Monday, 24 August 2015

Birds Of A Feather Flock Together

"A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song." ~ Chinese Proverb
Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on the blossoms of a Golden Pender tree
Rainbow Lorikeets
Or so the saying goes, played out especially in the typical Australian backyard. I've been posting photos on my personal Facebook page of all the birds that have been visiting our yard here in south east Queensland and it occurred to me this might be of interest to my blog readers in other parts of the world.
Juvenile Butcherbird
We have so many different types of birds coming here, 17 species at last count, that I might take a blog entry for each one to adequately do them justice.
A Noisy Miner, affectionately known as a squeaker, lives up to its name
The Brashter and I have lived here for six and a half years and for most of that time have taken the bird life for granted. We have a large and very private yard with many tall and bushy trees, a lot of which are flowering, creating good food sources and cover for birds and no doubt hidey holes for nests and other top secret birdie activities.
A shy Blue-headed Honeyeater
This year we decided to encourage the frequent flyers, so to speak, by putting out a little bit of food. Well, it started as a few table scraps and has escalated into a full buffet with nectar trays, seed, bread, hanging baskets and two parrot stands. When I get home from work just before lunch I can usually find a few birds giving me the eagle-eye waiting for me to clean and top up their trays.
A Long-billed Corella
The dynamics of the birds' relationships is intriguing; not only how different species interact but the interactions between individuals of the same species. 
A Magpie Lark fiercely attacking its reflection in our car windscreen
In the house where my brother and I grew up it was nothing to hear a cacophony of birdsong all day long, starting just before dawn with the mocking laugh of half a dozen kookaburras and ending only at dusk with the mournful calls of stormbirds. Even now hearing a stormbird takes me right to our back patio at home, smelling the first drops of rain from a summer storm and feeling them plink on my face.
A Kookaburra in my parent's yard. These aggressive birds will snatch food
right off your fork if you eat outside.
We had a big flock of scaly-breasted lorikeets, affectionately known as greenies, who would swoop in and jostle for position on feeding trays we held out for them or crawl over our heads and shoulders when others pushed them off.
Feeding Lorikeets in my parent's yard, early 90s
Dad feeding Lorikeets in the yard, late 80s
We even had a hand-raised Eastern Rosella named Peter who had the run of the house. He stayed with us for a long time; even after he eventually flew away to join his kind he would occasionally return and sit and watch us from the clothes line or an upturned bucket in the yard.
Peter the Rosella perched on my shoulder, here with my brother
at Christmastime circa 1974
Eastern Rosella in my parent's yard date unknown
It was not lost on us that this intimate contact is a privilege tourists go to parks to pay for; that what we took for granted and had largely ceased to be amazed by was jaw-dropping and mind-bending to so many people who had never been this close to a wild thing or who had never seen such a colourful bird before except in a book or on the TV. And so it is now; I try and let it freshly amaze and surprise me every day that these innocent and completely free creatures can come in and be trusting enough to sit eating at times just inches from our feet.
Cockatoos are quite destructive; this one has
taken a liking to the new growth on this tree
I look at it as a kind of coexistence. We've claimed so much of the habitat of these birds through simply building our homes and living our lives as humans that I feel obliged somehow to return a little of what I've personally taken in our 750 square metres; we are in danger of 'civilising' our native animals and birds right out of existence. For us we can return an offering to nature through maintaining a bird-friendly yard and providing bird-friendly treats such as seeds and nectar mix. And of course simply allowing them to 'be', unharassed.
Young male Australian King Parrot
Female Australian King Parrot
In doing this, as the saying goes, we are trying to become 'part of the silence'. We can step away from our tablets, phones and screens and live in real time again, even if for just a few minutes a day, a kind of 'Cockatoo Hour' instead of 'Cocktail Hour' if you like. By actually stopping to listen to what the birds have to say, I'm learning again to find my own song.
Spy on the watch: a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo acting as lookout while others eat