The weather is getting cooler, and my knees are beginning to complain. Soon it will be too cool to sit outside with my morning coffee and commune with the birds. This morning, in my bathrobe before I showered and dressed I realised that the lovely summer weather is over. The days are still mostly fine and clear, but there is a chill edge to the wind, and everyone is pulling on jerseys, which they call pullovers here.
The galahs are very interesting at this time of year. For a lot of the summer I haven’t seen them, but now they are back roosting in the dead tree on the empty lot across the road. They disappear by day, and come back noisily in the evening. In the mornings they flock and circle for about a quarter of an hour seemingly arguing about where to go for the day. They are raucous and active, swooping around and circling constantly until suddenly they are gone. I have no idea where they go. In all my travels around the shire I have not seen galahs anywhere except from my flat mornings and evenings. I particularly enjoy the way they hang upside down on the telegraph wires. Best of all is when they circle in the dawn light flashing alternately grey when they are facing away, and neon pink as the morning sun catches their rosy breast and underwing feathers.
The brightest of the birds is the 28 or ring-necked parrot. Also very noisy, they ate every apricot on my tree except one. That was the one I got. It was not particularly juicy or tasty so I did not resent the birds getting the rest. Even now they come back sometimes and pick over the apricot stones laying around on the ground and extract the kernels. When the bottle brush is in bloom they flock to the garden, and make a hell of a mess under the tree because while the other birds are content to sip the nectar, the 28s like to dismantle the flower, eating part of it and leaving a crimson carpet on the ground.
Sometimes I hear, but rarely see the kookaburra. I have only seen one all the time I have been here. The doleful cry of the crow, or raven I hear all the time. Sometimes they come to the garden too. Their call always makes me think of some sad old chap cursing over something he lost. It is a mournful sound. The bird is very handsome but not well liked here. But I like it. Same with the magpie. No one here seems fond of them except me. I have a family group that visits me regularly and feed on scraps I leave out for them. They are becoming quite tame. I have watched the chicks grow from scruffy grey youths under constant supervision of their parents to handsome young birds. I almost felt parental pride when the first of the fledglings ceased his juvenile pleading “feed me” squawk and gave a full blown quardle oodle wardle doodle magpie call.
They are fiercely territorial, and seem to have accepted me as part of the landscape. Maybe they realise it is me who feeds them, or perhaps it is the black and white of my Shire uniform shirt.
There are a lot of smaller birds that visit my yard, especially when the bottlebrush tree is in flower. It is a beautiful sight, reminiscent of the pohutukawa in NZ, and various honeyeaters, wrens and wagtails, as well as others I have not identified flock to it.
Lately there has been a little yellow and black pair that dash about catching insects. They have a tail like the NZ fantail, and a pointed beak. They click as they fly and I don’t know if that is for echolocation or some other function. I have not managed to get a decent photo yet. At first I thought it was the New Holland Honeyeater, but I am not sure. It looks a bit like it and the call described here could be considered “clicks” I suppose, but I am sure mine has more yellow. I am determined to find out. It moves so constantly and so quickly that it is hard to get a fix on it.
I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs. -Joseph Addison, essayist and poet (1672-1719)