Sparky was soon to learn that if a bird is minded to adopt a human for a mother, he faces a number of problems. How much food does he require and how often? And what kind of food is best? A small bird's natural mother knows how to provide him with exactly what he needs. Her experience is older than the time of man, and she makes no mistakes.
A young bird with a human mother needs two things: she must have time and patience, and he needs a cast-iron constitution and a powerful will to survive.
Inside the one-room cottage, Sparky found just what he needed : a young woman with a love of animals, on holiday at home with her parents.
For the first few days, Sparky lived in an ice-cream container nest. He started off on buckwheat and milk porridge, supplemented as time went on with birdseed, grit, insects and chopped worms from the garden.
Whether or not the food was ideal, Sparky was trouble-free, which says a lot for his constitution and survival instincts.
After a day or two, he graduated to a home on the windowsill a wooden nail box with top and bottom removed. This gave him wall-to-wall windows on one side and the open grille of a wire cake-rack on the other. So he had complete views on both sides, and his widow was well shaded by the eaves of the cottage.
As he grew, he came to love the view up the hill to the bush and the mighty rock. In front of his window, the pasture dropped away to a small valley bowl with giant totara trees and a quiet pond fringed with tree ferns. The place had beauty and peace and a great sense of power and belonging. Sparky took it all in, and he absorbed a love of it from the people who nurtured him.
In his fall, Sparky had broken his right leg, so he couldn't put his right foot on the ground properly. Undeterred, he learned to balance himself and move around on his good leg. He wasn't fast, and at times he used the joint of his right leg to prop himself. But he could get around inside the cottage. Before long he was able to fly around in the small space, too. Sparky had "made it" through the first big adventure of his life.
Things settled down to an enjoyable lifestyle, but as ever, change was inevitable. At the end of summer holidays, his adopted mother had to return to her own home in the big city.
There was no question of Sparky continuing his life in the cottage there was too much work to be done there, building a proper house. Putting him into the wild as a youngster with a broken leg was also unthinkable. The only option was for him to go home with mother over 600 miles to the capital city in Wellington. It is hard to imagine a bigger change in lifestyle.
Sparky's little house was shipped down to the big city in advance. Mother was travelling by air and Sparky would have to go by air too. The main worry was how to ship him, how to avoid tangling with 'the authorities' and getting him banned from flying or confiscated. That didn't bear thinking about.
In the end, Sparky travelled incognito in his ice-cream container tucked under his mother's arm.
There was a change of flights at Auckland, and for a minute or two he was placed on the counter at the airport check-in. - the most dangerous moment of all. No doubt his innate wisdom kept him silent - or was it a determination not to be impounded in the sprawling City of Sails?
Either way, he went undetected and travelled the journey from one end of the island to the other - a 600 mile journey from tranquillity to 'civilisation'.
Chapter 1 here - [link]