It was my first encounter with the big green budgie of love and before meeting this endangered bird I went through an elaborate quarantine procedure that started at home two days before departure.
Washing all of my “on-island” clothes and shoes with a special disinfectant was the first step of preparation. The second step occurred on the island when I donned a fetching disinfected boiler suit and gum boots. After medi-wiping my hands and camera equipment I moved into the race, a pathway separating Sirocco’s display pen from his chill-out pad.
Karin, Sirocco’s Ulva Island minder, stopped me in my tracks … before proceeding further I was required to wear a disinfected fleecy hat … but it wasn’t cold. “It’s not to keep your head warm,” Karin explained with a smile, “But to protect your head from Sirocco’s enthusiasm for all things human!”
Sirocco heard his visitors’ arrival long before we arrived at his door, I could hear him scrabbling for a beak-hold in an attempt to break free of his solitary confines and join the company of his adoring humans.
As Karin soothed him with her kakapo-whispering the anticipation was building; my hands were clammy, my breath shallow, butterflies rode rollercoasters in my stomach. Would it be everything I had hoped for? Would he be disappointed? Would he reject me in favour of his existing human, Karin?
Then there was The Moment. The Moment his door opened and we met face to beak for the first time. The Moment I met the most famous of the remaining critically endangered kakapo.
It was reciprocal love at first sight.
I was not disappointed – clearly he wasn’t either as he charged past Karin, making a bee-line for my gum boot, settling himself down on my foot with a sigh and a look of piqued curiosity.
As I sank to my knees he hopped on my leg, his large dextrous feet gripping tightly as he climbed pigeon-toed into my lap for a closer look.
The green whiskered face peered closely. I was being inspected by a rare parrot.
After what felt like several minutes, but in reality was only seconds, I had been pronounced acceptable and Sirocco plopped to the ground in search of treats from Karin; when not driven by insatiable desire for company he’s satisfying his insatiable appetite for grapes.
The romance continued with sneaky kisses, attempts to unzip my offending boiler suit and snuggling up for a bit of feather- to-cheek whenever possible.
Our time was all too brief, but I left after two days with Sirocco’s well-deserved reputation intact.
He is not only the most famous of his kind, but the most amorous and quite unfussy about who’s on the receiving end of his affection; I’m too in love to care about his infidelity – the affections of Sirocco deserve to be shared.
See more photos of Sirocco on Flickr.