Evolution of my fish tanks over time

A few photos of 2 of my fish tanks and how they’ve changed over the past year or so

40 litre tank– originally overstocked community tank, then single betta tank, now home to one betta and 7 pygmy corydoras







75 litre Aqua one 510– tropical community tank to tadpole (soon to be frog) tank





‘Tanks’ for reading 😛




Update on the hens– Possum, Shirley, Annie and the new arrivals

A few things have gone on since I last posted about the hens, both bad and good…



Possum was slowly being integrated with the rest of the flock a few months ago, still separated in her pen, but had a few problems– she didn’t put on weight easily, and she seemed to have trouble swallowing her food– she would shake her head as if trying to dislodge something caught in her throat. After a while, she would refuse almost everything. I examined her, and found that she had these white lumps down her neck, big ones that seemed to be blocking her throat. Research online brought me to the conclusion that she had canker.

From my reading, I gathered that canker is a protozoa which grows white fungal-like lumps in the throat, crop and digestive tract of hens. Its usually passed through wild bird populations eating domestic hens feed or drinking their water and then the hens eating the same food. The lumps grow to the point where the hens can’t eat — such as in the case of Possum. We took her to our local vet as early as we could, who confirmed that she did have canker, and prescribed her the antibiotic metronidazole. Because she wasn’t eating, I had begun syringe feeding her 2 syringes full of a mix of yoghurt, egg, honey and the liquid from mixing her feed with water, along with 2 syringes of water twice a day about 3 days before we went to the vet.This seemed to perk her up a bit but she was still refusing to eat and losing weight. Once I got the medicine for her, I also began doing her metro doses twice a day. 

After her third dose of metronidazole, in the evening the day after taking her to the vet, Possum began acting erratically. She would ‘tic’ her head to the left repetitively and would panic if anybody or thing moved suddenly. These symptoms worsened into the night to the point where any movement, light, or noise, would make her panic. She wouldn’t respond to her name, and appeared not to recognize me. At about 8pm that night, she began to have seizures. As it was so late, we couldn’t take her back to the vet, so I stayed up with her that night. She would seizure with any noises, light or movement, and also seemed to seizure anywhere between once every 10 minutes to once every hour. It was very difficult to see my baby in such a condition, as I had gotten so attached to her over the past few months of caring for her.

To keep her from hurting herself, I was told to keep her in her inside container– a large cardboard box with pine shavings and a towel over the top– and to talk to her gently when she came out of each seizure, which seemed to calm her somewhat. By morning however, she was not herself– the head tic was much worse, and her pupils were permanently dilated. I was unable to feed her without triggering a seizure. Finally, we took her back to the vet, and the decision was made to put her to sleep– the vet didn’t have the tools necessary to control her seizures, and she was so far gone mentally and physically that it was likely that even if she was treated, she would not recover. The vet later told us that he had prescribed too much metronidazole for us to dose her with, and that seizuring was a symptom of metronidazole overdose.And so within 2 days, we lost sweet little Possum.


photo (1)

Miss Shirley was one of our first girls we had gotten as day old chicks. She was bossy, grumpy, loud, and I loved her for it. She was very friendly towards people, and was always very gentle with her best friend, Annie. She unfortunately developed a tumour in her abdomen, which seemed to mess with several of her organs, and got to the point where she was eating large amounts of high energy food every day, but was wasting away in front of me. Finally, we made the hard decision and had her put to sleep.




After Shirley died, we started to bring Annie inside to sleep in my room at night so she didn’t have to be so alone. I began making plans for new companions for her; hens tend to be happier when they have a few feathery mates to hang out with. Whilst that was going on, I noticed she had troubles with constipation– her abdomen would start showing a soft swelling, and this would dissappear overnight after about 3 days of being swelled up. This continued for quite a while, with no other outward signs of illness, so we got her her companions (more on this in a minute hehe) and that seemed to perk her up greatly.

Unfortunately, I knew that the constipation was signs that something else was afoot– and today I felt a hard lump in the side of her abdomen. It would seem that Annie might have a tumour as well, and is just showing symptoms differently with constipation because its either slower growing or in a different position to where Shirley’s had been. Her comb yesterday also started looking a bit floppy, and she sleeps a lot more than she used to. I am afraid that my time with my old girl is running out, but will keep on with her until she starts developing signs of pain or other things that would affect her quality of life. For now, she happily bosses around the new arrivals, eats the best tucker I can prepare for her (usually soggy bread, cucumber, egg and the feed mixed together with whatever scraps are left over from the night before) and gets plenty of attention (sometimes unwanted, such as dressing up for Christmas hehe) and rest.

