"New Zealand may not have the Taj Mahal, the Sistine Chapel or
any half decent theme parks but we do have some of the most unique
birdlife in the world."
Jeremy Wells tackles unfamiliar territory in a new TV series that has him celebrating (and sometimes salivating over) this country's exceptional bird life.
True to form, Birdland is not your typical wildlife show. Wells freely admits that he's no expert when it comes to birds and his reasons for undertaking the project are typically atypical.
"Sadly every other subject for a television show had been taken. Lush took trains, Hamish Keith stole art and Radar mucked about on a farm. As far as I'm aware birds were the last subject of national importance left to milk," says Wells, whose latest incarnation puts him somewhere between David Attenborough and Big Bird.
The show takes viewers on an unconventional yet informative journey that soaks up some of our most beautiful scenery, our most glorious birds and some wonderfully eccentric characters of the birding world.
Among other things, Wells visits the Moa graveyard of Karamea (found only after a eight hour underground caving expedition), meets the talking Tui of Whangarei, (his name is Woof Woof), and explores the arcane world of poultry and pigeon breeders at their annual competition.
Wells also experienced what pre colonial New Zealand might have looked and sounded like on Tiritiri Matangi, the offshore wildlife reserve in the Hauraki Gulf. There he spent a night camped out counting kiwi calls and measuring Takahe excrement.
Viewers will meet Joe the 40-year-old virgin Kea, who lives in a pub in Takaka, as well as some amazing human characters.
Characters like Hans Hartog of Lower Hutt who has been feeding dozens of sparrows every day at 11.30 am sharp. He's been doing this for 22 years but recently came into conflict with the council.
And then there's Lady Diana Isaac, the Christchurch construction
magnate who's using profits from gravel to save our endangered
From paddling with penguins to observing one of our smallest and most endangered birds nesting amongst the jet aircraft in the country's busiest airport; (The New Zealand Dotterel), Wells was captivated by the world of birds and those who watch them.
"After six years scratching around insulting minor celebrities
on late night television it's been a revelation to get outdoors and
rub shoulders with people passionate about something other than