Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Suburban Bird Life

This photo was taken last Sunday. It is an itinerant wood duck, not something we see in the environs of Northcote all that often.

Our back garden is full of birds, mostly common and garden variety birds - mynahs, blackbirds, sparrows, wattlebirds, starlings, thrushes, doves, silvereyes, ravens, currawongs, lorikeets, willy wagtails – treading a fine line between life and death with the cats.

Sometimes, an unusual bird will land in one of the fruit trees. I saw a goshawk once, and occasionally flocks of cockatoos will screech through and small honeyeaters can be seen sipping the nectar of the honeysuckle in springtime.

Our household takes an interest in birds and we recognise most of the local and visiting avifauna.

Not so our neighbours down the road. They have been accusing our cat of disturbing the woodchips in their boring garden. It’s a painfully neat garden and Mr Neighbour is obsessed with keeping everything neat and tidy. He can’t abide woodchips spilled onto the path and is convinced our cat is responsible. He spread cut lemon pieces though the garden in some misguided attempt to discourage the cat. Not that these measures would put off the cat, if he did indeed go into the garden.

It’s the blackbirds that are responsible. We’ve seen them at it and it is very typical of blackbird behaviour. They’re messy and toss stuff around willynilly. Try to tell our neighbour this, and he looks bewildered. He doesn’t even know what a blackbird is. He probably thinks of ravens when we say blackbirds. We’ve tried to get photos of the blackbirds in action, but they are wily and fly off at the slightest movement.

I am astounded at the ignorance of some people about the world around them. Our neighbour is such a one. He lives in his own small world and isn’t the slightest bit curious about the creatures that also occupy the planet. He doesn’t appear to like animals at all.

His house is one of two built on a large block. Formerly it had a single unattractive brick house, but a lovely garden. I used to love the smell of orange blossom as I walked past in the springtime, and it had a great old walnut tree in the back yard. All the trees are gone and these dreary, uninspiring dwellings take their place.

I suppose we get a lot of birds in our garden owing to the number of trees we have growing there. We have 4 plum trees, 2 fig trees, an almond tree, a loquat tree, a bay laurel and a pomegranate. They are not exactly native trees, but Northcote seems to be almost Mediterranean in soil type (it sits in the crater of an ancient volcano). Mediterranean fruit trees thrive. Immigrants from Greece and Italy planted them many years ago. Our almond tree is very old and a most unusual shape. Its lower branches appear to form the trunk and legs of a recumbent woman. However, it rarely bears much fruit these days. It blossoms in late July and a great many of the blossoms get blown away and possums, starved by winter, enthusiastically eat them, leaving little for the tree to form almonds on. Also, almonds require the services of another almond tree close by to properly produce. There used to be another almond tree a couple of houses up the street, but it appears to have gone, probably to make way for medium density building projects.

Such is the price of “progress” fuelled by greed!


Clare said...

I loved this post and I love trees too! I also love the wild untidy look so I should be very happy with the blackbirds. It's great hearing about your garden - such a different world. I feel like I am peeping through the keyhole.

Anne S said...

Hi Clare,

If you like wild looking gardens, there was a very famous landscape gardener in Melbourne in the 1920s called Edna Walling. She created wonderful gardens - wild romantic gardens, and was an interesting woman all round.

Here's a web site where you can read all about her:

chiefbiscuit said...

That DOES look like a woman's legs! How interesting ... I too am a fan of trees - we have a lot around our house too - the spouting gets filled with pine needles so they flood in heavy rain.
I am a fan of birds too!