The new arrivals



This is Luna (the white girl) and Penelope (the gold girl). We got them about a month ago after Shirley died, as companions for Annie. Luna is now 5 months old, Penelope is 6 months old, and I am very much in love with them. Penelope started laying 2 weeks ago, with Luna hopefully starting in two weeks or so. I am so happy with them– I just adore their fluffy plumage, and their sweet natures. I can pick Penelope or Luna up, plonk them on my shoulder, and walk around the house with them happily chattering away into my ear. Even at the Christmas party at our house this year, they behaved perfectly– they sat on my knee and got stroked, talked to and fed by 50 or so people without batting an eyelid. They are so chilled out and gorgeous, I am blown away. They even put up with Annie insisting that she must be fed first, and they all sunbathe, snooze, dirt bathe and sleep together. She has brightened up significantly since their arrival, and seems to love being with them, even with her illness making her so tired. They have certainly made me much happier too– I still miss my Henny, Possum and Shirley though. Never expected to lose so many in such a short time period 😦

Anyways, enough talk– here are some more photos of the new girls!

The first few days; already hanging out together, albeit separated by a fence

The first few days; already hanging out together, albeit separated by a fence


First introductions in neutral territory-- the lawn-- without the fence, 1 week after the girls arrived

First introductions in neutral territory– the lawn– without the fence, 1 week after the girls arrived

Fluffy bums hiding under the hedge :)

Fluffy bums hiding under the hedge 🙂



Penelope-- I love her little blue wattles, these are just starting to show on Luna

Penelope– I love her little blue wattles, these are just starting to show on Luna

Itsy bitsy silkie bantam eggs :)))

Itsy bitsy silkie bantam eggs :)))

Breakfast time -- Annie always gets her own bowl

Breakfast time — Annie always gets her own bowl



Penelope getting into the Christmas spirit

Penelope getting into the Christmas spirit


Henny & Possum

A little update on my hens.

Recently, Henny had been sick whilst I was down south. Suspected worm problem. Mum took her to Sylvia, who wormed her and looked after her for a few days until I got home. She seemed very chipper, had been fed some meal worms that morning and Sylvia said that she was fat and healthy.

Closest to farthest; Shirley, Annie, Henny (looking a bit crook)

Closest to farthest; Shirley, Annie, Henny (looking a bit crook)

Whilst picking up Henny, I noticed another little chooker in the cage below her, another brown shaver who did not look very happy with herself. Sylvia explained she had been one of four hens who had been attacked by a dog and brought into the rescue centre, and this little one was the only one to recover. The owner didn’t want her back, so she was looking for a new home. She still couldn’t walk, but ate like a champ and was improving each day. As soon as Sylvia suggested that I take her on, I jumped at the opportunity.

Me and my brother jumped back into the car, giggling silently as we had not told our mother about the new addition. About half way home, we finally broke and asked her to guess what was in the extra box. She got it the first time, particularly coz the new recruit made a few ‘book’ noises. Within 10 minutes she was named; little Miss Possum really looked like she was here to stay.

I set both Henny and Possum up in separate washing baskets inside, as they were not used to the outside weather because of being inside during their stay at Sylvia’s. Possum settled down straight away, tucking her head under her wing as she dozed off. It was something none of my other hens had ever done and made my heart melt!

Possum's head under her wing

Possum’s head under her wing

Over the next few days, Possum improved, and Henny was reintroduced to the flock with a few ruffled feathers. Soon, Possum was walking, although stumbling over her feet a bit whilst doing so. She ate more than all the other hens put together! Life was going well.

After a few weeks, Possum was walking with little trouble, eating and scratching at the dirt. Henny however, was starting to look a bit crook– sleeping a lot, no interest in food, hunched over, tail down. I checked her abdomen– mushy, soft swelling, making her look fat where in fact she had appeared to have lost weight based on how the weight around her breast bone and legs were feeling. The scales confirmed it– she had gone down from her normal 1.9-2 kg range to 1.6 kg. She was also very quiet– not at all like my normally abundantly chatty girl. Something was obviously very wrong.

