At Lake Daniell, Dominic scouted a wooded clearing with a number of inviting tree stumps to serve as our kitchen and dining room. He set out to prepare dinner, boiling water for freeze dried backpacking pasta pouches, when I heard him start to coo.
"Here little buddy, here little buddy, you are so awesome, you're the best!"
Curious, I went to investigate and found a little robin, maybe five inches tall, hopping about his feet, perching on his ankles, taking short flights to eat any sand flies he could find.
We had been hanging out with robins all day; they are a gregarious bird and spend their time on low lying branches around the forest floor. We had heard they like eating bugs off hiker's shoes and in freshly disturbed soil, but they didn't seem too interested when we offered up our soles as we tramped.
They were holding out, it seems, for the sand fly smorgasbord that would occurr when we—humans staying in one place during daylight hours—would inevitably swarmed.
Swarmed we were as we ate dinner, but this time we had two robins playing defense. Their spindled talons gripped our hiking socks, their beaks pecked our pants, protecting us from the plague of sand flies. The robin quickly ascended to deified status within Helios mythology; we want them with us always: in our pockets, about our ankles, we'd gladly care for a clutch of robins onboard. All hail the robin, savior of the South Island.