One day last week, when I was taking the weight off my golden feet, a rather bizarre thing happened in the potting shed. I was reclining on the sofa, pina colada in hand, reading “Learn to Disco Dance in Ten Easy Lessons” wondering if the rain would ever stop, and in flew a robin. A robin in the potting shed is not in itself an unusual occurrence, they often come in to remind me that their dinner is not yet on the table or to fly repeatedly against the windows whilst I try to escort them from the building in the gentlest way possible. This however was different. The bedraggled robin alighted upon the edge of a trug, gave me a knowing look, tweeted and then flitted onto the work bench beside the window. Expecting imminent head banging I stood up to see what he was up to, expecting to see him downing some of the seed we had gathered or some split morsel and was amazed to see him eating ants. Yes, amongst other beings (some of which I try not to consider to deeply) under the bench is home to an ant colony. Each year some of their crew get their wings out and attempt to fly away, necessitating the frantic “where did we put the keys” ritual and a struggle to open the window before it gets messy. These ants were having a casual wander about on the bench top, perhaps doing a recce as to whether it would be a good day to have a quick spin around the block, and the robin was taking the opportunity to tuck in. The ants were not amused and by the jig Mr Robin was doing they were fighting back, but he was not to be detered and continued his feast for so long I got bored and continued with my book. Now the question is, was it just luck that he found the ants, or had he spied them through the window and planned his attack?
Although I did get a few photos of the intrepid robin they just show a slightly out of focus twitching bird. Much prettier to look at is a flowering stem of the evergreen Hoheria sexstylosa or the Long Leaved Lacebark, so named because of its fibrous inner bark. It is endemic to New Zealand where it can be found on both North and South Island and is known by the Maoiri as houhere who used this inner bark to make rope for fishing nets.