Retired Builder Mik Peryer wanted to share the beauty of Waikanae estuary, so he started a now internationally recognised Estuary bird tour company.
Today he is fondly known as the ‘Birdman of Waikanae’ and believes Kapiti’s Waikanae is the wild-bird capital of New Zealand.
There are more than 65 bird species visiting the Waikanae Estuary at times so it’s not a far-fetched claim. For more than 17 years now Mik has happily showed off his feathered friends to mainly international visitors on a two-hour tour full of humour and stories.
Our swallows are more intelligent than your northern hemisphere ones with upside down nests”- is just one of his many jokes.
Along with ‘Pamela’s surprise delivery’ about a flounder dropped from an overhead bird and landing on her deck. It was later enjoyed for dinner!
When Mik came to Waikanae and retired from the building industry 21 years ago he built his house and looked out the window and said to his wife Moira , “I’m going to show people around here, it is such a beautiful spot. I know a little bit about birds and I know there are a lot of birds down there.”
One bird that caught Mik’s eye was a goose named Thomas. Beloved Thomas passed away recently and his funeral was reported internationally. He was perhaps the only goose ever to have had a funeral complete with bagpipes, a mayor and community of people.
Add to this, he was buried in a small wooden coffin covered in corn cobs. The story went global and was covered by more than 100 media outlets including the BBC and media in Japan, Brazil and North Korea.
A Love Story
People connect with a love story and that’s exactly what Thomas’s life portrayed. He was the loyal protector and companion of an injured Swan called Henry for 28 years. Much later another swan, Henrietta, joined the pair and three birds became a unique family of sorts.
“It was a love story – no doubt about it. A love story that spanned 30 years and that’s what nature does, it creates connections. Pinky Agnew wrote a poem in 2009 that summed it up,” says Mik.
Today the poem is etched on a metal plaque attached to the stone memorial where Henry is buried and a second poem was written to commemorate Thomas’s passing.
This love story saw ever protective Thomas look after Henry and Henrietta’s cynets and even teach them to fly . Then to everyones delight Thomas met another goose and hatched his own babies.
Observation and story telling are the key
Mik says it all began with a love of nature. He grew up in Upper Hutt and remembers taking the dogs down to the paddock and seeing shags in the trees and not knowing what bird species they were.
Now his monthly newsletter, which has been going for 11 years and averages 40,000 hits a issue, identifies all these birds along with his own nature observations. It is read and collected by birders worldwide.
When it first started, he thought it would be a good retirement hobby.
“When I wrote the first newsletter I never thought I’d write 132 of them. I’ve done one every month for 11 years without missing a month and I say to my wife each month, what am I going to talk about. Then something pops up, some stupid little thing like a blackbird doing something unusual and I’ve got my story.”
Early on, Mik knew to make his tours interesting he needed stories. So he decided to write some and this led to his first book Tales from Waikanae Estuary. Then the books began to flow and today he has written five books with two more underway.
His latest masterpiece is a compilation of 11 years of his newsletters and has already been purchased by bird groups nationwide as well as the Department of Conservation and Te Papa.
Legacy – recognition of the estuary
Looking back over 17 years Mik says his most rewarding thing is the recognition of the estuary. He was one of the founding members of the Waikanae Estuary care group, which helped replant the estuary. He was honoured with a Mayoral Special Award in 2015 for his vision and dedication to the development of Kapiti Coast.
Mik also hopes in some way to have impacted kiwi kids.
We need to teach them a love of nature and to be observant of what’s around them,” he says.
Mik’s other great legacy is the hundreds of injured birds he has helped over the years.
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To find out more about Mik’s latest book click here