A tui  begins calling from the scribble of leafless poplar branches. It’s an astonishingly complex medley, full of bells, coughs, chuckles, melodies, and stolen voices. Watch carefully and you’ll see it singing, yet you might hear nothing—some notes and phrases are beyond our range of hearing. A bird, singing silence.
Tigger appears from somewhere, smelling of hay and something else—perhaps fabric softener. I can’t figure out the chronology of his sleeps; whether it was hay first and Olive’s washing second or the other way around. He rubs his head against my shins and purrs loudly, denying any guilt. The sound reminds me how, yesterday, I met Charlie again. Turning the corner at the No. 3 Line junction and seeing him there, sitting on a old log in the sun. Probably had his ear on some small rustle in the long grass lodged by the weight of old rain. I said hello as I walked over and he answered, waiting for me to scratch his chin and ruffle behind his ears. He leant into my hand, trusting I’d support him—if I’d moved my hand he’d have toppled off the log. Eventually I had to pick him up and carry him to the trailer by the house. He was perfectly happy to be carried; not so happy when I walked off, carrying the sound of a small protest.
A lone swallow  swoops past without a sound. Out beyond the terrace two kahu  circle on wide wings. Sometimes you only hear what the world’s saying when it’s silent.
Eventually Tigger stops purring and sits on the edge of the verandah with his back to me, looking out at the brilliantly green paddock. Small movements of his ears; locating things I can’t hear. I wonder what his silence sounds like.
Another car; a far off aeroplane behind clouds; strident spur-winged plovers  somewhere out of sight below, probably in the paddock by the bridge. Then the silence slides back. Te Awaoteatua stream rushes over its stones. Sheep in the driveway crop the grass with a methodical rip-rip-rip, tearing the top off the autumn flush.
Sometimes you only notice things when they’re no longer there. When the wind dies, for example, and the soft rattle of cabbage tree leaves ceases; when the bumble bee fumbling and buzzing along the verandah finally settles on a blue clothes peg—then you notice the silence.
 New Zealand fantail, Rhipdura fuliginosa.
 Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae.
 The welcome swallow, Hirundo tahitica.
 Australasian harrier, Circus approximans.
 Vanellus miles novaehollandiae.
Photos (click on them for a larger image):
1. Poplar grove, Te Awaoteatua Stream, Pohangina Valley.
2. Charlie; small, strong, and beautiful. Quite apart from the fact he's Charlie, he's also a burmese. This is significant for me.
Photos and words © 2006 Pete McGregor