I brought her inside, and as the days progressed, she ate very little and slept a lot. I fed her yoghurt and put apple cider vinegar in her water, both of which have seemed to perk up ‘iffy’ hens in the past. I also wormed her again, as it was almost time for her follow up dose anyways. I tried to keep her fluids up by wetting her beak with water so she could have a few drops. I also would ‘stretch her out’ twice to three times a day to keep her blood flowing to her wings and legs, so she was comfortable and so any problems in her extremities as a result of lack of blood flow would be less likely to develop. I would get her to stand up and walk a few steps, would rub each of her feet, stretch out her wings and rub them, then rub her comb and wattles. She seemed to enjoy the attention.

Henny chilling in her basket by the fire

Henny chilling in her basket by the fire

After a few days of this with no improvement, I consulted Sylvia and we both came to the conclusion that it was best to put her to sleep. She was an old hen, and we couldn’t pinpoint the definitive cause of her sickness, and even if we did treatment would probably be hard and stressful on her.

I arranged a vet appointment for later that week and spent the last few days of Henny’s life fussing over her, making sure she was spoilt and comfortable. She would eat a bit of egg yolk and yoghurt now and then, but mostly slept in her basket– in the sun outside during the day and beside the fire inside at night. The weather was surprisingly warm for winter with no rain which I was grateful for. Meanwhile, her weight dropped down to 1.3 kg. Some days were much better than others, but it was clear that she was making her way ‘out’.

When we took her to the vet, we talked about possible causes of her downturn– egg yolk peronitis (EYP) and an impacted crop was the causes that the vet thought was most likely. Egg yolk peronitis, from what I have gathered, is a bacterial infection in the hen’s reproductive organs which causes swelling and eventual death, if not treated with antibiotics, and even then it is iffy as to whether the hen would survive. I helped the vet and his assistant by holding Henny and calming her whilst he found the right vein under her wing. She was gone peacefully within a few minutes, aged 6.

A few days after Henny was gone, I tried introducing Possum to the other two girls. They immediately started picking on her, and so I separated the run into two so Possum could get used to being an outside hen. She has been sleeping outside for the past few days in the daybed, and is doing well, although the other two complain often that she has the better end of the run. I might have to switch the two groups around occasionally.

I’ve spent a lot more time round the other girls recently, I think mostly just trying to reassure myself that the other hens are fine. As a result, I have taken way too many photos but I think they are gorgeous;

Possum's first night outside in the daybed

Possum’s first night outside in the daybed



Shirley, wondering what on earth I am doing

Shirley, wondering what on earth I am doing


Annie, inside for her worming treatment

Annie, inside for her worming treatment


Finally, Possum, again, eating like a champ!

Finally, Possum, again, eating like a champ!




Fishies and my Guilty Conscience

(Warning: this may be a bit of a sadder and more technical post than what I normally write. I am being very honest in my experiences so that anyone who reads this may not make the same mistakes with their animals.)

So it may or may not be obvious that I am a liiiiittle bit of an animal fan…just a bit…So it wouldn’t surprise anyone very much to know that I also have some fish! Unfortunately for my fish, however, my care of them has been anything but adequate until the last year or two.

When I was very young, my family kept goldfish in small aquariums and were convinced that they only had lifespans of two years. Goldfish can get huge and live for decades. Since then, I took up an interest in fish and went into keeping tropical freshwater fish. Guppies, zebra danios, a variety of algae eaters, an angelfish, platties and neon tetras have all passed through my tanks. I have been guilty of chucking fish into uncycled tanks, not quarantining fish, not testing my water quality, not checking for compatibility of fishes, keeping fish in tanks too small for them, not researching fish needs, not checking for full sizes of fishes or adequate schooling numbers, and providing my beloved angel with the opportunity to scrape herself up so badly on a little tunnel that was just too small for her that she died of blood loss. Due to my treatment of them, a lot of fish died from things that would have never happened if I had treated them the way I treat my fish now.

So from this bad record I am attempting to atone for my poor fishes. Starting from about a year ago, my standard of fish care improved. I have brought an API Master Test kit to test the water, I brought a second hand 75L tank and cycled it, I have researched extensively on the fish species I already have, and the ones that I could potentially get. I have added real plants to the aquarium for the very first time. I follow a strict cleaning and feeding regimen to attempt to keep the tank pristine. I have joined fish keeping forums far and wide all over the web, as well as building up some fishy contacts closer to home. Needless to say, I intend to do this properly from now on!

Here is my tank setups–

Tank 1= 75 L Aqua One AR510, with filter, and a 100 watt heater which I am currently not using yet (waiting to get a thermometre).
Substrate= smooth, small black river pebbles.
Ornaments= large volcanic rocks, some silk plants
Plants= a large amount of ambulia, some Christmas moss
Fish= 3 Zebra Danios, 1 male Guppy, 1 Albino Rainbow shark and 5 neon tetra. Also there are some ramshorn and malaysian trumpet snails.

Tank 2= 40 L glass aquarium with Tankmaid filter
Substrate= smooth, small black river pebbles
Ornaments= smaller volcanic rock, some silk plants, some driftwood
Plants= 1 Java Fern, some ambulia, some christmas moss, some duckweed
Fish= 1 adult female Guppy, ~20 juvenile guppy (1 month old), ramshorn and malaysian trumpet snails

Current problems with my setups–

Tank 1=

a) My albino rainbow shark is a species of fish that likes way more horizontal tank space than what I have, as he will grow to 15cms eventually. So the minimum tank size that he should be in is a 100L, and that is really pushing it. Another problem with the shark is that he has water bladder issues stemming from some sort of sickness he got a while ago when the ammonia levels in the tank went up to 2 whilst I was away on holiday. He’s been sitting at the bottom of the tank now, which is preferable to being stuck at the top, and seems somewhat miserable about it. I brought him from a store where the person there said he would be fine in a 60 L… it wasn’t until I did my research that I realized how wrong that was.

b) My school of danios should be at least 6, as they love to be in bigger schools. No other problems with these guys, a very hardy character-filled fish.

c) My water quality has been a bit out of shape of late (ammonia= 1, nitrates=40 at the moment) so i have been doing a bit of work to try and get that back into line– mostly just frequent water changes, tests and not feeding the fish more than they eat. I suspect the water quality issues stem from when I went away– the person looking after my tank overfeeds them, and the rotting food causes an ammonia spike!

Tank 2=

a) Water quality is a bit off in this tank– had quite high nitrates, so I added the duckweed.

b) Potential for my guppy fry to be eaten by their mother… is lessening but still a concern. She still chases them around a bit.

Good things about my tanks:
The general health and happiness of my fish has seemed to improve. I’ve definitely gotten more attached to them of late, and my danios and guppies seem to insist on breeding prolifically. The tanks look cleaner, and far more gorgeous than they used to be.

So, lessons I have learnt so far

1) ALWAYS research the fish you are buying; which combinations are compatible, their maximum size, their preferred tank size, their preferred water conditions, what they eat, how prone to disease they are. Some pet shops are going to hoodwink you into thinking a fish is fine where it’s not just to get sales.

2) Buy a water tester kit and use it! I’ve got one that tests for pH, ammonia, nitrates and nitrites; thinking about getting the ones that measure phosphate and hardness levels.

3) Never feed the fish more than they can eat in a few minutes— if you end up with excess food floating round, this can turn into trouble

4) Good tank management— (a) always cycle a tank before putting in a fish and (b) always quarantine new fish when adding to an established tank

5) Don’t overstock a tank. Putting too many fish into a tank– it’s not worth it. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

I feel quite guilty about my treatment of fish as I was growing up. I hope by writing this that it makes you think about your fish, and if you have healthy fish that you have treated better than I have, then you are awesome!

Where am I going from here? I am either going to rehome my shark or buy a bigger tank for him, I will increase the sizes of my schools of danios and tetras, keep a handle on my water quality and upsize my guppies to a 60L when they get bigger. I am also contemplating some sunset white cloud mountain minnows for an outdoor pot pond I have (currently only has plants). Most importantly I will enjoy my water babies, and how much happier they seem now that I am caring for them properly.

I’ll leave you with some pictures from my aquariums, and a few of the many internet websites I have used to expand my knowledge of fishkeeping; I sincerely hope everyone has a good day!

