Sunday, November 18, 2007

Little Birds With Big Voices

Over the past five years, many birds have moved into our house yard, enjoying the cover our growing garden provided. One in particular is the beautiful Grey Shrike Thrush, renowned for its glorious voice. Each year a nest is built in an inconvenient place around the house and babies are raised.

The first year, two eggs were laid in an untidy nest made of bark tucked under the house eaves. The parents seemed unfazed by our comings and goings, especially as the nest was right next to the undercover clothesline. As I pegged out the washing, she would peer down at me, head on one side and one beady eye warning me to keep my distance.

The babies hatched, and as they grew, they would whistle at me with their clear belling call as I passed below. I would answer back, which began a lengthy discussion between us. I developed a real affection for these innocent little creatures and looked forward to them fledging and making their way out in the world.

The reality of life with our big poodles crashed in on me when I found little bodies strewn around the yard. That first clumsy flight to the ground had proved their undoing.

My heart broken, I resolved never to allow them to build in the house yard again. The next year, that cosy nesting place was blocked off with timber, and the following nest around the other side was demolished before it was completed. She finally got the hint, and moved out.

The season after, a manhole built into the studio veranda blew aside a little, and the lovebirds got in and nested there, leaving a trail of old bark and bird poop hanging out underneath. We had to leave it open as we could hear babies stirring inside.

Once they fledged, the door was put firmly back in place.

We had another year off, until this season, when my man’s shed was left open for a few days and they got in. Heart sinking, I shut the roller door, but that didn’t stop her. The babies hatched out and soon they were bustling around with dinner in their beaks. How did she get in?

The penny dropped when I saw her land in front of the cat door (no cat!), hop in and feed the babes. Next she flew out through the top of the roller door. Clever things!

Over past few days, the babies’ voices had strengthened and I began to worry about the poodles again. At dinner tonight, I thought the calls had changed position and went outside to see. Sure enough one was out, and Zara, the crazy teenager, was hot on its trail. Screaming loud enough to break glass, I tried to head her off. My noise slowed her down long enough for me to pick the thing up and put it over the fence, its squawking parent in hot pursuit. The man of the house trailed after me moaning about the drama, totally horrified by the racket and my behaviour.

Poor confused Zara was unceremoniously dumped inside while I went into the shed to see to the other. Clambering with my bung leg up the ladder, held at the base by my still muttering man, I thought I might pull the nest out, with baby intact, and put it over the fence. As I did, I discovered there were two in there, with one flying out and across the shed onto the window ledge.

The other one hunkered down in the nest with wide eyes.

Totally nonplussed by vulnerable babies everywhere, we dumped the poodles into their run for the night. The shed door is open, both babies are out of their nest in there, but flying OK, and the third down below safely ensconced in the maple tree for the night. Both parents are still plugged in and feeding them.

My idea of heaven will be to get up in the morning and all have gone safely into their new lives, up in the trees where they belong!


That done, the light was so beautiful, and so was my first iris to flower.

Dusk, and the colours are so intense.............

Postscript No. 1 : Morning has arrived and two babies are still piping away out in the shed. Today will be very hot (37C), so the poodles will have to be kept inside just in case they fly out onto the ground.

It seems the parent's problems are not over, our resident kookaburra has just flown past with a thrush in hot pursuit.

Postscript No 2: When I went out checking on the babies' progress in the shed, mother bird followed me in squawking. One chick was on the ground peeping away.

Still telling me off, she called to the babe, tempting it outside into the garden. So vulnerable and eager to survive ....

It flew clumsily up into a tree and upset the resident wrens nesting in there, sparking off a whole new neighbourhood problem! But it was safer...........

Postscript No. 3: After a hot day, the little voice in the shed seemed to lose confidence, and I worried about whether our last baby mattered as much as the first two. A parent would appear occasionally with bug in beak to feed it, which gave me heart.

After our dinner and the weather cooled somewhat, I found it out on the ground wondering what to do next. I picked the frightened little thing up and put him into a nearby tree, hoping he would keep calling and a parent would find him. Sure enough, she was delighted to find it out and safe and fed it some more.

The poodles were very disappointed to have to sleep in their run for a second night, but I do get a better night's sleep when they do. My man always finds things to say to encourage me to exile them at night more regularly.

This morning, I can hear babies over in our little 'forest' with their parents calling, so some have survived. Hopefully the kookaburra will eat elsewhere until they gain strength and flying practice.

Next year, all entrances will be blocked!

"You fall out of your mother's womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave."

..... Quentin Crisp

No comments: