did not include the fact that the marina was a good twenty minute walk before making visual contact. Physical contact took another fifteen minutes to get them looking like real boats as opposed to toy boats from the distance. 

Over the river and through the woods to the Greebe’s nest we go. Ron knows the way to plan out the day.  (If you didn’t get that last part, it is a take-off on a Christmas song. “Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh…). 

We found the willow tree and six of its willow tree friend or family. All of them are so close to the water they will never need to worry about drought conditions. A couple of these have a real drinking problem; they are rooted in the water. Cautiously moving about as we were looking under the skirts of willow branches brushing them aside seeking signs of Greebes, all we found was disappointment.  Checking the air, we did not see any birds looking to do a water landing. Who ever heard of a bird who cannot land on land? This whole thing is starting to sound flaky. Either this woman was running us on a wild Greebe chase or she had not taken her medications in proper doses today. When I was in high school in Michigan, we used to get others to go trap snipes at night in the woods. There was no such thing, but it was great fun watching them try. Greebes may be NZ snipes. 

By the time we returned, wind burned and chilled, our naturalist was nowhere to be found. Were we hearing loud chuckles emanating through the halls or was it our paranoid imagination? We just may file a Greebeance if we can find anyone to listen to our complaint.

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