Monday, May 7, 2012

Forgiveness and a Love of birds

Living with wildlife is not always a glorious, wonder struck affair. I had some seriously negative emotions about Sulphur Crested Cockatoos earlier this year - read I Hate Sulphur Crested Cockatoos, The Autumn Harvest, and Avian Invasians The last of our sunflowers are flowering this week, and I just picked the last of our delicious corn. Somehow, we managed to find a way of living with the cockies, and still had something to eat.   

They did swoop in and devour the Giant Russian sunflowers, clearly a delicacy.  Fortuitously the sunflowers provided a perfect lure to bring the birds right in front of my lounge-room window. It was a joy to watch them balancing precariously on swaying stems, gaily snipping off leaves and showing off their Leunig cartoon like crest. The cockatoo display went on for weeks, the littlest would say "oh, oh, naughty cockies mum", I gave up on shooing them away. These birds have personality, they were screeching at me as I attempted to take their photo, almost indignant at the interruption to their feast. I think they knew there was no bite in my bark, cocking their head to the side to eyeball me.
One of my favorite Michael Leunig drawings
Another upside to their destruction was that we have been harvesting corn right up to May, thanks to their early pruning of my seedlings I have had several late plantings of vegetables to enjoy. 

I almost like the birdy battle of wits, even if they win most of the time. Thankfully they left the corn alone, if only they knew of the golden treats hiding in those plain green husks. I don't think there's much corn growing around here so their inexperience was on my side. So, even if I curse them, and their destructive ways, I am glad to have them around.  

The cockatoos are departing now that the summer crops are finished.  Replacing them is the most delightful pair of Scarlet Robins.  During Autumn and winter these beautiful birds migrate into more open areas and have visited our place in winters gone by.  The female, whose breast is a blushing pink, was perched on the letters poking out of the letter box when I returned home last week.  The sight of these little birds sends my heart soaring. The pairs mate for life and are territorial, so it probably the same birds returning to our backyard each year.

John Gould, The Birds Of Australia 1840-1848

I'm like the girl in Pamela Allen's book Black Dog, staring longingly out the window for a flash of her favourite bird. I'm constantly searching for the vibrant splash of red against grey skies. We even have the black dog who is craving some love.

I'm a little worried  about what our neighbour's black cat is up to. I caught it hunting one of our ring tail possums recently and have found a couple of piles of feathers.  There will be no love for black cats with red birds in their mouths.  Scarlet Robins forage for insects on the ground making them vulnerable to cats. Such a shame cats are such keen hunters as he is very friendly and loves a scratch and play, the children love greeting him on his frequent visits.


  1. Oh we have so many cockatoos here in Canberra, with Galahs, they are sooo noisy, but we're not trying to harvest anything so i wish you well, love Posie

    1. Thanks Posie, they certainly present some unique challenges.

  2. I'm hearing you, I have them screatching over the top of us everyday too looking for snacks in the garden. I feel the same way... Just have to learn to live with em! :)
    Love your neighbours little black cat, would love to give her a snuggle.

  3. I shudder when i hear those screeches...and the chooks cower lol!! I never knew birds could be so destructive actually...i am up to speed now though!not as forgiving as you! I love the robins though, glorious little characters! Love the pics...especially black dog!!

  4. Black dog - the book rather than the animal always makes me feel sad. I love Pamela Allen's books but some of them are really quite dark. The same cannot be said for sunflowers, sulphur cresteds or scarlet robins all of which I love and wonderfully sunny.

    1. Love a dark book,a little swerve from the predictable. There's a book called the Frogs Ballet that makes me cry every time I read it. I think it's good for the kids to be in touch with their emotions, even the sad ones. We had 3 robins here on the weekend to brighten the grey weekend.

  5. One of my favorite things to do is to watch the birds in our backyard. Last year we had sunflowers planted and it was the yellow finches that ate them up. There was one day where I counted four on one flower! They are not nearly as exotic as your cockatoos (they look beautiful!), but fun to watch just the same. :)

    1. I am sue your little finches would look terribly exotic to my Australian eyes. How lucky we are to have birds to watch.


In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
Margaret Atwood

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbour:
"Winter is dead.”
― A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young