Any comments are much appreciated 🙂


Fishy Websites:

A good website for looking at the requirements of different species of tropical fish

A good New Zealand Forum where you can search for relevant topics to your problem from past posts

A good guide to how you can stock your aquarium 

Somewhere to read up about the Nitrogen Cycle in aquariums

I’ve also just found a load of answers to my problems by googling them 🙂 

My 75 L, as viewed from the side :)

My 75 L, as viewed from the side 🙂


My 40 L guppy tank :)

My 40 L guppy tank 🙂


Duckweed on surface of the guppy tank looks pretty cool :) can be a pain when cleaning though

Duckweed on surface of the guppy tank looks pretty cool 🙂 can be a pain when cleaning though


My wee danios asking where the food is :)

My wee danios asking where the food is 🙂


My albino rainbow shark hiding from all the ruckus in his log :)

My albino rainbow shark hiding from all the ruckus in his log 🙂


The neon tetras chilling at the back of the tank :)

The neon tetras chilling at the back of the tank

Back on Track- a tramping track that is

July, 2014

So we went out again 🙂 back to our favourite area in the South Island, the central ridge of mountains that stretches down the length of it, often snow-capped, always beautiful and home to thousands of potential adventures.

We flew into Christchurch on a Thursday. The weather was…cold, but you could see the paddocks around the city, nestling up into the Port Hills, and me and Tom were busy playing with my little cousins who we were bringing back home after they had been up in the Big Smoke visiting my family and I. We got picked up by their mum, and spent the next few days helping the family out with getting packed. These guys are going on a big adventure of their own- they’re headed off to Vietnam to teach at an international school and show the kids some distant corners of the world. A dream come true, and a lot of lists of things to do. Whilst lifting things out onto the driveway for a garage sale, Tom and I brainstormed about which track we might do, how we were going to get there, and all the other little difficult details.

Finally, on Sunday morning, we were ready. We found a rental company that would hire a car out to under-21’s (more difficult than it sounds, believe me…) and had settled on a track. A 2-3 day hop over the Cass Lagoon Saddle and then alongside the Craigieburn Ridge, following a track that would eventually take us down into Arthur’s Pass. Phew, here we go.

Day 1




Up quite early, we went off to Tom’s cousins to pick up a bicycle that we were going to need. Then we drove the hour and a half out to the beginning of the track; a little carpark with a trail going off into pine trees. Tom then left me and the bags here beside the ‘Avalanche Warning’ sign and drove the car up to the end of the track. He then biked the 12 kms up and down the hills back to the beginning of the track, which took about an hour and a half. Meanwhile I twiddled my thumbs and made a bed out of the resources available to me (dead grass, bit of leaves, waterproof layer and it was sweet. Had a bit of a snooze on it even and that wonderful warning sign turned into a fab wind buffer. Boy it was cold! I had on all layers of clothing that I had, and the only part of me that wasn’t covered was a small patch of my face. It felt like forever before Tom got there; once he did he quickly dispatched the bicycle behind some shrubbery, and we were off!

The first few hours were along a metal road that trundled through pine forest towards a river. Along the way we spotted some guys and kids (one of who was carrying a very nice rifle) walking towards us. They lived nearby and so were just taking the kids (and apparently the guns) for a stroll. The other thing we saw, in far too much abundance, was horse poo. Seems this part of the track was popular with horse riders. Tom got over my eloquent poo jokes really fast, so thankfully there was a river crossing to shut me up. The water was freezing, stones slippery and the river was fast. shortly after that, we hit beech forest, then more river crossings, then beech forest. All still very cold but beautiful.

A few hours in one of my legs started hurting very badly. This became such a problem that I couldn’t really lift my leg too high without feeling like I was tearing something just above my knee. Bugger. Looks like I didn’t do enough walking before the tramp to be fit enough for all this. Luckily I was with a very tolerant, clever person who decided we would cut the first day short and stay at a place called Cass Lagoon Saddle Hut, a little three bunker that was built in the 50s. We cooked up some dinner (two minute noodles, veges and some spicy mini sausages. Delicious.) and tried to get a fire going (not as successful). We tucked in for the night, just as the rain came battering down on the tin roof. Tom slept well from sheer luck of sleeping just out of reach of a leak; unfortunately I had three of them striking at me all night. Just before dawn, however, they stopped, and I managed to get some rest.

Day 2





We found out pretty quick why the leaks had stopped– IT WAS SNOWING! We spent the rest of the day feeling like the whole thing was slightly magical, all the trees had snow on their leaves and the whole forest looked like someone had spilled icing sugar over it. Put a bit of a spring in our step, my leg still slowed us down significantly.

On the end of the second day, it was still bright out so we spent some time playing round— competitions on who could aim a rock best and damming a small stream.

We spent the night in Hamilton hut, but we were not alone. Our company, however, wasn’t of the human variety, but avian. Two little keas came down to greet us and investigate our stuff, taking an extraordinary amount of interest in our cameras, bags and other such things. They spent the night meowing to each other like cats and doing what sounded like using the roof as a slide. Amazing little birds, they’re green with red patches under their wings in the light, but we only ever saw them at night.




Day 3

Up very early in the morning, this day was our toughest and longest. Our aim: to finish the track before dark. We packed in a rush and were out the door, only to be accosted by the cuteness of not one, not two, but five little keas hopping round. We took a few photos and then were off again, occasionally looking behind and seeing one or two hopping behind us for a little while.

Up and down hills we went, occasionally meeting trampers going the other way. There were a few river crossings, but nothing major. By evening, we were up in alpine conditions, golden grasses stretching into the distance on the hill. There were plenty of signs along the track that there had been deer walking through at some point. The end of the track was in sight; we could see the road off Arthurs Pass Highway that led to a carpark where our little rental car was. All in all, the view was incredible.




I began having more trouble with keeping up with Tom, to the point that he carried my pack for an hour or so– the entire trip, he was so supportive of me, even when being tired himself. I couldn’t have done it without him.

As sunset came upon us, we entered some beech forest. The track zigzagged down through, and seemed to go on forever. Finally, just as we were beginning to trip over our feet with depressing regularity, the track widened to a road, and very shortly afterwards came to the carpark, or should I say paddock, where we had put the car. Heaters on, boots off, bags in and off we went, grabbing some fish and chips on the way back into Christchurch. We did it!!! What a trip.




Waitakeres– Cohens and Pararaha Stream Bash

Hi all

So because essays were boring (or some other valid excuse) Tom and I decided to go on a day tramp right when everyone at the university have essays due! Wonderful logic, no?

We have been on this tramp once before– with my crazy ass cousin who thinks climbing down 10 m cliffs is the most fun thing to do ever– but this time it was just us, which was nice. Not that I don’t like my cousin; he’s awesome. Just, without him there, its much easier to come up with ways to AVOID those cliffs rather than power-housing down them.

So we bundled into my mums car early Saturday morning a few weeks ago, and headed out to the Waitaks. After some negotiating as to where exactly the entry road was, we found it, and began our 15-30 minute walk from the carpark to the top of Cohens stream. We then basically jumped off some freaking awesome waterfalls, then walked back up the hill after dark. Whoo!













The Bird Doctor

So a few weeks ago Miss Henny got sick with sour crop. Sour crop is a condition where the bird has gotten a bacterial infestation in their crop, which is basically a first stomach. It swells up like a balloon, and all the food and water the hen eats collects there and ferments, so they begin to feel very unwell and usually can’t or won’t eat (the crop often has been blocked by something when this happens I think).

Henny tucked into her bed so I can bring her inside for the night

Henny tucked into her bed so I can bring her inside for the night

This has happened to some of my hens when they were 3— two of them got it at the same time, one recovered after we treated her but the other one kept relapsing and eventually died. So it’s something that I’m particularly worried about now that the girls are older, and I often forget the name of the medicine to give them… and that means that I felt the need to seek experienced advice — not from a vet of course (I seem to know more about hens than they do, disadvantage of living in a city I suppose…) but from my favorite Bird Doctor– Sylvia, who runs the bird division of the SPCA in our area.

Mr Wood Pidgeon (Kereru) digesting his breakfast

Mr Wood Pidgeon (Kereru) digesting his breakfast 

So we packaged Henny up in her little box (pictured above) and drove off to Sylvia’s. Sylvia resolved what was to be done in a matter of minutes– treating Henny by funneling some sort of anti-bacterial mixture down her throat with a syringe. She then gave me a syringe and some more of the meds so I could continue treating Henny until she got better.

