Celebrity interview : Spotless Crake, Pūweto

The following is a transcript of a very difficult to secure interview with a Spotless Crake. No photographs were taken in accordance with his wishes.

Me – So, Pūweto, you’re an unlikely candidate for a celebrity interview because you’re famously reclusive. I’d consider you the Howard Hughes of the bird world, except of course, you’re not much of a flier…

Pūweto – pit-pit-pit-pit (scuttles into undergrowth)

Me – Okay, this doesn’t have to be face to face. If you’d feel more comfortable hiding in the muehlenbeckia while you tell me a bit about yourself that’s fine.

Pūweto – Pock!

Me – Oka-a-a-ay. You’re renowned for being cryptic, sort of mud-coloured and blue-ish, and you have glowing red eyes. Great stuff! Anything else you’d like the punters to know?

Pūweto – Well, okay, I agree to the interview, but NO pictures. Agreed?

Me – Chance would be a fine thing.

Pūweto – Exact numbers of Spotless Crakes in NZ aren’t known because we’re so secretive, and crepuscular which is an excellent word meaning active at dawn and dusk. There are a few of us on Rakino, and I’ve got cuzzies on Tiritiri Matangi, and Great Barrier as well as around various bits of wetland in the upper North Island and other offshore islands. Basically we like lurking in reeds and raupo in swamps where humans aren’t. You guys know hardly anything about us, and given we’ve gone into serious decline since European arrival you probably won’t find out either. (makes a sound like a pelican gargling frogs)

Me – Wow, touchy. How can I help?

Pūweto – Since you ask, for starters you can stop draining our wetland habitats for human activity. When you’ve stopped doing that you can replant the wetland plants you destroyed so we’ve got some plant-based food to eat, and then you can get rid of all your introduced predators so they won’t kill us, eat our eggs, and eat our protein source of invertebrates. M’kay?

Me – You’re quite sarcastic for a small uncharismatic bird. How did you do in Bird of the Year? I heard that in 2021 you came last….

Pūweto – RU-U-U-U-UDE! Some radio hosts made up a cool song about us in 2022, so we didn’t come last. FYI the Shining Cuckoo came last, quite rightly, the obnoxious little usurper.

Me – (trying to steer interview back to less troublesome territory) Umm, I think we may have got a little off-track. Which particular predators are the biggest threat to you?

Pūweto – As you so pointedly alluded to earlier, we’re not known for our soaring flight, so pretty much all of them, but most especially cats, dogs, mustelids, and rats. You humans have got a lot to rectify. Pock!

Me – Okay, thanks for your time. I’m going to plant a lot of carex in the stream for you next planting season, so hopefully our next encounter won’t be so fraught, though I understand your irritation. Please enjoy the rest of your day unmolested. 🙂

Spotless Crakes are found in a number of damp locations around Rakino.

According to DoC “They are a potential indicator of wetland health because they are dependent on the presence of high quality and ecologically diverse habitats and rich food supplies.”

This makes me feel happy in the knowledge that if you plant it they will come. Definitely time to get those native aquatic plants into the ground though…

Celebrity interview: Billie the Dog

…also wishes to be known as ‘Billie the Wonder Dog’, and ‘Captain Puppy’…

BtD – (races out, bark-howling) You startled me!

-Billie the Dog! How the very devil are you?

BtD – (stares at me with mad dog eyes and scritches thoughtfully under her left armpit with her left back foot) Can’t complain, can’t complain. Summer was pretty busy, but it’s quietening down a bit now.

Me – Would you care to expand on that?

BtD – There are a lot of expectations on me over summer; I’ve got to be patrolling down at the beaches, rounding up any swimmers who exceed the 5 metre zone, hauling buoys around down at Sandy Bay, rounding up black back gulls, and I’m expected to jump off the wharf, repeatedly. I also have to ride around on the back of ATVs, bark-howling. It’s pretty exhausting, but it’s what the fans want.

Billie the Dog giving a recalcitrant swimmer the stink-eye.
Billie the Dog, rounding up a swimmer who has inadvertantly exceeded the 5 metre zone

Most of my fans won’t be back till Labour Weekend, so I can spend a bit of time in front of the fire working on tricks for next summer.

Me – Ye-e-e-e-s, I’ve noticed you’re pretty popular with certain age groups; I was sitting in the back of the Josh-mobile with you once and a bunch of kids walked past. I said “Hi kids!”, in a bright cheerful voice, and received a dull grunt of “Hi” in response till they saw you, at which point they all excitedly chimed “Hi Billie!!!”. You just pointedly ignored them. What is that about? Why can’t I get that kind of adoration?

BtD – (smirks) Well, let me ask you this; how many times would you be prepared to jump off the wharf wearing nothing but a fur coat and a winning smile?

Me – ………

BtD- Whilst emitting a high-pitched yelp??

Me – Okay, point taken. No-one would want to see that.

(At this point there is a long awkward silence, only broken by the sound of BtD making a submerged noise as she chews on her under-carriage)

Me – How have you been keeping busy lately?

BtD – Ha! Interesting you should ask. I scaled a couple of vertical cliffs yesterday, and scared the living bejeezus out of a snorkeller down at Woody Bay. I just followed him into the water while he wasn’t looking, and then appeared suddenly in front of his mask when he was least expecting it. Do you know how hilarious it sounds when a human tries to scream through a snorkel?
I think he thought I was a bearded shark. It would only be funnier if someone made me a shark fin costume!
Aside from that there are still a lot of bidibids about, so I like racing through the annual weeds to see just how many prickly seeds I can collect in my fur coat. It gives Josh something to do at night.

Billie the Dog with friend Chubb. Magnificent under-carriage

Me – Okay. Very good. Ummm, maybe just a few technical questions then; what exactly is your breed, and what is your top land speed? It’s been noted that you are quite fast. (smiles winningly, trying to get interview back on track)

BtD – I’m some class of excellent working dog, hence my propensity to round up humans like the silly sheep they are. I have a magnificent beard. You figure it out. I don’t know my top speed but it’s probably about 40kms an hour. I should challenge Wim to a race!

Me – That’s a very interesting idea. You’re extremely photogenic, are you happy with this picture as a feature image?

BtD – Oh yes. You’ve captured all of my best sides.

Me – Great! Well, thanks for your time. I’ve brought you this bone as a gift, to show my appreciation.

(silence, marked by crunching sounds)

Percentage data charts perfect for infographics. 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%