At this point we normally give Sylvia a donation and leave, but this time she seemed to have some time on her hands, so she showed us some of the birds she has been looking after. The first little one we were introduced to was a baby Kereru who had been brought in– he was sitting there digesting his meal of grapes and puriri berries after completely stuffing himself with them, Sylvia explains. She also pointed out that the way you can distinguish between a baby and full grown Kereru is by their beak colour– when they mature to adults, their beaks turn a bright red. This one was waiting until then to be released.

The Petrel, waiting to be released that night

The Zino’s Petrel, waiting to be released that night

The next bird we met was a little Petrel– apparently these guys cannot take off properly from the ground because of their wing design– designed to glide on the wind instead of thrust themselves into the air from the ground. This little guy had been buffered by the waves into shore where he couldn’t take off– Sylvia was going to drive to a cliff that evening and set him free by throwing him off it, and with that encouragement he would fly off.

The young Hawk getting a  fright when we opened his cage

The young Hawk getting a fright when we opened his cage

The next little one we met was a hawk– he was foolish enough to try and prey on a baby bird (can’t remember what breed) and was then attacked by it’s parents. So he has been recovering at Sylvia’s –Mum has seen him before some months ago, and he’s made massive improvements. Back then Sylvia was not sure whether he would survive. He was not the most social of the birds, unsurprisingly, but was strikingly beautiful in his own way– the photo doesn’t do him justice.

The Long Tailed Cuckoo-- he is not yet old enough to be let go

The Long Tailed Cuckoo– he is not yet old enough to be let go

Next we saw a longtailed cuckoo, who was flipping in his cage, anxious to get out. I had never known about these guys before! Sylvia explained that his breed were migrating north this time of year, but he was too young at the time to be released, and so must wait another year before getting to go.

The other wild birds we saw were a pigeon and a few doves, who were either recuperating from injuries or waiting to mature enough to be let go. There was also a Morepork– a New Zealand native owl who makes a sound similar to his name. His big eyes glinted out of the darkness of his covered cage as Sylvia explained that he had been dropped off to her as a chick, and so she had hand raised him to the point that in the evenings he would come and snuggle her when she sat down. Now though, since he had been put outside in his cage, he wouldn’t let her near him, which she says she is pleased with. He is learning how to be wild. Occasionally he has a few friends– Moreporks who have come in with injuries, none of whom stay very long. For now, he is staying until he is fully grown, then Sylvia will release him.

A few beautiful birds boarding at Sylvia's

A few beautiful birds boarding at Sylvia’s 

A few other birds here who by far make the most noise are the boarders– birds who people have given Sylvia to look after whilst they are on holiday– little brightly colored budgies. There are also a pair of lovebirds huddling in a corner of their cage together, whom Sylvia is trying to rehome. And to the far right, is a little black bantam hen who has had a piece of wire wrapped round her foot and lost all the circulation in her toes. Sylvia says she will probably lose her toes, but will most likely recover. After that, she too will go to a new home.

A pair of lovebirds whom Sylvia is trying to find a home for

A pair of lovebirds whom Sylvia is trying to find a home for

Last but not least is my favourite little fellow– a little blue penguin, who is a permanent bird of Sylvia’s. This little one would not survive on her own in the wild– one of her legs was broken at some point and set wrong, so it leans out to the right. When the little penguin runs, she runs sideways like a crab as a result of this little disability. Three quarters of one of her flippers are missing also, so she does not swim very fast. And so she is Sylvia’s very sweet wee pet. They go down to the beach so the little one can swim, and when blue penguins are brought in, the bird has some friends to play with. She’s very docile and seems to enjoy the attention of being held. A note about her feathers– she’s about to moult, as its that time of year here, hence why she’s not as blue as she would normally be.

My little brother and a little blue penguin

My little brother and a little blue penguin


















So, after all that, we went on home. And you know what? After two more treatments with the meds, the swelling in Henny’s crop completely disappeared. The day after visiting Sylvia, she was tucking into her first meal in 3 days–a special treat of her favorite food– cream corn, yogurt and ham. Since then she’s sprung back to her normal wee adventurous, cheeky, talkative self. Thank goodness for Sylvia!

Henny having her first meal the day after visiting Sylvia

Henny having her first meal the day after visiting Sylvia